Online Marketing Blog

How Google Ads Can Be The Best SEO Tool In Your Arsenal

There are literally thousands of SEO tools out there. Some paid, some free, some good and some not so good. There is one tool that is often overlooked when it comes to SEO, yes, search engine optimisation, and that’s Google Ads. While most people see Google Ads as simply a paid traffic generation tool, many fail to realize the organic SEO benefits a tool like Google Ads can provide.

I’ve touched on this subject briefly before but below, I have outlined a few more detailed ways that Google Ads can (and should) be used for SEO.

(Please note that screenshots have been slightly modified to protect some sensitive data.)

1) For Keywords


Before you start to do any SEO on your site, you need to know what keywords to target (You can’t target them all). You could use one of the plethora of keyword tools out there but they are rarely accurate. Google Ads allows you to test any amount of keywords you think are relevant to your site and get 100% accurate data on which ones you should be targeting. There’s no worse feeling spending months targeting a keyword for SEO and finding out that it doesn’t convert or it doesn’t drive any traffic. You can even filter out keywords that use a question mark so you can find questions to problems that your product or service can solve. You can then craft a blog post around this question.

2) For SERP CTR Improvements.

SERP CTR Improvements

Any seasoned SEO knows that Google uses some sort of user data and probably uses organic SERP CTR data (and a recent patent looks like things are going that way) to judge how relevant an organic listing is to a keyword . Marcus touches on it here and Bill goes into patent detail here. With the CTR data and gains you obtain from a PPC campaign, you KNOW what page title and meta description to use to increase your organic SERP CTR. Just think, if you’re in position 3 and get twice the click through rate as the number 1 position over time, doesn’t it make sense that Google would factor this in? Simply pick the best headline from your best performing Google Ads campaign and use that as your headline on your page. Pick the description of the best ad and add that to the meta description. This can be improved upon and changed over time too with zero risk. Use the Google Ads Ad Performance Report for this (Make sure you filter the ads so that there is enough impression and click data to get a statistically significant ad, using Google Ads Editor works great for this too). This also has the benefit of getting the perfect anchor text when someone links to you because many people will use the page title when linking out to you.

3) For Landing Page Optimization.

Landing Page Optimization

With Google’s website optimizer, you can quickly test and optimize your landing pages so that you don’t have to wait months for the traffic you would ordinarily need for optimizing with organic traffic. You can create a landing page that’s super optimized for your conversion type so that when the organic visitors do come, you’ll convert them at ultra high rates. This gives you a huge head start over your competitors. It also allows you to create personas that you can map to keywords or sets of keywords to each persona so you can create specific “SEO Campaigns” and more effectively structure a larger SEO effort.

4) For Geographic Targeting.

Link Ideas

Google Ads allows some pretty granular geographic targeting. Knowing which countries, cities or states convert best (by using a Geographic Performance Report in Google Ads), can help you optimize your pages specifically for those locations. It can also help deciding which cities to target when running local business listing campaigns. This data can also help you decide if you should create location specific landing pages or not. Tailoring landing pages to a users location has proven extremely effective… How many really attractive people have you seen available for a date in *your area* lately?

5) For Link Ideas

Link Ideas

The Google content network reaches 80% of all online users in the world! Running a campaign on the content network can generate a LOT of traffic but using Placement Performance Reports in Google Ads, you can see where exactly you’re CONVERTING ads are running. You can use this info to strike a direct sponsorship deal with a particular site that’s sending you great quality traffic, or maybe you can write content for those particular sites and get a link back. Some people I’ve heard of have even bought links from those sites. An ultra relevant link that sends conversions. You wont get that from any directory links!

6) For Content Ideas

Content Ideas

Further to (5), you can see a list of URLs that sent you converting traffic. You can look at the content of that URL and create some content (even a blog post) that has even better information than that page and solves the problem the visitor came to your site to solve to begin with. If that particular page of content was found organically, if you can make it better with your content and SOLUTION, you’ll have fantastic web content that attracts links naturally, more so than the original piece. You can even merge a lot of the ideas from different sources into one “super source” of content which will be seen as the ultimate resource and linked to as such.

7) For Large Scale Media Buys

Large Scale Media Buys

While this is not strictly SEO related it’s very valuable. If your product or service has mass appeal, you can use the Google content network to test out creatives (flash ads, image ads, video ads etc.) to find out which ones drive the highest CTR and Conversion rate out in the wild. Now you don’t have to drop 25k on a run of network test just to find the best creatives. Anyone who has ever advertised on the Yahoo display network in the past can tell you, this is not for the faint of heart, although this has changed somewhat recently with the improvements of a FANTASTIC service called AdReady (More about this in another post). You can go into your media buy with what you KNOW are strong creatives.

8) Demographic Targeting Facebook

Demographic Targeting Facebook

Again, not SEO related but a goodie. You can use an Google Ads Demographic Performance Report and ad version reports to find out (generally) what age, sex and country demographics are converting on your site and the creatives that were associated. You can use this info to get a whopper of a start in facebook. Simply target the age, country and sex fields in facebook that matched your Google Ads reports and use similar images/creatives for your ads. (You can pick up a free $100 facebook voucher code here). You can also use this demographic data for (7) above to give you that extra edge. Facebook uses CTR data and historical CTR data as a major factor on how much coverage you get so the higher your initial CTR for a new campaign the better. Start as you mean to go on.

9) For Link Exposere & Diversity

Link Exposere & Diversity

New website owners have always faced the chicken and egg problem. How do you get links to a new site if nobody knows about you to link to you? With Google Ads, you can get immediate exposure to your content, product or service. With this immediate exposure comes the potential to be linked to which will ultimately improve organic search engine rankings (Be careful to redirect your users to the correct URL when using this method, you don’t want links to an analytics tagged URL or a URL with any sort of campaign tracking arguments in it). This is technically a “clean way” to buy a link. You can also buy Google Ads traffic to your linkbait content. This is a slight variation on one of Gab’s tips in his fantastic piece on link buying here. *Image courtesy of SEO Book*

10) For Improving Your Conversion Rate

Improving Your Conversion Rate

Yes, that’s right… improving your conversion rate. Microsoft/Atlas release an insightful piece of research (PDF) showing that and increase of up to 22% in conversion rate can be achieved by effectively synergizing search and display advertising. We have found this to be true not only with display and PPC search, but also with display and organic search. This information comes with a few caveats however:

Another point of interest is the impact of display ad frequency in driving conversion results for users exposed to both display and search. Again, the results varied by advertiser, but generally those users who viewed three or more impressions in combination with at least one search click had better results than those who viewed only one or two impressions. Both conversion rates and search click-to-conversion rates climbed significantly for these users, further suggesting the benefit of display advertising when paired with search. However, there is a point of diminishing returns when display ad frequency gets too high.

So there you have it. Ten ways in which Google Ads (or any other PPC network) can help improve your search engine optimization. Do you use Google Ads in any other creative ways to help improve your natural search engine rankings? If so, why not share them in the comments below and I will add more to the post (with a link) as they come in.

Note* I am fully aware that in a lot of cases, users who click on sponsored listings behave differently than those who don’t. Please use the above tips as guidelines and make sure to test everything for yourself.

  1. Seattle Search Marketing Says:
    November 19th, 2009 at 7:54 pm

    Awesome article, Dave! Have not read anything that good in a long time. Thank you.

  2. Justin Dupre Says:
    November 19th, 2009 at 11:21 pm

    Wow! Full of stuff I’d never think of despite using Adwords regularly for PPC Affiliate marketing campaigns. Now trying to make the switch into long term SEO sites, this is really helpful. Great post!

  3. David Temple Says:
    November 20th, 2009 at 2:07 am

    Well done Dave. I rarely find a post these days that truly helps me up my game but this is definitely one. We often use PPC data for SEO campaigns since keyword research is so lacking in this part of the world. These are excellent additional ways to leverage that strategy. Keep ’em coming.

  4. Mike Howson Says:
    November 20th, 2009 at 2:52 am

    Glad you mentioned that Google probably uses CTR in their rankings! Very helpful information in this post.

  5. Cormac Says:
    November 20th, 2009 at 9:22 am

    As you said, Adwords is great for creating A/B Multivariate ad copy for you to use in your Meta description and page titles to test what converts :)
    Also, by using Adwords you can determine the value and effort required to rank organically for an uncompetitive and long-tail phrase. It could be so obscure and uncompetitive that creating a single anchored backlink to the page will rank it in #1 position.

  6. Alex @ Dropshiparea Says:
    November 20th, 2009 at 10:13 am

    nice list of adwords data application – so there is no need to pay for seo tools similar to those that seomoz and company offer, right?

  7. SEO Consultant Says:
    November 20th, 2009 at 7:06 pm

    Freakin brilliant! You know that I am a huge backer of you on the use of Adwords for kw research. You simply cannot get better kw data anywhere else. I love you ideas for using the ad copy for on page factors when building out pages on your site to target new kws with.

  8. e-hustle Says:
    November 20th, 2009 at 9:34 pm

    Wow, this is a great post, lots of stuff that I would not have thought about here. I really like the Facebook Idea for marketing, could be a great way to make lots of $$$$!!

  9. Webmaster Marketplace Says:
    November 20th, 2009 at 10:39 pm

    Fantastic post Dave, Ive always thought about the theroy of SERP CTR Improvements and glad you mentioned it.

    Great post

  10. Eric Gesinski Says:
    November 21st, 2009 at 5:24 am

    This is a great post. I completely agree with this – I’m a big user of AdWords, and I find that it ties into SEO very well, if you know how to take advantage of it. I think this post should open a lot of eyes. Again, great post!

  11. Jordan McClements Says:
    November 21st, 2009 at 1:04 pm

    I have been saying this for some time to people (though not in anywhere near as comprehensive a way as you have set out above).


  12. searchbrat Says:
    November 21st, 2009 at 6:04 pm

    Great Post. It’s definitely important that users also understand the metrics behind the data you get from PPC traffic. For example, a lot of users will just look at conversions and choose keywords that have the highest. I would always advocate looking at metrics like bounce rate, time on site, page depth for keywords before making a decision. There are 4 stages in the buying process online and you may decide against poor converting keywords that actually drive users to your site during the research period.

    A great way to look at this is creating a first click profile on Google Analytics that will ensure conversions are against those initial keywords that drove a user to your site.

    This is really important for known brands, where a high percentage of users will eventually come back on a branded keyword.

    Also, the last two lines in your message are really important. Traffic from different vehicles behave differently, splitting this up in Analytics is another great way to view it ..

    Thanks for all the great info

  13. Joshua Says:
    November 22nd, 2009 at 11:41 am

    I like the way you look at adwords it is more creative then what other way people look at adwords.

  14. Toronto SEO Says:
    November 22nd, 2009 at 12:32 pm

    Great post, I tired several methods mentioned in your post to harness the power of Adwords, unfortunaly as most of my keywords were local with low search volume I could not get the results that I am looking for

  15. Fali Says:
    November 22nd, 2009 at 11:58 pm

    Thanks for the post. In a management point of view, it makes much more sense to create a head of Search (including SEO and SEM) rather than a separte head of department for SEO and SEM.

  16. Striped Shirts Says:
    November 23rd, 2009 at 10:55 am

    It had help me focus on the best possible keywords for my clients- which is the most important aspect of online marketing i think –

  17. Rodney Jones Says:
    November 24th, 2009 at 4:22 pm

    Enjoyed your post especially about For Link Ideas. Never thought about creating content from incoming url and making better content as to attract links more naturally. Thus converting into possible lifetime traffic.

  18. Richard Says:
    November 25th, 2009 at 5:22 pm

    A wonderful article, and a question…

    First, a great article. I just re-tweeted it on Twitter. Probably the best single article I have ever read on the benefits of PPC campaigns in 10 other areas.

    Here’s my question.

    Since PPC is such an excellent proving ground for testing possible web pages for a site, should the PPC “test” web pages be spiderable for Google or should they be in isolation?

    If a client doesn’t believe in the validity of new, permanent web pages with different keyword focuses they haven’t used, you can test your PPC theories for a new keyword with a non-spidered web page and then show the client the result. If the isolated PPC web page generates significant traffic and/or converts well then you can persuade the client that the page should be spidered into the entire website.

    Or am I overthinking PPC testing for website changes. Should any landing page for a PPC campaign be built into the client’s website as immediately spiderable by Google?

    I hope you have time to respond, thanks in advance.

  19. Dave Davis Says:
    November 25th, 2009 at 5:28 pm

    Hey Richard,
    Thanks for stopping by, retweeting and thanks for the excellent question.

    We do most of our PPC testing in an isolated sub directory. We always robots.txt exclude this directory and for good measure, add the noindex and noarchive meta tags.

    However, it is absolutely essential that the AdWords bot is able to crawl the page(s) you are testing. See here:
    Depending on what we are testing, we then roll the changes out across the “main” site.

    Hope that answered your question.

  20. Dave Davis Says:
    November 25th, 2009 at 5:34 pm

    Kieran (searchbrat): That’s an excellent point and creating a “first click” profile for the site in GA is a fantastic idea. This gets a little deeper into attribution which I have a draft post about coming later ;)

    Thanks for stopping by and the excellent comment.

  21. berl Says:
    November 30th, 2009 at 5:00 pm

    Good stuff A-Z short and to the point article=)
    another great way to benefit from adwords I didn’t see anyone mentioning here is performance if your pages load too slow you’re getting feedback from Google adwords and just recently Google announced they’re going to count on it in organic search results as well

  22. Dave Davis Says:
    December 2nd, 2009 at 12:56 am

    Berl, that’s a really good point. Pageload time issues as Google sees it have been available in AdWords for a while now. It’s almost like AdWords is a testing ground for SERP algo quality updates.

    Great example. Thanks for stopping by.

  23. Alister @ search consultants Says:
    December 2nd, 2009 at 7:53 am

    If your site is making money from Google Adsense or affiliates but not getting good conversions for your products, it makes sense to reinvest that revenue into something that could bring you those conversions.

  24. oposiciones Says:
    December 7th, 2009 at 5:16 pm

    Using adwords will absolutely help us to monetize better our site. Anyway we cant never stop the linking game even if we have good keywords we can lose SERP if we stop getting backlinks.

  25. webtalent seo Says:
    December 8th, 2009 at 2:23 am

    In a perfect world I’d start a ppc campaign before organic optimization. There is some great market data to capture using PPC. You can then get some feedback on what to organically optimize your site for.

  26. Ollie Says:
    December 8th, 2009 at 5:17 am

    Really a great and useful article. Nice tips for adwords and SEO.

  27. Affan Laghari Says:
    December 10th, 2009 at 3:41 am

    Nice article, Dave. Several tips for everyone I would say.

    You said “Simply pick the best headline from your best performing AdWords campaign and use that as your headline on your page. Pick the description of the best ad and add that to the meta description”

    The problem with this is, any good seo won’t be using his title/meta tags to target just one keyword. In fact, sometimes we target more than one keyword groups (each containing a few keywords) along with several longtails. Now in Adwords, we can have creatives and ads targeting each keyword (or keyword group). Like if you are targeting something like ‘doctor los angeles’, your Creative X may do very well. But for a search query like ‘physician la’ or ‘surgeon la’, the same Creative X may not perform well. For seo, I may be using the same landing page for all 3 keywords (doctor/physician/surgeon). So it’s not always feasible to use the best performing creative as your title/meta tags for SEO purposes.

    Also, there seems a mistake under Geographic Targeting “Tailoring landing pages to a users *landing page* has”; I guess you meant location (not being picky but just want to prevent any confusions for readers).

  28. Dave Davis Says:
    December 10th, 2009 at 3:53 am

    Hey Affan, Thanks for the comment and for pointing out the mistake. I’ve corrected it now.

    You’re dead right. An advertiser/webmaster/SEO would indeed be targeting more than one keyword. The points I mentioned are more tips than cold hard evidence and should of course be treated differently as the particular situation dictates.

    I’m not saying multiple keywords are not a good idea to have in the title, but with the recent announcement of personalized search, CTR in organic SEPRS is now a requirement, not just speculation. In a perfect world, there would be a landing page for each keyword (like with PPC) but as we both know, that is rarely the case.

  29. SEO Blog Says:
    December 10th, 2009 at 6:55 am

    Great article Dave,
    You explained the advantages of Adwords very well. Keep it up!


  30. Pamela Says:
    December 11th, 2009 at 4:43 am

    You’re correct. This is a great post. We can now quickly test and optimize our landing pages. This will give us a huge advantage over our competitors.

  31. Vlad Says:
    December 12th, 2009 at 4:28 pm

    Thanks for this. I am learning my way through SEO/PPC right now, so posts like this are a big help.

  32. Says:
    December 13th, 2009 at 3:43 pm

    Amaizing! You have amaizing low ctr’s !!!! I have no lower than 6%! Amaizing!

  33. Nitin Says:
    December 17th, 2009 at 12:28 pm

    Great post Dave,
    I’ve been using AdWords Tool for all my keyword research. Another great SEO strategy is to use the base your domain name on your top cpc keywords – I created a tool called ppc domain hound that does this on auto pilot. It’s found some very cool .info, and .net domains that were available. These sites now have 5000+ visitors per week and it’s monetized with ClickBank products.

    Take care…

  34. Chrisile Says:
    December 20th, 2009 at 2:46 pm

    I have noticed it also that most of the SEO tips found online don’t mention google adwords at all.

  35. Whitehatworks Says:
    January 18th, 2010 at 2:04 pm

    As you pointed out in your article, I too have been telling my clients about testing keyword performance in their PPC campaigns and then use the ebst keywords in their SEO work.

    Many thanks

  36. Adam Grossman Says:
    January 19th, 2010 at 8:09 am

    Thanks for more information about SEO tools.The process of getting your website to the top of the search engines. Its also good to know about this SEO tool.Thank you.

  37. Gail from GrowMap Says:
    January 30th, 2010 at 10:43 pm

    Nothing can drive sales as quickly as ppc advertising; however, it is very complicated. Take the time to make sure you clearly understand the difference between broad, phrase and exact match. Broad match can be a great way to waste tons of money.

    Also understand the dangers of content advertising versus search and search partners. Content ads on general sites convert so badly that in my reviews of dozens of accounts only THREE keywords (words – not businesses) showed a positive ROI on the thousands they had spent. That said, well targeted content ads can convert better than search. You have to test.

    Most businesses will be far better off hiring someone exceptional to do their ppc marketing than in doing it themselves. Do NOT hire someone only because they are “Google certified” because all that means is they have been trained in how to run your ads for maximum income for Google.

    You want someone who runs your campaigns so that you spend the least you can to generate the most profitable sales possible. You can tell who is sharp enough to know what they are doing by what they write – like posts such as this one. Dave obviously knows what he is writing.

    I don’t know Dave and I don’t know how he interacts with clients or prioritizes his time but I would definitely put him on a very short list of ppc managers to consider.

    PPC is a specialty (as I proved many times to SEM companies back when I did it full time) and you need an expert who specializes in it. I don’t do ppc for clients any more but I do point out the best and recommend them as I come across them.

    For those who want to know how to evaluate their ppc accounts themselves or to tell if their agency is doing a good job I offer the post I have linked to this comment.

  38. Joey Says:
    February 4th, 2010 at 9:01 pm

    Hey Dave. Google Adwords truly is a remarkable service as well as tool. I refer to many of the tools in my Adwords account on a regular basis to optimize my blog in Google’s search indexes. What I love most is that Google is constantly innovating and improving. But it would make sense for them to do that right? The more people that can find my website the more Google makes money. Very smart company.

  39. seopages Says:
    February 10th, 2010 at 8:45 am

    This is where search engine optimization services come in handy. The methods used to keep your site in the top pages of Google for a long time will depend on if you know how Google ranks it index. Since only the engineers employed by Google know the answer, it is then up to the rest of us to speculate on what may work, and what we know doesn’t work.

  40. Philippine call center services Says:
    February 11th, 2010 at 2:59 am

    I’ve been using Adwords for years but I’ve never felt so schooled–I don’t really use any of these features at all and now I think it would help a lot if I screwed around with it a little more. Thanks!

  41. Cemet Says:
    March 18th, 2010 at 7:09 pm

    Thanks dude, i love your seo ideas. Keyword analysis is the most important and hard work in search engine optimization. Google top and expensive keywords are very important to find out. Worth reading SEO article mate. I am going to bookmark your site, Cheers.

  42. el terminali Says:
    April 3rd, 2010 at 10:14 pm

    great tutorial. analytics very good tools for online marketing and seo. and i am using to with adwords.

  43. series Says:
    April 11th, 2010 at 8:37 pm

    wow ,great post I never thought that there is this stuff in google adwords. Thanks

  44. webprit Says:
    April 29th, 2010 at 9:32 am

    Thanks for this. I am learning my way through SEO/PPC right now, so posts like this are a big help.

  45. Amy @ As Seen on TV Says:
    May 6th, 2010 at 10:59 am

    I think a lot of people miss the benefits of adwords in that it can pick up slack where your SEO efforts may be suffering in terms of target keywords and not to mention getting more targeted traffic which convert better.

  46. James Reynolds Says:
    May 7th, 2010 at 5:25 pm

    You’ve gotta love Googles keyword tool, in fact some days I just can’t be bothered to fire up my paid tools because this little baby rocks.

  47. steve bolder Says:
    July 6th, 2010 at 1:51 pm

    Using Googles adwords will absolutely help us to monetize better our site. Anyway we cant never stop the linking game even if we have good keywords we can lose SERP if we stop getting backlinks.

  48. Farmasi Says:
    September 19th, 2010 at 12:32 am

    There are many reasons to serp falling, don’t use blackhat tactics for rapid serp, increase the quality links with bookmarking, article submission, blogging and more..

  49. Laura "Ole" Olesen Says:
    November 13th, 2010 at 10:58 pm

    SO helpful! And I thought all I needed to do was review the “opportunities” adwords presented me. So much more…. Always learning. Thank you so much!
    Bookmark this article? Check!

  50. ผ้าม่าน พาหุรัด Says:
    January 3rd, 2011 at 5:08 am

    Never thought to use Adwords as a SEO helping tool to be honest, I always thought that Adwords and SEO are two completely different paths in internet marketing. I guess I just didn’t realize the potential that Adwords can bring to SEO, especially since time would be reduced and you can know your success and conversion rates much faster than if you spent months on the SEO and realize that it didn’t work later on. Adwords is just so complicated and I am a little intimidated by it, fear from lack of familiarity is stopping me from using PPC, but I have to get over this and just accept that it is part and parcel with all business marketing tools, sometimes you take a loss and sometimes you get profits. When you know how to use Adwords intelligently, you can minimize this loss. I guess intelligence comes with experience.

  51. Richard Hartian Says:
    January 16th, 2011 at 4:13 pm

    An incredible amount of good stuff here. Seems like a lot to manage for a new blogger but i would have to say worth it…I have a couple of blogs, one where I put 95% of my energy into and one where I invest little time. Oddly enough the other one seems to grow while the one I put my energy in just can’t get started…it has 100 times more content and still seems like Google sends it little traffic. I am going to try and work some of this in… Thanks

  52. FBML Says:
    March 18th, 2011 at 8:54 pm

    Thats a perfect way to treat the adwords tool. and after reading this post i am really surprised to know how much this tool could be effective for us.

  53. Cory Says:
    April 28th, 2011 at 12:41 am

    This is so much good information for those new to Adwords. I have used the tools extensively but never considered some of the perspectives. I almost gave up on PPC. I am going to implement some of these strategies. Thanks for a great article – C

  54. Spring Says:
    May 7th, 2011 at 6:58 pm

    I am glad I found this as I had given up on adwords for a while…maybe I will stick my toe back in the water now.

  55. Akshay @ Happy Bloggerz Says:
    September 21st, 2011 at 6:12 pm

    Hey I just thought that having a text link ad on site like google, and getting traffic from it will definately increase seo. I knew that having a link from high pr site increases seo, and to confirm that, i just searched google for “adsense and seo” and found this amazing proof and explanation for my idea. Great blog and great post… Thanks for encouraging my idea..
    Keep it up mate..!

    Akshay Giram.

  56. Anya Says:
    October 18th, 2011 at 8:19 am

    I always recommend to new clients with a new website to start with an Adwords campaign and not only an organic SEO. Those who take the advice – see better results!

  57. russell Says:
    January 29th, 2012 at 11:04 pm

    excellent article is right. All of this PPC and SEO takes oodles of time though. great post and really helpful info. Adwords is an art for sure.

  58. PHP Developer Says:
    May 3rd, 2012 at 9:02 am

    Hello Dave, I have found your article while touring in the blog land. I want to share here something: Adwords is really a good tool for SEO – as this can be used for your PPC and to track the keyword research. I can suggest each and every webmaster to use adwords so that they can get good and target oriented results from it. Anyways – great info for the newbies and the professional as well. keep it up. :)