Paid Search Targeting Brand Keywords = SEO Death

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by andrewsho

For fans of the long-running SEO Death series, this isn’t really a new issue. About two years ago I posited Is Your Adwords Campaign Hijacking Your SEO Traffic?

The answer of course was “yes.” Here’s the graph that illustrated the problem:

Natural v Paid Search Clusterfuck

I am re-upping this because we just got a new client that hired us because their organic traffic had started tanking, but when you looked at the data in Google Search Console, it only showed brand queries were tanking. And said tanking started pretty much when the paid traffic started increasing.

We did some back of the envelope calculations on SEMRush CPC data available for their brand queries and we calculated this client is spending an additional $20,000/day to buy $50,000 in revenue*. This isn’t such a bad deal until one considers that until the increase in paid search traffic, the client was spending ~$0 to achieve that revenue. So their margins just took a 40% haircut.

So, next time your organic traffic tanks, before you panic try this:

  1.  Look at the Performance report in Google Search Console for your site (for all variants)
  2. Filter the report by “Queries containing” a proxy for a brand query. It may not always be easy to do when you have a generic brand name, but try different phrases to see what captures the most traffic that is properly bucketed
  3. If you see the traffic for queries containing your brand term going down while traffic for queries not containing your brand term is flat or going up, move on to step #4
  4. Look over at the paid search team. If they are high-fiving each other, we have a winner…

The site in question turned off most of the PPC ads targeting their brand a few days ago. On the first day after they did this, PPC revenue was down $90K. SEO revenue was up $170K.

*Data has been changed to protect the innocent


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