Should You Advertise High-Ranking Organic Keywords?

Here’s how this story usually goes: Your website has reached the #1 organic result for certain keywords related to the business (brand, locations based, etc.). You’re also running a Google Ads campaign that targets those #1 organic keywords as well. Now you’re concerned that you are cannibalizing your organic traffic by spending money on traffic you would’ve gotten anyway.

Throughout my career, I’ve heard many differing opinions on what you should do if this happens. Some people believe you should own all the screen real estate, while others say you should save your dollars for keywords you aren’t ranking highly for. So, what’s the best answer? Do you still run ads for those high-ranking organic keywords?

The Short Answer

Yes and No. Like most strategies & decisions with advertising your goals should always be considered first. After that here are some things to evaluate before deciding which direction is best for your website.

  • Are competitors bidding on these terms, so that they would have the top page spot instead of your organic keywords?
  • Is there a more aggressive call to action that you can implement via paid search that would be inappropriate in your title tag/meta description?
  • Would you prefer to test out different messages that could eventually be integrated back into your title tag/meta description?
  • Is there any additional information, sales, call outs, etc. not being brought into your organic listing?
  • Is the cost of those keywords you are ranking highly for organically, too high for you to consider buying through Google Ads?
  • Would you like to push users to a landing page of your choosing? A landing page is more likely to convert more traffic than your home page.

The Long Answer

Any paid search ads will cannibalize organic listings, but they will also drive incremental clicks and conversions. Google states that the paid search cannibalization rate of organic, when both are in first position, is 50%. I have tested this and found it closer to 80-90%.

As an example, say these keywords have an ROI of 10:1, but you believe the cannibalization rate is 80%. This means that the actual ROI is 2:1. You can then decide if the real ROI is profitable enough to continue.

Also, look at an auction insights report for those keywords (assuming they are in their own campaign) to determine the frequency that competitors are in the auctions. If there is little competition, then cannibalization is probably near that 80-90% mark. In this case, I would recommend testing your ROI with only organic traffic vs. paid traffic vs. a mix of both. Allow up to one month for each test to compare results of each strategy.

Lastly, if there’s no competition now and you stop bidding, your competitors may notice and start bidding so monitor those keywords closely.

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