UPDATE: Scott Edwards points out in the comments below that the phenomenon described below is the result of a bug in a plugin that I currently use. I want to say I am sorry for making this mistake and hope this serves as a lesson to us all that nothing is as it seems in search marketing!
Okay, I am going to admit for a moment that I don’t know that much about sponsored search. Sure, I know what it is, I know how to put together basic PPC campaigns but when it comes down to it, I am more an SEO kind of guy.
With that said and done please correct me if I am wrong but, haven’t we been told over and over again that Google’s paid advertising department and their search department are two completely different entities? Haven’t we been told that it doesn’t matter how much you spend on PPC, your rankings in the SERPs will not be affected?
As long as I have been in search marketing that has always been the case, but for some reason I am starting to feel like that little rule won’t be repeated very often anymore. Why you ask? Take a look at the “Sponsored Links” in the screenshot above. Can you see them? It’s okay to look twice, I nearly missed them the first time. Why is it so hard to see those “Sponsored Links”? Because they look EXACTLY like organic search results!
So, I know what some of you are thinking, but Joe, they are separate, they aren’t part of the organic results. You’re right, but apparently, that doesn’t matter. From my point of view that screenshot tells me that I can buy the first three results for that search term.
If Google is going to continue to tell SEOs and marketers that buying PPC ads doesn’t affect their organic listings then they need to make a clear distinction between their ads and their organic search results. Otherwise, just put the whole SERP on the auction block!