Is Google Giving Mixed Signals on AdWords Helping SEO?

Filed in Featured, Google by Matt McGee on February 2, 2011 10 Comments

Google has repeated innumerable times over the years that using its AdWords paid advertising program doesn’t help with SEO, has no impact on a site’s organic rankings, and is completely separate from SEO and organic rankings. So isn’t this Google ad just a little bit confusing?


That’s a search for blog seo and the first ad is a Google ad for a program called Google Engage. Don’t know what that is? It’s a Google program aimed at webmasters, SEOs, etc., that encourages them to get their clients using AdWords.

In other words, Google’s ad basically says, “AdWords can help with blog seo.”

That same ad shows up on other SEO-related searches, including seo itself.


Google is targeting SEO terms and using a landing page URL — with “seo” in it to promote an AdWords program. Is that not deceptive? Does it not give the impression that AdWords actually is related to SEO and that, if you want to learn about SEO, AdWords is a way to do that?

Ironically, that landing page URL leads to a “404 Not Found” page, which seems to be the only thing that makes sense in all of this.

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  1. Ross Dunn says:

    Oh that is beautiful! Nice catch Matt!

    Google definitely needs to fine-tune its signals and that is a great example. Cheers!

  2. There are a couple of subtleties to this …

    1. I’ve always contended that if you are buying traffic, and therefore visibility, you could pick up links from satisfied visitors as an indirect by-product, thereby increasing possible seo virtues

    2. Buying clicks on demand allows conversion-testing of the site. Once you know the best converting keywords, and ad copy to use that’s battle-tested in adwords, then you know the “money keywords” to seo for.


  3. Al Sefati says:

    No I just think that is a deceptive ad.

  4. AJ Kohn says:

    I think it’s more than just confusing, it’s a pretty clear bait and switch.

    I blogged about this just recently:

    The Google Engage program is aimed at helping agencies and consultants to offer AdWords services to their clients. It has nothing to do with SEO.

    You search for ‘seo services’ an the Google Engage ad appears. You search for ‘sem services’ and an AdWords ad appears, with a very interesting landing page.

    Google knows the difference, so why target ‘seo keywords’ with an AdWords message?

  5. Ruth Marbaek says:

    I found an example of this that’s even worse!
    On Google’s using an AdWords ad to promote the Adwords program by using the ad headline ‘Search Engine Optimization’!(the ad is in the best placement). In danish the headline is ‘s√łgemaskine Optimering’ and when I google this word Google show me the ad with the mentioned headline. The display URL on the other hand is: Not only is this ad misleading but it also competes with other relevant! ads taking up precious ad space.
    I think this is an example of both mixed signals and double standards regarding ad relevancy because relvancy is something Google is very passionate about.

  6. Mike Mueller says:

    I see your point, Matt. It is confusing. I can also see Google’s interest in harvesting clicks from potential seo keywords in that business owners very often want more immediate results than seo can give. I educate clients that seo is a process that takes time. Adwords, however, can give them immediate exposure that will help drive traffic until seo goals are achieved. So I do see a connection.

  7. Doug L says:

    Looks like they learned the hard way not to turn adwords over to the interns…

  8. DM says:

    It looks like simple cross-selling, I don’t see the issue? Have you never bid on a word, to try and get users to buy your product? Or conducted a search and seen an ad for something slightly related?

    They’re simply trying to get those interested in SEO to instead opt for PPC.

  9. It’s a classic case of the Golden Rule “He who has the Gold, Makes and Breaks the Rules” and we all know that Google has lots of gold. I have always found it ironic how Google will penalize you if they think you are using a paid traffic source, but you can purchase as much of Adsense as your money can buy.

    I was always lead to think that SEO and Adsense were like apples and oranges, If Google follows its own rules, then the ad would be somewhat misleading. But I had heard a rumor that Google was having some indexing problems and you wonder if it is also impacting things on the Adsense side. Not sure if that is possible, as I am fairly new at this but maybe…

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