When using Google Adwords, the key question for high traffic websites is, if I stop using Adwords, will I still get an equivelant level of traffic. In what Google are calling “Search Ads Pause Studies”, a group of researchers observed organic click volume in the absence of search ads. They compared 400 studies of Adwords advertisers to see what happens to traffic if you turn off Adword. Their meta-analysis showed that over 89% of the ads clicks are incremental, in the sense that the visits to the advertiser’s site would not have
occurred without the ad campaigns. Across all studies, regardless of search volume, they found that 97% of traffic was due to the Google Adwords campaigns.
The study is compelling, and it does show that SEO and Adwords can work hand in hand. However there were a few flaws. The main one is that search position was not accounted for. A high spend Adwords advertiser could be number one in paid results for thousands of keywords, a position which is hard to obtain with just organic search. This would result in a lot of traffic being attributed to paid results, and not much for organic positions. The second is that there was no balance for the size of the website that was being advertised. A large website with thousands of pages might have a comparable level of traffic in organic searches, however this does not fit a typical profile of Adwords advertisers. What is more likely is that these sites were small and had very low traffic for key search terms normally.