Can You Pay Google to Rank Higher?

Google has an interesting history with selling search engine placement results. The company’s 2004 Founders’ IPO Letter comments on its search results, saying, “They are unbiased and objective, and we do not accept payment for them…” Even back then, though, Google didn’t claim to not prioritize paid ads: “We also display advertising, which we work hard to make relevant, and we label it clearly.”

That’s still true today. In this article, we’ll talk about paying Google to be top of search results, as well as how to get to the top of Google without paying.

Can You Pay Google for Top Search Results Ranking?

The quick answer to this is “no.” Generally speaking, you can’t pay Google to rank you higher in search results. And an SEO agency or specialist who says you can isn’t giving you the full story — best to go elsewhere instead of giving them your money.

But while paying Google for top search results is a popular SEO myth, there’s a gray area: Using Google Ads for more prominent placement on the search results page (SERP).

One tactic you could try is running ads for fast results, then working on SEO to improve organic results. This is kind of like paying to get to the top.

You’re not getting to the top of search results; you’re being placed on the top of the search results page, above the organic results. Put another way, your website isn’t climbing to the top; you’re paying to be put there.

Sponsored search results in Google to help answer can you pay Google to rank higher.

Organic results, on the other hand, achieve that high placement through SEO effort.

Considerations When Deciding to Pay Google for Top Search Results

The benefit of having a sponsored search result is that users will see your content. Without paying for placement, your content may not show up on the first SERP at all.

The drawback is that a lot of people skim over those ad results and go to the organic results instead. The ads are very clearly labeled, so there’s no confusing an organic result with a paid one. We’re so bombarded with advertisements that we’ve practically trained ourselves to ignore them.

Which of these results would you choose? A lot of people would skip over the sponsored result at the top and click the second one down:

Organic versus paid search results.

Will everyone bypass your paid-for link placement? No. But it’s not a good enough replacement for a high-ranking organic result, so it’s not an excuse to ignore SEO permanently.

Here’s something interesting to consider: If the search intent is transactional, meaning people are looking to buy, sponsored results with an eye-catching visual element are particularly attractive. Sponsored or not, the row of backpacks in the results below can be more clickable than the text-based organic results below them:

Backpack pictures in sponsored Google search results.

WordStream found this to be true, too. They found that paid search listing clicks beat organic clicks by 2:1 when keywords had high commercial intent, meaning users were looking to buy a product or service.

Part of this could be because those product ads are so aesthetically pleasing. Another reason for this could be that when people are searching with the intent to buy, they’re less turned off by advertising; this is the time when customized ads can actually be helpful instead of annoying.

How To Get to the Top of Google Without Paying

There are a number of ways to improve your website’s SEO and have a better chance of getting to the top of Google without paying for ads. We have an in-depth Ultimate SEO Checklist that can walk you through each step. Until you’re ready to dive in, though, here are 4 worthwhile SEO techniques you can use to improve your ranking.

Target the Right Keywords

Keyword research is a must-do step when it comes to your site’s SEO. There are a number of steps to this strategy, including:

  • Finding primary keywords
  • Finding long-tail keywords
  • Considering ranking difficulty
  • Matching keywords to search intent
  • Mapping your keywords
  • Researching competitor keywords

This is how you’ll find business-relevant search queries from your target audience. From there, you can create content around those queries to attract visitors.

Create Easy-to-Read, Long-Form Content

Creating optimized content comes with its own set of SEO checklist items. In general, your content should be thorough, incorporate keywords naturally and be easy to read. Typically, long-form content performs better than short-form content (at least for now), and it gives you the opportunity to include a lot of keywords and phrases that will appeal to your audience.

Enhance Your Content

Text alone doesn’t make a standout or SEO-friendly article, no matter how well it’s written. Enhancing your content with other types of media, like images and embedded videos, can help capture attention.

Also, formatting with headers, links, lists, bold type, etc., increases readability, which helps visitors stay on the page. Limiting bounce rate and encouraging visitors to click around your website to read more are both good for SEO.

There are backend enhancements to do as well. For example, every image you include on a web page should have alt text, and internal linking has big benefits for SEO, too.

Compare Your Content Against the Competition

When you compare your content against the competition, you do two things. First, you determine what your audience wants to hear about that you’re not covering. You can then plan content around those topics. Second, you sniff out gaps that your competitors aren’t covering yet and that your audience wants to know about. You can then be the first to answer those queries.

How Long Does It Take SEO To Work?

SEO takes a lot of work. If this is your first time optimizing a website, you’re probably wondering how long it’ll be until you see a return on your efforts. While there’s no precise way to determine when your SEO will begin working, here’s a general idea of what to expect:

  • For existing websites that already have some measure of authority, you’ll see SEO results within 3 to 4 months.
  • For new websites, you’ll see SEO results within 6 to 12 months.

That’s assuming you put the necessary time into learning and improving your website’s SEO. If you only work on your website sporadically, it could be a lot longer until you see results, if they ever come.

This article has a breakdown of the many factors that impact how long it can take your SEO to work.

Can I See if Google Has Indexed My Website?

Having a website won’t get you anywhere if it hasn’t been indexed by search engines, namely Google. Here’s an easy way to check if your website’s been indexed by Google:

  • Go to the Google home page
  • In the search bar, enter site:yoururl.com
  • If Google has indexed your site, the “About X results” at the top of the page should show approximately the number of pages on your website
Search results to check if Google has ranked a website.

Note that this won’t tell you exactly how many pages of your website are indexed, but it’s a simple way to see if Google’s indexed your site at all. To see exactly which pages of your website Google has indexed, you’ll want the Page Indexing Report in Google Search Console.

Final Thoughts About Paying Google To Be Top of Search Results

Being included in search results because of a paid ad isn’t the same as ranking well. However, if you want to be on the first SERP while you work on getting there organically, paid ads are a viable option.

Paid ads can also have secondary positive results for your organic SEO, such as helping you test keywords and generating backlinks if users share your pages.

That said, paid placement isn’t a replacement for organic SEO. Whether you do both or only focus on rising in the rankings organically, you should never forgo working on your SEO.

Want a way to predict where your SEO is heading and what you can do to influence results? Check out our article about SEO forecasting.

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