Anyone Notice That Top Natural Positions Get Filled With Websites They Pay Google Ads Since Dec Update?

Anyone notice that top NATURAL positions are going to the people who pay for a lot of Google Ads since Dec update? 4 different sectors and seeing a pattern. Grr. 😡
28 👍🏽 2 🤭
[filtered from 26 Answers]


Only been like this for 12 years or so
What else I will hear about this update 🙂 it makes no sense… look it from other perspective. With paid traffic or more sources like FB or so, you get more traffic/users than those that not doing it. Those users share you page/products, spend time on website etc and than this leads to better rankings…

Karin » Shady
Makes sense.

Nope… I spend over $100k a month in ads and my site tanked organically lol

Kallas » Ramon
It's a message. You are just not spending enough on ads
Floyd » Kallas
Hahahah..comment of the year! Love it
Yeah I knew a company that did 20k a month ad spend…and in the end they realised it was ridiculous. They had a team of interns and minimum wagers in a room clicking on competitors ads using Virtual Private Networks (VPN)s…and they did this because they found out that their competition had a team of interns and minimum wagers in a room clicking on THEIR ads using VPNs. When they came to me I was like…why…what…but…whyyyyyyy. Their reason was 'because they are doing it'. 🙂
The reason some companies do it is because other shady businesses run negative ads with your brand keywords. No amount of organic results can hide these ads, so the best way is to fight fire with fire

Each Google update: people who lose ranks complain that Google is broken and it's unfair. People who gain ranks praise Google for finally getting it right and rewarding good content 😂😂

+1 😂
Yeah, not complaining, I *asked* if anyone else had seen fluctuation like this, as I was curious. I didn't complain about anything. Three of the sectors are bouncing around like they are on coke, the other is in a hole and stagnant today. I am waiting it out as usually after 2 weeks, latest a month after an update, they right themselves. They don't have better content, they don't even have proper Search Engine Optimization (SEO) (their on page doesn't have H tags and their title is the company name | HOME). I know the guy who runs two of the sites in question, and they don't even want to rank, they just were built to look 'pretty'. So way to go with your awesome insight.

Those who don't know the proper strategy to work and follow pure whitehat techniques – They start crying 🙂
"You know what?"
Content is the real king 🙂
But Each and every factor counts in ranking. From Niche to Do follow Contextual backlinks.
I've 2 websites – Both Stats has been increased though! Alhamdulillah

Jean » Waqar
22 years making websites and have white hatted everything. Content may be king but quality is the emperor. 🙂


This correlation has always been there.

John » Dave
Correct me if I'm wrong but I don't think I've ever seen any kind of analysis that supports a genuinely clear correlation? Lots of empirically based hearsay, but that's about it. And I've never once heard a respected, data-based Search Engine Optimization (SEO) give firm credence to this urban legend beyond "maybe, could be a small CTR boost"… It would also be a massive anti-trust issue and Google aren't that stupid. If there's a grain of truth, it's diluted enough to never be 'pinnable'. And, therefore, not a significant enough factor for anyone to spend too much time worrying about.
Dave » John
Wow you are really smart.
John » Dave
Thanks hun 😘
Friar » John
This guy gets it. There is correlation, but no causation that indicates its anything Google is doing. The more likely causation is that companies willing to spend a lot of money on Pay-Per-Click (PPC) are probably spending a lot of money on a balance robust digital strategy, which would include Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
There are so many ridiculous claims made in this industry that are easily debunked by Google's very real fear of anti-trust lawsuits. They've managed to avoid anti-trust in the USA until recently, but it's likely this goes away when Trump leaves office. There's a good chance this lawsuit was brought strictly as political theater, but it does show that the US government is watching and waiting for them to screw up. No way Google does anything to make it worse, especially if it's obvious – like bounce rate is a rank signal or any other signal that requires measurement site-side.
Google Justice Department antitrust lawsuit explained: This is what it means for you
Jean » Friar
Yeah but in three of the sectors they aren't. The on page isn't even done properly.
John » John
Exactly. It's a common misconception that it helps. The only weight it carries in organic searches is using Adwords to build organic brand searches over time. Like Brent says, generally if a company is doing Adwords they are also working on other areas of their digital marketing, including SEO.
Jean » John
I get that but I can guarantee to you that three out of the four are not doing anyyything. I know the companies that are making them, we're friendly and I know the owner who runs two of them, and they aren't doing anything SEO wise…and they have tried to upsell them…but they just wanted AdWords. Plus their on page is not done. No heading-tags (h) for the keywords, etc. Even today the guy was like they don't care about their rank, they just want 'a pretty website'. 🙂
Friar » Jean
So you're saying that a site with poor on site optimization ranks well? That's shocking. Except it's not. You can rank a poorly coded, poorly optimized, thin content site with enough good backlinks. If I had to guess, the site has a ton of good backlinks.
Thanks Friar, interesting article. I do think it would be naivety to presume Google never bends the rules to its own interest, when its algorithm is both proprietary and opaque. But if they do, I bet its done in an almost 'encrypted', way so any data patterns would be very hard to pick up. Which could potentially explain a lot of the 'randomness frustration' in our industry 🙂 And the end result would be expected to be what we actually have. Occasional frustration with things that don't seem to make sense, based on what we do just about know. A la Jean here. But ultimately, stick to the tried and tested and it will, broadly, work.
Friar » John
Oh I have no doubt Google is bending rules as hard as they can. But seriously, they're Google. They're not going to do something that some shlub doing Search Engine Optimization (SEO) in Ottawa can figure out that is obviously an antitrust violation. The obvious ones like Google Ads increase your rankings, anything with Chrome, or any metric that requires GA to measure. Those would all be super easy to test and the government would be all over that so fast.
Anything Google does that would potentially bring an antitrust suit would certainly be so well hidden and disguised that we're not going to figure it out.
At the end of the day, I don't think Google is afraid of antitrust for fear of being broken up (they already prepped for that – Alphabet and everything is its own company) as much as they are afraid that an antitrust suit would almost certainly require them to enter the algorithm as evidence. Even if it's not made public, once it's out in the wild someone is going to have a look at it. Not only is that the end of their dominance, but we would all know exactly what works and what doesn't. It would be catastrophic if they are ever forced to reveal their algorithm.
Completely agree.


Evidence please? Some before and after graphs showing a shift in correlation across thousands of terms?
My site has top 3 positions for many thousands of phrases, we have no ads, and we went up a little in this update.
This is something that we hear time and time again and there's always a better explanation.

Jean » Phil
It's just something I noticed in sectors I follow closely. The top result in natural has never been the one who is spending a ton on AdWords (easy to see who they are over time) and now those guys are number 1 since the Dec rollout. Numbers 1 and 2 today for two sectors. 1/3 for another and 2/3 in the fourth. First time I have seen this. And it's always been these people who have paid for AdWords and the SEO on the majority is meh at best.
Phil » Jean
Well I'd be keen to see something specific..
Jean » Phil
I am in the UK where are you as they roll out changes per region. You're going to just have to trust me as I am not wasting time on screenshots…It's past five and am shattered. Been coughing since last night and if it doesn't go away soon gotta go get a Rona test.
Phil » Jean
Sorry to hear you're not well.
I'm U.K. too. As I say, for me I've seen nothing..
Jean » Phil
Yeah just was wondering what other people had seen…one of the sectors is bouncing around like it's had a night of redbull and vodka's. The other three are doing slow bounces. It's so weird. But the people with paid ads (the ones that show up the most) are bouncing more to 1st.
Phil » Jean
I'll watch out for it!


Jean » Oder
Not false it's something I have seen across four sectors since the update. Just was asking if anyone else had seen the same…
Oder » Jean
Ads have no impact on ranking. For example if I use a lander that is not indexable – Google is not going to rank my indexable pages higher LOL. Even if I use an indexable page and spend a million dollars it wont rank higher. I manage mulit $Million dollar spends for several clients using both scenarios, and paid ads have NEVER improved rankings. If people go on to search your brand later after clicking an ad of course that counts as traffic and ctr. But the direct traffic from ads have no impact on rankings.
Likewise – if you start a new site today and spend $100k in ads in December – you will not see your rankings fluctuate at all.
Jean » Oder
Honey, I know that. My cousin works at Google (high end software engineer who has been there forever) and says there 'should be no correlation'. I get that, but…here we are and I'm watching it happen. I sent him screen shots and he said they are probably testing something in your area and wait it out…it still feels a bit dodgy.

More than 10 years old sites. Most of them nothing happen. Some traffics spike 3x and then down to 2x. More than 5 years old, some going up, some down. Few months old websites ( assuming you have lot of content, 100k words and build on expired domains ), all up. So from my humble opinion, don't worry too much unless you are doing something funny in the past such as using your own Private Blog Network (PBN) to boost the rank. Ranking do not have direct relationship to Google adwords. Stay cool and let the big G do the job. If you suffer any Google big update before, you will know what i mean

Yeah it's what my plan was. Just was wondering if anyone else had seen it as well. Seems that they may be doing some testing in a few different areas, at least that's the working theory. 🙂 My site is more than 10 years old heheh.


It's really sad to see how your intent is being ignored and you're thrown off by saying your SEO game or site might be bad. But I know you're an expert with 22 year + experience, I remember Steven Kang making a post about this discussion about Google deliberately throwing a site on number 3 or so even if it is the best. Maybe it's just a little Google dance and you might rank back up soon?
Also it is kinda interesting to see they are now selling verified badge for GMB's etc might have something to do with this too? not so sure haven't yet observed it myself.

They aren't selling GMBs in the UK from what I can see (was in Google My Business (GMB) a few days ago and nothing). Thanks though…I mean these are sites that have been number 1 for over a decade and I have changed and redesigned said sites in that time. My cousin at Google said to wait out the update and chill…but it's dodgy af that they are putting up paid results to the top of natural. Enough of it happens and the SEOers will revolt.

This is very likely to happen for a few set of reasons:
1. When you advertise on Google ads, the chances of gaining an insight to search term data exists.
This data when made use of properly for on page optimization can actually help, in increased relevance of the page towards that topic, especially with Natural Language Processing (NLP) in place. It is going to do more good than anything else unless page is over optimized.
2. With advertising and good page content, a site can make people come back with branded terms.
For example, I searched for WordPress page optimization.
And landed on your site. I liked your article so much that I searched the second time with the query and the name of your website.
This kind of brings in that additional trust, and makes the machine think that this is what and where they want the content from. So let me give it to them.
3. A few instances or case studies have revealed that some writers or freelancers click the ads and link back to resources if they are relevant and useful
So additional and relevant backlinks are always a game on. Ahrefs has a study for reference about this one.
4. People might have bookmarked or shared the content across social media channels, and then that might result in a ripple effect.
To summarize,
I don't think that advertising alone had that impact on rankings. What I believe or think is that, the site made a good investment work it's way.
End of the day,
If you are playing with ads, the more you could track and see the results, and optimize, the better.
Hint: Google Analytics and events, goals etc. 🙂

Yeah, IF the companies are doing that. I know the webmaster for two of the sites that poof are ranking who only pay for Google Ads. I looked at the sites, zero Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and from his mouth 'they only wanted pretty sites'. So there is no SEO no Natural Language Processing (NLP), nothing happening. That's why it's weird. I figure they will bounce out, but they have been there for six days. We'll see what happens. Working theory is that they are testing something in different areas. SEOers I know beyond this group…and I know a bunch of web designers etc, one has seen it in their area…the rest, nope. But it's been seen, not just by me. 🙂


This may satisfy you: Is It Necessary to Run Google Ads to Rank a Website Faster for Desirable Keywords?

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