How to Leverage PPC Insights In An Organic World

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It was the slamming door heard ‘round the world: the disappearance of organic keyword data.

It affected the organic search world in a wide range of ways. Some folks like Mike King have done great presentations about why “not provided” doesn’t matter in the grand scheme, and most folks have moved on, albeit begrudgingly.

On the paid search side, there wasn’t quite as much outrage. We obviously still have keyword data based on what we’re paying for. Still, it kind of sucked, because that organic data was nice to have.

But there was one silver lining. Right around the same time that the “not provided” drama hit, Google unveiled a new report in the AdWords interface called Paid & Organic. If you’re running AdWords in addition to your organic optimization efforts, there are some pretty nifty insights to be gained. Let’s check out what it can do.

Note that in order for this report to work and to do what I outline below, you need to make sure that your AdWords account is linked to your Webmaster Tools account.  You can do that by going into the AdWords’ “My Account” drop down, choosing “Linked Accounts” and going from there. (There’s also a great breakout by Yehoshua Coren over on Isoosi about how the data from Webmaster Tools vs. this AdWords report looks.)

You can find the Paid & Organic report by going to your Dimensions tab. In the drop down, it will default to “Day,” but if you click there you can see this report option further down the list.


When you click on it, you’ll get a kind of  hairy-looking chart:


What you’re looking at is how a certain keyword performs when it’s shown as a paid ad, how it performs when it triggers an organic listing, and then how the performance is when both instances show together.

How can this help?

On its own, the report might elicit the “Interesting, but so what?” reaction. Where this can get interesting is when you export it to Excel and start having some geeky fun with pivot tables.

For example, I did this and filtered for the instances where the keyword triggered both an organic and a paid listing. Usually you’ll see the best CTR when both are shown, but not always.

I was interested in what keywords DIDN’T perform better when both were shown. Why? Because that means that either the paid version or organic version did better.

If the paid one did better, I could strategize to go after that term more aggressively. On the other hand, if the paid one didn’t do as well as organic, I could strategize to not focus on it so much/reduce CPC/pause it, etc. Let’s take a look.

Keywords where organic performance stinks

When I arranged and filtered this way, my results looked like this:


See how the organic click through is 0%, and it lists some positions that are pretty far down? This gave me some specific keywords to look at on the paid side. I can check out if these were strong performers for conversions on the paid side, and treat them differently than I might have, knowing that organic isn’t picking up any of the slack.

Keywords where paid performance stinks

Then I did the opposite: I looked for the instances where both an organic and paid ad is shown, but organic is performing better. It looked like this:


Based on this, you could assume that maybe organic was doing well because it was bolstered by the paid version showing, but we don’t really know.

This creates an opportunity to separate these terms out and experiment with lowering the bids – even if Ad CTR drops, do we see the same or higher in the Organic listing? Because if so, we just saved some cheddar by reducing the bids on the Paid side!


Even though Google ran off like a thief in the night with organic keyword data, there is still some insight out there that can help you figure out how to leverage instances where you have both PPC and organic going on.

Set aside some time to dig around in these reports – and most importantly, mess around with them in Excel.

The reports alone won’t tell you what to do, but some analysis will give you a roadmap.

3 Responses to “How to Leverage PPC Insights In An Organic World”

  1. ronellsmith


    I’m ecstatic you are beating the “It’s-not-all-bad-news” drum on the topic of not provided. I’ve been surprised at the dearth of information surrounding how PPC can be used to better inform organic in the face of the changes.

    I suspect it’s owing in large part to agencies keeping this sort of thing close to their vest, realizing the SEO’s who are complaining loudest have the least understanding of holistic “search.”

    As you have made plain, not only is the sky not falling, things are actually quite bright for those acclimated to workarounds–and who have a find-a-way mentality.


  2. Susan Wenograd

    Thanks, Ronell! The nice part about the ‘not provided’ piece is I’m hopeful it’ll force SEOs and PPC folks to work more closely together. There’s a ton of power in leveraging both sides, but I don’t think that wall has really started to break down until recently.

  3. John Carter

    One of the best Google Adwords tips I ever got, from a guy named Simon, was to include a solid mix of the three (four including modified) match types, with the correct proportions of broad, phrase, and exact within each ad group. Most people that get started on PPC don’t think to do things that way. If you want to talk to Simon, you can call him at 219-733-4687.