AdWords Lessons From SEO Agencies?

by Adam Kreitman

Last updated on January 10th, 2018

C’mon! AdWords lessons from SEO agencies? What do SEOs really know about the complex and strategic world of PPC?

Well, in this article we’re gonna find out.

Over the last few months, I’ve been monitoring the AdWords campaigns of the companies bidding on the keyword “seo agency” in Google (I use the “spy tool” iSpionage to keep a tab on the top advertisers).

When I do this, I’m looking for the advertisers who have the highest Impression Share.


Because the advertisers that have the highest Impression Shares over time are usually the ones that have figured out a profitable formula for competing in AdWords.

About a month ago, I added the term “seo agency” to my Keyword Monitor Dashboard in iSpionage. Here’s a screenshot that shows the top 3 advertisers for that term over that timeframe:

top 3

So now that we know who the top competitors are, let’s see what these SEO firms have figured out about PPC…

1. Higher Visibility

Higher Visibility is WAY ahead of the competition when it comes to Impression Share. Over the last month, their ad appeared 84.6% of the time when “seo agency” was typed into Google. That’s more than double the Impression Share of their next highest competitor.

Now their average ad position of 6 is on the lower side of the rankings, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. There are a few reasons having a low average ad position may be a good strategy. These include…

  • You pay a lot less for clicks in position 6 than position 1 or 2.
  • You’ve done the math and found your ROI is higher in lower positions than the higher ones.
  • You’re “day parting,” which means your bidding higher/lower at certain times of the day or days of the week.

I’ve seen research that claims the best average ad position for AdWords ads to be in is 3. I think that’s garbage.

Sure, being ranked 3rd may work well for some ad/keyword combos, but may not work well for yours. You should do your own testing and—based on your results, your budget, and your campaign’s goals—figure out what average ad positions work the best for your campaign.

Okay, on to Higher Visibility’s ad…

1 - hv ad

The first thing that stands out is the headline of the ad makes a big, bold claim: “The #1 SEO Company.” Making claims like this is fine IF you can back them up. Otherwise they come off as hype and turn people off.

The other thing about the headline is it includes a symbol and a number. You’ll often find that that top performing AdWords ads have numbers and symbols in them. They make the ads stand out from the usual sea of letters most ads are made of. Also, depending on how they’re used, numbers can bring specificity to an ad, which can help the claims seem more realistic.

As for the ad copy, here are a few things that stood out:

  • It mentions “proven results” to provide some implied proof that HV is experienced and doesn’t just talk the talk, but walk the walk.
  • It asks a question. That’s a good strategy to use in ads to make them stand out and get prospects thinking about what they want to accomplish.
  • It includes a Call to Action so searchers know what they should do when they get to the site.

Lastly, notice the phone number that appears with the ad. This is known as a “Call extension” in AdWords and it allows you to display your phone number with your ad. (You can either use your own phone number or a toll free Google tracking number so you can get some data about phone calls your ads generate.)

If you want calls, I’d definitely recommend using Call Extensions… especially if you’re running ads on mobile devices.

That’s their ad, now let’s look at the landing page it leads to…

screenshot of a landing page

The first thing to look at on a landing page is whether it continues the conversation the ad started (a conversation that actually starts in the searcher’s brain that leads them to type a specific keyword into Google).

So the headline of the ad claims that HigherVisibility is the #1 SEO Company. And, looking at their landing page, they have a lot of “proof elements” to support that claim.

Proof is a big deal in marketing. Anyone can make whatever claims they want about their product, service and company. But consumers have heard it all before and been jerked around so much, they’re not gonna believe most of the claims you make… unless you PROVE them.

As Internet Marketing guru Terry Dean has said, “Hype is simply a promise (claim) without proof.”

And HigherVisibility provides some proof in a few ways here:

  • They have the banner up at the top right of the page showing they were rated a leading firm by Top SEOs.
  • Front and center, they have a screen shot from Google that shows them ranked at the top of the page in the Google rankings (granted, it doesn’t show what keyword this is for, but it offers some degree of proof and also mirrors what their prospects want… for their business to be at the top of the rankings).
  • Lower down the page, they display their “certifications” which shows off some honors they’ve gotten from 3rd party sources.
  • And lastly, in the footer, they have yet a few more banners from BBB and SEMPO to help reinforce their credibility.

Does all this mean that HigherVisibility is the “#1 SEO Company” as they claim in their ad? That claim is pretty much impossible for any company to back up. But, by offering all this proof on their landing page, HigherVisibility backs that claim up enough to make it credible.

The ad also promised a Free Quote. And on the landing page there’s a form, above the fold, for people to fill out to “Get Your Free SEO Analysis Today!”

The form is simple and I like how they title it “See How We Can Help!” and, even more, I like that the button offers the tangible benefit (a free SEO Analysis) for clicking. That tends to work MUCH better than the generic and boring “click here” and “submit” buttons.

However, there is a bit of confusion here. The ad promises a free quote. And, the bulk of the copy on the page is about getting a free quote. So it’s not clear when you fill out the form if you’re getting a quote, an  SEO analysis, or both.

Confusion leads to inaction. So, in this case, I’d recommend removing any confusion by making it clearer exactly what deliverable you get when you fill out the form.

One more thing I’d test on this page: The main headline on this page is “A Search from your Customers… Should show your business at the top of the list!”

It’s a decent headline, but the real issue I see is how it’s broken up. It’s clever to put the first part of it in something that looks like a search bar. But it breaks up the headline in an awkward way.

When I first landed on this page, my eyes went right to the image of the search results. I missed the headline completely. Then when I did notice it, it took me even longer to put the two parts of it together. I’d test reformatting the headline so it stands out more on the page and is easier to read.

2. Evolve Digital Labs

Compared to Higher Visibility’s 84.6% Impression Share, Evolve comes in at 37.6%. However, when they do appear, they show up much higher in the rankings with an Average Ad Position of 2.7.

2 - edl ad

For the keyword “SEO Agency,” Evolve is able to work the word ‘SEO Consulting/Consultants’ into their ad 3 times. There’s no doubt they offer what people searching for that keyword want (which isn’t always the case as you’ll see in a bit!).

One of the places they fit “SEO Consulting” is in the Display URL of the ad. This is an often overlooked way to make your ad stand out from the competition.

You have to use the actual URL of the website your ad leads to here. But, you can put something after the URL as Evolve does here with “/SEOConsulting.” Or, you can even use a subdomain and do something like

Google gives you 35 characters for the Display URL… take advantage of it!

The Evolve ad also asks a question: “Trouble Ranking Organically?” That’s great and speaks directly to the pain a lot of people looking for an SEO agency want addressed.

One thing I’d test in this ad is to not use their company name in the headline. Unless you’re big brand and prospects would recognize your brand name (or you’re bidding on brand name traffic), you can often put that space to better use.

screenshot of landing page

Where the Higher Visibility landing page focuses on proof, the Evolve landing page is all about getting people to take action. Clearly their first goal is to have you call them so they highlight their phone number right up top with the playful “Let’s talk!” in the graphic.

Below that there are three plans they offer clients with Call-To-Action buttons for each. And, in case you don’t feel like clicking any of those, there’s a contact form below that to get in touch with them.

The only real proof on this page is the line of logos of some of their clients at the bottom of the page. You can pretty much never offer enough proof on your website, so I’d test adding some more of it to this page.

Also, I’d want to test having more descriptive copy. The page seems to be big on brevity which may be working for them. However, the copy isn’t all that compelling/descriptive and, especially without much proof on the page, should be stronger than it is now to get more people to act.

3. Wakefly

Next up is Wakefly with a 26.2% Impression Share and an Average Ad Position of 6.5.

Quite honestly, I’m scratching my head on this one. Here’s the ad…

3 - wf ad

Yep, the keyword is “SEO Agency” and the ad talks about Expert PPC Management. This is NOT continuing the conversation going on in the prospect’s brain!

Now maybe this makes the ad stand out so much from the competition that, in some contrarian way, this is actually working for them. But I wouldn’t recommend this strategy.

That issue aside, notice how it asks the question “Is Your PPC Account Underperforming” but has no question mark. Also notice how “Let Us Help. Free Account Analysis.” is on two lines? I’d recommend putting the question mark after the question and moving “Let Us Help.” to the 2nd line.

By ending the first line with a punctuation mark, you can get what’s known as an extended headline. What that means is if your ad appears in one of the top 3 spots in AdWords, Google will show the first line of your copy next to your headline. This extends your headline, makes your ad stand out more and very often boosts the CTR of your ads.

screenshot of landing page

The landing page has a decent headline that addresses what most people looking for SEO/PPC want… highly targeted visitors to their site. It has a Call to Action with a form to sign up for a free consult. And it does mention SEO (in addition to PPC) which is what people were searching for in the first place!

I’m not a fan of the white text on the darker background that also has an image behind it. I’d test tweaking the design so the copy is easier to read.

Your call: Do SEO agencies get PPC?

Those are the top 3 advertisers for the keyword SEO agency over the past month. What are your thoughts about these SEO agency’s attempts at PPC? What do you think they’re doing well? What do you think they can improve upon?

Share your comments below.



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Adam Kreitman

Adam Kreitman coaches business owners on how to make their websites more compelling to their prospects.. and to Google. He owns Words That Click, a firm specializing in Conversion Optimization and managing Google AdWords campaigns for small businesses.Follow him on


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  1. Frank Roberts says:
    December 15, 2015 at 12:45 am

    I think SEO agencies can do PPC very well as they keep firm understanding about keywords research and conversion optimization.

  2. January 8, 2014 at 3:18 pm

    I think that’s a vauable concern. When you think about big SEO agencies who come to mind? Probably companies like, right? You’ll be agree when you will see their quality of services thier revenue.

  3. Singsys says:
    January 3, 2014 at 12:30 am

    Is there any gideline or simply pay money and get top position in in search engine having bad coontent and all in comparision to other site (that not use PPC)

  4. November 22, 2013 at 12:40 pm

    This is one of the questions that we have been asking. Why do SEO agencies do PPC? Does it mean PPC is still the better option go in online advertising? But i guess both SEO & PPC should work together.

    SEO is for authority and long term play. PPC is more towards promotions, short terms traffic, and fast results.

  5. Susan says:
    October 25, 2013 at 11:57 am

    Isn’t this making the assumption that because they’re bidding on “SEO Agency” they don’t know/don’t offer PPC?

    For example, I would hope Higher Visibility is ranking well, considering they offer PPC as a service….maybe you could flip this around and look at PPC agencies that are doing poorly in PPC?

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