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Oliver Ewbank

Can Paid Content Promotion Influence Rankings?

24th Mar 2015 Content Marketing 8 minutes to read

Can Paid Content Promotion Influence Rankings?

To get content in front of the right audience you can sometimes get help from paid promotion. Paid content promotion can come in many forms including social media, remarketing and native advertising.

Whilst the main purpose of paid promotion is to increase traffic and conversions, have you ever asked if it can impact organic search rankings? DISCLAIMER this is not to buy links, which can result in a manual or algorithmic penalty. This is referring to the by-product of paid promotion, which could mean an increase in organic rankings.

2015 SEO

Google have made it clear that mobile usability is a huge part of modern SEO with the announcement of their mobile update set to launch on April 21st.

They have also made it clear that any doorway pages will not be tolerated.

In light of these updates the need for quality content marketing has never been stronger. If you want to compete for premium terms you need to get your content in front of the right audience.

Free & Paid Content Promotion

So what is the difference between free and paid content promotion? Firstly no content promotion is technically ‘free’. In SEO time is money and to get content in front of the right audience can take a lot of research and strategy planning.

Free Promotion

Free promotion involves seeding content in front of the right audience.

This could include:

  • Activating on social profiles (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn & Pinterest)
  • Outreaching to key influencers to share your content
  • Outreaching to bloggers and journalists to pick up your content
  • Seeding in online communities

Paid Promotion

Paid promotion involves spending money (usually on a Pay Per Click or Pay Per Impression basis) and has two main benefits.

  1. You can target your core audience with a range of wonderful features
  2. The knock-on effect may influence rankings

I have taken a look at the different forms of paid promotion and how the secondary benefit could impact rankings.

Let’s get started.

Content Remarketing

Remarketing lets you show ads to people who have visited your website or used your mobile app before.

Content Remarketing does the same thing but instead of trying to convert a direct sale you are simply providing the user with content that they will find useful.

The Google Display Network is huge and has over two million sites to serve your ad on. With this in mind there is a strong opportunity to get in front of the right audience. The GDN also includes big Google players like Gmail and YouTube. See an example of the potential reach below.

Google Display Network

You can remarket to users using video, banner or text ads.

For banner ads you can display ads in the following format:

  • Vertical rectangle: 240 x 400
  • Mobile leaderboard: 320 x 50
  • Banner: 468 x 60
  • Leaderboard: 728 x 90
  • Square: 250 x 250
  • Small square: 200 x 200
  • Large rectangle: 336 x 280
  • Inline rectangle: 300 x 250
  • Skyscraper: 120 x 600
  • Wide skyscraper: 160 x 600
  • Half-page: 300 x 600
  • Large leaderboard: 970 x 90
  • Large mobile banner: 320 x 100
  • Billboard: 970 x 250
  • Portrait: 300 x 1050

Advertise your content by time, device and location to ensure your content is getting in front of the right audience.

For example, a sports retailer could create a remarketing list for anyone that visited their boxing products. They could then create a piece of content to help the user i.e. ‘Top Pre Fight Boxing Exercises’ this could then be served to their audience in video, banner or text format.

Remarketing through Google also gives you the chance to target similar audiences. Google bases similar audiences on browsing activity which is an excellent way to expand your content reach to a new audience.

Secondary Impact on Search

If you are targeting your remarketing lists appropriately, your content has the potential to get picked up on blogs and sites naturally – and accumulate backlinks accordingly. This efficient targeting method will also prompt social shares which will grow your social following.

Facebook Advertising

Facebook also have their own remarketing option. Simply add the remarketing pixel to your site and you can display content to previous users through Facebook.

Facebook Ad

For normal Facebook advertising you can target your audience by:

  • Time
  • Device
  • Location
  • Demographic 
  • Interests
  • Behaviours
  • Education
  • Connections

You can also create a custom audience and target users defined by:

  • Facebook User IDs
  • Email Addresses
  • Phone Numbers
  • App User IDs

This gives you the capability to buy third party data or use an existing email list to advertise your content to relevant users.

For example, a travel insurance company could create an infographic guide on ‘Travel Safety Tips’ and target users who are likely to go on holiday.

Secondary Impact on Search

Again, promoting content on Facebook is likely to increase the number of likes on your Facebook page. This is demonstrating you have a strong social following.

Twitter Advertising

Twitter advertising is a great way to get your content in front of users who are key influencers in your industry. There are three main ways you can advertise your content on Twitter:

  1. Promoted Tweets: tweets displayed in a user’s feed.
  2. Promoted Accounts: suggestions to follow your account.
  3. Promoted Trends: a suggestion that your hashtag is trending.

The most appropriate for Content Marketing is promoted tweets. They are easy to set up and the beauty is you only pay per engagement (engagements are clicks, retweets, replies, new followers, card engagements) – impressions are free.

Similar to Facebook you can do custom audience targeting and target users by their Twitter ID. This is an excellent way to target key influencers in your industry.

To find out who the key influencers are in your industry you can use Followerwonk or BuzzSumo to research bios and work out who is the most relevant person with the largest following (see example below).

key influencers

If you can target your ads to key influencers the knock on effect can be huge. One retweet can get your content in front of a whole new audience.

For example, a shoe retailer could create useful content displaying the benefits of their product and specifically target fashion, beauty or lifestyle bloggers that have a large social following.

Secondary Impact on Search

Earlier this year Twitter and Google reached an agreement to make 140 character updates more searchable online. In the first 6 months of 2015 tweets will start to be visible in Google’s organic results as soon as they are posted. Read more on the Twitter & Google Deal.

Additionally, if you can reach a key influencer who finds the content useful there is a high opportunity you will pick up a credible backlink from their own personal blog. See how you can target key influencers or their followers below.

Custom Twitter Advertising


Native Advertising

Native advertising can be an excellent way to get content in front of your target market. In short, this advertising method displays your content next to articles of a similar context.

The main platforms for native advertising are:

  • Zemanta
  • Taboola
  • Gravity
  • Content Click
  • Outbrain

Promoted recommendations, in-text links and in-stream ads are an excellent way to entice a user who is already engaged with a similar topic. This form of advertising is relatively cheap  and a quick way to get your content on platforms with a large audience.

Native Advertising

Secondary Impact on Search

I have seen the links from some platforms show up in Google Webmaster Tools, but they obviously don’t have an impact on organic search results. All the links to your content (placed next to similar articles) are no-followed so there is no direct impact on your domains link profile.

That said, this form of paid promotion could still accumulate natural links and social shares.

Paid Stumbles & Reddits

The popular bookmarking sites StumbleUpon and Reddit also offer their own version of paid promotion.


Will allow you to feature your domain more often in the Stumble process and similar to other networks you can target Stumblers by age, gender, device, location and interest.


Reddit ads start at $0.75 CPM with a $5.00 minimum spend. If you advertise you can get votes to increase engagement as well as direct clicks.

Both of these platforms are a good place to activate your content, but I would avoid any heavy corporate sales pitching.

Secondary Impact on Search

The days where bookmarking had a direct impact on search results are long gone. However, utilising this platform can still get your content shared to the right audience.


Whether you do PR in-house or use a shiny agency it still has a costly expense. PR can take many forms when it comes to SEO.

Activity which can often influence SEO results include:

  • Newsjacking (injecting your ideas into a breaking news story)
  • Advertorial
  • Press Releases
  • PR Stunts
  • Promotional Events
  • Event Sponsorship
  • Proactively selling in news stories to local and national press
  • Outreach to industry bloggers
  • Jumping on media requests i.e. #jornorequest

A well executed PR campaign can do wonders for your SEO results. Newsjacking, networking and jumping on topical news can often lead to host of natural links and brand citations from strong publications.

SnickersFor example, the Jeremy Clarkson Snickers PR stunt led to strong news coverage from domains such as The Metro.

Less creative content like advertorial and online press releases should be no-followed and are less likely to have an impact on search results.

Secondary Impact on Search

Without a doubt PR can have a massive impact on search results. The knock on results can often be found in Google News and for brand related searches. A well thought out PR campaign can certainly strengthen your link profile.


So there you have it. Paid content promotion has numerous benefits. It gets your content in front of the right audience but the by-product is often increased social signals and valuable earned backlinks.

Custom audience promotion gives you the opportunity to target key influencers which in turn will lead to increased exposure and brand citations.

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Oliver Ewbank
About the author

Oliver Ewbank

Working in new media for over 8 years, Oliver has worked for a range of brands including eBay and on SEO, PPC and Social Media Management. He has won awards for his SEO work and been featured in a number of publications, including Virgin online.

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