It doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to root out the motivation behind Google’s latest research finding that advertisers who stop buying paid ads on Google’s search engine lose lots of search engine clicks. So, in this post I’ll take a look at the research to help you navigate your way through the data.
First up, Google’s headline finding:
In the event of pausing a paid ad campaign, “organic traffic does not make up for the loss of paid clicks”
Few should be surprised by this finding. Paid ads on search engines exist to disrupt the natural search flow and provide standout far beyond that afforded by organic listings. And Google has recently enhanced this standout even further with their new Enhanced Ad Sitelinks feature that allow ads to be embedded within ads. So it’s logical that turning off paid ads will result in the loss of the vast majority of clicks they would otherwise have generated. Google’s research puts the lost clicks at 85%, slightly lower than a prior study in July 2011 which claimed 89%. Interestingly, if a minimal paid ad spend is maintained, the
We cannot read any additional data (e.g. click mix between organic and paid listings) because Google’s charts are not drawn to scale and the above 85% actually measures about 66%.
Where ad budgets are partially cut (although the research doesn’t specify by what percentage), the lost clicks amount to 80% on average.
The biggest problem I have with this study is that it assumes all clicks are equal, effectively ignoring the value of the different click types. If, for example, the 80% of lost clicks arising from a budget cut only contributed 10% of the end actions (e.g. purchase, sign-up, trial etc.) then this might yet prove to be ROI beneficial.
We know from prior studies, like Barcelona’s Pompeu Fabra Univertisty’s study in 2010, that search engine users exhibit very different behaviours when confronted by organic and paid ads, and that their propensity to click on either shifts based on their needs. Informational searchers are typically more likely to follow organic listings, while transactional searchers, particularly those in buying mode, are relatively more predisposed to clicking on paid ads.
Google’s study concludes by assessing the % of clicks gained by increasing search advertising spend levels:
Where advertisers were previously not advertising with search ads, and then turned on search ads, the incremental traffic was 79%
No surprise, again, that buying paid ads leads to a sharp increase in overall click volume. However, this comes at the expense of some lost organic clicks, but we cannot gauge how much from the research because the charts have not been drawn to scale.
To accurately assess the true incremental value generated from increasing search ad spend we have to factor in the value of each end action. For examples, if we are seeking informational searchers, who are much more inclined to click organic listings, and by placing additional paid ads we generate fewer organic clicks, the net result may not be positive for our marketing goals.
Google’s report concludes as follows:
Across the board, our findings are consistent: ads drive a very high proportion of incremental traffic – traffic that is not replaced by navigation from organic listings when the ads are turned off or turned down.
It’s hard to disagree with such a generic statement; of course, if you pay for clicks you’ll get more clicks than you might otherwise. But each marketer needs to consider these findings in the light of their unique business challenges. By factoring in the value generated from each type of click, we can make a much more informed judgement about the investment levels needed in search engine advertising to achieve our goals.
[image credit: Getty Images]
I think I owe Lee Williams a beer or two as this is the second consecutive blog post I’ve written from a tip-off he passed my way. And this time, we’re talking about pay-per-click (PPC) advertising on search engines…
Every marketer wants their brand and web site to appear high up in the SERP (search engine results page) when a user searches for a relevant keywords. Most often this means compiling a lengthy list of relevant terms then optimising your website against these (known as SEO, search engine optimisation) as well as, if budgets permit, buy PPC ads against these keywords.
That’s fine, but sometimes a little imagination and creativity can go a long way too.
When England cricket player, Matt Prior, accidentally broke a window in the Lord’s pavillion during a test match against Sri Lanka, marketing agency Dare spotted an opportunity for their client B&Q, a home improvements superstore.
So, when thousands of cricket fans heard the news about the broken window and headed off to their search engine to find out what happened, here’s what they saw in response to a search for Matt Prior:
I love seeing this kind of guerrilla marketing. Buying ads against the keywords “Matt Prior” is clever and very cheap. A quick check on Google AdWords confirms that there is, unsurprisingly, no competition whatsoever for these keywords and with 2,900 monthly searches there’s a good amount of traffic to go after. Conversely, there’s much more competition for keywords like “broken window” because every glazier and hardware shop wants a piece of that action meaning the price you pay for a click on a prominent ad will be much higher:
But will B&Q get any return from this investment? The truth is probably not, in a direct sense at least. People interested in Matt Prior’s window smash are highly unlikely to need any new windows themselves right now. But what this type of activity does do is help boost B&Q’s notoriety and reinforce their position as a great place to buy DIY materials. By cleverly associating themselves with a high profile cricket incident, B&Q demonstrates that they are interested in cricket (even if at the most superficial level) and cricket lovers who spot this association are more likely to think of B&Q next time they need DIY supplies. Who knows, some might even remember that window they’ve been meaning to fix and pop in on their way home after a hard day watching the cricket in the office ;-)
Opportunities like this can present themselves at any time. I recommend keeping back a small slush fund in the online marketing budget so you can jump on topical events at a moment’s notice. And don’t think this type of work is only for the big boys like B&Q; small and medium businesses who operate at a local level or in specialist fields have equal opportunity to exploit trending topics online, perhaps even greater opportunity. The prizes, as always, go to the marketers who think quickest and have the courage to experiment boldly.
The major search engines have long argued that paid listings can help boost brand awareness and recall. However, data from iProspect and comScore, Inc. shows that search listings alone may have very little, if any, impact on recall. If you really want to boost your brand recall online, you’ll need a more integrated approach, embracing both organic and paid search, as well as other exposure points like display ads.
Crucially, this research underlines the potency of having both paid and organic search listings for your brand. Combining these two exposure types alone boosted unaided brand recall by more than a third, from 17% to 23%. If you cannot afford expensive display ads, getting your SEO and paid search ads working in harmony will give you the biggest recall bang for your bucks.
And, here’s a gentle reminder for us all: even when throwing everything at consumers, fewer than half of the respondents in this research were able to recall all brands. Widespread brand awareness calls for much more than a few simple online ad exposures, and there are no guaranteed shortcuts. Becoming well-known and remembered is usually the ultimate result of a carefully planned and executed online and offline programme of activities delivered over an extended period of time.
eMarketer article: Uniting Search and Display for Stronger Results