Going green is the trend right now, but being environmentally friendly isn’t the only way that you can go organic. You’re presented with another organic choice every day when you use Google. The top two results represent that corporate choice, the paid listings. The rest of the results are the great wild beyond, also known as the organic listings. For many people, the paid results are practically invisible, but some small subset still clicks on these sponsored choices. Why do they do it? Who are they? These questions we may never answer, but we can look at how clicking habits affect your SEO company and how you spend your money.
Let’s start by looking at a study by GroupM UK and Nielsen that breaks down search queries in a variety of ways, including organic and branded. Here are the top results, these DO NOT include paid clicks as they accounted for less than 6% of all clicks in this study:
- Result 1: 48 percent
- Result 2: 12 percent
- Result 3: 8 percent
- Remainder: 32 percent
As you can see, the top result is the clear winner. If you take out branded search results (e.g. Pepsi or McDonalds), then the distribution is a little more even:
- Result 1: 35 percent
- Result 2: 15 percent
- Result 3: 11 percent
- Remainder: 39 percent
This is the study we’ve all been working with for the past year. A couple months ago, a company called Bunnyfoot released another study that had very different results. According to their numbers, the paid Google AdWords results got clicked a whopping 80% of the time. If that seems WAY too high, we agree with you.
In Bunnyfoot’s study, they had users search for companies specifically. This ties in to the earlier study, where branded searches tend to end up with clicks at the top of the results. When you’re searching for a company, and you see that company’s paid listing, there is no reason not to click it. It’s clearly what you’re looking for. If Bunnyfoot had done their study on more general, non-branded search terms, the amount of people clicking on a paid listing would have been much lower.
SO WHO IS MORE LIKELY TO CLICK PAID?
You may be able to guess the answer to this. According to the first Nielsen study, the likelihood you’ll click on a paid listing increases with age. People in the industry never click paid results (unless it’s to make a competitor pay a buck), young people rarely ever click paid results, and older internet users click paid results if they like the look of it, same as any other organic result. That’s part of the problem with the whole thing, some people honestly have no idea that those top results are paid. The color is only slightly different and the “ads related to” text is tiny.
The FTC is on the case. They released updated guidelines that specify how they would like search engines to highlight their paid results so that there will be no more confusion:
“We recommend that in distinguishing any top ads or other advertising results integrated into the natural search results, search engines should use: (1) more prominent shading that has a clear outline; (2) a prominent border that distinctly sets off advertising from the natural search results; or (3) both prominent shading and a border.”
This should make you think about what is best for your business. If you’re going for a young demographic, or a demographic that understands the rudiments of digital marketing, then organic is the way to go. If you’re targeting an older audience or trying to rank for a specific brand, then a mix of SEO and PPC may be right for you. It’s worth noting that as time goes on and the FTC becomes stricter with their “suggestions,” PPC will become weaker and organic results obtained through proper SEO will flourish.