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Research: Surfers Click Ads Less Than 2 in 10 Searches

 4:15 pm on Aug 23, 2007 (gmt 0)

Consumers are distrustful of search engine sponsored listings and click on such links fewer than twice in every 10 searches, new research has revealed.

However, these low click through rates should not be seen as bad news for Google et al, according to the Penn State University analysis of sponsored-link click throughs using actual search engine data.

"While the click through was only about 16 per cent, this a real boon for search engines," said Jim Jansen, an assistant professor in the College of Information Sciences and Technology at Penn State and lead author of the report.

Survey: Surfers Click Ads Less Than 2 in 10 Searches [pcw.co.uk]



 4:37 pm on Aug 23, 2007 (gmt 0)

I guess this means that search engines are doing their job! I usually only wander over to the sponsored results if the organic results are sub-par.


 4:48 pm on Aug 23, 2007 (gmt 0)

I click on the sponsored result if it links to the site I was looking for, which it does surprisingly often.

I also click on the sponsored result if it leads to a site I dislike, just to ding them for the cost of the click.


 5:02 pm on Aug 23, 2007 (gmt 0)

"While the click through was only about 16 per cent...

I doubt the research team on this study has much comparative data on this issue, because 16% CTR is definitely not low.


 6:06 pm on Aug 23, 2007 (gmt 0)

yeah, that's what I was thinking, 16% CTR is fantastic if that's the average across a broad range of searches! It's so high in fact that I would have to call BS on their research.


 6:57 pm on Aug 23, 2007 (gmt 0)

Somewhere along the line SEM researchers seem to have forgotten that not every search is a sales lead.

People search for: song lyrics, recipes, medical advice, news of the day, homework help, special interest articles, and an endless variety of other searches -- all with absolutely no intention of spending a dime.

Taking that fact, and the following into consideration, I'd say the 16% CTR could be true "for this study", but is based on a flawed test model.

The study is based on results from Dogpile [dogpile.com] which displays sponsored results intermixed with natural results -- with only a subtle indication of which are which.

My SEO and SEM experience seems to show that users have become savvy enough to click on natural results when searching for "information", and click on sponsored links, (or "contextual ads"), when they're actively shopping or ready to buy.

Had the same study been done on Google or Yahoo, I'd say the CTR would be much lower -- my guess would be 2% to 5% CTR on "sponsored results".


 7:39 pm on Aug 23, 2007 (gmt 0)

Knowing what most people here know...

If I'm looking for info, I look at the organic results first. If I'm looking for something to buy, I look at the sponsored results first because it implies to me they have a product that is worth selling online and not just a great SEO strategy.


 8:17 pm on Aug 23, 2007 (gmt 0)

No one here represents the average surfer. The average surfer is impatient and unlikely to completely distinguish between organic and sponsored links. The high CTR probably reflects that. People come to click, when they visit a search engine.


 8:57 pm on Aug 23, 2007 (gmt 0)

Here's some cold hard stats for you I see close to 10% CTR on paid ads averaged over the 07 YTD with a search engine project that I run which has over 250k queries per month. I think it would be higher more closely resembling the 16% number, but a large proportion of the searches done are with queries that have no paid ads at all.


 9:18 pm on Aug 23, 2007 (gmt 0)

The average surfer is impatient and unlikely to completely distinguish between organic and sponsored links.


I don't believe that's true unless they just got on the net yesterday.

When ads first started appearing, people developed a "blind spot" to the ads, (first mentally blocking out banner ads, then mentally blocking out the "skyscraper" "sponsored links" and contextual ads on the right).

I think people are aware of what they click -- but now it's instinctual to avoid clicking "ads" unless they want to buy something and the ad matches their search.

It only takes a few clicks searches ending up at eBay, Amazon, Alibaba, etc., for people to learn the difference.


 9:25 pm on Aug 23, 2007 (gmt 0)

clicks on search results pages are bound to be higher though, because everybody who visits the page is actively looking for a link to click - that is the whole point of the page. the page doesn't even need to look pretty.
all they've got to do is stick a useful ad in your face and people should click it. so i would have thought it would be higher than 16%


 9:34 pm on Aug 23, 2007 (gmt 0)

Somewhere along the line SEM researchers seem to have forgotten that not every search is a sales lead.

Yea, there definitely needs to be some distinction between searches with and without a purchase or commercial intent.


 3:03 am on Aug 24, 2007 (gmt 0)

16% sounds plausible, if this is spread over a half dozen or more ads; and of course many people click on the non-sponsored results, as well.


 5:55 am on Aug 24, 2007 (gmt 0)

Going from my own experience, it is even lower than that. I sometimes wonder if it was worth putting search on my site at all.


 7:17 am on Aug 24, 2007 (gmt 0)

Can you say: "HUGE potential"...?

Sooner or later the ad serving will improve in both attractiveness and targeting - whomever will have the nose in front then is in for a nice cash back.


 9:04 am on Aug 24, 2007 (gmt 0)

Anyone else have stats they'd be willing to divulge regarding their CTR on ads with their search engines, or with their search projects using 3rd party search solutions like adsense for search, or the like?


 9:26 am on Aug 24, 2007 (gmt 0)

I am sure that AWA has said in the past that the average click through rate for Google ads hovers just over 2%, so with 10 or 11 ads on a page the CTR on Google ads would be 20% or 22% on average.

Of course if you have an ad in the premium position which is very targeted to the search query, a very high CTR can be achieved (20% plus). Ads lower down should get clicks too, pushing the CTR of Google ads up.


 10:12 am on Aug 24, 2007 (gmt 0)

I am sure that AWA has said in the past that the average click through rate for Google ads hovers just over 2%, so with 10 or 11 ads on a page the CTR on Google ads would be 20% or 22% on average.

The 16% figure represents the occasions you mention of 10 or 11 ads at an average CTR of 2% each plus the a great deal of serps only have a 2 or 3 ads. Different queries yield different quantities and quality of ads therefore some queries may only on average get 3% CTR across all advertisers while others may yield 35%, lots of variables in this equation.

One thing worth mentioning is the that this study was done using dogpile where although sponsored links are very informally labeled (the sponsored link appears on the address line in the same color as the URL) and are not clearly separated from the organic listings. I would tend to believe this would cause the CTR to be higher but apparently that article begs to differ. Yet it's worth noting that the meta search engine dogpile.com was used for the study, and they continue to keep the organic and paid ads blended (I say they get a higher CTR than the Google paid ads separated style serps.) Google is much to large to get away with that blending paid ads into organic listings crap, everyone throws a fit when a large search engine even thinks about doing that.

On that thought we are moving into a phase of advertising where people are willing to turn their tv on and watch collections of funny paid ads as the actual show with breaks in between that contain more paid ads. Can you imagine if for one day google eliminated organic serps and replaced them with only sponsored links? They'd make a fortune, but search volume would immediately and dramatically begin to decline. There's not nearly enough paid ads covering the very broad spectrum of search queries to pull that off, nor do the actual quality of the sites appearing in the organic listings and paid listings compare well enough at this point. It takes years of careful site building to get good organic serps, but I'll usurp your organic listing in ranking in 10 minutes of adwords ad setup time....It just costs exponentially more as of yesterday now that google will take your maximum CPC and eat it for breakfast See this thread for more info on that [webmasterworld.com]


 2:54 pm on Aug 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

CTR for my clients on consumer products is over 10% for just one listing out of eight on the page. This study is deeply flawed. Pay per click has to deliver over 30% CTR for all ads in many consumer categories. I have other ads that only do a 3% CTR and are the only ad on the page but the ad is for a commercial service on an information oriented search.
Studies like this mean nothing. CTR means nothing to me or my clients. What matters is cost per conversion and the amount of conversions. I have some campaigns with thousands of keywords with low CTR and very little competition and yet the client gets leads for about 50 bucks each and a closed lead is worth over a million dollars.
I have other clients with very high CTR on specific consumer products and I am sure paid ads on the page are taking well over 30% of the Clicks yet the conversion rates are very low and conversion costs are higher than the product margins.


 4:29 am on Aug 28, 2007 (gmt 0)

US citizens who earn more than 40k and are seriously considering purchaing a mainstream item priced higher than $200 within the next 30 days - regardless if they are buying online or down the street - regardless if they have totally made up their mind - regardless if they they know exactly which model, style, etc - if they bother to do an online search for that product - the CTR on paid ads would likely be somewhere between 125% and 160%.

And I'll bet that it even comes fairly close to that for the subset of the population that hangs out here (and has a couple grand in the bank) - for some products - even though we're more likely to peek at the url and just type it in...

For some things obviously higher - for some things obviously lower.

Just how mainstream - just how expensive - just how many ads showing,
What day it is - what time it is - what month it is - and demographically I find quite a spread within the top 3 search engines - and not just income - but AGE and Occupational Industry seem the most contrasting - among the users of one search engine to another.

We all have a good idea of what search engine techies use - what search engine 16 year-old girls use - and what our parent's use. And I'd say 75% of our grandparents online are using the search engine that came pre-programmed with the pc - or pre-programmed with their isp. - so many variables so little time. - but dogpile average searcher ctr is useless to me. Show me the money!

What I'm saying is more than just an opinion - but still highly variable, as mentioned - but it seems to related to this topic - if it's not - please be polite - I'm deaf, dumb, blind, and drunk.

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