Robert_Charlton - 10:50 am on Apr 23, 2013 (gmt 0)
Whitey - Fascinating study. It's very late at night and I haven't read it as carefully as I'd like, but I note that it doesn't seem to address one aspect of paid ads and organic results showing simultaneously, which is that a symbiotic effect between the two has been observed in previous studies. See this discussion, from 2007....
Organic traffic increases inline with increase in PPC traffic
Oct 4, 2007
There have been several studies which have found that there's a symbiotic relationship between organic and PPC in Google. One study claimed that, when you have top placement in both organic and PPC, there was up to a 3x increase in clickthroughs for each.
I've noted that clients who decrease their PPC spends when they achieve top rankings also lose some organic traffic.
On the other hand, maintaining top AdWords positions for some market areas is not always cost effective.
Well known marketer Greg Jarboe reported extensively on the 3x number. To some degree, I'd always felt that Jarboe's numbers might have been high, but, quoting from the Google study above, I note another number that resonates with a number that Jarboe reported....
Google report, my emphasis added...
The results were surprising. On average, the incremental ad clicks percentage across verticals is 89%. This means that a full 89% of the traffic generated by search ads is not replaced by organic clicks when ads are paused.
I'm going to take an unusual step here, of quoting a "Search Engine Watch" article written by Jarboe about a commercial study, run by iCrossing, way back in 2007. I do so because, even though it's a marketing piece, it's an analogous study which may explain part of the drop. Additionally, a number jumped out at me, a number which could well be coincidental, but it's too close (in order of magnitude) to 89% to ignore. This is the article...
Yes, Virginia, there is a natural and paid search synergy
Greg Jarboe, April 29, 2007
Jarboe article, my emphasis added...
...iCrossing recently published a Search Synergy Report, which found a "symbiosis" between natural and paid search. The report "conclusively demonstrates that running an integrated natural and paid search campaign leads to improved online performance over running either a natural search or paid search campaign alone."
...So, what did they find?
iCrossing found "online performance is dramatically improved if keywords purchased for a paid search campaign are also ranked in natural search." For example, when the digital marketing agency incorporated natural search into an existing paid search campaign and compared its performance to the performance of the sole paid search campaign:
-- Clicks increased 91.80%
It's late at night; I'm quoting selectively; some similarities are likely to be coincidental; I'm comparing slightly different factors (pause of ads vs presence of organics); and I'm quoting from a commercial study... but, with all those cautions, I nevertheless feel that this worth citing and the similarities worth noting.
I feel that there's symbiosis in all types of marketing... that marketers are looking for "eyeball moments"... and that unquestionably big brands have more exposure, but I've seen the symbiosis work for small brands too. Unfortunately, small brands can't afford to buy AdWords at a per-click loss simply for the branding effect. Small brands need to be more clever, and like Avis, which was #2, to work harder.
The persistence of well-known entities at the top of a hierarchy, it's worth mentioning, is something that's been observed in many different facets of society... it's not just about search engines. In the past, we relied on the algorithm to reflect human perception in machine terms, and when that meant keyword repetition and weighted headings containing search terms at the top of the page, we were content with that, because it was easy to do and we had figured it out first.
Now that search positioning may also reflect reputations built over time with resources perhaps not available to an individual webmaster, some of us are less happy about it... but the truth is that there's no distortion of reality. It's actually the intrusion of a new aspect of reality into SEO that many of us don't like.