Last August, Google released a study showing that search ads drive 89% incremental traffic. This study was designed to help advertisers understand that running paid search programs for keywords their website was ranking for organically did not necessarily impact their organic traffic. Instead of “cannibalizing” organic clicks that an advertiser would get for free (a common concern from advertisers also ranking organically), ads were shown to provide on average an 89% incremental lift in traffic. Traffic that is not replaced by organic clicks when ads are paused.
Google researchers conducted more than 400 studies on the effect of “search ad pauses” and found that:
- Over 89% of traffic generated by search ads is not replaced by organic search results when ads are paused.
- Results are similar across verticals, among the broadest sample of consumers, and regardless of industry.
- 9 out of 10 visits to advertiser sites would never happen in the absence of related search ad campaigns.
Though the research is Google owned and conducted, Google has been transparent about this fact and provided detail about how the study was conducted and its findings. Google also stated in their most recent study that “while these findings provide guidance on overall trends, results for individual advertisers may vary.” The research findings do not guarantee matching results and should be experimented with to determine individual incrementality rate and associated ROI.
As a follow-up to the 2011 study, the Google Research team recently released a new study reporting the impact of organic rankings on ad click incrementality:
A meta-analysis of 390 Search Ads Pause studies highlights the limited opportunity for clicks from organic search results to substitute for ad clicks when the ads are turned off. On average, 81% of ad impressions and 66% of ad clicks occur in the absence of an associated organic search result. We find that having an associated organic search result in rank one does not necessarily mean a low IAC. On average, 50% of the ad clicks that occur with a top rank organic result are incremental, compared to 100% of the ad clicks being incremental in the absence of an associated organic result.
According to Google Research, the follow-up analysis of 390 Search Ads Pause studies found that:
- 81% of ad impressions and 66% of ad clicks occur in the absence of an associated organic result on the first page of search results. All ad clicks in these situations are incremental.
- On average, for advertisers who appear in the top rank organic slot, 50% of ad clicks are incremental. This means that half of all ad clicks are not replaced by organic clicks when search ads are paused.
- For advertisers whose organic search results are in the 2nd to 4th position, 81% of ad clicks are incremental. For advertisers appearing in organic position of 5 or lower, 96% of ad clicks are incremental.
So, how does this recent Google research affect your decision to run paid search campaigns?