Why pay for the cow when you can get the milk for free?
Wait. This isn’t THAT discussion.
Rather, this is a discussion about free, organic search results versus paid advertising, and why advertisers need to keep doing the latter even if the former is working for them.
If you ditch your pay-per-click campaign, will a high search ranking make up for the loss in traffic? To put it another way, if you have a great ranking, do you really need paid search?
Organic results count for a lot, sure, and a top organic ranking will no doubt translate into conversions. Tossing out your cost-per-click/pay-per-click advertising may seem like a good idea, but don’t forget you’ll be giving up an easy-to-measure barometer of what’s working (since you can count clicks and follow them through to conversion).
But a new report from Google tells us that cost-per-click advertising ads also give an 85 percent “incremental” traffic boost. Incremental traffic can be described as traffic that is lost when a marketer stops advertising (there’s a great explanation by Practical eCommerce of what it is here).
Now, this report comes from Google, and of course Google has every incentive to encourage folks to spend money on paid listings.
The study’s author David Chan said: “We had a lot of questions coming back, asking more details around incrementality and under what situations can you expect different numbers? It is a very surprising result, and, I think in some ways, it runs counter to what people would think but the data speaks for itself.”
The report also shows that decreasing pay-per-click spending (rather than eliminating it entirely) results in an 80 percent drop in incremental clicks.
Brands that ranked in first place in the organic results received 50 percent more clicks when accompanied by a pay-per-click ad for their company. In addition, on average, there’s an 81 percent chance that your paid search ads are showing up without organic search results for the same website showing up.
Of course, the correlation between search and paid results will vary from marketer to marketer and from keyword to keyword. A branded term is likely to have a higher organic search result, for example.
But there’s no doubt that SEO efforts and paid search advertising are complementary strategies, not competing strategies.
You can see for yourself how this all affects you by running the following test: If you have an ad campaign running on a top-ranked phrase on Google, pause your Google AdWords ads that run for that phrase and measure the change in organic click-through. Do the same for phrases that rank in positions two through four, or in positions five through ten. A methoidic test across multiple phrases ranked in multiple positions can tell you what your incremental traffic really is.
Here are a few more details, as presented in the report issued last month:
- 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.