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Paid vs. Organic Search: Are PPC Ads Winning the Google Click Wars? [Infographic]

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Are those pay-per-click (PPC) ads on search engine results pages (SERPs) effective? Does the average Google searcher even click on them?

Seems so...

In fact, for some types of keywords, PPC ads apparently have higher click-through rates than organic search results, according to a recent study by WordStream.

To help share its findings, the search engine marketing firm created a colorful infographic, "The War on Free Clicks," reproduced below.

Highlights from WordStream's research:

  • Sponsored results account for 64.6% of clicks for keyword searches that imply high commercial intent.
  • Total click-through rates for Google ads on high-commercial-intent queries are up to 600 times higher than the click-through rate for ads on a typical Facebook page. 
  • If advertisers buy ads for keywords for which they already rank well organically, 89% of traffic generated by the search ads is new traffic outside of organic reach.
  • 45.5% of people couldn't identify paid ads on SERPs if those results weren't listed in a column down the right side of the page, according to one survey.

WordStream's survey was limited to advertisers in the US, for Google Search only. WordStream notes, "In our survey, we define high commercial intent keywords specifically as keyword searches on Google that have significant advertiser competition and trigger a Google Shopping or Google Product Listing ad."

WordStream used recent average click-through rate data collected through WordStream's AdWords Performance Grader across over one thousand AdWord accounts in the last 60 days.


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  • by Nick Stamoulis Tue Jul 24, 2012 via web

    Really interesting stats! But like Danny says, you should never be completely one-or-the-other. You need a good mix of SEO and PPC, plus a few other things, in order to succeed. It's not black and white any more! (Even though Pandas and Penguins are).

  • by Ernest Wed Jul 25, 2012 via web

    You publish stats from WordStream how badly organic searches fare against PPC and how dismal SEO fares vs. Adwords paid advertising, but on the other hand you make a paper available that gives the following stats:
    2. 100% of searchers look at the organic side of search (the left-hand side). 2
    3. 85% of searchers will click on the organic side of search over paid. 3
    4. The average click-through rate (CTR) for the top organic search position
    in Google is approximately 36%, while the CTR for the top paid search
    position in Google is just 2%. 4
    5. The average CTR for organic search results on page one of Google is
    approximately 8%, versus only 2% CTR for paid search ads. 5
    6. Organic search is the #1 lead conversion tactic outranking email
    marketing and paid search.
    To say the least this is very confusing and shows once again how little one can depend from sites like yours

  • by Vahe, MarketingProfs Wed Jul 25, 2012 via web

    Hello, Ernest.

    It all becomes less confusing when you take into account that the WordStream data refers only to "high commercial intent keywords," and more "specifically [to] keyword searches on Google that have significant advertiser competition and trigger a Google Shopping or Google Product Listing ad."

    The other stats you cite, however, refer to _all_ sorts of keywords--the entire universe of search, in fact, the overwhelming majority of which consists of NON-high-commercial-intent keywords.

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