Perhaps the dumbest question in internet marketing is, “Does anyone click on the Google ads?”

Now, if I were sarcastic, I might answer, “No, that’s why Google doesn’t make any money…”

Seriously, folks, it’s not hard to answer this question. After all, Google’s a publicly traded company, which means they report their profits.

For example, in 2015, Google’s revenue was roughly $75bn. Of that, $52bn came from ads on Google’s own websites.

So, let me ask you, do people click on the ads?

No shit, Sherlock.

But, despite this obvious – and easily-obtained – refutation, there are still SEOs who peddle the myth that nobody clicks on the ads.

Why? I can only assume they’re either insane or dishonest.

The Myth of SEO Dominance

OK, now we’ve seen proof that people click on the ads, let’s talk about the next SEO-driven narrative: that organic listings get almost all the clicks.

Now, in this case, technically, they’re right. The problem is, when you’re asking the wrong question, does it matter if you have the right answer?

Let me explain…

It’s true that organic listings get the vast majority of clicks.

For example, a study by GroupM UK and Nielsen claimed organic results get 94% of search engine clicks. Leaving PPC with just 6%.

So, when Rand Fishkin – a very well-respected SEO guru – tweeted,

“Assumption: Google’s ads are more prominent, so organic must be dying. Reality: As of Oct. 2016, 20X more organic clicks than paid ones.”

He was correct. But only in the sense that he had the right answer to the wrong question.

The question SEOs SHOULD be asking

Here’s why it’s the wrong question: the vast majority of searches on google are either informational or navigational. Or, to put it another way, have zero value to advertisers.

In most cases, Google won’t even show ads for these searches.

(The main exception is when you’re searching for a particular company’s site, and you see an ad for that company.)

These are terms you wouldn’t pay to advertise on. Nor would you pay to SEO for them.

And that gets us to the point: When it comes to the PPC/SEO split, the only searches that matter are commercial searches.

Everything else, you can toss out the window.

So, who is really winning the SEO v PPC battle?

A 2012 study by Wordstream showed that, for highly commercial search terms,

(A) Sponsored listings take up 85% of the space on the first fold of Google’s search results page.
(B) 64.6% of clicks are on paid listings.

That was 2012. Since then, three things have happened:

#1: Google switched to showing 4 ads at the top of the page, rather than just 3. This means the organic listings are pushed even further down the page.

#2: Google ads have gotten bigger. You used to have 95 chars to work with (headline and body copy), now you have 140. This has led to much higher click rates.

#3: Adwords has added yet more ad extensions. Again, taking up more space, and pushing the organics even lower.

So, let me ask you, if Wordstream re-did their 2012 study, what do you think it would show?

That PPC’s share of clicks has decreased? Or increased?

Now, I can’t say for sure, but I know where my money would be…

So remember that the next time you’re told, “No-one clicks on the ads…”

Best wishes,

Steve Gibson

Categories: Marketing

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