Paid search ad trends: What gets people clicking?

Jan 7, 2019 | Search engine marketing

Internet users are getting more savvy to SEM tactics, with most confident they can recognise paid search ads, and 75% say the ads make it easier to find the information they are looking for, according to new research.

The study, from Clutch, surveyed 506 people who have clicked on a paid search ad in the past month to learn the reasons why people click on paid search advertisements.

It found that people click on paid search ads that provide the most relevant information to their online search, which depends on the site they search on and the information they are looking for.

Businesses can bid on search engine advertising – ads that appear among search engine results listings – using Google Ads, Amazon Advertising, Bing Ads, YouTube, or other search advertising platforms.

Businesses can use this report to understand how people engage with paid search ads and to format an effective paid search engine marketing (SEM) strategy.

Key Findings:

  • More than three-fourths of people (77%) are confident they can recognize paid search advertisements.
  • Three-fourths of people (75%) say paid search ads make it easier to find the information they are searching for on a website or search engine.
  • One-third of people (33%) click on a paid search ad because it directly answers their search query.
  • About four times as many people are more likely to click on a paid search ad on Google (63%) than on any other search engine – Amazon (15%), YouTube (9%), and Bing (6%).
  • People are most likely to click on text paid search ads (49%) instead of shopping/product listing ads (31%) and video ads (16%).
  • More than one-quarter of people (26%) click on a paid search ad because it mentions a brand they are familiar with.
  • The primary reason people click on YouTube and Amazon search ads is that the ads mention a brand they are familiar with (33%).

People Easily Recognize Paid Search Ads

People recognize paid search advertisements online.
Nearly 80% of people are confident they can identify paid search advertising.

Most businesses invest in search engine marketing through pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. For these ads, companies bid for placement at the top of search engine results pages (SERPs) for certain keywords and phrases.

Search engines display paid search ads from sites that place the highest bids and are the most relevant to a search query(link is external). Companies pay Google or other search engines when someone clicks on their ad.

Because people can recognize search ads, businesses need to create ads that people find relevant to their search queries. Otherwise, people will ignore ads and opt to engage with the organic (nonpaid) search results.

“People see [search ads], but the ads have to answer or talk to them,” said Sherman Standberry, managing partner for Lyfe Marketing(link is external), a digital marketing company in Atlanta. “Otherwise, they can skip right by [the ad] and go to more reliable organic search results.”

Producing ads that answer people’s search queries helps businesses prove themselves as reliable brands to potential customers.

“Accountability increases when the user does not know where the search ads stop and organic results begin,” said Brady Cramm, director of PPC for Directive(link is external), a search engine marketing company in Irvine, Calif. “The search engine’s reputation relies on the quality of your ad/landing page experience.”

Businesses need to create search ads that people find relevant to earn customers trust in their business and search engine marketing in general.

Paid Search Ads Help People Who Click on Them, Demonstrating Value for Businesses

People find the information they are searching for online when they click on paid search ads.

Three-fourths of people (75%) say paid search advertisements help them find the information they’re searching for on a website or search engine.

Useful search ads produce a number of benefits for businesses who create them. Namely, businesses can improve their brand awareness(link is external) and earn high-quality site traffic if people find their ads helpful.

“You get all the benefits of advertising and quality traffic,” Standberry said. “I don’t think there’s a source of traffic that is more quality than search engines in general.”

When someone clicks through to your website, your business has the opportunity to make a positive brand impression on target customers.

Paid Search Ads That Directly Answer Search Queries Are the Most Appealing

People click on paid search advertisements that provide relevant responses to their online searches.

One-third of respondents (33%) click on a paid search ad because it directly answers their search query.

People search online with intent, meaning they conduct online searches to find specific information.

“As long as ads are relevant to what searchers are looking for, the clicks will come,” said Matt Umbro, associate director of search for Hanapin Marketing(link is external), a digital marketing company in Bloomington, Ind.

Umbro founded #ppcchat(link is external), a popular Twitter chat that digital marketing and PPC experts use to discuss SEM best practices and strategy.

On this thread, experts agree that search engine marketing provides better value for their money than social media marketing.

To earn click-throughs on their paid search ads, the ads should respond directly to people’s search queries.

Compelling Meta Tags Improve a Paid Search Ad’s Relevance

A compelling title, description, or image (if applicable) can make a paid search ad’s intent clearer.

The title and description of a search engine results listing are pulled from a web page’s “meta tags,” or bits of code that provide high-level information about a page and its contents for search engine and web crawlers.

Businesses that optimize meta tags of pages they promote in their paid search engine marketing campaigns can capture the 19% of people who click on paid search advertising because of a compelling title or description.

19% of people click on paid search advertising because of a compelling title, description, or image.

“The title and description of an ad need to be optimized to answer users’ search queries,” said Steve Pritchard, search engine marketing manager for Cuuver(link is external), an online life insurance provider.

Search engines pull a webpage’s title and description tags pages to preview in SERPs.

For example, the search results for “lawn care companies in New York,” feature titles and descriptions that help people determine which lawn care provider is best for them, and ther they will find relevant content by clicking on an ad.

Ads with a title and description that directly address the intent of this query – to find a lawn care company in New York – are well-positioned to earn clicks from search engine audiences.

Google Ads Allows Businesses to Connect With the Most Customers

Businesses that bid on Google search ads earn the most clicks.

Nearly two-thirds of people (63%) are most likely to click on a Google search advertisement.

The number of people who are most likely to click on search ads on other sites – Amazon (15%), Youtube (9%), and Bing (6%) – is less than half of the number who are most likely to click on Google search ads.

This disparity is due to Google’s status as the primary destination people use to accomplish any task online.

“Searchers are ingrained with the notion that Google is the go-to engine to find what you are looking for,” Umbro said.

As the primary source of information for people online, Google is the most logical place for businesses to market their products.

Google Ads, Google’s advertising platform, is the most popular online advertising platform in the world(link is external).

“Google Ads is a robust platform that provides extensive data on keyword volume, budget management, and performance of ad campaigns,” said Sara Desmond, vice president of operations for Page 1 Solutions(link is external), an online marketing company in Lakewood, Colo. “Savvy marketers and advertisers spend the majority of their PPC budgets where  consumers are going to search.”

Google is where most people tend to spend time online, so that’s where businesses should direct search engine marketing dollars to engage customers.

Text Ads Are the Preferred Paid Search Advertisements

People are more likely to click on text ads than video or shopping/product listings advertisements (PLAs) on search engines.

Nearly half of people (49%) are most likely to click on a paid search text advertisement, while around one-third (31%) are likely to click on a shopping ad or PLA and 16% are likely to click on a video ad.

Text ads display a website’s meta tags – web page title, company name, and product description.

Text ads communicate the basics of a web page’s content making it easier for people to determine whether the content answers their query.

Type of Paid Search Ads People Click on Determined By Websites They Use

The paid search advertisements people click on depend on the websites they use:

  • More than half of people (55%) who click on Google search ads prefer text ads.
  • Those who click on Amazon advertisements favor shopping/product listing ads (50%).
  • Those who click on YouTube advertisements favor video ads (36%).

People’s preferences for paid search ads differ based on intent. This supports that people browse websites according to their intent: searching for an answer to a question on Google, a product that interests them on Amazon, or a tutorial video on YouTube.

Branded Search Ads Engage People on Amazon and YouTube

Branded paid search ads appeal to people who search online for information about retail, consumer goods, and videos.

More than one-fourth of people (26%) click on a search ad that mentions a familiar brand.

On YouTube and Amazon, brand familiarity is the most common reason people click on search ads (33%).

Source(link is external)
Branded search engine marketing is beneficial to large and enterprise companies, particularly when people are unfamiliar with the topic or products they’re searching for. In these scenarios, people may opt for the brand they recognize.

“On Amazon, I find it interesting that people click brands they are familiar with,” Standberry said. “I think it could be a good advertising play for larger or more recognizable brands.”
People who search on Amazon are likely looking for consumer products and may be more willing to trust an ad from a familiar brand than one they don’t recognize among search results.

Search Engine Ranking More Important for Organic SEO Than Paid Search Advertising

Paid search advertisements’ position on SERPs has a smaller impact on a search ad’s click-through rate compared to organic SEO.

Only 20% of people are likely to click on a paid search ad because it is listed above other results.

This is surprising given the impact of top rankings for organic search results(link is external) – it’s the very reason that companies invest in SEO services.

Paid search ad formatting helps explain this. Shopping and product listing ads are often displayed horizontally, so listing above other organic search results is not as important.

Paid shopping or product listing ads that are displayed horizontally of these advertisements draws searchers’ eyes.

Optimizing for the top listing, however, should still be a priority for PPC advertising, as it is for organic SEO services.

This is especially true for companies targeting mobile users. Mobile interfaces often display only paid ads above the fold on the screen, meaning users have to scroll down to reach organic listings.

“If you look at a mobile search on a popular phrase, you have to scroll to get to any kind of organic results,” said Justin Seibert, founder and president of Direct Online Marketing(link is external), a digital marketing services company in Pittsburgh. “It’s a challenge for those trying to get their business [seen] through organic search.”

For mobile searches, the benefits of top results may depend on if your website is featured among paid search results. As a result, your business may need to invest in paid search engine marketing to ensure you appear for target terms and phrases on mobile.

Paid Search Advertising On Multiple Platforms Improves Click-Through Rates

Businesses should invest in paid search ads on multiple search engine platforms to engage the most customers.

Including Bing, YouTube, or Amazon advertising as part of your company’s search engine marketing strategy provides some benefits that Google can’t offer, given its saturation.

In fact, Bing has a higher click-through rate(link is external) for paid search ads than Google.

YouTube, on the other hand, attracts people who prefer video demonstrations of solutions to their problems.

For example, someone who wants to learn how to tie a bowtie may prefer a video.

Investing in paid search ads on multiple sites allows businesses to provide a tailored advertising experience. Often, businesses create specific landing pages that correspond to their ads.

“The advertiser has control over where they’re sending people,” Seibert said. “They’re going to do everything they can to optimize that experience to make their ads pay off for them.”

This high level of control over the content people see when they click on a paid search ad allows your business to present itself to potential customers in the best light possible.

People Click on Paid Search Ads That Respond to Their Search Queries

People recognize paid search ads and are inclined to click on the ads that directly answer their search queries.

Most people say paid search ads make finding information easier, meaning businesses that create relevant ads make a positive impression on potential customers.

People click on Google search ads much more often than Amazon, YouTube, and Bing ads. Businesses that want to engage broader customer segments, however, should still invest in PPC advertising across all major search engines.

The type of search ads people click on depends on the websites they use when searching online.

Text ads are the most common type of paid search ads people click on, especially on Google.

YouTube and Amazon users, however, are most likely to click on video and shopping ads, respectively. These users are also the most likely to click on a search ad because it mentions a brand they are familiar with.

Businesses that recognize the reasons and locations that people click on search ads can format a paid search engine marketing strategy that speaks directly to people’s search intent and preferences.

About the Survey

Clutch surveyed 506 people who have clicked on a paid search advertisement in the past month.

Two-thirds of respondents (66%) were women and one-third (33%) were men.

Over half of respondents were between the ages of 18-35; 36% were 35-54 years old; 11% were 55 years old and above.

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