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#1 Paul_H

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Posted 19 November 2004 - 01:49 PM

When, if ever, do you click on sponsored results in google/yahoo/msn etc?

For me i donít even make eye contact with ads unless iím looking to buy and then its only if the search result donít look good.

But guessing a lot of people would rather perform another search before looking at ads.

For those who look at ads, what makes you pick one ad over another, and do you usually end up clicking on more than one ad to make a comparison?

Anyone know where i can find some market research on this?

cheers

#2 Black_Knight

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Posted 20 November 2004 - 12:54 AM

Last research I recall was by the folks arguing that all ads (including any kind of sponsored or paid cintent - e.g. PFI) should be properly and fully declared. They found that 30 percent of folks, once told that sponsored listings were nothing more than paid adverts (which is a little unfair given the editorial process used by many PPC engines) would refuse to click on them.

For those more educated (most SEMs who themselves run ads, and thus are well aware of how accurate they really tend to be) about PPC listings, they will often actively prefer them over the organic results when searching for a commercial product or service. In other words, the organic SERPs are usually better for general info, but if you want to buy something, it's often better to look at the guy who's prepared to put money on the line to bet you'll convert, rather than use the organic SERPs which usually go to whoever had the most links. ;)

Try a search for something like 'web hosting' and see what you think of the paid results. On many engines, the sponsored listings are often better deals than the 'natural' SERPs.

#3 Paul_H

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Posted 21 November 2004 - 06:52 AM

Thanks Ammon,

Be nice to have some detailed analysis of human interaction with sponsored results. I can see the number of impressions, and CTR, but I would really like to have some figures for things like..

The number of people that click on more than one ad and why(comparing price, didnít find what they wanted, site didnít appeal)

Be also nice to know what percentage jump straight to lower ranked ads(can get the CTR for these but no way of knowing if they visited other ads first)

#4 bragadocchio

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Posted 21 November 2004 - 01:22 PM

I can answer the first part of your question, Paul.

I never look at sponsored/featured listings on the search engines.

If I can't find what I'm looking for from a search, I'll usually try a different search, using more specific terms, or similar terms. If I still can't find what I'm looking for, or I want more results, I'll try a different search engine.

If I continue to have problems, I'll turn to one of the directories, to see where what I'm looking for is classified, and see if that can help me with a search.

I'm tempted to say that some of the ideas from this article by Jakob Nielsen probably fits in well with what might a good ad:

Microcontent: How to Write Headlines, Page Titles, and Subject Lines

#5 Black_Knight

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Posted 22 November 2004 - 10:35 PM

I never look at sponsored/featured listings on the search engines.

That greatly surprised me, Bill. If you never even look, how do you know they aren't actually the most relevant result? When actually searching for something commercial, they often are the most relevant results for your search. Seriously. Try it for yourself next time you're shopping for something where the SERPs are competitive.

What is the reason for the bias, if you don't mind my asking?

#6 bragadocchio

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Posted 23 November 2004 - 12:54 AM

That's a fair question, Ammon.

I first started searching in electronic databases in the late eighties with LexisNexis and Westlaw while conducting legal research. I became pretty good at using Boolean Seach strategies (yes, I know you probably know the ins and outs of boolean search, but it's part of the explanation, really) to create well formed searches to find all relevant material on a specific topic. Failure to do so could be harmful.

I know that most sponsored ads are based upon a broad match, and I have no expectation that many of them will be a good match for most of the queries I fashion, and often refashion as I am searching.

I also have a bias towards sites that do a good job of including descriptions of what I'm looking for. Since all I can see are pictures and text, sites that don't bother to describe the products that they have for sale have me questioning their trustworthiness.

As important as a good price may be, I'm willing to spend a couple of dollars more if I believe that when promises are made to me about shipping or return policies or that a product will even sent to me, that those promises will be kept.

If a site is worth buying from through a sponsored ad, I should also be able to find their site through a well formed search.

I also like to do a fair amount of comparative shopping and information gathering. Going through search results allows me to do that. There's a model for buying on the web that some people describe in a number of steps - browsing, followed by comparison, followed by decision making, ending with a purchase. It may take longer than clicking on a sponsored link, but I like the idea of making an informed purchasing decision.

It is a bias. In some instances it may be wrong. But I feel pretty good about the approach I use.

#7 Black_Knight

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Posted 24 November 2004 - 06:58 AM

I know that most sponsored ads are based upon a broad match

Not from any of the campaigns I've managed or run over the years. Seriously, a broad match is generally considered the trademark of the amatuer, for exactly the reasons you stated.

For example: Having the key words "loan companies in the UK" might seem great, but on broad match would turn up for a search for "loans companies not in the UK", which is obviously the opposite intention.

A good pro will often have 100 or more exact match phrases to avoid the risk of having just 1 broad match phrase or keyword that could gain any clicks that will not convert. Conversion is the single most important thing in most PPC campaigns, and the first step to that is ensuring that a listing won't mislead anyone into a click that didn't serve them.

When was the last time you heard of the same kind of effort put into organic SEO? Never. With the free SERPs, every click is at least exposure. After all, you don't pay for it. It is only PPC that adds a penalty to getting untargeted listings or unqualified visitors.

#8 bragadocchio

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Posted 24 November 2004 - 11:48 AM

Good points, Ammon.

I'll pay more attention to what I'm seeing in sponsored results.

#9 graywolf

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Posted 24 November 2004 - 12:25 PM

You can help combat banner blindness by changing the advertising format on each page. A simple script that chooses from a dozen or so random color schemes works wonders with CTR.

#10 Ransak

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Posted 24 November 2004 - 12:25 PM

I have to admit that I never use the sponsored search results either, I hardly pay them any mind.

I think my first experiences with them jaded me to the whole thing. The sposored results seemed to be exactly what I was looking for but the websites were very confusing, the content I wanted was hard to find and the sites didn't seem very credible.

I rarely have problems finding what I am looking for with the orgainic search listings; so it has never seemed to be in my best interest to pursue the paid listings.

Frank V.

#11 bwelford

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Posted 24 November 2004 - 12:35 PM

I'm the same way. I rarely look at the Paid listings. Indeed since I'm not usually in a "buying" mood I don't click on the PPC ads since I don't want them to incur a Click charge for a completely valueless click for them. ;)

#12 cre8pc

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Posted 24 November 2004 - 12:50 PM

I glance at paid listings and ads, but rarely click on them because I learned, after awhile, that the words they use are often mis-leading. Ads are written to attract attention and sell. Some of them make a claim right away. When I click to see, I'm taken to a yucky site didn't follow through, in one way or another. (Usually usability related issues.)

By far, I stick to organic listings in SERPS. My guess is 90% of my searching habit avoids PPC or ads.

Now, that said, not all organic search results bring back relevant sites. Ones that were prepared by an expert SEO will not only show up well in rank but will more often than not offer what I need because it better matched my search query.

Still, sadly, what often happens is the organically ranked site is relevant and ranked well, but still lacking in user centered design. Meaning, it was hard to understand or use for one reason or another.

There's still a disconnect between finding a site and being able to use it once you get there, though I admit there's growing improvement.

#13 Black_Knight

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Posted 24 November 2004 - 02:02 PM

Fascinating responses, especially as I'd have placed pretty much any regular here as one of the 'educated searchers' and less likely to have a particular bias. I can see that I'm going to have to revise what I'd previously determined about the types of people who do click PPC listings and those who do not.

A couple of you have touched on poor usability on the site where the click delivers you, though naturally you also agree that poor usability isn't directly related to the paid or unpaid status of listing.

I think less experienced folks might think that poorly performing sites would be more likely to resort to 'buying traffic' but that would obviously be as likely to include SEO as PPC, and thus is not a logic trap any of you were likely to fall into.

Most of you have hinted at bad PPC experiences in the past, but then, I'm sure that any of you could have as easily shown hundreds of bad experiences with SEO. Especially with over-broad keyword matching. That does happen with both types of listings. Of course, with PPC it usually can't be afforded to happen for as long.

http://www.google.co.uk/search?q=nuts
This search used to have a couple of hardware retail chains in the sponsored results. Now the only irrelevant results are in the SERPs - right at the top of the SERPs in fact.

http://www.google.co...ng jobs offered
This is a pretty classic example of poorly done PPC advertising. See how almost every sponsored result has used the homepage, rather than a dedicated landing page just for specifically marketing jobs? That's not great.

Then look at the organic results and to be frank, it isn't as much better as it looks.

The top result is http://www.biz-commu...aspx?l=196&c=11 which looks like a good result in the listings - jobs offered and specifically marketing jobs. Excellent. But click through and you suddenly find it is only offering jobs in South Africa. Worse is that there is no direct link available to another country, region, etc. Looks like I have to find the link to the top of the Jobs section and work through from there. Hell, I'd have saved a click (and the hunt for the link) to have gone to a homepage via a PPC listing. The site needed a breadcrumb trail at the least.

Okay, the second site (listed in third place) is obviously for Prague, so I can skip that too. At least it made it obvious in the title and saved me a wasted click.

Next site (and we are down to the #5 listing now) looks like it is for jobs in Shanghai. Isn't the geo-targeting of PPC wonderful sometimes? When you look at the SERPs for comparison I mean. All the PPC ads are relevant to where I am, even without me having to have narrowed my search to UK only pages (which would have excluded some sites that might be hosted in the US or in Europe, but still have good UK positions on offer).

Okay, there are too many foreign ads, so I refine my search (despite the fact that the PPC ads were already better matches and did what I'd asked. I'm trying to show some resistance and bias to such logic here).

http://www.google.co...ng jobs offered
Right, now it is just UK jobs I hope... Hmmm, not that inspiring at first glance. The PPC listings still look a lot better to me.

First organic result is a university and is talking about the job market, not jobs in marketing. There's that darned Google 'intelligent' semantic thing interfering. 'Market' and 'marketing' are not at all related in my search.

Next.

Hmm, IT jobs ... Next!

Huh? Those South African jobs at Biz-Community.com are there again. But I specifically asked for UK marketing jobs? Next...

jobs1.co.uk is a homepage again, so I'd have been just as well off with what I'd already stated was a poorly thought-through sponsored listing. I want marketing jobs, not just all jobs.

Naturally, I could continue, but I'd like to offer the chance for those who have offered the view that sponsored listings are generally less useful or relevant than the organic SERPs to respond.

I deliberately chose Google for these examples, the 'darling' of relevance arguments, and yet my findings are different to what others stated I should expect.

I didn't pre-research these searches, and in fact, the first one, the search for 'nuts' was intended to be an example of a poor PPC ad, but instead reinforced my point that irrelevant paid links tend to be fixed long before irrelevant organic ones.

So, do those who posted before still hold to the idea that Paid Listings are generally and broadly less relevant or satisfactory than organic listings?

#14 bragadocchio

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Posted 24 November 2004 - 02:45 PM

Those are good points, Ammon, and I'll be doing some comparison of paid versus unpaid results.

I did mention the following above, which sways somewhat in favor of looking at the search results before looking at paid results. I may not have explained it fully enough, so I will now.

For me i donít even make eye contact with ads unless iím looking to buy and then its only if the search result donít look good.


There definitely is an economic incentive to do pay-per-click campaigns the right way. But the time I will click an ad is probably going to be after I've looked around on the web and conducted research.

The digital camera paid results are good ones. If I'm in a buying phase, I wouldn't be harmed by following those.

#15 cre8pc

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Posted 24 November 2004 - 02:49 PM

I think less experienced folks might think that poorly performing sites would be more likely to resort to 'buying traffic' but that would obviously be as likely to include SEO as PPC, and thus is not a logic trap any of you were likely to fall into.


You're right! This is most fascinating. I haven't given it much thought before, so this thread is making me review my habits and why I have them. What you said above reminded me that I have the bias that a company wasn't "smart enough" to hire an SEO and used the PAID route to hurry up the process.

Given that new sites take longer to reach or hold decent rank, this has contributed to my thinking that paying for a spot is the choice until the organic and linking have time to do their thing.


Most of you have hinted at bad PPC experiences in the past, but then, I'm sure that any of you could have as easily shown hundreds of bad experiences with SEO. Especially with over-broad keyword matching.


Indeed so. I wrote an article yesterday (for a pub - not released yet), that describes two examples that fit right into this thread.

In the first one, I described my experience following a Google Ad that attracted my attention while I was scanning Google SERPs. The ad was worded in such a way that it even made a claim, so I HAD to see it. Once there, I was disappointed for many reasons. One was the ad was most misleading.

The other was following a link from a site that was optimized well and made the first two slots for rank on the keyword phrase I entered. The site itself was very nice in many ways, but I still was unable to accomplish my goal on it and I left. In that article I wrote about why I abandoned the site.

So SEO and PPC got the click, and in both cases, the site itself forced me away.

Of course this is one example, from one afternoon of searching, but I bet there are other instances where similar outcomes occurred for people.

So, do those who posted before still hold to the idea that Paid Listings are generally and broadly less relevant or satisfactory than organic listings?


This may depend on who is searching Ammon. I mean, for me, a person who used to be in the SEO biz, I think I lean heavily towards organic results. I think I trust them more, though of course there are countless times when the highest ranked sites were also forced there and usually irrelevant.

Oddly enough, I just posted in my blog about the news that AskJeeves and Lycos are getting into the SEO biz. hummmmm.

#16 Paul_H

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Posted 24 November 2004 - 07:03 PM

interesting to see how others view PPC.

I find my friends who are all confident surfing the net but not very technical donít distinguish between ads and serps. Annoyingly(if youíre an advertiser) some of them click on the top ad without paying much attention to the text. Guess premium ads on Google get a lot of this.

Using PPC as much as i do i guess i look at the ads differently to most. Things that influence me are has the ad used {keyword} for the title Ė this make me think its not as relevant as an ad thatís been written specifically for the search term. I also avoid most comparison and general shops that look they have used a broad match. I try to find specialised outlets first so domain name has a big influence. I also find myself going straight for the lower ranked ads as i canít help thinking theyíll be cheaper(old habit).

#17 Black_Knight

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Posted 25 November 2004 - 01:31 AM

I have to say that I'm finding these insights quite fascinating. All we need now is to widen our survey. Let's each try and bring two other folks (preferrably non-SEO and even non-webmaster types if you know any :P ) into the discussion here if we can. Then if they can do the same, we'll have a wide spectrum of user-perspectives in no time.

#18 Respree

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Posted 25 November 2004 - 05:25 AM

This discussion is leaning toward the question whether one should invest in organic or PPC. So far, the concensus appears to be organic. Admittedly, I never click on PPC either. I somehow feel that the organic listings are going to be more relevant, based on my search skills. While this may be a pre-judgement on my part, I tend to agree with the principle under which the SERPs operate -- that the 'most' relevant will float to the top.

That said, here is a study that suggests that the answer is really is not a matter of organic or paid -- it's both. If you're only doing one or the other, you could be missing a significant opportunity. Interestingly, most companies focus on one or the other.

Other opinions here.

#19 bwelford

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Posted 25 November 2004 - 06:19 AM

... which all goes to show there's no simple black and white answer. There's a whole mix of people doing different things out there. You've got to find the ways to get to as many as possible in a way that persuades them to buy for the best overall cost.

#20 CTABUK

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Posted 25 November 2004 - 09:01 AM

OK, a few tips on PPC - firstly put a counter on your site, invisible if possible. That way if your competitors spam you, you will have some comeback. I tried something that worked for a while, in my add box I put 'Find out what our competitors do not want you to read' - boy did we get spammed, but the campaign worked. I change my script in my add box every month. I do not use Google as I don't need to. I use Overture because its partners are mostly broadband PC related so I get lots of hits from Yahoo, Tiscali etc. Overture on its own is just another SE. I also paid Mamma, 7search, Turbo10 & a few obscure ones $50 each and that was two years ago, I am still number one. I also cheat, I'm open about it, I run a tiny e-spotting account - that feeds Directories and some good ones at that. I have also found that by being both in e spotting and Overture I am listed on Searchy and they advertise under my keywords on Google 'get the top results for **** from 15 search engines, and who are they, all the ones I'm listed on.
In all I now have 360 number 1 positions, total cost per annum £3,500.00 - Business in £55millions in lending, I'm happy about that.

#21 Paul_H

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Posted 25 November 2004 - 10:11 AM

Guess its hard to talk about how users interact with PPC without drifting into the effectiveness of PPC.

Iíve already decided its effective.

Surprised no one has carried out a study into how people interact with the ads, not so much PPC vs SERPS but the decision process in picking ads. Whether people go for the top ad simply because its top, do they scan the list first and create short list, if and why they visit more than one ad, etc

Iíve done lost of experimenting, with ad text, urls, titles, position, etc but that can only tell you so much and needs sufficient data to draw any conclusions. What that canít tell me is if users have been to a competitors ad first, if they visit my sites and move on to check a competitor or try another search. The bottom ranked ads must at least get some clicks, have users gone straight to them or worked their way down? How does a bottom ranked ad compare for CTR vs a mid ranked ad(something i could but havenít tested)?

This info probably inst of much use to many, but might be of use to those who have more than one account targeting the same terms.

#22 Black_Knight

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Posted 25 November 2004 - 11:04 PM

Someone I know who did a study over time of accounts he managed (which were quite numerous and large) found that for certain types of searches the lower-placed PPC ads on Google actually performed better than the highly placed ones. He attributed this to people going through the organic SERPs first, working their way to the bottom of the page, and then crossing over to the next column, still at the bottom, to scan the sponsored links if the first SERP hadn't satisfied their needs.

It was interesting stuff, and backed up by another study I saw of eye-tracking. However, neither of these studies were ever made freely available, as each had involved a sizable investment to get, and neither was then going to be given away to competitors for free.

#23 projectphp

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Posted 25 November 2004 - 11:06 PM

Is that where SMA-UK comes in Ammon :)

#24 Black_Knight

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Posted 25 November 2004 - 11:51 PM

I don't want to get into a promotional pitch for the SMA here, but it is certainly one of the key aims. Good research costs. Altruists are few. Banding together lightens the load, and removes sole-party ownership.



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