Why do users click on clearly labeled paid ads when searching for information? The market research and analysis firm Clutch wanted to know, so they recently conducted a survey of 506 people — two-thirds women and one-third men, with just over half younger than age 35 — and examined their reasoning.
The results may not be surprising, but they can help businesses tailor an online marketing strategy to the preference of a wider customer segment. And with that, they can improve their click-through rate.
Why People Click
The majority of those surveyed (77 percent) recognize paid search advertisements as such, but they find those ads helpful in finding what they’re searching for. A full third (33 percent) of respondents said the paid ads directly answered their search query.
Knowing the ad was paid for did not discourage users from clicking; in fact, paid ads that answer a searcher’s question made businesses seem more reliable to survey respondents.
The key is creating paid ads that help searchers find the information they’re looking for rather than strictly selling a product or service.
Meta data seems to be the most potent element of a paid ad’s success. Because search engines use the meta title and description of a webpage as a preview in the search results, that content determines whether a searcher will click or scroll on by. Optimizing meta data to respond to specific search queries significantly increases the likelihood of a click-through — by 19 percent, according to the survey.
A meta title and description that give searchers high-level information about a page and its contents — e.g. location, company name, value-added description — put paid ads in a position to gain clicks because they help users find what they’re looking for.
Location, Location, Location
It comes as no surprise that Google is widely considered the go-to place to search for information on just about anything. Due to this overwhelming popularity, it’s also unsurprising that Google Ads is the most popular online advertising platform in the world. Two-thirds (63 percent) of respondents cited Google as the place they were most likely to click on an ad, which is more than double the reported likelihood to click on similar ads on Amazon (15 percent), Bing (6 percent) and YouTube (9 percent) combined.
But those stats only tell part of the story. When Clutch separated the survey results for paid ads into subcategories of text, shopping/product and video ads, they found yet more nuances.
When using a search engine like Google or Bing, nearly half the survey respondents (49 percent) preferred a text ad that contained the website’s meta data. When searching or browsing on other types of sites, however, ad preference shifts. Amazon browsers preferred shopping/product listings (50 percent), and YouTube viewers preferred video ads (36 percent).
What this tells us is that people choose to click on ads that align with their current goal. Researching a specific question on Google makes a text ad attractive, but shopping for items on Amazon makes product descriptions more relevant. And of course, looking for tutorials on YouTube means a video ad will get the click.
Diving a bit deeper into the success of shopping/product listing ads, Clutch found that people are more likely to click on ads for a brand they recognize by 33 percent, especially if the topic or product in their search is new or unfamiliar.
Though brand recognition is certainly not new to advertising strategies, it’s important to understand how it can influence click-through rates. On shopping sites like Amazon especially, a paid ad sponsored by a familiar brand can add the element of trust for a consumer to click on through.
Paid vs. Organic
All this may make it seem like paying for ads is all you need to do to get a higher click-through rate. But Clutch makes it clear that organic SEO is still an important factor, with only 20 percent of survey respondents saying they would choose a paid ad simply because it’s listed above other results.
The edge goes to paid ads, though, when you take mobile into account. Shopping/product listings are displayed horizontally, which makes being listed above organic results less important — at least on a bigger screen. Most mobile devices display only paid ads on the initially viewable screen and users must scroll down for organic listings.
This creates a challenge for businesses trying to subsist on the organic search method and makes a strong argument for diversifying to include paid ads on multiple platforms.
The bottom line is that paid ads work if you know how to work them. A business can tailor not only the ad’s content but the landing page it links to, giving a lot of control over a user’s experience.
Creating ads with relevant information that respond to users’ search intent will make a positive impression on potential customers. Aligning ads with a recognizable brand can establish trust, which in turn can increase click-through rates.
Spreading those ads over multiple platforms helps reach more users on a wider range of devices and search types. Understanding why, when and where users click on paid ads will help you strategize your marketing budget and get more click-through conversions.