Google studies the incremental clicks impact of search advertising

PPC (pay-per-click) advertising is both an effective and popular online marketing tool. Over the next few years it has been estimated that around £25 billion is going to be spent on PPC ad campaigns. This kind of online advertising is easily measured – users can see how many times they have been clicked on, and whether those clicks have been followed through to actual conversions.

However recently, online marketers have started to fear that their PPC (pay-per-click) adverts have been diverting traffic from their organic search results. For instance, if a company’s online marketing strategy includes both PPC advertising and organic SEO, their fear is that their PPC advert is only being shown when their organic search result comes up. So, in theory, this feels like a ‘waste’ of a click and a waste of your PPC budget. It would seem that you were only competing with yourself online, when of course
you want to compete against others.

Google’s study: “Incremental Clicks Impact Of Search Advertising”

However, Google listened to people’s fears, and so conducted a study named the Incremental Clicks Impact Of Search Advertising. In short, this study has confirmed that these PPC ads actually generate new site visitors rather than divert them from the company’s organic search link. It investigated what happened to the number of clicks (from organic search and PPC ads), when the PPC ads were being used and when they were not. They compared the number of clicks from each scenario and described the difference between the total incremental traffic that PPC ads generate.

Incremental clicks: what are they?

A definition of the word incremental itself is “increasing gradually by regular degrees or additions.” Here’s an example to outline what incremental links themselves are specifically:

A marketer spends £5,000 per month on PPC advertising. This marketer’s site is getting an average of 1,000 PPC clicks and 1,000 organic clicks per month during the PPC campaign. If the marketer stopped purchasing PPC ads altogether and started to get 1,110 organic links, that marketer’s PPC campaign would have been providing 890 incremental clicks.

Therefore, the incremental clicks are those clicks that are lost when a marketer stops the PPC campaign. The study compared the total number of clicks from each scenario, with or without ads, and described the difference between the total incremental traffic that PPC ads generate.

In short, Google researchers found that around 89% of PPC ad interactions, in general, came from visitors that would not have otherwise gone to the advertiser’s site. So, to put people’s minds at rest – no, that click you just paid for wasn’t wasted – 89 percent of PPC traffic tends to be incremental.

Advice from Google

-         Marketers’ experience with incremental traffic produced by PPC ads should be combined with data from Google Analytics (to determine when and how much PPC advertising is worthwhile.)

-         Monitor and test PPC campaigns periodically, as incremental ad click rates change from season to season.

-         If running several pay-per click ad campaigns, pause one of them for a short period and note changes to incremental traffic. Then consider how many conversions the additional traffic generates and how much revenue that will ultimately produce.


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