Google: Want More Organic Traffic? Buy Search Ads

Mar 29, 2012 • 8:29 am | comments (17) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google AdWords

Google Incremental ClicksMy title is a bit extreme in summarizing the research study Google published named Impact Of Ranking Of Organic Search Results On The Incrementality Of Search Ads.

In short, Google is saying that having search ads do help with incremental impressions and clicks on your organic search results.

Google said, "on average, 50% of the ad clicks that occur with a top rank organic result are incremental." They also noticed in this study that "on average, 81% of ad impressions and 66% of ad clicks occur in the absence of an associated organic result on the first page of search results."

Here is the abstract of the study:

In an earlier study, we reported that on average 89% of the visits to the advertiser’s site from search ad clicks were incremental. In this research, we examine how the ranking of an advertiser’s organic listings on the search results page affects the incrementality of ad clicks expressed through Incremental Ad Clicks (IAC) and as estimated by Search Ads Pause models. A meta-analysis of 390 Search Ads Pause studies highlights the limited opportunity for clicks from organic search results to substitute for ad clicks when the ads are turned off. On average, 81% of ad impressions and 66% of ad clicks occur in the absence of an associated organic search result. We find that having an associated organic search result in rank one does not necessarily mean a low IAC. On average, 50% of the ad clicks that occur with a top rank organic result are incremental, compared to 100% of the ad clicks being incremental in the absence of an associated organic result.

In short, having search ads with top rankings in the organic results does not hurt. In fact, it helps in most cases.

Here is the info graphic Google made out of this study:

Google Incremental Clicks - click for full size

Forum discussion at WebmasterWorld.

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Dan Fallon

03/29/2012 01:55 pm

Barry - you are normally spot on but here I think you have misunderstood the study.  None of the study is about  incremental traffic to organic as a result of paid search. The 50% statistic refers to the extent to which a PPC advertiser with a #1 organic listing is cannibalising their organic traffic. You stated " In short, Google is saying that having search ads do help with incremental impressions and clicks on your organic search results. " In no way is Google saying that having search ads  helps with clicks on your organic results.What they are saying (predictably) is that there is a point in having ads even if you have good organic rankings.Take a PPC advertiser who gets 100 clicks per month in PPC & 100 clicks per month from their #1 organic listing. Total = 200 clicks.If they turn off the PPC they will get 150 clicks to the SEO and lose 50 clicks.For more info we've done a blog on it

Nick Stamoulis

03/29/2012 01:55 pm

I feel like we have to take this one with a grain of salt...Of course Google wants you to invest more in your PPC, that's where they earn most of their revenue. And I do think that having your brand show up both in the organic and paid listings for the same search is valuable,  I just don't know if I believe that it's as powerful as this study says. 

Barry Schwartz

03/29/2012 01:56 pm

I did not mean to imply it the way you think I was.

Avinash Conda

03/29/2012 02:35 pm

Does this effect smaller brands too.  It would have been better if Google actually gives out data separating big brands and small businesses.  I see this more as a Branding thing and am not sure if the results would be the same for small businesses too.

Barry Adams

03/29/2012 02:45 pm

In other news, BP research shows we need to buy more petrol, Apple research shows our lives would be much better if we all had multiple iPads, and government research shows the economy would be boosted if we all donated more money to political parties.


03/29/2012 03:25 pm

As much as the cynicism this story merits befits the subject matter, it's also true; having high-ranking links "from Google" (or for that matter anywhere with a high enough PageRank) will clearly benefit SEO . Good quality links are a ranking factor. (Duh). I wrote about this a couple of years ago:


03/29/2012 03:30 pm

Duh, Barry. Buying ads will get you what Matt Cutts calls "trust." It also lower your bounce rate and benefit with Panda as many of those that don't buy ads are trashed. When you buy ads it's the perfect keyword and users click around your site, unlike the long-long-tail Google sends non-brands. After buying ads Google "organic" will also send you better keywords since your user engagement is higher BECAUSE you bought Google ads. Unbiased, yeah. It all starts with buying ads.

Shane Eubanks

03/29/2012 03:55 pm

This is one of those areas that many people know about, but nobody really talks about it in public...possibly out of fear of what Google will say/do? I've seen *numerous* cases where one site was outranking the competition with less backlinks, less content, less "SEO", less social shares, less page authority, less domain authority, etc etc...BUT their adwords budget was about 5x higher than any competitor. Call that coincidence?  So $=trust? What about quality? Double standard? Is the "standard" money? That's muddy water and accusations that Google will just fall back and say "it's all based on a complicated algorithm". Humans *make* the algorithm. That's all I'll say for now.  :)

Jeff Downer Indianapolis IN

03/29/2012 04:00 pm

I'm not sure it's news that specifically targeted ads in conjunction with an organic search listing  is going to result in more traffic from that search. The situation results in multiple search result listings with the ad often offering more timely information (ie: limited time offer) and specific detail (ie: latest model) about a specific search query. 

Christopher Regan

03/29/2012 07:29 pm

Let me categorically state that this is not true (and that I don't work for Google).

David Sims

03/30/2012 07:09 am

"In short, Google is saying that having search ads do help with incremental impressions and clicks on your organic search results." No. They are saying that having PPC ads brings in incremental traffic - (and at that, not 100%) - so in essence they are actually saying that PPC ads WILL cannibalise 10-20% of your free (organic) traffic, but that most of the extra traffic is incremental. I'm with Dan, I think you've got this all backwards. Google is saying paid clicks are (mostly) incremental - not that paid ads will give you MORE ORGANIC clicks. that's not what the study says at all. Google said, "on average, 50% of the ad clicks that occur with a top rank organic result are incremental." AD CLICKS. not organic clicks. The study is about cannibalization of organic search traffic by paid advertising on high ranking keywords. Not about extra organic traffic coming from some magical benefit running PPC ads. The title of your article would be more accurate if it read: "Google: Want more TOTAL traffic (but slightly less ORGANIC traffic)? Buy search ads."

Inbound Marketing Expert

03/30/2012 11:04 am

Google Is Speaking Try to Buy my ads, Don't only focus on Organic Listing but also try paid ads. 


03/30/2012 01:00 pm

Great article from Search Engine Land from middle of last year, showing there's less than 10% cannibalization, but the error is in the Profit Results graph showing that Seo doesn't cost anything, which is obviously false.

Luis Galarza

03/30/2012 11:55 pm

Is a very smart and creative way from Google to make website owners to buy into their advertising program... The fact is that having a more gateways to your site on Google or any other popular site can increase your brand exposure, web traffic, and search result click-thru rate. Anyone who plan to use this strategy need to make sure to match it with a good ROI. Remember, not because it worked from some of the big brands is gonna work for your company.

Charlotte Day

04/04/2012 03:58 am

Organic search is a better basis because it’s not forced or placed on the SERP. People search for your website or the relevant keywords and it’s better to know about it. It means that people trust you first time seeing the site on the search results.


04/10/2012 08:47 am

Organic traffic comes from natural persons who visit the website and not in paid listings. It is the main purpose of Pay Per Click and other affiliate or promotions income.

Joseph Homsy

08/09/2012 05:55 pm

Is there no way to calculate this result via Google Analytics? For example, via Metrics or Goal Setting, creating an equation that can tell us the amount of Organic Clicks when AdWords were present? This is valuable information that I could present to a PPC client of mine. Any thoughts?

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