Do My PPC Ads Cannibalize My Organic Traffic?

Topics: PPC

It’s the age old question frequently asked to online marketers when discussing an online strategy of both organic and paid search traffic: Should I pay for paid ads? Why should I bid on my own brands and trademarks when we already position well organically for them? The short answer is that you should likely be bidding on your company name and products/brand names – since if you’re not, you leave the door open for your competitors to position high in the paid space.

Google conducted a study last year to find out if pausing or greatly reducing paid search spend would result in an equal lift in organic traffic, thus making up for the loss in paid traffic. They observed the click activity of users when paid search campaigns were put on pause or great reduced. Did PPC ads actually cannibalize their organic traffic? A bunch of really smart PhD mathematicians came up with a crazy long mathematical formula to predict what would happen. The results?

On average, the incremental ad clicks percentage across verticals is 89%. This means that a full 89% of the traffic generated by search ads is not replaced by organic clicks when ads are paused. This number was consistently high across verticals.

Realize that Google makes a majority of their overall revenue from PPC ads, so they might be slightly biased in their findings. But we have observed similar results when reducing or pausing PPC ads for our clients.  The findings are consistent: Just because a keyword or keyword phrase ranks high organically, that does not equal an increase in the same amount of traffic that your paid search ads would have brought to your site.

When this study was conducted, it was done so in a variety of countries, and during peak holiday season. Google recently updated their study, expanding it to include more advertisers and more testing scenarios.

The new updated findings are similar:

Researchers found that incremental ad clicks went down by 85% if campaigns were paused entirely. Organic results went up — but not nearly enough to make up for the loss from the paid ads. “Across the board, our findings are consistent: ads drive a very high proportion of incremental traffic – traffic that is not replaced by navigation from organic listings when the ads are turned off or turned down.”

Having found that, remember that an incremental lift in traffic does not necessarily equate to better, qualified traffic. Make sure you have a solid PPC strategy and are doing everything you can to convert traffic into a conversion, however you measure that. We’re strong believers in a dual organic and paid search strategy for our clients.

Google July 2011 Study: Studies Show Search Ads Drive 89% Incremental Traffic

Google Mar 2012 Study: Search Ads Pause Studies Update

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