If you’re trying spread a search engine advertising budget across a broader area than it can really cope with, one strategy is to concentrate on the search terms where you’re not doing well in the “organic” (natural) search results. I can understand this, although companies which appear strongly in both the adverts and the natural search results for a particular search get some wonderful branding. Take a look, for example, at how instrumentation manufacturer Ion Science dominates searches for “benzene detector”:
Whether your eye alights on the adverts in the yellow panel or the natural search below, you see Ion Science first. If you scan both (as some people do), there’s no doubt as to which company comes over as the major player in the market.
But what is the relationship between “paid and organic search”? There’s an interesting report from an agency called Resolution Media called “The Search Sandbox: Paid Plays Well With Organic” which sheds some light on the matter. This looks at data supplied by Hewlett Packard, where both a paid and organic listing were triggered by the same keyword. As you might imagine, it’s data on a statistically significant scale.
One finding is that even when the company had the top organic search result, people clicked on the paid listing 40% of the time. Now, you might think that was wasted advertising budget: if the advert hadn’t been there, people might have looked down and clicked on the free listing. And indeed they might. But plenty would not have got that far. Don’t forget, without the ad, the company’s entry would have been some way down the page, with only competitors above it. What’s more, the visitors from the advert produced a higher revenue per visit. They turned out to have more commercial intent than those clicking on the natural search result.
I think we should start considering competitive searches with multiple adverts at the top of the results page as having two quite separate opportunities. Some people may well take the time to look at both the paid and natural search results. But I think most start (and probably finish) with either the ads or the natural results. And you need to be in both areas.