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The adverts that cost you nothing

I mentioned yesterday that adverts in the search results are pushing the free stuff further than ever down the page. That in itself might be a reason to increase your spending on search advertising in 2018, possibly significantly. But I’d like to suggest two important reasons for spending more on search advertising to boost SEO.

Firstly, there’s evidence that clicks on natural (free) search results increase if there’s an advert for the same company immediately above them. Many people prefer not to click on anything which says ‘advert’ next to it, but they do still read the ads. Let’s say there are adverts from companies A, B and C, and below these, natural search results from companies D, E and B. Our experience is that searchers will scan down and read all six, and the most clicked on items will be (in order): natural result D, natural result B, advert A.

What’s happened here is that the searcher liked the first natural result best of all; this isn’t surprising, as it’s the one which the search engine, through a lot of trial and error, considers to be the most popular and relevant. But the searcher then preferred the third natural result to the second one, and the reason can only be put down to the existence of the advert at the top of the page reinforcing the relevance and legitimacy of the result.

Secondly, there’s the simple issue of branding. This is related to the above. There’s definite evidence that people prefer to click on natural search results from companies they’ve heard of. If you’re always hanging around in the advertising slots, even if you’re not being clicked on, your name is getting across. Indeed, this is one of the most cost-effective things about search advertising: remember that your adverts will not be clicked on perhaps 95% of the time …and that costs you nothing.