Lee Odden

Organic Versus Paid Search Results

image courtesy of robot-frog.com
A new WebSideStory study announced today shows that paid search has only a slight advantage over organic search results for conversions.

The study looked at more than 57 million search engine visits on Google, Yahoo and MSN and showed a median order conversion rate of 3.40 percent at business-to-consumer e-commerce sites for pay per click compared to a conversion rate of 3.13 percent for organic search results during the same timeframe.

This announcement is timely, because recently, someone on our MIMA-SM discussion list asked about clickthrough rates on organic versus pay per click ads in search results. It’s pretty common knowledge that most people click on the organic results, but this person was looking for a credible resource citing specific numbers.

So here’s what I found:

  • iProspect did a study (pdf) on this in 2004 (scroll to page 16 and 17) “Across the 4 search engines – Google, Yahoo! MSN and AOL — 60.5% clicked on a natural (or “organic” or “algorithmic”) search result, while 39.5% clicked on a paid search advertisement.”
  • A recent study by iProspect and Jupiter Research shows that 2/3 of users click on the first page of results.
  • The Enquiro eyetracking study is always useful.
  • A study by OneUpWeb (pdf): “…search users are up to 6X more likely to click on the first few organic results as they are to choose any of the paid (PPC) results.”
  • Jupiter: ” Algorithmic listings in search indexes generate an estimated six of seven commercially natured search referrals”
  • 2007 Marketing Sherpa Search Marketing Benchmark Survey
  • Chris Dohman pointed out this post from SEO Book citing data from Jupiter (5 out of 6 commercial purchases which originate from search originate from the free (or organic) side) and from Atlas on PPC stats.

In most cases, especially with consumer products, I think a combined (organic and PPC) approach has show to be exceptionally productive. I don’t think any online campaign, regardless of vertical industry or whether it is btoc or btob, can rely on a single channel of promotion like organic search results.

For a truly competitive advantage, companies are paying more attention to how they can integrate online and offline marketing efforts, get better performance out of multi channel and social media marketing.

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Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he’s the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on integrated content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he’s likely on a beach somewhere doing absolutely nothing.