Blog Post

Search Spending Expected To Rise, But What About The Clicks?

imageA pair of reports from eMarketer and The Kelsey Group paint a rosy picture of the search advertising market over the next four years — with double-digit increases in spending for both web-based and mobile search. It’s not surprising, given the instant gratification (and perceived ROI) marketers get from paid search ads.

But just how effective is search? New research from Penn State University suggests that people click on both paid and organic search links much less frequently than most marketers think: searchers only clicked on paid search ads — even when they were supplemented by organic links — about 15 percent of the time. (The industry consensus is that a combination of both paid and organic search presence boosts an advertiser’s trustworthiness and search results page “coverage” — which increases click-through rates).

That statistic surprised Jim Jansen, the assistant professor of information science and technology behind the study, who noted that the relatively low CTRs contradicted similar studies that pegged search ad click-through rates at about 30 percent or higher. The PSU study analyzed more than seven million interactions from over 660,000 users on, a search engine that aggregates results from *Google*, *Yahoo*, Live Search and others; it also found that 35 percent of queries didn’t result in any ad clicks at all. (SEL’s Barry Schwartz has a link to the PDF of the study here).

While Jansen said the study provided new insight into searcher behavior, he did acknowledge that Dogpile users might not be the the best representation of web users in general. But the research does leave the door open for more mainstream inquiries into how to better quantify the the return on search advertising, similar to Microsoft’s push to develop metrics that go “beyond the click” last year.

Photo Credit: jason_coates

3 Responses to “Search Spending Expected To Rise, But What About The Clicks?”

  1. Interesting…
    What caused the surprise?
    What's the source of the control data?

    What types of searches were performed (what was the searcher's intent)? Informational, Navigational, or Transactional?

    While improving CTR is plausible, the golden egg is the rate of conversion after the click.