If you’ve been around long enough, you’ve seen the research reports. And it’s become almost a part of the lore of search marketing. When searchers see the same site at the top of both the paid and organic results, they click a lot more than you’d expect. More than they click on those two results on that same page when they are two different sites. We’ve repeated this over and over again, so it must be true. But is it?
It does have a certain logic. When you think about the way searchers scan result pages, they are looking for their keywords and related words in the search results and deciding in a split-second what to click on. If they see the same company in two places, they might believe that the company is more credible than the other individual search results. That slight edge in credibility might lead to a lot more clicks.
It’s been important for search engines to persuade us that this is true. Why? Because there is equally powerful logic in the other direction. If you already have the #1 result in organic, why would you want to pay for the top paid search spot? You might be paying for traffic you’d get for free. So, it’s good for business if the search engines can prove that showing up in both places really pays off.
So, search engines have regularly studied the issue, along with search consultants who also would like this to be true. Yahoo! reported that it saw a 60% lift back in 2003 when it studied this issue. Google was even more optimistic, saying that there is an 89% lift in clicks on paid search when sites have top results in both areas.
Are these studies false? Unlikely. They probably revealed just what they purport to show. But that isn’t the important question for you. You don’t really care whether searchers in general click more. You want to know if your searchers do! On top of that – do you even know if you have both in high-ranking positions? Ironically, it’s very easy to test which your searchers are clicking and converting on. You just need to pause your PPC campaign and take a look at whether the organic clicks go down.
But almost no one even tries this kind of experiment. A Back Azimuth study on keyword management best practices shows that fewer than one percent of all search marketers have even looked at paid and organic search together. Have you? And what would you find if you did?