The layout of search engine results pages (SERPs) has changed significantly over the last couple years, even in just the last few months. There is now a heavy ad presence, including text and image shopping. In many instances, organic results are pushed much further down the page. Take a look at this SERP below from 2001 compared to one from today.
PPC + SEO = SERPs Domination
Many marketers have often questioned if paid ads cannibalize on organize listings in search engine results pages (SERPs). Should we focus on paid search, organic rankings, or both? A 2011 Google study found that by having both a paid and organic listing on page one, 89% of ad clicks were incremental. Indeed, optimizing presence in both paid and organic listings will result in more clicks and revenue.
Another study released in 2013 by Resolution Media, Kenshoo and Hewlett-Packard further showed that paid and organic listings should be used together. The study, which analyzed paid and organic search marketing for a U.S. retail division of HP, found that:
- Paid ads next to organic listings in positions 2-5 received 66% of clicks.
- Paid ads next to organic listings in positions 6-10 received 90% of clicks.
- Compared to organic, paid-search drove 3.2% higher Net Revenue per Visit (NRPV). NRPV is paid revenue less paid cost, making it comparable to organic revenue.
The Evolution of SERPs
The change in SERPs, especially in regards to the ratio between paid and organic results, is another reason not to discount an investment in paid search. Google (and Bing, Yahoo, etc.) have been making more frequent changes to SERPs, adding more opportunities for advertisers to pay for page one listings.
Paid listings are larger, with the ability to add enhanced sitelinks, image extensions, social media extensions, products reviews and ratings. Paid ads are also more frequent. Now, in more and more cases, an organic ranking of position one or two may not even land you above the fold.
The example below shows that even though this site ranks in position two organically, their paid ad in position 6 is the only presence above the fold. A quick decision could lead a marketer to remove this paid listing, given how well the site ranks organically. But without the paid listing, the site loses significant click potential for this search term.
The Bottom Line
Search engines make money off of paid listings, so they will continue to find ways to have marketers spend more to maintain real estate in search results. Google announced that they will be sharing new (unknown) AdWords changes on April 22. The bottom line is, don’t overlook paid, no matter how well you rank organically.