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Who is clicking on paid search ads?

I regularly do training sessions on search marketing. Sometimes I pose a question to the audience, “How many of you never click on paid search ads?” Invariably, about half of the audience raises their hands. Maybe you would raise your hand to answer such a question yourself. But I suspect that many of those with their hands up were wrong. Because various estimates say that between 20 percent and 30 percent of all search clicks are on those very ads.

Think about it. Almost every nickel that Google makes comes from paid search. Someone is clicking on those ads–probably many of those people who have their hands up. What accounts for that?

Sure, some people have fat fingers on their phones, and they click on ads by mistake. But if half of all searchers don’t click on ads ever, how could Google be making all this money? OK, maybe my polls have a sampling error, because my marketing audiences are more savvy than the average searcher. But that’s not what I think the reason is.

I think it is how we think about advertising. We’ve all grown up around advertising and we’ve learned over and over again that advertising is pointless. Advertising is irrelevant. Advertising is annoying.

And if you clicked on it, clearly it wasn’t pointless, irrelevant, and annoying. So, it must not have been advertising, right? I think that is the answer–searchers believe that they are clicking on organic results when the results are that relevant. So, Google is cashing the check, but it is because they’ve orchestrated such spot-on results.

Search ads will always be more relevant than other ads, simply because they are based on the searcher’s keywords. But it still surprises me how many people are clicking on the ads who have no idea they are doing so.

Mike Moran

Mike Moran is a Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also served as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website,, most recently as the Manager of Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He was a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research and is now a Senior Fellow of The Conference Board. A Certified Speaking Professional, Mike regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide.

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