Paid Search Listings Unrecognizable to Some

U.S. small business owners may not realize the value of paid search listings because nearly half of the 450 respondents to a survey couldn’t recognize paid listings from organic results.

WebAdvantage attributes this lack of recognition to the way results are displayed, which sometimes doesn’t provide clear differentiation between paid and organic listings. The report found that more than two-thirds of the respondents used Google as their search engine of choice, which makes a clear distinction between ads and search results. Yahoo lagged significantly with just over 15 percent, followed by MSN with nearly 8 percent, AOL/Netscape with more than 4 percent, and AltaVista with less than 2 percent.

The study concluded that 85 percent of the search audience thinks they click on sponsored links in less than 40 percent of all their searches, and 78 percent of all respondents feel that they find the information that they are looking for less than 40 percent of the time through sponsored links.

WebAdvantage did find some good news buried beyond the first page – 36 percent of the survey participants continued past the fourth page of search results, while only 8 percent quit after the first page. Another 28 percent each continued to the second page and third page., Inc. looked past clicks to conversions, and found that the three major retail advertisers they studied reported significantly high conversion rates for paid search listings in a 10-week period.

Primarily running across Overture and Google from October 1, 2003 to December 9, the three retailers rang up an average 165 percent more conversions during the measured time period with the advertisers individually yielding 143 percent, 368 percent, and 107 percent.

Almost 27,000 online sales occurred as a result of paid search engine placement, with a significant portion of those sales occurring in December. Advertiser A generated nearly 32 percent of conversions during the first nine days of December; Advertiser B, nearly 38 percent; and Advertiser C, more than 22 percent.

Scott Ferber, CEO of, believes that the trend will continue well into December, validating the effectiveness of search engine marketing.

Paid Search Listing to Conversion Over 10-Week Period
Clicks Conversions
Advertiser A 792,922 20,053
Advertiser B 166,700 5,015
Advertiser C 67,363 1,810

These findings come on the heels of an October 2003 study revealing that up to 85 percent of conversions can occur in the two weeks following the most recent ad impression. Ferber attributes the findings to the lasting effects of impressions, which can contribute to online brand advertising, and “mindshare, not just clickshare.”

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