Understanding the Impact of Search Click-Throughs on Your Business

I was recently forwarded an article about the difference in paid search click-throughs on Google and those of Microsoft’s Bing. The highlight: sponsored links attract about 80 percent more attention on Bing than they do on Google. And Microsoft search ads got 170 percent better click-through in June 2009 than they did in June 2008. The study and article talk about a number of reasons this might be the case.

But if we step back, we can look at this in a few different ways:

  • Microsoft perspective, near term: For Microsoft, this is great news. Bing is driving more people through paid search terms and generating more revenue than before. Microsoft may be able to do a study and learn that people are more satisfied and able to find what they are looking for more easily. It may also find that the results returned for the paid terms are better than what comes from organic searches. This can definitely be seen as a positive sign.
  • Advertisers: These are the companies buying paid search terms, thus paying a certain amount for every click to their sites. Ideally these advertisers have determined what it’s worth to get people to their sites. If those numbers hold up, advertisers are thrilled with additional traffic. But (and here is the potential risk) the big question is: Does the traffic increase lead to a sales increase? Or is Bing sending more visitors who aren’t qualified? Another potential risk: research has shown that visitors who come to a Web site through organic search typically convert at a higher level than visitors who come to a site through paid search. Does the additional traffic being driven through paid search take people away from natural search, thus losing advertisers the benefits of paid search? Tough to say, because Bing is still so new. Plus, advertiser results will differ greatly depending on the site, industry, goals, and so on. But it is something worth considering and understanding.
  • Searchers: This is key. Will consumers using Bing stick with Bing? Will they continue to click on paid search listings at a higher rate? What will Google do to counteract? Is all of this just a blip on the radar based on a new offering? Are consumers finding what they are looking for and being better served by Bing? Again it is too early to say, but that is what really matters.

A great opportunity exists to understand that traffic. As someone within you organization responsible for the Web channel, hopefully you aren’t over-focused on your click-throughs from campaigns or the raw number of people sent through. Instead, you should be more focused on traffic quality.

Dig in. Take time to understand what is happening and the potential opportunities to leverage the differences and possible changing trends. How can you take advantage of this shift? Are you looking at the difference in how people convert or behave on your site based on whether they come from organic or paid and from Google or Bing? Are you tailoring your messaging based on what you learn? These are all questions you should be asking yourself regardless of whether you think the difference between Bing and Google is just a short-term shift or a long-term trend.

Don’t let yourself get caught focusing on just the click-throughs or assuming that all search traffic behaves the same on your site and that you can treat it the same. Look for ways to adjust, improve, and target messaging to lift the conversion of the traffic coming from those click throughs.

Shoot me a note or make a comment below about the differences you see between the traffic coming from Google and that from Bing, or how you’re targeting your site messaging and experiences to those different audiences.

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