Bring on the Google Search Ads

I’m finding that more and more I click on ads rather than search results at Google. Why? Because the search results in some commercial categories are so thoroughly SEO (search engine optimization) spammed that it’s a waste of time trying to figure out which search results are worth clicking.

But while the search results are a mess, the people who pay to have their ads run are often worth clicking. After all, they’re bidding and paying for my attention, thus making them more likely to be worth a scan than some SEO-optimized Adsense site that has thrust its way into the top ten pure search results.

The re-rise of paid-for search results means the future of search is starting to look more like its recent (and supposedly discredited) past.

[Update] I’ve now had three people email suggesting the wonderfully conspiratorial idea that Google has no incentive to produce search results — and it may even turn a dial now and then in the opposite direction — as worse search means more ad clicks.


  1. And the amazing thing is how few advertisers give any thought to their ad copy – especially eBay (Get Death Now! Great deals on death at ebay!
    To date, 99% of the effort companies put into paid search advertising went into keywords and bid prices – now that everyone has bid management software and more and more companies are bidding based on ROI, that will start to change, I think.

  2. The emergence of a white and a yellow Google?

  3. Good point. Advertisers are paying minimal attention to their copy, as if the only thing that matters is on-page location. Not true, of course. And eBay is a particularly egregious offender.

  4. WOW! Finally, someone who actually clicks on an ad in Google. Or at least admits to it.
    Seriously, I have canvased virtually my entire company (~200 tech emplyees) and have yet to have one person (I do mean one) say they regularly click on an ad in Google. Most say they have never clicked on an ad.

  5. And related to this is a request I have for google: they should add the clicked ads to the personalized history of search results. They seem to “deliberately” not add the clicked ads in the personalized history. One wonders why :-)

  6. which makes me wonder about real people. Those of us with tech-centric lifestyles tend to think that early adopters are the marketplace. We ‘know’ this isn’t correct, of course, but my only bit of reality comes from changing planes in SLC. This bias makes the often (and early) pronouncements of techno-related funerals.
    -Ever the techno-skeptic living in his own bubble

  7. Yup, I click. I’ve gone from never clicking, as recently as a eighteen months ago, to clicking regularly enough now that I actually scan ads when doing commercial searches.

  8. The interesting observation though is about which way the bias works – are the tech-centric early adopters clicking on ads or are the “regular people” the early adopters? Volume of clicks in the market tells you that the regular people must be the ones clicking on the ads (and maybe not really even knowing the difference between paid and natural results in many cases). Every SEM has also observed this effect: customers who start out with paid ads, waiting for natural rankings to kick in, and then kill paid after they get a good natural ranking can lose as much as 1/3 of their traffic. There is a natural reinforcement for users when they see the company in both the natural and paid results. Remember also that the destination (landing page) for the paid ad can be much more tightly controlled than the natural results – which also may tend to improve the search user’s experience.

  9. Conspiratorial? Could just be optimizing the user experience.
    Like, they may have figured that the optimal user experience was to surround a bunch of non-commerce related content (natural results) with commerce related information (paid links).
    Pure algortihmic results to the Search Community is like non-guidance for inverstor community.
    Someone call Myth Busters!

  10. jme giffo says:

    google search history is also the only folder in the google robots.txt file that is allowed to be crawled,
    I personally think its because google ads are using that information to personalise google ads (with ads it would be distorded), personalizing from my search history is far more accurate than from the content on the page

  11. Bill O'Donnell says:

    I click on google ads all the time, but it’s usually when I am shopping for something: either something personal or software or tech for work. Good advertising (i.e. relevant to what one is doing) works for both the consumer and the advertiser.
    As to conspiracy theories that google would sub-optimize search results: they aren’t that stupid. They are fully aware of the value of their brand, and while they may be mis-judging the China thing (or not), and looking like newbies because they don’t know the wall street dance yet, there is no way they are going to sell out their core value (which drives total traffic volume) to eek out a few more percentage points of monetization.

  12. Roger Bohn says:

    It’s fascinating to see Google continuing to shake up the underpinnings of advertising. There are 3 basic theories about what advertising does:
    1) advertising = propaganda (changing opinions to persuade you to do something irrational);
    2) advertising = information (providing information that would otherwise not be found easily);
    3) advertising = signal of quality (In some economic models, only good firms can afford to advertise; therefore if a firm advertises, it signals that their product is good).
    Paul’s experience suggests that Google ads fall mostly into category 2: an efficient way to provide information. To the extent this is true, we’d be stupid NOT to use them. (For the record, I use them about 30% of the time I am looking for product information. The percentage rises over time.)

  13. JME Giffo,
    They can add the clicked ads to my personalized search history and use some annotation to mark it as such. They already have favorites so tehy can have something to indicate that it was an adv I clicked. Seems simple enough to do IMHO

  14. Obviously regular users click on the paid ads regularly. We would not be able to spend tens of thousands per month (profitably) on PPC were that not the case. In speaking with search marketing prospects I also see that at least 60% of the business people I talk to don’t even know the difference between a paid and organic link.
    If you poll 200 people about clicking on paid ads and everyone says they don’t – then I would bet that the vast majority don’t understand the question. They think they don’t click, but don’t even realize that they do.
    I do agree that paid ads are often more relevant than the organic searches. But it depends on what you are searching for. Products – paid ads. Information – organic. That’s a crude generalization but basically true.

  15. jme giffo says:

    my parents click on adds when searching not understanding its an ad. thats the type of people that normally click on ads, novices, when these novices aren’t novices anymore will this Personalize Ad driven business model be viable? clearly in the future the web will be so natural and standard practice to everybody, thus no one clicks on ads.