RSS feed Get our RSS feed

News by Topic

BizReport : Search Marketing : March 14, 2011

Searchers barely even glance at sponsored ads on Bing, Google

Marketers should focus on search engine optimization instead of relying on rarely-viewed sponsored ad listings. That's the message from a new study into what search engine users are actually looking at.

by Helen Leggatt

user centric logo.pngThe new eye-tracking study by user experience firm User Centric shows that the majority of search engine users don't even so much as glance at the sponsored ad listings on the right hand side of the results page.

The study used search engines Bing and Google to see just how many search engine users paid attention to ads. While organic search results were viewed 100% of the time, only around 1 in 4 paid any attention to the sponsored ad listings.

Fewer Bing users (21%) than Google users (28%) looked at the ads, found User Centric. Even when looked at ads were afforded but a quick glance, averaging around 1 second compared with the 14.7 seconds (Google) and 10.7 seconds (Bing) users spent resting their eyes on organic listings.

"The results of this study suggest that advertisers should place their ads above the organic search results, where the hit rate was more than three times higher and gaze time more than five times longer than on the sponsored links on the right," concludes User Centric.

"When deciding between Bing and Google, advertisers should keep in mind that, ad placement among the top sponsored results on Google attracted 22% more attention than an equivalent placement on Bing."

Ad blindness on the Internet isn't a new phenomenon. At the end of last year a study from Adweek Media and Harris Poll found that, despite an increase in innovation and creativity in online advertising, many consumers are blind to banner ads.

The results of their study of 2,098 U.S. adults also didn't bode well for search engine ads which were cited as being the second-most ignored ads of all channels, with 20% ignoring them.

Tags: Bing, Google, search marketing

Subscribe to BizReport

  • Helen, I'm not sure if it's you or User Centric that has trouble moving from observation to interpretation, but how do we go from eye tracking studies that show people not looking at ads, to the conclusion that companies should "focus on" search engine optimization "instead of" paid search.

    First, it's called pay-per-click for a reason: you don't pay for the paid search results if they don't click.

    We also know that a great many queries have something other than commercial intent. That's normal. People will be expecting to find photos, video, news, or information, instead of wanting to transact.

    But a meaty 20-30% of queries (that's a lot) have commercial intent at some level.

    Hear ye, hear ye: more often than you think, the high-intent prospect is more interested in the ad than in the organic result below it.

    On commercial-intent queries, a strong percentage of users actually click on ads. Yep, CTR's are a lot higher on the ads that appear above the organic results. Not so great, but not so terrible either, on the right hand side.

    That's good! We don't distract people unduly when they aren't interested. We expect that people will scan the page to find the type of information that suits them. Advertisers still get tons of clicks.

    It all works. It's all good.

    People aren't ignoring search ads en masse, and once more, no usability study or eye tracking guru can deny the clicks in real world advertiser accounts, nor the billions in revenue Google is making from those clicks.



Copyright © 1999- BizReport. All rights reserved.
Republication or redistribution of BizReport content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent.
BizReport shall not be liable for any errors in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon.