• http://www.webfocus.bg/ geoprofi

    Actually, I’ve just read the research paper and I do not think it supports the statements made in this article.

    The research shows that for most advertisers (89%) removing PPC SE traffic will result in loss of SE traffic that will not be compensated by their organic listings. However, as we very well know, only a few advertisers also occupy the top 3 position in the organic listings (which are comparable to PPC traffic). Hence, this study proves nothing, than any web marketer can’t tell you and prove you in a matter of minutes.

    If the research was made so that it included only advertisers who had top organic rankings, the results would have been very different, as I have seen more than once in my practice.

  • http://www.stramark.nl/zoekmachine-marketing/ Wouter Blom

    owning a website with 50-70 000 visitors a month and a monthly budget of 3000 euro’s i also see no evidence that adwords in cannibalizing my organic volume

    We rank organicaly mostly between position 3 and 7 on 450+ keywords.

    We ran multiple tests because we could always spend the money missed during one day in a upcoming day. So we tested with daily intervals of adwords – no-adwords. and weeks of adwords and than back to no adwords.

    Currently not running adwords for reasons of profitability :-(

  • http://www.seoskeptic.com/ Aaron Bradley

    I agree with @geoprofi. I was unable to find in the study any indication of what organic rankings the advertisers how paused their campaigns possessed (no whether these were branded or non-branded keywords). If you’re not ranking organically for a given keyword *of course* your traffic is going to decline when you turn off a paid search campaign for that keyword. This “study,” indeed, proves nothing.

  • http://www.findmefaster.com Matt Van Wagner

    Hi Geoprofi.

    Thank you commenting.

    Your suggestion to get research results specifically for the case when top ads and organic spots appear together – is excellent, especially since the Google study did mention that low incremental ad clicks (IAC) “…may occur when the paid and organic results are both similar and in close proximity to each other on the search results…”

    Priti Kumar’s earlier research suggested that cannibalization was not an issue when branded-terms appeared in high organic and paid ads spots, but it was limited in scope and not conclusive, so if Google were to include that type of research next time around, it would be really helpful to brand managers.

    On your first point, however, I believe you may have read too quickly because the 89% Google refers to is incremental additional clicks attributable to paid search, not to a majority of advertisers. No matter how well they rank currently, if advertisers can get incremental lift from paid search ads, and it is profitable, clearly it’s a win, so the study is useful, even if it may be perceived as self-serving.

  • http://www.findmefaster.com Matt Van Wagner

    Hi Aaron – Thanks for chiming in, too.

    I agree that additional research along these lines would be great to have – maybe Google is already working on it…

  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/marykaylofurno Mary Kay Lofurno

    I believe the answer here is test, pure and simple.

    I have worked on sites where I have tested this and seen both outcomes, depending upon the product/industry/objective.

  • lemazel

    I would discount Google’s study immediately. I wouldn’t even consider giving it any credibility whatsoever. Do you trust a cigarette company’s research on the effects of smoking? The oil industry’s research on global warming? Halliburton’s research on the positive economic impact of war? Anybody can do a study and get any kind of results they’re looking for – and even make the study look reasonable and unbiased to a reader. The easiest way to do that is to carefully select your subjects. And it’s really hard to demonstrate that you weren’t biased in the selection process. Sounds like Google mainly looked at e-commerce websites in this instance. The fact that the subjects were mainly in the US is a red herring.

    It’s not to say that Google’s research necessarily gives an incorrect of misleading conclusion – just that it should be completely discounted. And frankly, the same goes to a certain paid search marketer who wrote the post. Making a commission on paid search ad spend are we?

    The big giveaway here is that you are making blanket statements about a reader’s business. You shouldn’t generalize: the type of business makes all the difference in the world. E-commerce is hugely different from, say, webmail. Even if you’re a zillion-time Amazon user, when you go to the site, chances are you’re there to buy something. If eBay hijacks your visit in a bit of competitor brand bidding, you might just buy the same thing there instead. Might even be cheaper. But if you need to login to your Hotmail account to check your email and Yahoo pops up on paid search, might you decide to login to your non-existent Yahoo account instead? Nope. Might you decide all of the sudden to create a Yahoo account? Nope. Might Microsoft spend a fortune buying clicks on it’s own brand that it would get from organic anyway? Yep. Does Hotmail sponsor its own brand? Nope. Does Amazon? You betcha.

    The most annoying thing of all is that while you admit that the only real way to test the impact is to… wait for it… *test it*. You then go on to suggest that nobody actually has the goujons to carry out the test – so devastating would the results be for the business. Most people just ‘model’ the impact. What the bleepety bleep?!?!

    Maybe I should just forget all of that tedious a/b testing and just model the results from now on. Nice.

  • http://www.findmefaster.com Matt Van Wagner

    Agreed, Mary Kay. Thank you for commenting.

  • http://www.findmefaster.com Matt Van Wagner

    Hi Lemazel,

    I appreciate strong opinions, thank you for voicing yours.

    The study was based on a question that itself a broad generalization. The answer, of course, will be a generalization. That shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.

    If you want to really answer the question for your own company, you either have to build a model, or you have to set up a valid experiment and work with real-world data. Do you have an alternative suggestion for answering the question specifically or more generally?

    As I said at the outset of the post, what I like about the Google study is that, generally-speaking, it helps provide insight the relationship between paid search advertising and organic traffic. It is not the first study attempting to provide the insight. It won’t be the last.

    As to your cutting remark about making commission on ad spend, we don’t make commissions on paid search and I am not aware that anyone in this market does. Are you aware that search engines do not pay commissions? However, I don’t mean to disappoint you by not feeling appropriately stung by your sharp rebuke, so If it not too much trouble, can you please tell me what bleepety-bleep you are talking about and I promise I will make time to be hurt by the remark. Much obliged. Cheers.

  • http://www.rimmkaufman.com George Michie

    Matt, we’re conducting a study on this as we speak. We suspect that the answer will vary widely depending on how much money the given brand advertises offline, how long they’ve been in business, the degree to which their name is unique (Zales vs engagementring.com) and as others have mentioned, whether or not you rank #1 for your own brand.

    We’re also going to look closely at the extent to which pulling the ads increases affiliate traffic, as they too can cannibalize brand search.

    As a former retailer, it just doesn’t make sense to me that most brand advertising isn’t cannibalized in most circumstances. Different if your brand name is “online poker dot com” but for Lands End, I have a hard time believing they’ll lose significant traffic overall by pulling the ad.

    I think testing risks little, here, but we sometimes struggle to convince clients to try it.

    Non-brand, competitive search is a totally different ball game.

  • http://www.findmefaster.com Matt Van Wagner

    Thanks, George. Good luck with your study. I hope you’ll be able to write up on your RKG blog or here at SEL.

    We have several brand clients in market segments where there is no clear dominant player, and/or whose names are bland and easily confused. We’ve done some purposeful testing, and in other cases expiring credit cards have caused unscheduled ‘tests.’ We have definitely observed the direct impact of brand ads being offline. I suppose famous brands like Lands End who have strong offline marketing efforts that pre-dated the web would be less impacted by a nuclear option test.

  • http://www.bgenius.com/en/bid-management-software.html mvaneeghen

    I consider the following to be true: Campaign * Website * Product = Result. Therefore the results of such a study are true for the websites that have been included in the research.

    Moreover, the same study on the same websites would produce a different result a year later as the quality of their SEO and PPC strategy may vary, their website is different or their product has become less desirable.

    In short: This study is BS and Google is full of it.

  • http://www.rimmkaufman.com George Michie

    I don’t think this study is worthless, nor do I think they cooked the results. They haven’t detailed answers to the critical questions. They have not differentiated between brand and non-brand search which is crucial, and they failed to thoroughly disclose results relating to the organic link position. To their credit, in section 3 they do acknowledge that: “A low value for IAC [Incremental traffic from ads] may occur when the paid ad and organic results are both similar and in close proximity to each other on the search engine result page.” They go on to explain that this happens when both are near the top of the page.

    Disentangling brand from non-brand in those critical cases would provide very valuable insights.

    One more point in Google’s defense. Their published research does not always support their short term financial interests. Varian’s paper showing the relative invariance of traffic value by position — which we and others have been saying all along — does not really help their cause. Cooking the books to show that the top position converts better than others would create much greater incentives to jockey for position at the top of the page. To their credit, they did not make that claim. They could have gone a step further (as we did) and pointed out that conversion rates at the top were actually slightly worse than at the bottom, but… :-)

  • http://www.findmefaster.com Matt Van Wagner

    I concur completely George.

    I sure hope Google continues collecting and mining the data and publishing more ad studies like this – the insights are interesting directionally. Even though they are macro-level observations, and not intended to be correct for any one advertiser’s environment, they are enlightening.

  • http://www.findmefaster.com Matt Van Wagner

    Thank you for your feedback, Wouter. Hope you can find a profitable sweet spot for your AdWords campaigns. Have you tried adCenter for Bing/Yahoo? You may not find as much traffic, but we’ve always found it to have lower CPA…

  • http://www.guava.co.uk/ GuavaUK

    If Google released a -1 button I’d seriously be using it on this post.

    I have seen the data myself in numerous analytics accounts, and even from Googles own researchers quantifying both incremental traffic gains and cannibalisation effects from running PPC and SEO together.

  • http://www.findmefaster.com Matt Van Wagner

    Thank you for your comment, GuavalUK.