Study: Change From “Sponsored Links” To “Ads” Increased CTRs On Google

Last week we wrote about research conducted by Harvard Business School’s Ben Edelman. The study examined the issue of labeling on paid ads in search. The study found that a hypothetical change from “sponsored link” to “paid advertisement” resulted in “25% to 33% fewer clicks” on those ads.

Now a study from SEM firm The Search Agency finds something interesting and perhaps in opposition to Edelman’s findings. The firm examined the impact on client CTRs after the switch from “sponsored links” to “ads.” What the SEM firm found was that CTRs increased 11.4 percent “since Google went to the “Ads” disclosure label, with no significant shift in average position or CPC.”

Source: The Search Agency

There’s no obvious explanation for the discrepancy between Edelman’s research and that of The Search Agency, however the two are not necessarily in direct opposition. A skeptic’s view would be that “ads” is harder to see than “sponsored link” and people may not be aware that those links are in fact ads. It’s not clear.

It would be difficult to argue that “ads” makes those links more appealing. Traditionally paid links have received many fewer clicks than organic listings on Google and people are generally wary of advertising. This is the argument that Edelman’s research is also making.

I’d be interested if others are seeing a similar impact on client campaigns or whether CTRs have remained the same since the labeling change.

Related Topics: Channel: SEM | Google: AdWords


About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog Screenwerk, about SoLoMo issues and connecting the dots between online and offline. He also posts at Internet2Go, which is focused on the mobile Internet. Follow him @gsterling.

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  • Barry Schwartz

    I should note, it seems like the start date of the data collection process and the start date of the ad label change don’t coincide.

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