The organic or natural search results are the "free" listings provided by search engines. You don't pay to be in those, you are just there by grace of the search engine having determined you are relevant for a particular search term. So, why do paid search if you rank well in organic search?
In the case of the search term "Nikon D800" shown in the example above, Google is showing results relevant for an expensive new camera released a few months ago by Nikon. Believe it or not, there's a compelling case for doing well in both organic and paid search for this kind of "high commercial intent" (i.e., ready to buy) search term.
Here's the basic reasoning:
- Each time a web site is seen on the page is a chance to choose that site. In our example camera search, Amazon is listed three times on the page: once in ads (paid), once in shopping (also paid), and once in the organic results (not paid). By comparison, its nearest competitor, B&H Photo Video is only listed twice, both in paid positions and both after Amazon. Just choosing randomly, one would pick Amazon an average of three out of eleven times in this example.
- Consumers may view the organic results as a vote of confidence in the site. Research has shown that the presence of organic results with paid search results may strongly increase the likelihood of a click on the paid results. In the camera example above, Amazon is the only retailer benefitting from an organic result along with its paid result.
- Also, as illustrated in the camera example, if a site does not participate in paid search in cases where the person is highly likely to buy (generally the case in product name searches), the site risks not actually appearing in a spot where the searcher will see it. Amazon occupies the prime spot in both ads (paid) and shopping (also paid). Were Amazon in neither, the searcher's eyes would have had to make it to the bottom of the page before encountering Amazon for the first time. The same research linked above showing that organic links increase the likelihood of searchers clicking paid links also demonstrates that paid links increase the likelihood that searchers will click organic listings.
- Finally, a site has much more control over a paid listing than an organic listing leading to a host of benefits:
- The site controls the landing page the searcher goes to when they click on the site's paid link. In this product search, Amazon can use a paid link to send the searcher to a page demonstrated to be good at converting visitors to customers.
- The site precisely controls the ad copy or text shown to the searcher and can tune the ad copy to qualify searchers so that only those likely to buy will click.
- By the same token, the site precisely controls the search term where its ad or shopping result appears.
I'd like to thank Paul Clancy, Vice President of Doner Interactive Services for the initial discussion that spurred me to write this post.