People naturally use search engines to find answers to questions, and they often click paid search ads that respond to their search queries. But in case advertisers may be thinking their paid ads are clever enough to be seen as authentic search results, new survey data from B2B research, ratings and reviews company Clutch reveals that 77 percent of people say they recognize paid search ads.

One-third (33 percent) of people click a search ad because it directly answers their search query, compared to those who click a search ad because it mentions a familiar brand (26 percent) or is listed above other search results (20 percent).

To engage potential customers through search, businesses should invest in pay-per-click (PPC) advertising and organic SEO services.

Use branded search ads to engage baby boomers

The main reasons why people click on paid search ads vary by age. Thirty-eight percent (38 percent) of baby boomers (ages 55+) click a paid search ad because it mentions a recognizable brand. Familiar brands appeal to older generations that may not trust paid search ads as much as traditional advertising.

People can tell paid search ads from organic results—but they still click

“Older audiences are generally more skeptical of the internet,” said Natalia Wulfe, head of marketing for Effective Spend, a PPC and SEO agency in Austin, in a news release. “It makes sense that they approach a search results page with caution and skepticism.”

Baby boomers (13 percent) also are the least likely to click on a search ad because it’s listed above other search results. Younger generations (millennials and Gen Xers) are most likely to click on paid search ads that answer their search queries directly.

Businesses can optimize their PPC advertising to engage customers based on search preferences and habits. For example, businesses can bid lower on keywords that aim to engage baby boomers because this generation is less concerned about where an ad ranks on a search engine results page.

Format paid search ads based on people’s preferred search engines

The search engines people use affect the search ads they are most likely to click.

Google users, for example, click on ads that answer their search queries (36 percent) and are listed above other search results (24 percent). One-third (33 percent) of Amazon and YouTube users, on the other hand, engage with ads that mention a familiar brand.

People can tell paid search ads from organic results—but they still click

Invest in organic SEO services and PPC advertising

Businesses can use data from their PPC campaigns to inform which organic SEO services they invest in. SEO services provide long-term benefits for businesses without the explicit costs of PPC advertising.

Two SEO efforts that benefit from PPC advertising data are:

  • Meta Tag Optimization: Include keywords from search ads people click on the most to drive engagement with organic search listings.
  • Content Creation: Feature content on business websites that addresses topics people click on the most in search ads.

Read the full report here.

Clutch surveyed 506 people who clicked on a paid search advertisement in the past month. Over half (54%) of respondents were millennials (ages 18-34); 36% were Generation Xers (ages 35-54); 10% were baby boomers (ages 55+). Two-thirds (66%) of respondents were female, and 34% were male.

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Richard Carufel

Richard Carufel

Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 12 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders.

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