Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Paid and organic search - Impact of ad copy on click-through rates

Heather Hopkins at Hitwise UK writes:

In my first post in this series [the first focussed on the finance sector] I walked through some of our data on paid and organic search terms for MoneySupermarket.

In this second post in the series, I will look at a couple of examples of the ratio of paid and organic visits to better understand the impact of different ad copy on click through rates (CTR).

Consider the following screen grab from Hitwise showing the top search terms sending UK visits to Expedia.co.uk in the four weeks to 30th September 2006.

Volume refers to the volume of visits that term represents to the website and paid rate and organic rate refer to the rate at which consumers reached the site from a paid or organic listing.

Brand terms offer a good start for analysing this as there are no issues of ad placement or competing ads. The brand, at least in most cases, is the only paid listing and the top organic listing. When UK consumers visited Expedia.co.uk from the term "expedia" in the past four weeks, 65.20% of the time they came from a paid listing. When they came from the term "expedia.co.uk" 8.54% of the time they came from a paid listing. Why the difference?

It seems to be down to ad copy and bolding and highlighting. Whilst we can't be sure what ads were appearing over the past four weeks, today, when I searched for "expedia" on Google UK, the paid listing featured the brand name in bold in the title of the ad, the URL and body of the ad (see screen grab to the right).

The result for "expedia.co.uk" was titled "Discount Travel" and the only mention of Expedia was in the URL (see second screen grab).

Similarly, for the term "expedia.com" which shows a high paid rate, the search term was bolded in the title of the ad, as we saw above with "expedia".

This points to the impact of ad copy on click through rates. Using keywords in ad copy that match those the consumer entered into the search box seems to influence CTR as those words will be highlighted in the ad presented to the consumer.

This needs more and careful study (which will follow in due course). It is also worth noting that this may be influenced by placement of the .com and .co.uk URLs in the organic listings.

I also looked at this for the generic terms "flights to alicante" and "cheap flights to alicante". The sites that get visits according to Hitwise from these searches are those that use the terms "flights" and "alicante" in the title of the ad and in the ad copy.

For the term "flights to alicante", BMI Baby was the #1 site receiving visits in the past four weeks and their ad uses both "flights" and "alicante" in the ad copy. Great Late Deals was the #2 site, and their ad title was "Flights to Alicante" today.

Heather Hopkins, vice president for research at Hitwise UK

No comments: