New research from Google shows that 88% of the traffic generated by mobile search ads is not replaced by traffic originating from mobile organic search

July 16, 2013

Posted by Shaun Lysen, Statistician at Google

Often times people are presented with two choices after making a search on their devices - they could either click on the organic results for their query, or on the ads that appear on the page. Website owners who want to build a strong online presence often wonder how to balance organic search and paid search ads in driving website traffic. But what happens when ads are paused? Would businesses see an increase in organic traffic that could make up for the loss in paid traffic? To answer these questions, we released a “Search Ads Pause” analysis in 2011 showing that 89% of traffic generated by search ads is not replaced by organic clicks.

As smartphones become increasingly important to consumers, we recently conducted the same studies for mobile devices to understand the role of mobile search ads in driving site traffic. From March 2012 - April 2013, we ran 327 unique studies across US-based mobile advertising accounts from 12 key industries.

We selected AdWords accounts that exhibited sharp changes in advertisers’ spending on mobile search (ad spend) and identified stable periods before the spend change (pre-period) and after the spend change (post-period). We observed the number of organic and paid clicks, and the number of times organic results appear on the first page of search results (impressions) during both the pre-period and post-period. Google then created a proprietary statistical model to predict what the number of organic and paid clicks would have been in the post-period had the ad spend not changed, and compared those figures to the actual number of clicks observed. We then were able to estimate what percentage of paid clicks are incremental, i.e. a visit to the advertiser’s site from an ad click would not have been replaced by a visit to the site from an organic click.

The final results showed that mobile search ads contribute to a very high proportion of incremental traffic to websites. On average, 88% of mobile paid clicks are lost and not recovered when a mobile search campaign is paused. This finding is consistently high across the 12 key industries, including automotive, travel, retail and more. The full study, including details around the methodology and findings, can be found in the paper ‘Incremental Clicks Impact of Mobile Search Advertising’.