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Nearly 80% of People Can Distinguish Paid Search Ads From Organic Search Results

January 16, 2019

by Grayson Kemper

Content & Editorial Manager, Clutch

People click on search ads that directly respond to their search queries, especially on Google. Businesses can use PPC advertising data to optimize their search marketing strategies.

WASHINGTON, Jan. 16, 2019 – Seventy-seven percent (77%) of people say they recognize paid search ads, according to new survey data from Clutch, the leading B2B research, ratings, and reviews company.

77% of people are confident they can recognize paid search ads

People use search engines to find answers to questions and often click paid search ads that respond to their search queries.

More than three-quarters of internet users are confident in their ability to recognize when a search engine listing is an add, according to new research from Clutch.

Baby Boomers are most likely to click paid search ads that mention a familiar brand, according to new search marketing survey data from Clutch.

One-third (33%) 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%) or is listed above other search results (20%).

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%) of baby boomers (ages 55+) click a paid search ad because it mentions a recognizable brand.

Baby Boomers Click on Branded Paid Search Ads

Familiar brands appeal to older generations that may not trust paid search ads as much as traditional advertising.

"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, Texas. "It makes sense that they approach a search results page with caution and skepticism."

Baby boomers (13%) also are the least likely to click on a search ad because it's listed above other search results. Younger generations – millennials (ages 18-35) and Gen Xers (ages 35-54) – 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%) and are listed above other search results (24%).

One-third (33%) of Amazon and YouTube users, on the other hand, engage with ads that mention a familiar brand.

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.

Clutch surveyed 506 people who clicked on a paid search advertisement in the past month.

Read the full report here: https://clutch.co/seo-firms/resources/approach-search-marketing-ppc-advertising-seo-services.

For questions about the survey, a comment on the findings, or an introduction to the report's expert sources, contact Grayson Kemper at grayson@clutch.co.

About Clutch

A B2B research, ratings, and reviews firm in the heart of Washington, DC, Clutch connects small and medium businesses with the best-fit agencies, software, or consultants they need to tackle business challenges together and with confidence. Clutch's methodology compares business service providers and software in a specific market based on verified client reviews, services offered, work quality, and market presence.


Grayson Kemper


(202) 470-0491

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