Search Engine Traffic Drives Most Ad Clicks on Websites [Study]

Advertising network Chitika released a study today that showed how ad click-through rates (CTR) on a website vary when users come to that website from search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo, Ask and so on. According to the research, ad CTR was highest on a website when visitors came from Ask.com. Google trailed behind Bing and Yahoo in fourth position. 

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When asked if the high CTR coming from Ask was perhaps due to the demographic set of that engine, Mahima Badsra, Chitika data scientist and a lead author of the report said:

"While the precise demographics of the Ask.com user base are unclear, it is reasonable to assume that less tech savvy individuals are the heaviest users of the service due to the Ask.com toolbar controversy and ensuing backlash from the tech community.

"Additionally, as users of the search engine have consistently exhibited the highest CTRs within the Chitika network, it is likely that Ask.com's user base is, on average, different from that of Bing, Google or Yahoo, who exhibit different, but somewhat similar average CTRs."

Chitika reminded readers in the report to apply discernment to the data.

"In terms of search engine-referred traffic, Ask.com’s substantial lead in this area needs to be taken with a proverbial grain of salt, as its share of search engine Web traffic is only 2 percent within North America."

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However, Chitika did say the data reveals something more.

"For the online advertising industry, this research supports the fact that search engine traffic tends to exhibit a higher CTR and should be considered when developing retargeting spend plans and advertising strategies as a whole."

One explanation of why search engines drive a higher ad CTR than direct traffic was that visitors going directly to a site likely know what they are looking for, said Chitika.

Chitika also said there are several other factors at play when it comes to understanding ad CTR on a website, like the fact that the average CTR is higher for Windows desktop users as compared to Mac OS X users, and that “new site users tend to click on ads at a higher rate versus returning site users.” 

By understanding a website’s existing traffic, Chitika said website owners can test different strategies in order to maximize ad CTR.

Back in October, Chitika released research that showed how ad CTR on websites varied when users came to the website from Position 1 in the organic search results versus other positions. What it found was the highest CTR occurred when users found the site from Position 10 in the SERPs. 

About the author

Jessica Lee is a marketer specializing in web content strategy and B2B/B2C writing. Since 2005, Jessica has been in the business of content and communications, with the past several years focused on the web marketing space.

Prior to launching her consulting business, bizbuzzcontent, Jessica was responsible for content strategy, development and marketing for Bruce Clay Inc. – a global SEO firm, where she served small businesses and Fortune 500 clients. Jessica's background also includes positions in traditional marketing, communications, broadcasting and publishing.

Jessica has a bachelor's in communications and public relations from San Diego State University. She also contributed to the book “Search Engine Optimization All-in-One For Dummies” 2nd edition.