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VARN Original Research: Almost 60% of People Still Don’t Recognise Google Paid Ads When They See Them.

Since February 2016, Varn have been carrying out surveys in order to determine whether or not people using Google Search know the difference between paid and organic ads. The results have been surprising – Back in February 2016, of the 1,010 UK based participants that were surveyed, 50% said they were unable to tell the difference between the two. Now, in January 2018, that percentage has jumped to 57.2%.

Graph comparing results over time for all the surveys

Graph showing the data from our last five independent surveys of 1,000 UK based respondents asking 'Do you know which links on Google search results pages are paid adverts?'

Whilst these results may be surprising, they’re not necessarily a bad thing. Take a look at our blog about how this may actually benefit search: Is it a bad thing that 57% of people still don’t recognise Google ads in search results?

Let’s Take a Close Look at These Results:

Of the 803 respondents from our independent survey, 57.5% don’t recognise Google ads. 34.8% recognise them but don’t click on them, and 7.7% recognise paid ads but do click them.

In order to get a better idea of the respondents contributing to this latest result, we’ve taken a closer look at their demographics. Firstly, we can see that the percentage of individuals who do know the difference between paid and organic ads and who decide to refrain from clicking on paid ads is the same for males and females. Of those participants who are unable to tell the difference between the two, 48.2% are male and 51.8% are females – again, a very similar percentage. What’s interesting is that the number of people who know exactly what paid Google ads are and still click on them is primarily male. Of these 60+ people, only 31.3% are female. This means that 68.7% are male – more than double the number of females who fall into this category.

AdWords research by gender

Another demographic we can look into is the age groups which the participants fall into. Of the respondents aged 18-34, only 50.2% weren’t aware of the difference between paid and organic Google ads. This percentage is considerably higher for the older age groups. If we group respondents from 35 up to 65+, this percentage jumps to 61.6%. The age group least aware of the difference are those aged 65 and over (64.3%).

Participants aged between 18-44 had the largest percentage when it came to knowing the difference between paid and organic ads, but clicking on paid ads anyway. Of these age groups, an average of 9.2% of people chose this option. This drops from 45 upwards, with the medium percentage of those aged 45 to 65+ choosing this option being around 6%.

AdWords research by age

So, what can we conclude from this research?

One of the clear outcomes of this survey and the results we’ve seen is that the majority of people still don’t know the difference between paid and organic ads. Those who are aware tend not to click on them more often than not – 34.8% of users, to be precise. This group of individuals appears to primarily consist of males and females aged between 18 and 34. Around 41.1% of these individuals will purposely avoid clicking on an advert in Google. Of people aged 35 upwards, this drops to 31.2%. Whilst the younger individuals appear to be more likely to be aware of ads in Google and are more open to clicking them when carrying out a search, the percentage of them who avoid clicking these ads are much higher. So, if you’re targeting certain age groups within Google ads, it would be worth considering your target audience and aiming your paid ads at those aged 35 and above.

You can still run adverts for younger individuals, but make them more targeted towards people of their age range. You can also choose to review your organic SEO with a view to improve organic rankings wherever possible. As a whole, however, it’s great news to see that a total of more than 65% of all users surveyed are likely to click on a Google AdWords ad within search results. Want to make sure you’re getting the most out of your online marketing and targeting the right audience with your paid ads? Talk to Varn today about how to best optimise your search marketing campaigns. We’d love to hear from you.