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Study Reveals More Than Half of Online Users Cannot Identify Google Search Ads


When you click on a search result in Google, do you know if you are clicking on an organic (unpaid) result or an ad? According to a recent study featured in Search Engine Land, nearly 55% of Internet users can’t tell the difference! This is surprising when you consider the fact that Google’s search ads are actually labeled with the word “Ad.”

While the percentage of the survey respondents who could not identify the ads increased steadily with age, the overall results clearly indicate that users in all age brackets are having trouble telling the difference between paid and organic. Here’s the breakdown by age…

Survey Respondents Who Could Not Identify Paid Ads

  • Ages 18-24: 51.2%
  • Ages 25-34: 48.9%
  • Ages 35-44: 52.4%
  • Ages 45-54: 58.8%
  • Ages 55-64: 63.6%
  • Ages 65+: 70%

This is good news for any law firm that is running pay-per-click (PPC) ads in Google or other search engines, as users tend to trust organic search results more than ads. With more than half of users not being able to tell the difference between the two, you have a better chance of getting more clicks and more website traffic for your law firm.

Why Is It So Difficult to Tell the Difference?

Over the years, Google has made many changes to the structure of its search engine results page (SERP) and of the ads themselves. As discussed in Search Engine Land’s article, here are some of the changes that have occurred:

  • Removal of side-bar ads, leaving only the ads that line up with the organic results
  • Change of the Ad label color from yellow to green (making them blend in more with organic results)
  • Removal of shading of the ad (making the ad stand out less)
  • More text included with the ad

So even though the advertisement is labeled as such, it has become much easier for a user who is quickly skimming results to overlook it and treat it just like an organic result. In addition to that, the organic results have been pushed so far down the page that searches on mobile phones have to scroll down the results page in order to view them.

Compare paid results and organic results side-by-side, and you see why it’s easy to confuse the two if you aren’t paying attention, or if you aren’t as knowledgeable about paid search advertising.

Strengthening Your Legal Marketing Strategy with Pay-Per-Click Ads

PPC is no longer just another way to gain exposure in search engines… it’s now a digital strategy that is a must for getting ahead in the highly competitive of world of legal marketing. With Google giving its search ads more prominence and updating their design, the paid results are now a fiercer competitor to organic results.

The strongest search engine strategy is one that has a healthy balance of both search engine optimization (SEO) for higher organic ranking and a paid presence through PPC ads. At Scorpion, we have knowledgeable legal advertising experts who can assist you with all of your legal PPC needs.

To learn more about search advertising, read our Legal PPC blog series: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.