Paid listings on Google Search are becoming even more effective ways to advertise

Leonard Sengere Avatar

Google has been the dominant search engine for so long that ‘google’ is a verb for searching online today.

As a result, Google looked untouchable for over two decades but ChatGPT has it looking behind its shoulders. That may be but Google still remains dominant today and you can still use it to further your business.

Google still holds 91.7% of the global search engine market—Bing, which ChatGPT now powers is a distant second with 3.1% market share as stats compiled by Techopedia show.

The dominance is even more pronounced when we narrow in on mobile. The Big G commands 95.2% of the global mobile search engine market. Turns out their investment in Android, which now runs on billions of devices across the world has come in handy.

Google develops and gives Android out for free but as many antitrust lawsuits levied against them around the world reveal, free Android comes with strings for phone manufacturers. One of those strings involves having Google as the default search engine.

They have paid and continue to pay to maintain this monopoly. Google pays Apple an estimated $15 to $20 billion per year to be the default search engine on the iPhone. For context, Trading Economics puts Zimbabwe’s GDP in 2022 at $20 billion.

Advertising on Google

This all means advertising on Google remains a good strategy, depending on what you’re peddling of course.

If you decide to go down that path, the next question is: how effective will it be? Well, one of the main things you will be interested in is CTR (click-through rate). It is the percentage of users who see your ad and click on it.

You should have noticed that when Google displays results, the top results are usually ‘sponsored’. That’s fancy talk for ‘ads’. Someone paid to get the top result for some word you typed out.

They bid money to have their advertisement appear at the top of the search results when someone types in that specific keyword or phrase into Google’s search engine. As in the image below:

The top two results for the phrase “cheap hotel near me” are ads by and Agoda. After those two ads, Google then gives you what you know them for – the most relevant (organic) search results.

Advertising even when you rank high

This means companies often bid for the top result (via the ad at the top) even when they are the first unsponsored result. In the example above, after Agoda comes a Google Maps plugin and then the first unsponsored result is

They do this to not lose out on those people who click on the sponsored results as opposed to scrolling a little and getting to the most relevant result.

The Google Maps plugin just below the sponsored results ensures that you have to scroll to get to the actual first result. If Google were still trying to give you (the customer) the best experience they would not hide the highest-ranking result like this. They do their ad and Maps dance to get you to click on the ads.

Clicking on the ads increases click-through rate and in turn what Google can charge advertisers. It’s business, my friend, you didn’t think you’d get to use an uncluttered, ad-free Google Search forever, did you?

It must suck to work on a good product/service and then invest in world-class customer service and search engine optimisation (SEO) only to come in third, behind some new entrant that paid to get the top spot.

What’s crazy is that in the U.S. you won’t see just two sponsored results, oh no, you’ll see four. Imagine. You could be the top result but find yourself fifth after your competitors’ ads. Hence even those that are top will place ads for their keywords.

You know, we have had people pay to rank for the “Techzim” or “Techzim airtime” keywords. It’s to be expected.

Back to the click-through rate

See, Google gets to all the shenanigans above to get you to click on ads as opposed to search results but most people are wise to their wiles.

The top organic search result typically receives 19 times more clicks than the top paid search result. So, apparently, most people still scroll past the ads and the Google Maps plugins. This is despite Google no longer distinguishing the ads from the results by colour like they used to.

Despite this, the top paid result has a 2.1% click-through rate (CTR). The second-ranked paid result has a 1.4% CTR. That may sound unimpressive but when you consider that the following are considered good CTRs you realise 2.1% is not bad:

  • Google Search: 1-5%
  • YouTube: 0.3-1%
  • Facebook: 1-3%
  • X: 1-3%

In July 2023, had 85.3 billion visits. When we are talking about that kind of traffic, the CTRs above look pretty good.

So, it appears it remains worthwhile to work on your SEO. In a survey by Conductor, 92% of marketers reported that content marketing had a positive impact, highlighting that SEO content marketing is a channel worth investing in for all companies, regardless of size.

In an effort to encourage advertisers to invest in Search rankings, Google has been making changes that compromise the user experience. The distinct green colour that previously separated ads from organic results disappeared a while ago. It remains uncertain what further measures they might take to obscure the sponsorship of certain results.

This is all good news for advertisers though, in the short to medium term at least. ChatGPT may be eating into Google’s use but it’s still aways from supplanting the Big G.

Also read:

11 Most Common On-site SEO Mistakes

Lessons from Digital Future 2017: Five ways to optimize your digital presence with SEO


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  1. Bhavesh

    In the ever-evolving landscape of online marketing, the battle for visibility persists. Just as businesses strategically bid for top spots on Google’s search results, consumers, armed with discernment, still prioritize genuine search outcomes. It’s akin to choosing the suitable phone case amidst countless options. Discerning users seek authenticity amid the promotional clutter, reaffirming the value of organic results in a digitally saturated world.

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