Organic Click Throughs Declining in Favour of Paid Ads

Written by Phil Birss: Group CEO.
· 4 minute read

New findings from have revealed that over the past year, organic search results have lost click throughs to paid ads. It now seems that in the ecommerce search space, the paid to organic CTR share is approaching 50/50 – a huge shift in typical trends.

Wayfair found that the amount of people clicking on a natural page 1 search result has declined by 25% on desktop, and a huge 55% on a mobile. Although these findings do only represent ecommerce trends in a certain niche, it’s interesting to see how paid ads are gaining traction with users.

But is this down to a change in consumer search behaviour, or Google’s ever changing results page? Here we look into the factors that could be helping paid ads win those clicks…


Wayfair found that Google Shopping results are appearing for more and more related search queries. In the past year, the overall ‘share of voice’ for product listing ads (PLAs) increased by a massive 60%. Shopping is clearly increasing in popularity, and Google is constantly amending its results page to reflect this.

PLAs are talking up more space now than ever before – particularly on a mobile, which may well explain why CTR is up so significantly on these devices. In fact, we often have to scroll a fair way on a mobile until we reach a non-paid result.

From a commercial point of view, shopping ads tend to carry a lower cost per click than your standard text ads and a higher purchase intent, so it’s no wonder they are becoming a desirable option for businesses. For us as consumers, we are offered the product we’ve searched for there and then. We can see exactly what it looks like and how much it costs from a multitude of sites before we even click.

From both a business and consumer perspective, shopping ads are a no brainer…


Google’s Ad Labeling has certainly become more subtle over the years. They say its to improve user experience and to make the results page as a whole ‘easier to read’. It does however conveniently make pay-per-click and organic listings difficult to distinguish between.

This is likely to result in many people unknowingly clicking on a paid result. Historically, the credibility and trust associated with organic listings meant a higher click through rate for these results, but if Google isn’t making them completely distinguishable, it’s bound to work in favour of paid ads whether we like it or not.

The below image from Search Engine Land shows the ‘evolution’ of Google’s paid ad labelling – it’s clear to see how paid ads could be mistaken for organic, now more so than ever.

Google Ad Labelling

image credit

We can also see that as time has gone on, the space given to paid ads has increased – another factor that could be contributing to the success of paid ads over the past year.


If you own an ecommerce site and aren’t currently investing in Google Shopping, now is probably a good time to start doing so. Run PLAs alongside your standard text ads to ensure you’re covering every paid angle in the SERPs.

Although paid is catching up to organic in terms of click throughs, you should by no means neglect your organic ‘SEO’ strategy. The trust and credibility associated with this channel will never go away, and it will only mean that your chances of appearing *somewhere* on page 1 are increased.

Of course organic is a longer term strategy with no guarantees, so your paid ads are a great way of establishing a search presence until the natural results kick in.

If you’d like some advice about paid, organic, or just your digital marketing strategy as a whole then feel free to get in touch and we’ll be happy to help. We’re constantly keeping up to date with Google’s latest developments, and we’re looking forward to seeing how paid ads continue to evolve in the future…