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We’re always striving for new insight into how consumers engage with different digital marketing efforts. Understanding what works and what doesn’t allows us to create more effective campaigns that maximize our clients’ marketing dollars in today's Internet age.

We recently surveyed 1,013 US consumers to gain insight into the current state of pay-per-click marketing. 

Our Goal: Understand how users interact with paid search advertising and what they truly think about paid Google Ads. 

Here’s what we found:

The average American spends more time online than they did before the COVID-19 pandemic, with many Americans spending at least 2 more hours a day on social media alone (source).

Through spending a greater amount of time online, users interact with PPC ads at a higher frequency. And as Google, Meta, and other multi-billion dollar tech giants work to improve advertising transparency, users are now explicitly told when digital content has been paid for. As a result, Internet users are becoming more familiar with digital marketing tactics. 

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The survey revealed growing negative attitudes towards paid search advertising.
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Only 43% of respondents found the paid ads on their Google results page to be helpful in their search.

45% of respondents said they’re annoyed by paid ads but understand they’re a necessary cost of using a free search service. 

Even more interestingly, 16% of respondents went so far as to say they hate Google ads and actively avoid clicking on them.




A staggering 73% of respondents said it’s very clear which results are paid advertisements and which are not. 
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Only 6% responded that it’s difficult to tell the difference between organically ranking search results and Google ads. Clearly, as users’ internet usage increases and transparency efforts improve, so does user awareness of paid search advertisements.

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This heightened awareness shows just how quickly the world of digital marketing is advancing.

Just four short years ago, a study by Varn reported that 60% of consumers couldn’t tell the difference between paid and organic search results. Now, consumers are keenly aware of the contrast between the two. 


When asked how they feel about companies tracking their data through ad clicks, 46% responded that they found it to be an unfair invasion of privacy and that their data is being exploited. 


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Again, this may be due in part to growing consumer awareness of targeted ads and renewed calls for increased data privacy. Perhaps that’s why half of the individuals surveyed reported they currently use ad blockers.

Note: most ad-blocking software only hides ads on Google’s main search results pages but does not block ads on Shopping or Map pages.

Despite their awareness of what a paid ad looks like on a search results page, few respondents had an accurate understanding of how much paid advertising costs or how it works. 62% of respondents knew that Google charges advertisers per click. 17% incorrectly believed they made a small commission from each sale. 

A staggering 73% of individuals believed they cost between a few cents to a few dollars per click. However, from a car accident attorney ppc study we did - you can see the cost can be in the thousands!!

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Nearly three-fourths of respondents significantly underestimated the costs of paid search advertising. 
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When asked how much an ad on a search results page for ‘car accident attorney’ costs per click, only 6% of respondents correctly answered that they cost upwards of $100 per click.

40% of individuals said they would hesitate to click on an ad if they knew it was expensive.

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For small businesses with a fiercely loyal customer base, it might be a good idea to educate their customers about paid advertising. 

This feeling may not apply to large corporations, as 34% of respondents said it’s just the cost of doing business. 

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Conclusion: As a whole, the survey revealed heightened consumer awareness and growing negative sentiment towards paid search advertising. In addition, a majority of users avoid ads, use blockers or privacy centered search engines, which clearly shows that privacy plays a large role in users behavior online. 

Are you surprised by this data? Let us know what you think in the comments...

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All survey results can be found here

About the author 

Zaid Ammari

Zaid is a leading expert on data driven digital marketing; focusing on analytics and actionable insights from data. Founder of PPC Masterminds - he helps businesses build & run profitable data driven digital campaigns.

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