Practical Ecommerce

Pay-Per-Click Advertising: Evaluating Options

Practical eCommerce recently conducted a pay-per-click advertising test with four search engines — Google, Yahoo!, Ask and MSN. On behalf of two online businesses, the magazine purchased $50 of identical ads for both of them on each search engine.

In addition to measuring number of clicks, cost per click, ad position and total dollars spent, the test involved two “gender-specific” sites to get a glimpse of whether each search engines appealed more to males or females. Most research in the marketplace on gender usage notes males are more likely to use a search engine in a given day than females.

However, a recent Pew Internet project noted the gap was disappearing quickly. In studies conducted in 2003 and 2004, Pew found that 35 percent of men and 25 percent of women were likely to use a search engine on a typical day. In 2005, usage by both genders increased, but men edged out the women by a more narrow margin, 43 percent to 39 percent.

Research done by Enquiro Search Solutions found men were far more likely to use Google. For women, Google was also the No. 1 choice, but it was closely followed by MSN and Yahoo!.

Enquiro also found that men were more likely to trust the organic listings and women leaned toward the sponsored listings. “This usually translated into slightly higher click-throughs on the sponsored results for women,” wrote Gord Hotchkiss, president and CEO of Enquiro.

A 2004 by study by iProspect, a search engine marketing firm, echoed similar results noting women find paid-search advertisements to be more relevant to their online queries than men do.

Practical eCommerce’s one-day test also found a higher response to the “female site” than it did for its “male site.” Between the four search engines, there were 239 clicks from the paid-search ads to the “female site” compared to 34 click-throughs to the “male site.”

The magazine paid about 3 percent more for the female click-throughs on Yahoo! than it did on Google, but generated about 18 percent less traffic. Google received the nod for best bargain for females compared to Yahoo!.

It was about even for the male site, with the scale tipping slightly toward Yahoo!’s favor. It cost Practical eCommerce less per click to attract a female at MSN, but it also had substantially fewer clicks.

Ask ranked poorly for both male and female users when comparing volume of clicks.

If research by Pew, iProspect and Enquiro is correct that men gravitate more toward organic listings, perhaps that is why the “male site” had demonstrably fewer clicks than the “female site.” The organic listings for the male test site ranked very high on most search engines as Gary Ilcyn at Jagbits.com has worked hard to optimize his site. The “female site,” Greatlookz.com, did not rank high in the organic listings for the keywords used in the test.

The Details of the Test

Practical eCommerce conducted a pay-per-click advertising test with four major search engines — Google, Yahoo!, Ask and MSN. On behalf of two online businesses, we purchased $50 of ads for both of them on each search engine.

We chose two sites that we believed targeted specific genders to get a glimpse of whether each search engines appealed more to males or females. The two businesses were www.greatlookz.com, which we used for our female site with the keywords “plus-sized dresses,” and www.jagbits.com, our male site with the keywords “Jaguar parts.”

Greatlookz.com sells women’s clothing and www.jagbits.com sells new and used parts for Jaguar automobiles.

Admittedly, there can be some gender overlap with each site (there might be a man buying plus-size dresses for his wife), but we felt comfortable that the sites’ products separated genders well. We established consistent parameters for each campaign across each search engine including consistent keywords, a flat maximum payment of 50 cents per click, worldwide distribution of the ads and the same 24-hour advertising period on Thursday, June 13, 2006.

Using each site’s analytics package, we captured data for the campaign and that is shared below.

The details of the test Practical eCommerce conducted a pay-per-click advertising test with four major search engines — Google, Yahoo!, Ask and MSN. On behalf of two online businesses, we purchased $50 of ads for both of them on each search engine. We chose two sites that we believed targeted specific genders to get a glimpse of whether each search engines appealed more to males or females. The two businesses were www.greatlookz.com, which we used for our female site with the keywords “plus-sized dresses,” and www.jagbits.com, our male site with the keywords “Jaguar parts.” Greatlookz.com sells women’s clothing and www.jagbits.com sells new and used parts for Jaguar automobiles. Admittedly, there can be some gender overlap with each site (there might be a man buying plus-size dresses for his wife), but we felt comfortable that the sites’ products separated genders well. We established consistent parameters for each campaign across each search engine including consistent keywords, a flat maximum payment of 50 cents per click, worldwide distribution of the ads and the same 24-hour advertising period on Thursday, June 13. Using each site’s analytics package, we captured data for the campaign and that is shared below.

Results of Test
June 13, 2006

Results listed below in order of Ask.com, Google, MSN and Yahoo!, respectively.

Clicks: Female Site 5, 114, 24, 96

Clicks: Male Site 5, 12, 6, 11

Average Cost per Click/Female $0.20, $0.43, $0.36, $0.46

Average Cost per Click/Male $0.20, $0.44, $0.44, $0.42

Average Ad Position/Female N/A, 3.9, 1.39, 4

Average Ad Position/Male N/A, 5, 2.24, 3

Total Budget Spent/Female $2.00, $49.49, $24.79, $44.61

Total Budget Spend/Male $2.00, $5.25, $3.93, $4.63

Practical Ecommerce

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Comment ( 1 )

  1. Legacy User May 17, 2007 Reply

    Yes, is this where one can test their new websites to find out the cost per click on the new websites before the website becomes active? I want to ensure the website is setup to properly before activating it. Thnx, Judy

    — *Judy*