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The performance of sponsored link campaigns on online sales

This is a study by XiTi Monitor on the impact of sponsored link campaigns (leading source of visits from online marketing investments) on online sales, with a quick look at the platforms available on the market.
  • Study conducted from February 1 to February 29, 2008

  • Perimeter of 156 websites
On average, 1 visit out of 4 to a website that offers online sales and uses sponsored links is generated by this type of campaign

For this study, we selected websites measured by XiTi that offered online sales service and reported using sponsored link campaigns (the leading source of visits from online marketing investments: See our “The impact of online marketing campaigns on website traffic" study).

In February 2008, 26% of all visits to a website offering online sales that had invested in sponsored links were generated, on average, by this type of campaign. Natural access remained in the lead with 62% of visits while 11% of traffic came from other types of campaigns.

This ratio is an average indicator and of course varies from one website to another based on its reputation and marketing strategy.


Here is our analysis of the ratio of visits resulting in an order confirmation.

The average for a website offering online sales with sponsored links in February 2008 was:

  • 2% of its visits from sponsored links resulted in an order confirmation,

  • Compared to 2.7% for its natural visits.

This difference can be explained notably in part by loyal visitors who accessed the website "naturally", and thus customers that have already been won over. Sponsored links allow websites to attract new potential customers, with a loss rate of course that is part of the challenge.


2.6% of Google AdWords visits result in an order confirmation compared to 1.7% for Yahoo! Search Marketing

In February 2008 an average of 91.3% of sponsored link visits to websites offering online sales came from the Google AdWords platform. Yahoo! Search Marketing trails far behind with 6.6% of visits.


But who, Google AdWords or Yahoo! Search Marketing, produces the best return on investment?

To answer this question, we focused on online sales websites who had conducted at least one campaign on each of the two platforms.

For these websites in February 2008, an average of 83% of their sponsored link visits were from Google AdWords, 12% were from Yahoo! Search Marketing, and slightly less than 5% from other platforms (Miravo, Miva, Orange, and MSN) :


Among these websites who had invested in both platforms in February 2008, Google AdWords recorded the highest rate of visits resulting in an order confirmation:

  • An average of 2.6% for Google AdWords,

  • Compared to 1.7% for Yahoo! Search Marketing

Even though Yahoo! Search Marketing does not perform as well on this indicator, it does not mean that Google AdWords is the only platform that websites should use. In fact, the Yahoo platform (like others) is going to enable a website to reach a different target, which it would not have been able to do with the leading platform.


For a website offering online sales that invested in sponsored link campaigns in February 2008, an average of more than a quarter of its total visits are a result of these campaigns.

While natural visits still provide better results in terms of order confirmation, sponsored links enable websites to attract another clientele.

To this end, Google comes out on top one more time, generating an average of 9 out of 10 visits from sponsored links of websites offering online sales, and beating Yahoo! Search Marketing in terms of the ratio of their respective visits resulting in a product or service order.

However, the « challenger » sponsored link platforms can attract visitors with different profiles than Google and thus expand their potential customer base. In particular, the return on investment for a website offering online sales is measured via the proportion of converted visits as well as the confirmed order amount.

Please contact XiTi Monitor if you would like a more detailed study on the performance of your website or your business sector.


For the first part of the study (graph 1, graph 2, and graph 3), we selected, among all of the websites audited by XiTi, all of the websites offering online sales for which a part of the traffic was generated by a sponsored link campaign (or campaigns) conducted during some or all of the study period (156 websites).

The online sales websites had to have at least one product or service purchase confirmation page. This is the final purchase page, which confirms that the purchase has taken place. Online sales were not necessarily these websites’ main activity.

For the second part of the study (graph 4, graph 5), among the previous perimeter, we only retained the websites that had conducted at least one campaign on both the Google AdWords platform and the Yahoo! Search Marketing platform (70 websites).

The rate of visits with order confirmation corresponds to the portion of visits that took place on key pages, defined as purchase confirmation; i.e. the measurement of the return on investment of sponsored links.

This indicator is given in the study as the average of measurements recorded on the websites within the study's perimeter.


- Natural access:
Direct access: URL is entered directly, bookmarks (favorites) or email (via Outlook type messaging software).
Access by email: access from webmail
Access by search engines: access by a keyword search in a search tool
Access by referring websites: access through other websites

- Access by sponsored links: access via keywords that were purchased on different networks that enable a company to display links to “buyer” websites based on search topic.

- Other campaigns:
Access by affiliation and partnerships: access from partnerships or affiliated websites
Access by email campaigns: access through emails that are a part of a marketing campaign
Access by RSS feeds: access by a link from an RSS feed
Access through advertising: access by purchasing advertising media on the Internet

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