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Consumer Heterogeneity and Paid Search Effectiveness: A Large‐Scale Field Experiment

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  • Thomas Blake
  • Chris Nosko
  • Steven Tadelis

Abstract

Internet advertising has been the fastest growing advertising channel in recent years, with paid search ads comprising the bulk of this revenue. We present results from a series of large‐scale field experiments done at eBay that were designed to measure the causal effectiveness of paid search ads. Because search clicks and purchase intent are correlated, we show that returns from paid search are a fraction of non‐experimental estimates. As an extreme case, we show that brand keyword ads have no measurable short‐term benefits. For non‐brand keywords, we find that new and infrequent users are positively influenced by ads but that more frequent users whose purchasing behavior is not influenced by ads account for most of the advertising expenses, resulting in average returns that are negative.

Suggested Citation

  • Thomas Blake & Chris Nosko & Steven Tadelis, 2015. "Consumer Heterogeneity and Paid Search Effectiveness: A Large‐Scale Field Experiment," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 83, pages 155-174, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:wly:emetrp:v:83:y:2015:i::p:155-174
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Avi Goldfarb, 2014. "What is Different About Online Advertising?," Review of Industrial Organization, Springer;The Industrial Organization Society, vol. 44(2), pages 115-129, March.
    2. Varian, Hal R., 2007. "Position auctions," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 25(6), pages 1163-1178, December.
    3. Randall Lewis & David Reiley, 2014. "Advertising Effectively Influences Older Users: How Field Experiments Can Improve Measurement and Targeting," Review of Industrial Organization, Springer;The Industrial Organization Society, vol. 44(2), pages 147-159, March.
    4. Song Yao & Carl F. Mela, 2008. "A Dynamic Model of Sponsored Search Advertising," Working Papers 08-16, NET Institute, revised Sep 2008.
    5. Ackerberg, Daniel A, 2001. "Empirically Distinguishing Informative and Prestige Effects of Advertising," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 32(2), pages 316-333, Summer.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • D22 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Firm Behavior: Empirical Analysis
    • L10 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - General
    • L20 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - General
    • L81 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Services - - - Retail and Wholesale Trade; e-Commerce
    • M37 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Marketing and Advertising - - - Advertising

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