Ask LH: Should I Click On Links From Google?

Ask LH: Should I Click On Links From Google?

Dear Lifehacker, Most of the time I use Google to find the website that I want, rather than going directly to the relevant URL. Is this good or bad for the company or for Google? Should I just directly go to the relevant URL and bypass Google’s data collection? And if I do Google the site, should I click on the paid advertisement or the relevant link? Who wins in this situation, and who makes the money from the ad? Thanks, Google Junkie

Dear GJ,

You’re certainly not alone in this behaviour: the names of major web sites (such as Facebook and Twitter) regularly feature at the top of Google’s most popular search terms. Clearly, many people would rather avoid typing the .com (or or whatever) at the end of site addresses.

For the operator of the site you’re planning to visit, it ultimately doesn’t make much difference whether you type the address directly or visit via Google. Google, on the other hand, benefits immensely by knowing what your browsing habits are. If you’re particularly concerned about privacy, then typing the address directly makes more sense. (Note that if you’re using Chrome, Google will be tracking your habits anyway.)

If you’re not concerned about privacy, the other question you raise is whether you should click on advertising for a site. We’d suggest ‘no’, since the company you are visiting will pay for that advertisement when you click on it. That seems pointless given you’ve already decided you want to visit. So if there’s a standard link, click on that one instead.

With all that said, regularly typing addresses into Google isn’t a productive way of browsing, especially for sites you visit regularly. If you begin typing an address into the address bar, you’ll see autocompletion suggestions appear. If the site you want is there, hitting Enter will get you there faster than any search engine.


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  • Yes, please click enter and let the auto complete do the rest…

    I hate watching people slowly type the entire address, when it’s already there, then fumble with the mouse to click the ‘go’ button.

    It drives me insane!

  • I’m pretty sure they’re referring to the Ad like that featured in the screenshot above, asking if it’s better to click the sponsored ad right at the top or the link just below it which will take them to the exact same place.

    • That was my interpretation as well. Shall I click the paid or organic link? Both have pros and cons for the company

  • In some cases, this can mess up analytics and metrics for sites. Is your Google AdWords campaign effective? Not sure, as all of your traffic is direct because people don’t want to click on ads.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m worried about the privacy concerns too, but as a webmaster who has a fraction of the traffic of a bigger site ( . Clicky clicky!), analytics matter when it comes to working out what works and doesn’t with my site.

    Besides, by going to Google and searching, they’ve already got some info about you, and could reasonably work out that either 1) Their results aren’t appealing to you or 2) You’re a type-the-url-in-yourself type of guy, so they’ve still got you anyway!

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