Paid search accounts for about 50% of all digital advertising spending today in most major markets, give or take 10% (the UK clocks in as one of the most impressive English-speaking markets for paid search, clocking in at 58% of digital spend, according to econsultancy).
For we diehards, the reasons for running paid search campaigns are obvious. Believe it or not, though, many companies have failed to make the leap, or have only dipped a toe in the PPC waters. There is still much untapped potential in this channel.
So what’s holding people and organizations back? Perhaps it’s myths about click fraud, market size or performance. Perhaps weak real-life performance in pilot attempts. Perhaps a lack of in-house capability. Or (yes I said it) an ongoing SEO bias in the industry.
Whether or not you “do SEO,” you do SEO already by virtue of being indexed in Google and keeping track of whether that’s getting you any traffic or revenue. So in terms of incremental marketing dollars that need to be found in company budgets, clearly most of the untapped potential action is on the PPC side.
But the majority of the people doing SEM, and most of the industry chatter, Sphinns, etc. (80+%), are all over the organic search side of things: about links, redirects, how to deal with universal search, canonical-whatsitcalled and so on. It’s not unimportant, but I still think it’s disproportionate if you take all of that insider water cooler chatter at face value. That gang, and your developer or IT department, are probably going to tell management a lot of evocative tales about the power of organic search and analytics related to that. Think they’ll steal their own thunder by bringing up the urgent need for paid search? Don’t count on it.
Maybe, finally, it’s a lack of sizzle and excitement. Paid search still isn’t sexy for some reason. But profits are.
Let’s look at seven reasons launching (or revisiting) a PPC campaign is a must if you’re going put some sizzle back in your life. Or at least into your marketing campaigns as we anticipate an economic rebound.
1. Universal search will continue to play havoc with your SEO traffic assumptions. Do you want to “rank” in the theoretical world of an index of billions of pages, often winding up no better than below the fold or on page 2 or 3 of SERP’s, or drive additional, predictable traffic to offers you create directly, each and every day without fail?
2. A huge chunk of Google’s resources goes right into developing the paid search marketing platform, features, systems and services. Why not use them? They include: keyword research tools; customer support and even industry research support, depending on agency status or advertiser size; advanced delivery and segmentation features like dayparting and geotargeting; advanced filtering methods like IP blocking, site exclusion, negative keywords, and more.
3. Custom reports and analytics out the wazoo. All free. Want to get a breakdown of the return on ad spend for your New York State geo-targeted campaign, or to see a breakout of the number of clicks and conversions that came in the content network from parked domains? Want to see which of eight ads pulled the best CTR? That’s all in the AdWords back end. Try getting such actionable analytics from the, uh, “organic SEO helpers” division of Google.
4. Content targeting has gotten gradually better each month… for 36 months straight. Suddenly content’s an overnight success, but it didn’t get there by sketching it out on a napkin. It’s taken years of Google turning the flywheel, optimizing each part, to increase the program’s scale and to up the average value per content-targeting click paid for by the average advertiser. Another hugely convenient channel with more volume and less risk than in the past. And wait! There’s more! Google has entered a game-changing new world in display advertising, rolling out the DoubleClick Ad Exchange. That’s integrated with AdWords.
5. Good guys get special favors. Are you a real company? You’re in luck.
- Google has taken steps to reduce the participation of some business models, like thin affiliates who compete with you for eyeballs on the same queries, or business owners with shady privacy policies;
- Google proactively filters click fraud, and actively polices and reduces payouts to rogue publishers in the content network;
- Display URLs and strong brand recognition help with Quality Score—Google seems to have tuned the system to help brands that consumers are more likely to deem “reliable” and “clickworthy.”
On the other hand, Google doesn’t bend over backward to protect your trademark, especially not if that reduces other advertisers’ choices. When it comes to the ecosystem, Google can be schizophrenic, but again, on the paid side at least you can pick up the phone and call someone.
6. Transparency. You may not want all of it, but new tools like the Bid Simulator keep rolling out. The search engines are committed to giving you fuller information about many auction details. They’ve even rolled out a video of Google’s Chief Economist Hal Varian commenting on bid strategy. Think you can get an SEO position simulator tool out of the “organic SEO helpers” division of Google? (There isn’t one, remember, although to be fair, Google Webmaster Tools is pretty neat.)
7. Rapid feedback and rapid results with less risk. There remains no better mechanism to gain rapid response to different ad copy variations, to gauge consumer keyword search patterns as they apply to your business, to learn about geo-specific buying patterns, etc. There is far less risk to testing offers, page layouts and marketing strategies rapidly—using paid search—than there is to tinkering with the nuts and bolts of your site’s content and architecture in the hopes of a medium to long term boost in organic traffic. SEO success is, for many companies, an after-the-fact pat on the back for years of a job well done. It is difficult to ramp up quickly. Paid search, by contrast, scales up quickly, and particular segments and tactics can be tested with relative ease.
Given the large spends now going into non-traditional promotion, paid search and digital marketing generally, we no longer need to advocate for dollars to “migrate” to these channels. Most big companies are in the process of figuring out how to migrate some dollars out of their bloated traditional ad spends. But in the process of ramping up paid search priorities can get mixed up, campaigns can languish, and no one around the company seems quite sure what needs fixing most urgently.
There are many hurdles to doing this right, which just makes the reward sweeter for those who do a lot better than their competition.
And for smaller companies, it sure is tempting to hold out hope that SEO and some mythical word-of-mouth can do it all for you. For most businesses in conventional industries that do a lot of their selling online, though, paid search can and should work. It’s about half of all digital ad spend for good reason. Trying to acquire those same customers through other channels, especially offline channels, will typically be costlier.
Paid search isn’t sexy. Nor is it tailor-made for penny-pinchers. It’s an ROI-driven direct response channel. But it’s worth the effort if you see it through! It beats just about anything short of magic.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.