Should I Advertise In… Search Ads?

This post is part of a series where we here at Post Modern Marketing get down and dirty to answer the questions that all businesses are asking (or should be asking!): where can I best spend my marketing budget? Every day, business owners are bombarded with salespersons from many advertising firms and venues, being told why their book, magazine, event, website, etc. is THE BEST place to advertise. So we're going to do our best to dispel the myths and rumors and get to the heart of each marketing venue, and explore if, and why, it's a good investment for your money.

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These articles will assume that you do not have an unlimited marketing budget, meaning you have to choose one venue over another. Last time we looked at whether or not the Yellow Pages is a good investment, and this week we ask…

Should I Advertise in Online Search Ads?

Online Search Ads – Google AdWords and Bing Ads

With the growth of online search engines, and the change from direct website visits to the utilization of search engines as the primary portal to the internet, the next logical progression was the monetization of said search engines. In an earlier post, we talk about the combination of organic searches and paid searches, called search marketing – check it out for some history on Google and how things work today. The fact is, Google is the most visited website in the world, and other search engines like Yahoo (3rd) and Bing (24th) are in the top tier.

Clearly, the best way to get your ad or information out to the public online is to be at the top of the search engines. More eyes equals more chances to get clicks to visit your website, which, if done right, will equal more leads and sales. It’s fairly straight-forward marketing – be seen and compel. The debate, then, is whether or not paid ads are the best way to spend your advertising money, to see the best return on investment, and if so, which website? In this post, we’ll discuss Google and Bing (which is actually a combination of Yahoo! and Bing, as well as other smaller affiliate sites), and the benefits and disadvantages of each.

Google AdWords – The Biggest Audience… and the Biggest Competition

We all know Google, and it’s fairly well known that Google’s Search engine dominates the market (around 68% of searches). So it’s fairly clear that we should target them as where to place our advertising dollars, right? Well, not necessarily. If you have an unlimited budget, and a dedicated PPC professional or company, then go for it. You can’t beat being at the top of every relevant search for your product. But we’re directing this article to smaller businesses, and there is typically much more to consider in the equation.

Are you in a competitive niche? The most expensive ad categories in Google can get up to over $50 per click! That’s PER CLICK – not per conversion. This means that you pay over $50 to have someone look at your site, and the average conversion rate, or percent of people that then submit a lead or purchase, is around 5%. You do the math. The most competitive categories are insurance, loans, schooling, software and other categories you’d expect to be expensive. If you find yourself in a business where your competitors spend a ton of money in marketing, you’re likely looking at a cost-prohibitive AdWords budget.

That’s not to say there aren’t great opportunities. If you’re advertising a very specific product or service, and focus on local searches, you may find your keywords CPC (cost-per-click) to be affordable and offer a good return on the investment. Take a look at Google’s Keyword Planner and get an idea of the average cost to advertise. It may turn out to be pretty reasonable. They’ll also offer suggestions for long-tail keywords – phrases that people type into search engines that are more than a few words and usually very specific – and you may find those to be much more affordable.

Bing Ads – Little Brother is Full of Opportunity

It’s strange to think of Microsoft as being an inferior competitor when it comes to technology, but that’s the case when it comes to search. By itself, Bing gets around 19% of search traffic. But in 2010, Bing and Yahoo combined their efforts and in total, they get about 28% of all search traffic. Any search ads on those two sites, and affiliated sites, come from Bing Ads.

The thing is, with less exposure, there are less people bidding for marketing space. Imagine if you had to choose to dedicate resources to advertising, which could be a full-time job just managing one online campaign. Would you choose the venue with the largest audience, or the one that gets less than half the visitors? Of course, most people would choose to advertise on Google. It makes sense, mostly.

But then again, sometimes looking below the surface of a decision can bring better, untapped opportunities. Bing is very much cheaper to advertise in, on a per-keyword average, than Google. The upside is you may be able to afford to advertise keywords that you couldn’t afford in Google – Creative California tested this and found that certain keywords cost us less per click on Bing (under 10% of Google’s cost), with first-page positioning, than the same keyword in Google with a lower position. Sounds great, but keep in mind that there are significantly fewer people seeing the ad, and according to the link just mentioned, a lower click-through rate on average. But that’s the beauty of PPC (pay-per-click) – you don’t pay until someone clicks the ad!

The Downside of PPC Marketing Campaigns

There are great benefits to spending money on cost-per-click marketing on search engines, but it’s not all sunshine and roses. The simple truth of the matter is in order to effectively market online, it takes a lot of regular hands-on work and expertise. It’s a lot of work to research your market, keywords, competitors, determine proper bid amounts, monitor, adjust, set up landing pages, and more – the list goes on. Throw in display networks, remarketing, conversion tracking, and other technical processes, and you can see why many companies either outsource or have a full-time associate dedicated to managing their campaigns. Sure, you can throw in a budget and a list of keywords and let it go, but you’re doing yourself a disservice if you’re not maximizing your return with this marketing venue. Imagine giving money to a magazine advertiser and never looking at the distribution, cost, call tracking, and even the ad itself.

So, Should I Advertise on Search Engines?

Considering the benefits of AdWords and Bing Ads, and the fact that the cost can be kept to a minimum, there are a lot of opportunities, as long as you utilize them properly. We hate not giving a firm answer in these articles, but honestly, as always, it depends. So should you advertise online?

Yes, as long as you take the time to properly manage it.

Simply put, there’s no reason to not take advantage of one of the few marketing venues that only charges for results. It’s like advertising in a magazine and only paying every time you get a phone call. Publishers would never let it happen, but it’s the case online. In this venue, there’s no reason not to get your feet wet and check it out. Just make sure your website is compelling and easy to use, and monitor your search campaigns to look for opportunities and behaviors to best maximize your return.

And of course, if you’re interested in running a PPC campaign, but don’t know where to start, contact us and we’ll gladly get you started, or even manage your search marketing for you. Good luck!

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