Quickly, answer this — do you click on “ads” when you’re searching for something on Google? If you’re like most people, you answer this with a resounding “no!” My 14-year old daughter is pretty typical in this regard. She says the only time she clicks on a paid search result is if it’s EXACTLY what she’s looking for. Otherwise, she knows it’s just an ad and won’t click on it — even though she believes it goes to the same place as an organic search result. We’re not much different, are we? So, why is that? And more importantly, knowing this is the case, why do businesses continue to spend obscene amounts of money in search engine marketing (SEM) or paid search? What we know about ourselves defies the idea of paid search. There are some good reasons to use paid search, but it’s also important to know that an organic strategy is even more important in building a long-term online presence. Let’s break it down:
We Hate Ads
Think about it. We have been conditioned to skip over advertisements. We record shows and sporting events so we can skip over ads. We watch Netflix and love that there are no commercials. Heck, we’ll even pay for a more expensive version of Spotify so we don’t have to listen to ads. And so, now we’re going to create ads that pop up on the first page of search and hope that people will click through? This is counter to the way we have grown to perceive advertisements. We seem to forget this when it’s our company and we have to find ways to get noticed online.
Organic content is information that you create that is helpful and useful to your current and prospective customers. This information can be relevant now and hugely valuable over time — especially when it's thoughtful and well produced. Information that effectively and objectively answers questions while solving problems for people has staying power online. Remember, unlike a paid ad spend, the blog post that you create will stay online forever — on your website or blog. And when it’s solid information that helps people, it may be shared and searched for years to come, continuing to drive an ROI on that asset indefinitely.
SEM is Expensive
As you get into the SEM game, be careful. Keywords are expensive, in fact, the average cost per click on Google AdWords is between $1 and $2, and the most expensive keywords are $50 or more per click. The low end doesn’t sound terrible, depending on your product or service. However, if bidding heats up for specific keywords or if you have a lot of clicks per month, this can become a costly proposition. Remember, this is an online auction for words that you want to essentially “own” online. It’s not uncommon for B2B organizations to spend north of $50K per year on PPC, which may sound like a lot or a little depending on your business. Here’s an excellent piece from WordStream that dives more into understanding costs around Google Adwords. Just keep in mind, SEM can make your company ubiquitous online for as long as you're paying for it, and it still doesn’t mean people want to click through on an advertisement.
Conversely, paid search can also be highly effective while you’re busy writing blogs to support your “owned” content strategy. Paid search can be a quick and effective way to drive people to your website where you can convert visitors to qualified leads.
Here are some other important benefits and considerations regarding paid search:
In the last year, Google decided to add another line of paid listings to the SERPs, which pushes organic results down a little further. Maybe not a big deal on your computer but it sure is on your phone! So, they’re increasing the odds of your ad popping up before swiping down. What makes this even more important is that Google reported last year that mobile searches have now passed desktop/laptop searches.
For many businesses, it’s not necessarily about the click-through rates (CTR) as it is about being seen and noticed. If your goal is to raise awareness and make sure that people see your company name at the top of their search query, this could be a good thing. Or, for people like me who will see an ad and then look for an organic option for the same company, you’ve actually accomplished an important objective and saved some money!
People are Impatient
In our instant gratification world, we don’t always have the patience to scroll through a bunch of options to find the best result for our search query and if your ad is a direct hit for my search, there’s a chance I’ll click through to save time. After all, if it’s just going to the website, what do I care if you pay for the click or not? In the end, you're good with that too, because you've driven that prospective customer to your website which was the goal from the beginning.
In a perfect world, your business has a balance of paid and organic efforts. Although, with budgets tight, Google constantly changing algorithms and digital marketing evolving, we bet on you and your ability to create quality information that will help people. It’s not free, and it takes some work, but creating your own credible, unique and interesting content will pay dividends for years to come.