Sep 27, 2018

Perils of the PPC Bandwagon

Paid search can often be considered as the quintessential element of a digital strategy – the starting point for a user’s digital journey with your business. But the hard fact is that paid search suits some industries and sectors and businesses more than others. Like any marketing tactic or tool – it is important to weigh up the likely success factors before assigning your marketing budget and diving in. So, before you commit to wild monthly budgets with Google Ads, you might want to continue reading…

Let’s start with the obvious challenges. If you put yourself in the shoes of the searcher, it can be clearer to identify the problems with search marketing. Are you an ‘ad savvy searcher’? Many searchers are becoming desensitised to the ads section on a google search page and would quite happily ignore the paid ads and scroll straight to the organic listings. Let’s face it when you know someone has paid to get to the top, there is a reduced sense of credibility and trust. Wouldn’t a business that has organically grown and naturally reached the top through consistent content and a well-established website be a better bet? However, research shows that ‘although many searchers prefer to click on the natural listings, sufficient numbers do click on the paid listings (typically around a quarter or a third of all clicks). So, with careful control, PPC can drive quality traffic for which you get a good return’. (Smart Insights).

From the advertiser’s perspective, there is the concern that any ‘untargeted’ person can click on your ad and waste your marketing budget. (Ingeniously termed as ‘click fraud’). There are many ways that you can avoid masses of unwanted clicks, but you will always get ‘window shoppers’ with no actual intent to purchase, or content hungry surfers with no intent to connect with your business. However, some consolation is that tests by the IAB have shown that there is a branding effect with Pay Per Click, even if users do not click on the ad.

Then there is the illusory boxing ring. The fight for the best keywords with your competitors. Despite your keyword research and content optimisation, you can still lose out to competitors with bigger muscles and better training. It’s a battle of strength (wits) and the winner takes all.

So what success factors should be considered before PPC gains a valuable place in your marketing strategy?

Campaign resource

Setting up a PPC campaign is not difficult. The difficult part is setting it up effectively, and continually reviewing it so that you are getting value for money. As with any other marketing plans, please make sure that you have the appropriate resource and expertise before steaming ahead with PPC.

The online behaviours of your targets

In other words, your customer insight. How much do you know about your target, and the process they go through to research and select a product or service that meets their needs? This is an essential part of your overall marketing strategy and how you will shape your marketing plans and potential PPC campaign. Creating customer personas and journeys are a great way to further define your target market and tailor your approach to be most effective. For example, if you are offering an FMCG product and you know that your target person tends to compare a few products before they purchase and look at reviews – you might decide that remarketing (serving them an advert at other times as a reminder of your product) might bring the best chance of clicks and end in product purchase.

Your marketing objectives and budget

Perhaps the most important consideration is your marketing objectives. For example, if your objective is to see a return on investment with each click, (common in the B2C and e-commerce market) rather than building brand awareness – there are steps you need to take to optimise those conversions to influence more immediate contact. For businesses in marketplaces where referrals and word of mouth are a more likely source of lead generation (common in the B2B and professional services market), your main objective for PPC may be for brand engagement – allowing your visitors to simply research and evaluate your business over and above your competitors before taking any definitive action. But with the bidding wars that take place over certain keywords, companies with a lower budget or a narrower range of products or services on which to increase lifetime value, it may be not possible to compete.

Your competitor’s strategy

There is so much online information exposed about your competition, from their social media, to their blogs and keyword content. This all makes for very straightforward research. It provides the opportunity for you to take a different approach and to better target and engage the market. You can research the common keywords used in your market and look at different keywords or phrases that your target might search for – that have a lower cost associated, because your competitors haven’t yet bid on them. But due to the competitiveness of PPC, bidding wars can drive bids up to an unacceptable level of more than £10 per click.

Your website functionality

It is paramount that when considering a PPC campaign, that your website is primed to support the campaign. Landing pages must be keyword rich and have a contact form to optimise conversions. E-commerce functionality must be easy and quick.

Your organic growth and planned SEO

If your plan includes SEO, you may want to hold off on the PPC until the SEO takes effect and you can measure that first. It may be that your ad budget is better spent elsewhere. ‘If SEO is effective it will almost always deliver a lower CPC’ (Smart Insights).

That said, there are many advantages that PPC brings over SEO, and these include:

  • Predictability. Traffic volumes, ranking, returns and costs tend to more stable and more predictable than SEO.
  • Speed. PPC listings appear much faster, usually in a few hours (or days if editor review is required). SEO has a much longer lead time, particularly important when new sites are created (the Google sandbox effect) or when ads need to be switched on and off for a campaign, promotion or stock changes.
  • Control. Unlike SEO (with sufficient budget and staff or agency with good PPC skills) it is more straightforward to achieve high ranking and direct visitors to the relevant page on your site. With the right technology, and that means a bid management system, creative / copy and budgeting can be tightly controlled. (Smart Insights)

Keywords, Ad Groups and Content

A listing is useless unless you have thought about the description you are accompanying it with. And like any form of advertising, this can be devised to be more appealing than that of your competitor’s. It is calling the searcher for their click because it can give them what they need. A good marketing/PPC agency will ensure that keywords, ad groups and ad content are all working together for maximum effect. And using the right ‘match types’ in combination with negative keywords, you can ensure that your ads are only shown when searchers are searching for relevant products.

With all the above considerations taken into account, you should be able to assess whether PPC is likely to be a tactic worth implementing for your business.

For help with your digital marketing strategy, planning or campaign management, contact Clockwise on 01737 221221.