The Effectiveness of Google Ads
“Why use AdWords” and "Does Google AdWords Work?" are pretty common keyword phrase searched on Google, which suggests that there are a lot of marketers and business owners out there who have heard about Google AdWords but aren’t sure if and how it can work for them. We believe that AdWords – Google’s enormously successful pay-per-click (PPC) advertising system – can work for almost any type of business. Using AdWords (or any PPC platform) requires time and money, but thousands of businesses have found that it’s time and money well spent, because AdWords delivers measurable ROI. We’ve devoted countless pages to how you should use AdWords. In this post, we’ll answer the question of why you should use it.
Before any of our SEO-loving readers get up in arms, let me preface this by saying that we’re not advocating that you do PPC to the exclusion of other marketing activities. As always, we recommend a healthy balance of marketing channels, including organic search (check out our recent 10-step guide to ranking for a keyword), email marketing, events, social media and other lead sources. How you allocate your marketing budget will depend on which channels turn out to be most effective for your business.
But if you’ve never used Google AdWords before, and you’re wondering whether or not it’s worthwhile, this post is for you. Here are 10 reasons to use AdWords.
1. AdWords Is Scalable
One of the trickiest challenges for any marketer is finding lead sources that scale – meaning, it doesn’t require five times the effort to get five times the leads. Google AdWords is highly scalable, which is why some business spend millions of dollars a year on AdWords advertising. If you create an AdWords campaign that is converting at a profitable rate, there is no reason to arbitrarily cap spend on that campaign. You can increase your PPC budget and your leads and profits will increase accordingly. This makes AdWords highly effective for businesses that need a lot of leads but are short on time and heads.
2. AdWords Is Measurable
Compared to traditional marketing channels like TV and magazine advertising, online marketing is highly measureable, and AdWords PPC is one of the most measurable of online channels. It’s difficult to make exact measurements in SEO because you can’t always know what actions led to increased or decreased rankings. Then there’s the whole “not provided” fiasco. Social media can be equally difficult to measure. In comparison, AdWords is more transparent, providing tons of PPC metrics that allow you to see at a granular level what works and what doesn’t. You can pretty quickly determine if your campaigns are sucking or returning ROI.
3. AdWords Is Flexible
AdWords provides tons of options so you can customize your campaigns and ads to your particular needs, hyper-targeting the audiences you most want to reach. For example, with AdWords you can:
- Specify keyword match types – You can, for example, only display your ad to people who search for an exact keyword you specify, like “vegas hotels” – filtering out traffic on general terms related to Las Vegas or hotels. (SEO, on the other hand, is aspirational; you can’t define what you rank for, you can only hope for the best.)
- Use ad extensions to display product images, a phone number, a mega-pack of links to your site, your physical location – you can even initiate a chat or get an email address right from the SERP.
- Narrow your audience by location, time of day, language, browser or device type and more. A good portion of your SEO traffic may be worthless to you (for example, if you only need US-based leads, and half your web traffic comes from Australia), but in AdWords, you don’t have to display your ads around the world.
- Access an enormous network of non-search users on properties like Gmail and YouTube and tons of partner sites.
- Leverage the display network, which is great for building brand awareness and often converts at a lower cost than Google Search.
4. AdWords Is Faster than SEO
For new businesses and websites, it can take months to see results from SEO. This perceived “penalty” used to be referred to as the Google sandbox effect – people assumed Google was intentionally filtering new websites out of the results. More likely the problem is that competition is fierce and it takes time for a website to “prove” itself and earn authority and links.
AdWords is a great workaround for new businesses because you don’t have to wait around so long to see results. While working on your site’s SEO, you can put resources into an AdWords campaign and start getting impressions and clicks immediately. Because it’s so speedy, it’s also a good way to test whether a given keyword or audience is worth pursing via organic search – if it converts well in AdWords, you can deduce that it’s worth trying to rank for in SEO and build out your content in that area. (Just one of the ways that AdWords and SEO are two great tastes that taste great together.)
As an added bonus, you can often get started on AdWords very cheaply – Google often offers vouchers (basically free PPC budget) for new advertisers. Right now it’s running a special for AdWords Express: Sign up by December 16 and get a free month of advertising.
5. AdWords Is (Usually) Easier than SEO
Larry has argued in the past that SEO is much harder than PPC. His arguments were met with disagreement, but probably more because of how he said them than what he was saying. Here are WordStream, we’re seasoned practitioners of both SEO and PPC. And now that our PPC campaigns are built and in place, we find they require much less effort to maintain than our SEO efforts. Not only is our enormous beast of a website very difficult to keep up to date (which plagues me), but in order to increase organic traffic, it takes a team of 3-5 constantly churning out SEO content, working on optimization and building links. It’s fun, creative and rewarding when it works – but it’s also a relief to know that we can depend on PPC to deliver leads without all the hoops to jump through.
AdWords is also probably easier to learn because there’s less contradictory information out there. If you’re not inside the industry, it can be hard as a marketer to know which sources are honest and which are just selling proverbial snake oil. On the other hand, there isn’t a whole industry built around “gaming” AdWords. Check out our AdWords Learning Center for help getting started.
6. AdWords Is Taking Over the SERPs
AdWords is Google’s baby (it should be – it accounts for about 97% of their revenues), and over time the SERP has changed so that more and more above-the-fold real estate is given to ads rather than organic results. This can be frustrating both for SEOs and users. But if you engage in PPC, it’s not all bad! It’s an opportunity for you to get your message high up on the SERP in a highly clickable way – it’s a myth that no one clicks on AdWords ads. For queries with high commercial intent (hint: those are the ones you’d want to be advertising on), sponsored ads take up to 2 out of 3 clicks on the first page.
7. AdWords Formats Can Be More Engaging than Organic Results
Google has rolled out lots of new ad formats in the past couple of years, such as product listing ads and in-video ads on YouTube. Google is motivated to do this because shinier, more engaging ads get more clicks and that means more revenue for Google. But higher clicks are good for the advertiser too, so take advantage of these new ad formats and extensions. Organic listings look pretty boring in comparison.
8. AdWords Traffic Might Convert Better than Organic Traffic
Hey, organic traffic is great, we don’t knock it! But there’s some evidence that paid search traffic converts better than organic traffic – with conversion rates up to two times higher. (Conversion rates vary by industry, and as always, this may not be true for your particular business, but you won’t know until you try.) This is probably due to the fact that paid search traffic is more targeted and qualified (due to those targeting options we talked about above), and that queries that result in ad clicks are much more likely to be commercial in nature, rather than informational.
9. AdWords Complements Your Other Marketing Channels
AdWords is complementary to your other marketing efforts. Remarketing is an especially powerful way to use AdWords to target people who have shown an interest in your business. With AdWords remarketing, you can track past visitors to your website with a cookie (these people may have found you through social media, your blog, a click on a product page from a forwarded email, etc.). Your display ads will then “follow” them around the Internet, so your brand stays top of mind. For example, the Land’s End and Priceline ads below are both retargeted – I visited those websites in the past 30 days.
You can even show them the exact product that they searched for. Along with cart abandonment emails (same principle), retargeted ads have super-high ROI compared to other marketing channels.
10. Your Competitors Are Using AdWords
Finally, there’s peer pressure: The old “Everyone else is doing it, so why not you?” argument. It doesn’t work for jumping off a cliff, but it is persuasive when it comes to search engine marketing. Covario recently reported that global paid search spending increased by 33% in the third quarter of 2012, year over year. According to a study by NetElixer, which looked at data from 38 large U.S. retailers and 120 million search ad impressions, "revenue driven by paid search on Black Friday rose an impressive 31% year-over-year as advertisers invested 21% more in keyword advertising than they did in 2011." Do a few searches on keywords you care about. Your competitors are likely there in the sponsored results at the top of the SERP. Can you afford not to be?