Sensationalist journalism has once again found its way into the PPC world. Published on The Guardian earlier today, this article cites a research study conducted by eBay, and leads with the headline, “eBay study warns search ads have ‘no measurable benefit.’”
Come again? You are talking about the same “search ads” that allow you to track ROI down to the penny, right? As egregious of a statement as that headline may be, it is just one of many misleading points made in the article, as well as the study itself. The study’s main point is essentially that bidding on your own brand name — in this case, eBay — is a waste of money, as people looking for you by name will find you anyway. They boldly hypothesize that “users searching for ‘eBay’ are in fact using search as a navigational tool with the intent to go to ebay.com.” In addition to eBay, the researchers used five other well-known brands as examples: AT&T, Macy’s, Ford, Safeway, and Amazon. Once again, their point is that paid ads on those brand names are unnecessary, and that any money spent on those clicks is wasteful.
What they fail to recognize, however, is that eBay and Amazon — and to some extent, the other brands — are the exception, not the rule. For those of us who don’t work for eBay or Amazon, there are plenty of reasons why bidding on your own brand name can be a good idea.
Let’s say, for instance, your air conditioning breaks down on a hot summer day. You’ve used Company X before, so you search for them by name to find their phone number.
Heeding eBay’s advice, Company X doesn’t bid on their own brand name, and instead relies on its strong SEO presence to greet customers. That should be sufficient, right?
Unfortunately, Company X’s competitor is running a huge air conditioning repair special right now, and bids on Company X’s name to see if it can cherry pick any customers. Before your eyes make it down to the organic results, you’re distracted by the competitor’s $50 off coupon, and click on their ad. By simply being willing to spend a few cents on their own brand name, Company X could have have kept you from seeing that offer altogether. There’s no question, some brands don’t need to bid on their own names. The point is, though, protecting your own search engine real estate can be vitally important for some companies. You can also use ads to promote your own special offers, make it easy for customers to call you, and even cross-sell different services with Sitelinks Extensions.
To be fair, the cited study does acknowledge PPC’s value in acquiring new customers, as non-branded searches undoubtedly play a major role in the acquisition process. Unfortunately for all of us, the average reader will see the misleading headline and draw the wrong conclusions.
Reading the article’s comments further proves the wide misconceptions around paid search advertising. Unfortunately (for advertisers AND consumers), it seems many people still don’t fully trust paid search ads.
“Nobody clicks on online ads.”
“I don’t know anyone who clicks on online ads.”
“I hate change and refuse to acknowledge this might be helpful.” (Okay, that one was made up).
Yeah, most people don’t know this, but Google’s billions in annual revenue actually come entirely from the movie, The Internship. (I assume this is clear, but just to be sure… ← that statement is in fact false. Google makes oodles of money off of ads). So have no fear, marketers and business owners; paid search advertising is alive and well, bringing new customers to businesses like yours on a daily basis. Stay the course, and soon you’ll be celebrating like my good friend Pete Weber.
(Unless you’re a competitor of one of our clients, in which case you should disregard this post and stop advertising IMMEDIATELY).