Paid search is maturing. Once strictly the domain of retailers, lead brokers, and other direct marketing advertisers, the appeal of paid search has broadened. Brand advertisers and others who cannot easily facilitate a purchase online are awakening to the value of it, and are including it in their marketing line-up. Finally, paid search has hit the big leagues.
So Who is Using it and Why?
It isn’t easy — or even possible in most cases — to buy a car online, so why would a big auto brand invest in paid search? Let’s take a look.
A recent campaign by GM’s Pontiac division was promoting the new Solstice model, and ran a TV spot encouraging users to search for their product on Google. It didn’t take long for GM’s competitor Mazda to respond with search ads comparing GM’s Solstice to Mazda’s MX-5 Miata. Mazda’s ads lead to a comparison page with the intention of driving Solstice searchers to Mazda dealers instead.
By employing paid search, Mazda leveraged the offline media spend of its competitor to drive qualified traffic to the Mazda site, and hopefully, to their showrooms.
Clearly, paid search is a valuable marketing tool for brand advertisers and companies that don’t directly sell their products or services online. Here’s why…
They Asked For It
The biggest factor that makes paid search fundamentally different from other forms of marketing is that the advertisement is linked to a customer’s request for information. The potential customer searches for mortgage information and they see ads for mortgages; they search for airline tickets and they see ads for travel aggregators.
Quite simply, paid search ads show potential customers ads for the products that they have requested right at the moment they are seeking the information. Compare this to traditional offline advertising where marketers push ads at the consumer, whether the consumer is ready to receive the message or not, and hope for the best. Even if a toothpaste manufacturer doesn’t sell toothpaste on their website, it still makes sense to show an ad and make your pitch via the website when the consumer is requesting the introduction. And as the Pontiac example cited above demonstrates, if you don’t take advantage of this opportunity, your competitors will.
It Captures the Demand
While paid search has certain advantages over other forms of marketing, it is best used in conjunction with other online and offline efforts, because if no one is looking for your product to begin with, paid search won’t help much. TV, radio, print, and banner ads are all examples of advertising that create demand in the marketplace and gives consumers a language for talking about, and searching for, your products. If you’re willing to spend money telling people about your product, you should be willing to spend money to sell them when they come looking for more information.
It Creates an Association
A great benefit of paid search for the brand advertiser is its ability to create an association in the mind of the consumer. If every time a consumer searches for furniture polish and they see Pledge at the top of the search results, it reinforces the notion that Pledge means furniture polish. Paid search is an effective tool for the brand marketer to create this association.
It’s Highly Targeted Advertising
Paid search is also beneficial given its ability to precisely target consumers. Today, search engines offer the ability to target consumers in specific geographic regions and by demographic variables such as age and gender, and new targeting options appear in the search engines on a regular basis. Furthermore, it is also possible to show contextual ads on websites where the average user has similar demographics to your target consumers. With the wealth of information about consumers available to Internet marketers, paid search will certainly lead the way in targeted advertising in years to come.
It Offers Efficient Testing
One of the most attractive features of paid search is the speed at which it can be created and delivered. Mazda was able to capitalize on Pontiac’s TV spend within days, but a new paid search advertisement can literally be launched within minutes. The agile nature of this medium offers even large companies a quick way to react to competitors and other changes in the marketplace. Paid search also offers an efficient way to test new messaging, as an advertiser can quickly set up tests to determine which messages resonate with prospects (as indicated by how frequently users click on the ads).
So Who Should Use Paid Search?
Clearly, paid search is an effective tool for marketers to leverage. Almost any business can benefit from participating in paid search at some level, but certain companies would simply be remiss if they don’t. Companies that spend a great deal of money and resources on advertising offline are missing an enormous opportunity if they don’t participate in paid search. It’s analogous to throwing a lot of bait overboard and waiting for the fish to jump in the boat. If you’re spending a dime to build awareness or your brand, and you’re not in paid search already, it’s time to test it out.