The main reason that “search” (organic or paid) is so successful boils down to two key differentiators:
- You are reaching prospects who are specifically searching for what you offer, and …
- You are reaching them at the moment of peak relevance and interest
No other form of advertising truly excels in both of these two critical areas like search marketing. And when you think about it, it’s clear that these two advantages are inherent by design.
The Shotgun Approach Versus Focused Targeting
With billboard, radio, direct mail, email, cable, and even social media, you are pushing out your message to a somewhat random audience. They may be interested in what you have to say, but it’s more likely they are not. It’s true that there are means by which demographic targeting can narrow your audience in the above formats. But despite great improvements in targeting over the years, none of these mediums hits the target squarely on the mark for these two bullet points above.
Let’s take an example business type: roofing. We can try to narrow our audience to certain age groups, certain income levels and even certain neighborhoods. But we cannot target “homes with roofs struck by trees in the last 12 hours”. We’d really need a team of “spotters” driving around the entire geographic territory looking for recent roof damage, say, after a major storm. That’s not a bad idea actually, but a bit costly.
We still wouldn’t capture the homeowner who has been saving up for a new roof and is just ready to do it. Maybe he’s ready because the roof is old, there are a few minor leaks and the timing is right. The only way we can truly target homeowners (or business owners) who are ready to replace their roof and are open to advertised offers is by creating and advertising an offer to be shown only to prospects searching for a roofer or a roofing contractor.
It’s NOT Just a Game Of Impressions
What’s even better, you don’t pay a dime to show that ad to that targeted searcher. You only pay when they actually click on your offer. Compare that with those extremely expensive display ads of years gone by in the “yellow pages” (yes, some of us still remember those days). Yellow page display ads were able to generate significant revenues for directory companies for many years prior to the newer more efficient means of “search marketing”. That’s because directories (phone books) were the original “search marketing” form of marketing.
But even back then (and still today) with directory ads, like every other form of advertising previously mentioned, you are paying for impressions. You don’t do a direct mail campaign, and only pay for people who contact you from the flyer or card. You pay for delivery and hope that there is an “impression” left (though many people will simply throw away the piece). When you spent $2500 on a nice display ad, or $15,000 for a “back cover”, you were paying for a year’s worth of impressions – until next year’s phone book came out.
Now, to be fair, it is true that people will search online for the purpose of long term research, including “do-it-yourselfers”. This is especially true when the need is not dire or emergency event-driven (note to businesses that provide emergency event-driven services – you better be doing search marketing because your competitors definitely are).
But again, to be objective, you are marketing to the same proportion of researchers as any other form of advertising. So there’s no real disadvantage to search marketing other than the ease with which to compare other advertisers within the same search related category.
Search Marketing: Then and NOW
Search engine marketing is successful for many of the same reasons that directory advertising was so successful in years past. It has the same main drawback (many competitors in the same search category) but search engine marketing has several awesome advantages.
- Search Engine Marketing (SEM) costs a fraction of the price
- YOU create the ads so there is a real creative advantage
- you can turn SEM up, down, on or off as business conditions warrant
- you can test, tweak or change your SEM message in real time, at any time
- SEM supplies valuable metrics that help you gauge your ROI
- SEM still hasn’t caught on to the degree of directory advertising when the Yellow Pages were still “King” in the marketplace
- The most widely used search engine in the world derives most of it’s revenue from SEM – so success is more or less “baked in”
Let’s take this last advantage seriously, because Google is a serious company, and ultimately it wants SEM to work well (so it can make money). And there’s no doubt it can more than help to bring this about.
We have quite a few website clients who are VERY well positioned organically (and have been for years) and they continue to get about 10 to 20 relevant clicks per month organically. These same companies have easily gotten 40 to 60 additional clicks when we create SEM campaigns for them.
Remember SEM is a marketing format (within search) whereas search in general is more of an information gathering format. Clearly it makes more sense to achieve better marketing results in a marketing format on a platform that makes the platform provider money. And without a doubt, a greater share of marketing success has been driven to SEM from SEO over the last 15 years as the marketing capabilities within search engines has improved. I saved this one for last since it is the most compelling, obvious and persuasive reason as to why search engine marketing is so successful. Google’s share price should be a good indicator of that success.
There’s still time to take advantage of the relative “newness” of search marketing, especially for small local businesses in smaller to medium sized cities.
In many cases, there is little search marketing competition, and what does exist can be outranked and outperformed by a good search marketing strategist. These are some of the most compelling answers to the question: “Why is search engine marketing is so successful?”
SEM is likely to remain the most successful means of advertising for years to come in terms of ROI, but the advantages of “first to market” are still available in some markets, which gives advertisers an amazing ROI boost.
To learn more about the advantages of a well run search marketing campaign, gives us a call or shoot us a message.
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