One question we regularly get from clients and prospects is about paid ads and if they are worth the investment for a manufacturing company. The answer is not a straight yes or no but usually some variant of it depends.
The things the answer depends on are your audience, your goals, your timing, and your budget.
But first a quick refresher course on paid ads. Search engine optimization (SEO) relates to your content ranking in the organic search results. Paid ads are the rest of the results on a search results page including the ads at the top of the page marked as ads or display ads that show up as forms or images with text on the side or within content online. Other forms of paid ads are shown in social media channels (we all love those right) and re-marketing ads (the ones that show up when I read the Wall Street Journal online from Zappos right after I shopped for shoes, for example).
The first question to answer relates to your buyer's intent when they search for your target keywords.
We all know your audience is already online. Everyone searches for just about anything. The question is, what do they click and what drives audience engagement.
Data shows that for purchasing ads, or ones targeting a specific product narrowly defined, with a buyer ready to buy now, the pad ads are clicked 65% of the time compared to the organic results.
One reason this may be true is the that people ready to buy now are more transaction driven than research and considered purchase driven so ads reflect a more direct connection to the purchase than more educational content that the search engines rank highly in the organic results.
Our experience with paid ads follows this line of thinking. We have seen much better results when our clients are selling a component or product having a more transaction-based buying process with many of these characteristics:
If your typical buyer's cycle follows a research, educate, consider, connect with sales, evaluate multiple customized options, make a decision type of process then paid ads may be more difficult to justify.
Google claims that for every $1 spent in their AdWords program, the advertiser will receive $2 in revenue. For ballpark purposes does a 2X ROI make sense for your marketing investment?
Or, if your are a long-term considered purchase type of company do a few leads that come in at a relatively high cost per click justify the expense since the payoff from just one or two sales is so high? Plus any lifetime-value expectations for a new customers must also be taken into account. If you are selling a longer sales cycle type of product lead management, tracking, and attribution becomes critical in determining if paid ads yield any return.
Creating content takes time and lots of effort to reach the top of the organic search rankings. For many high value keywords it may be virtually impossible to displace another company on a long help top position. One strategy is to use paid ads to drive traffic until you have SEO ranking for your target keywords.
Paid ads show almost immediate results. If you bid enough for certain keywords your ads will show up in the paid search area at the top of the page. So if you need immediate or short-term results paid ads are an option to drive immediate interest. Paid ads are also useful if you deal with boom or bust cycles in your industry.
If your paid ad partner recommends sending clicks to your home page that is a huge red flag. The ad copy that entices a click must land on a page that continues the story and not force the person to start over on your home page and figure out where to go for the information or offer promised in the ad.
A word about branded paid ads, these are the ones that show up when someone types in your company or product brand name. We are skeptical that for considered purchases that branded paid ads drive a high return. Our experience shows that most likely the leads that come in for a branded search would have come in anyway. This makes sense since the searcher intended to find the company or specific product. The paid ad just made it a bit easier.
Others would argue that branded search is worth the investment for just that reason, to make it easier to find you. Branded searches also allow a company to control the messaging using low cost per click ads around the brand terms and prevent competitors from stealing potential prospects. We would recommend research and testing to determine if branded search is a good strategy.
In the end, like any marketing tactic, paid ads have their place if applied correctly and appropriately. The fact that paid ads dominate the above-the-fold real estate on virtually every search means that you risk missing your online audience if you do not experiment and find the right balance of budget and return. But do not fall in love with the tactic or someone pitching paid ads as the be-all end-all for manufacturing marketing. Research, test, evaluate, adjust. Make sure you see a return that matches your goals and you have a good chance to find the mix that makes sense and contributes to your overall marketing success.