Searching Beyond the Paid

Friday, March 23, 2012

PPC Is Alive and Well, Thank You

Earlier this week, an article in Social Media Today caused a bit of a stir in the PPC community. The article was titled The Death of Pay Per Click Advertising – a link-bait-y headline if ever I’ve seen one - and it's a doozy.

Putting aside the fact that the article was published on a social media site (seriously??), let’s break down each and every fallacy in the post.

Fallacy #1: Advertisers Don’t Recoup their Investment

The article states that “there are clear signs that it is dying out as a lone marketing resource. For example, recent research has revealed that just 18% of SMEs using Google Adwords actually recoup their investment (Source: YouGov).”

First off, there’s no link to the YouGov “revelation,” so I find myself questioning whether it’s even true, or whether it’s taken out of context. But anyway… let’s assume it’s true.

I actually wouldn’t be surprised if only 18% of SMEs are recouping their investment. That’s because these SMEs don’t know what they’re doing. PPC has evolved into a complicated program that takes training and expertise to get good ROI. It’s not something that Mom or Pop Jones can just run themselves. This is why it’s critical to hire a PPC professional to run your program, whether it’s in-house or agency.

I’d be curious to see how many professionally-managed PPC programs are recouping their investment. I bet it’s way more than 18% or we’d all be out of business.

Fallacy #2: PPC Is A Short-Term Play.

This is the one that really got the goat of a lot of PPC’ers: “PPC can deliver results when it is used for a short-term, highly targeted campaigns (sic), but used in the long-term it often becomes costly.”

I’m choosing to ignore the terrible grammar in that quote, by the way.

At gyro, we have many clients who have used PPC for years. Many of these clients have recently shifted dollars from traditional media to PPC, precisely because it’s been so effective for them compared with other channels. The same was true in my previous position at Fluency Media – we had clients who were approaching the 10-year mark in PPC who were still making money on every sale.

Are these all just flukes? Hardly. And to say that PPC delivers lower returns than content marketing (another claim in the article) is just ridiculous. Yes, SEO often delivers a higher volume of traffic and leads than PPC, but does SEO convert as well? In my experience, the answer is often no.

Fallacy #3: PPC’s Purpose is to Drive Traffic.

“PPC appears to offer a simple solution - paid ads to drive people to your website.” Um, what? So none of the PPC campaigns I’m running are driving conversions – they’re all about traffic. Yeah, right. I’m not even going to gratify this statement with a response.

The article goes on to say that “PPC is focused around gaining high volume results and often comes with confusing data and analytics on visitor numbers.” I honestly have no clue where the author got this idea. Most of the PPC campaigns I’ve run in my 10-year career in the industry have focused on reducing overall traffic volume while increasing overall conversion rate. No one wants to pay for a bunch of unqualified visits.

A well-run PPC campaign will often contribute little in terms of overall website volume, but will contribute a disproportionately high percentage of conversions. I’ve run PPC campaigns that represented only 20% of overall site traffic but 80% of total conversion. Doesn’t sound like “focusing around high volume results” to me.

Fallacy #4: PPC Is Brand Unaware.

“PPC is purely about the ad and about capturing the interest of window shoppers. With no brand awareness or value proposition around it, the PPC campaign tends to attract window shoppers who are focused on cost rather than quality.”

This is just wrong on so many levels. I’ll concede that many PPC campaigns are indeed focused on promoting low-cost offers. It’s called customer acquisition. This happens all the time in traditional media – what do you think coupons, sales, clearance events, and weekly circulars are all about? These, too, promote low-cost deals to attract the customer. So is the author saying that traditional media is also a huge fail?

And if you're running PPC ads without a value proposition, you're doing it wrong.

Furthermore, the author fails to consider impression-heavy PPC advertising such as display and social media ads. If these tactics aren’t brand aware, I don’t know what is. Facebook PPC, in particular, can drive millions of targeted impressions at a very low cost and can nearly create a brand from scratch – all by using PPC.

In the second half of the article, the author talks about how PPC should be used. Many of her points are valid: be strategic, build loyalty, test for the best – this is all good advice. But there is one more misconception worth calling out.

Fallacy #5: Advertisers Should “Increase Cost Per Conversions.”

When I first read this, I thought it was a typo. But then the author says it again a couple paragraphs later: “include a plan to increase your Click Through Rate and Cost Per Conversion for rewards from Google.” (emphasis mine)

Who on earth is trying to increase their cost per conversion? If you find this advertiser, give them my phone number. I have a few words for them.

The Bottom Line

PPC isn’t dead. That is, unless you run your campaigns the way this author tells you to.



  • Mel, nicely done! Please post this as a comment on the original article. The author and all the commenters/readers need to read this. It pains me.

    By Blogger danceaway, at 8:35 AM EDT  

  • AMEN! Thank you, Melissa, for calling out this author and this awful article. For the life of me I cannot figure out what they were trying to accomplish.

    By Blogger John Lee, at 8:37 AM EDT  

  • Thanks for the feedback! Danceaway, I'd love to comment on the original article, but they want your name, email, & firstborn child before you can comment. No thanks. Based on the other comments there, I'd rather not associate myself with that site anyway! :)

    By Blogger Melissa, at 8:42 AM EDT  

  • I'm thinking of writing a post titles "The Death of Social Media Marketing".

    Think I'll get any response if I do? ;)

    By Blogger James Svoboda, at 11:32 AM EDT  

  • LOVE IT! Couldn't agree more or have said it better myself. You rock Melissa! Instead of Thank You, I would have been tempted to say F-U, your restraint is admirable.

    By Blogger Lisa, at 11:44 AM EDT  

  • Melissa-

    I guess the "World's Best Thinkers on Social Media" don't have a lot of experience on PPC advertising! Go figure! Unfortunately, her article will serve to confuse those who are already misled! Ah well, the rest of us know the truth in your article and will continue our long-term, brand-aware, profitable campaigns.

    Run and tell that! :o)

    By Blogger Karen, at 11:50 AM EDT  

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