Paid Search Isn’t a Solution to Every Business Problem

Published: May 12, 2019  by 

Paid search isn’t a solution to every business problem.” That statement might raise a few eyebrows; however, it doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Paid search (Google Ads, Microsoft Advertising, and social media ads) can get relevant people to your door at varying levels of efficiency depending on what platform you are running them on, what your goals are, and what budget you have to work with. It is paid search, after all, so budget is a consideration.

Some entrepreneurs, business owners, and even marketers believe when sales are down they should throw money at advertising until things turn around. I’m not saying that won’t work, but I do believe it won’t work without a plan.

Paid search is very good at targeting people interested in your type of product and service, and driving relevant traffic to your website or YouTube channel. It does this primarily through ads in Google and Bing search engines. People search for information on products, and search engines spit out ads and links to relevant content that can assist searchers in their queries. Sounds perfect, right?

It is in most cases! There’s so much more to digital advertising than just paid search, and paid search is not the end-all solution to every business problem.

Some paid search (pay-per-click or paid search) companies out there might say that you always get a positive return on investment when you run ads online (Google is always hinting at this). This is simply not the case. There are lots of ways it can help your business without having a positive ROI … but that’s another story.

In a nutshell, paid search is advertising in a specific medium and channel, and advertising isn’t always successful, for many reasons.

The goal of your website is to be the 24/7 representative of your business. It acts as an online salesperson, but doesn’t need breaks or require health insurance. Despite having the funds to support a solid paid search strategy, the backbone of the website is equally as important as the advertising pointing to it. Ensuring that the website is well designed, easy to convert on, and speedy will keep your marketing team from going “Well, that didn’t work” at the end of the quarter.

Paid search can also fail if you are targeting incorrectly. Example: Client says, “I want to run ads in Arkansas for a hair transplant surgeon in Houston, Texas, because I know many people who travel from Houston to Arkansas.” In this scenario, you might get a few leads, but the cost would not be worth the amount of customers that you actually receive.

Paid search also won’t work if no one has ever heard of you. If your business has little brand awareness, people won’t end up searching. In turn, you won’t get any business, but at least your ad dollars will go unspent.

Many misconceptions in paid search stem from businesses believing that they know the best search terms for their products. An example of this comes from a storm shelter client here in Oklahoma who believed that their customer base would be searching for “underground, in-garage concrete storm shelters.” He requested that the term be placed in the campaign, and in six months the campaign received one click on that particular term. Why? His customer base was actually searching for more generic and relevant terms such as “storm shelter” and “storm cellar.” This is due to his customers hearing common phrases on Oklahoma news outlets saying, “get to your storm cellar,” and “get to your storm shelter.” Paid search experts should be certified, experienced, and knowledgeable about their research and understanding of customer psychology.

Paid search may not work if your budget is restricted. I describe it one of two ways:

  1. Too small of a budget is like drinking from a fire hose hoping to get the right drop of water.
  2. Too small of a budget is like going fishing in a large lake with an aquarium net hoping to grab the right fish.

Google and Bing both report on an exposure metric called “search impression share,” or essentially how many times did your ad serve versus the number of times it possibly could have served in searches. When this number is low, say less than 15%, the chance of encountering a converting user is much less.

There are times that a business sees a few random conversions and upon seeing a negative return decides that paid search is simply not working. Back to the lake analogy: The problem was that they went out on Saturday morning in their boat, took out the aquarium net for 20 minutes, and then went back in. On some Saturdays they might get a small fish, but often they might come back empty.

If your business is new, people might hesitate to trust you based on a lack of brand awareness. Use strong word of mouth through one channel of advertising, or a combination of multiple channels. Happy customers tell three to four people, and unhappy customers might tell 10. Reviews help convert people to try your brand, but you have to get their foot in the door first. Programmatic display can be a good solution for getting the word out because you’re able to target a specific audience and make them aware of your brand. They’re banner ads on steroids and can yield an enormous amount of data about your customers that you probably never considered. Following that with paid search can be a real win-win if planned and executed well.

Paid search is not necessarily the end-all-be-all solution to every business problem. There are a multitude of factors that come into play when considering a solution to your business issues. As a business owner, you need to remind yourself that although you think you know your customer, this may not be the case. Trust the process of paid search, but know when it’s time to consider other solutions.