PPC Pros and Cons (And How to Make Paid Ads Work for You)
When new clients reach out to us to establish a strong content marketing strategy, many ask us if we will use pay-per-click advertising (also known as PPC) to get them on the first page of Google search results. And the answer is… maybe.
The truth is that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to paid advertising, and we never want our clients to invest a lot of money in something that may just be a quick fix with no longevity. Before we advise a specific solution to our clients, we take time to consider the effectiveness of pay-per-click advertising for each unique business.
Today, we’re revealing all the PPC pros and cons we consider for each client so you can decide whether or not Google advertising or social media advertising will work for you (and, if so, how to combine it with content marketing to really maximize your results!)
How do paid ads work?
Pay-per-click advertising is pretty much exactly what it sounds like — you’re paying for your ad based on the number of clicks it receives. In traditional advertising, marketers would pay for an ad upfront, not knowing how many impressions, conversions, or click-throughs they would get. With PPC, instead of paying a set fee, you pay each time your ad gets a click. You can run PPC advertisements on a wide variety of platforms, including Facebook, Google, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. You choose the budget, the ad, and the demographic, and then the platform will take care of the rest.
On Google, you’ll see your paid ads pop up at the top of the list when people search for your chosen keywords. On social media, your ad would pop up in-feed. Both of these ads will be flagged as sponsored posts to alert audiences that it’s not an organic post or search result. Your ad will run until you reach your budget and then Google, Facebook, or whatever other platforms you’re using will stop running your ad.
PPC Pro: Immediate Visibility
One of our favorite parts of Google advertising is that a paid search campaign works instantly. Users who search the terms you specify will see your business at the top of their search results, so you can draw those eyes to your site and hopefully convert those visitors to leads.
If you’re launching a new business or website, it’s going to take some time to generate organic traffic. You can give your site an immediate traffic boost with a PPC ad campaign, so people can find you right away as you wait for your site to climb the Google search rankings. The same is often true for social media marketing. Companies who are just starting out might have a hard time growing their following organically, and will use paid ads to share their posts with a specific demographic that might not only click on the ad, but follow the account and interact with the company down the line. This makes pay per click an appealing tool for businesses that need sales quickly and are just starting to build out their content for organic growth.
PPC Pro: Tight Budget Control
Speaking of a paid advertising budget, we do appreciate that Google advertising, social media advertising, and other PPC options give you tight control over every penny you spend. By setting limits on your daily ad spend, you can ensure you never break the bank as you attract visitors, convert them to leads, and track your ROI for paid marketing. Plus, there’s virtually no minimum spend required, which makes PPC accessible for businesses of all sizes.
PPC Pro: PPC Is Targeted
If you do decide to attract traffic through paid ads, maximize the effectiveness of pay per click advertising by targeting your ads. With PPC Google ads, social media ads, and similar platforms, you have an amazing opportunity to get very specific about the audience you want to reach.
It’s no secret that mass media virtually doesn’t exist anymore. Fifty years ago, television, radio and even newspapers could guarantee marketers a mass reach, but with millions of different channels, sites, and stations, there’s not one single way to reach everyone. Targeted and hyper-focused advertisements have proven to have a greater impact on today’s audiences. You could be reaching thousands of people with your ad, but if you’re talking to the wrong crowd, it’s essentially money down the drain. PPC allows you to target your desired audience so you never waste a dollar on someone who’s not interested in your business.
Before you jump into PPC, make sure you’ve defined your target audience. Check out our blog post for a step-by-step guide on how to reach the right audience. Once you’ve figured out who you’re targeting, you can apply that data to your ads. You can make your ads only visible to a certain geographical location, demographic, and much more. You can even customize the time of day your ad is seen! This control means you can really get strategic in writing ads that connect with your buyer personas to attract traffic and drive conversions.
PPC Pro: Track Your Results
Because you pay for each and every click, it’s important to track your results to maximize your ROI. Fortunately, PPC gives you ample opportunity to measure and improve your performance. With so much data at your fingertips, it helps to partner with a marketing company who can make sense of the numbers and decode the important stories they tell.
When looking for a marketing company, be wary of any that are unwilling to answer your questions and instead hope to take full control of your PPC advertising. The ideal PPC partner will respect that you know your company best and share the results with you so that you can refine and strengthen your campaigns together.
PPC Con: No Longevity
While we do love that pay per click grants you immediate visibility, the flip side of that coin is that influx of leads drop off the day you quit paying for Google advertising or social media advertising. For many companies, this makes PPC too expensive to be a long-term strategy.
These pros and cons of paid advertising typically lead us to recommend that businesses pair PPC with other digital marketing strategies. With content marketing, for example, you will make an initial investment in creating the content, but once you climb the search results, you can continue reaching prospects for free for a long time and pull back on your paid advertising budget.
PPC Con: Bidding Wars
While PPC does give you tight control over your spending, that doesn’t mean this option is always inexpensive. After all, everyone wants to be at the top of Google search results—including your competition. And when two or more companies are vying for the same keyword ranking with their PPC campaigns, bidding wars can result. When this happens, it’s important to remember that your competition with other businesses is always secondary to your true goal: attracting traffic. That way, you don’t bust the budget to win the battle when you could save money and win the war that matters.
This is one of the areas where we have to weigh the pros and cons of paid advertising for every client. For some industries, Google advertising isn’t competitive and bidding wars are rare, which makes PPC an easy win as businesses get their digital marketing strategy off the ground. For others, the competition makes it too expensive and we recommend other options with better long-term growth. Either way, this is a good reminder of why it’s important to pair PPC with an organic inbound strategy to grow the “free” clicks you get by appearing in the search results the old-fashioned way.
PPC Con: You Pay for Each Click
When you launch your pay per click campaign, you pay for every click on your ad. These clicks could be from viable prospects, or they could be from competitors or even people who just accidentally click on your ad. Either way, you pay. So make sure your keywords and ads are targeted and specific to your desired audience. And make sure you maximize your ROI by knowing how to capture and nurture those leads when they land on your site.
After all, the click is only half the battle. If a visitor clicks through but finds your landing page irrelevant, confusing, or overwhelming, they’ll just click away and you’ll lose the money and the prospect. That’s why the most effective PPC strategy will funnel people into your strong inbound strategy, not serve as an alternative to getting that strategy in place.
PPC Con: Consumers Are Smart
In a nutshell, many consumers tend to ignore sponsored ads. Google clearly marks PPC ads and social platforms mark sponsored social media posts with a “sponsored” tag, and many times, customers will scroll quickly past those to get to the organic results. This isn’t all bad. Even seeing your business name on their screen will help build brand recognition, and you aren’t paying for that exposure unless it leads to a click.
But this still serves as yet another reminder that PPC works best as one part of a robust digital marketing strategy, not as a “cure-all” for generating leads and sales. PPC can help generate some traffic—and quickly—but you can only enjoy the maximum effectiveness of pay per click advertising when you have a well-rounded inbound strategy in place.
PPC Con: Creative assets
With Google ads, it’s all about the keywords. However, when we’re talking about Facebook ad costs and Instagram ad costs, there are a few other things to consider. Rather than just popping up with a title and meta description, social ads present your audience with a more well-rounded advertisement. This means you have to take a graphic, illustration, or other visual element into account when planning and budgeting.
If your business has a great stock of images and videos to choose from, this won’t be an issue, but if you want something eye-catching and original, it’s worth the investment. Don’t forget that this visual also has to be optimized for desktop and mobile.
PPC and COVID-19
By now we all know that COVID-19 has become an economic crisis as well as a public health crisis. Small businesses are struggling to stay afloat, big companies are taking major hits, and everyone is looking for a solution to carry them through this difficult time. Almost every business has had to adapt by taking their business online if it wasn’t already or by updating their online presence to be accessible and robust. It’s important to keep your eye on Google and social media ad results as they often tend to shift according to the state of the world. Unsurprisingly, charities and medical companies are seeing spikes in ad clicks and conversions since the beginning of COVID-19.
As the pandemic continues, many businesses are eager to get their sales back up, but PPC might not be the best option depending on your industry. If you’re unsure whether paid ads will help or hinder your business right now, you can try it out while keeping your risk low. How do you do that? Update your messaging to be in-line with the times, react quickly to the data, and cut ads that aren’t your top performers. Keep your ad spend low and keep an eye on them as they run so you can avoid wasting money on tactics that aren’t working.
So, is PPC right for your business?
After weighing out the pros and cons of paid advertising, we hope you can see that PPC can be a great way to gain visibility, reach, and lead conversion in a short window of time. On the other hand, it can also get expensive fast, so being well-informed is the key to success. That’s why we typically recommend pairing PPC with organic SEO (via content marketing) to help you reach your marketing goals without breaking the bank.
As you consider how to balance these strategies to grow your own digital marketing experience, why not get some input from a digital marketing expert? Reach out to us to learn more about PPC and whether it’s right for your business. You can also sign up for our newsletter to get more insights and tips from our DuBose Web team.
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