The internet may be a commodity, but search engine real estate is hot. Besides home, there are few places people go more often. To the ordinary user, what you see is what you get on the search engine results page.
But for marketers, the search engine results page (SERP) is like prime parking at the stadium: access to the best spot (page one!) is possible—if you’re willing to pay.
In a digital marketing world where companies and merchants compete to snag the best spots, here are a few things about paid search that might surprise you.
Amazon may piggyback off your PPC success
The world’s largest e-commerce search engine has an ace up its sleeve. Did you know if you’re selling a product on Amazon that is getting notices and starts taking off—especially one with a PPC campaign on its ad platform—Amazon may start running its own PPC campaign on Google (think Google Shopping) for your listing?
We saw this happen with Jason Hennessey’s book, Law Firm SEO, which is an Amazon Best Seller and available in-store as well. When searching for the law firm SEO book, it was great to see the glossy red cover appearing in more and more places on the SERP. But how was it appearing in other listings and on unexpected sites? (Thanks, Amazon Advertising and other 3rd-party seller platforms such as Target’s Target Plus!)
For some, this nifty strategy by Amazon is good as it boosts your product’s visibility, but oftentimes that listing will rank higher than yours and outperform your campaign, leading you down an analytics rabbit hole scratching your head about a sudden change in the performance of your once-successful campaign.
It’s also not necessarily great for e-commerce companies who want traffic coming to their listing. The consumer intent is there, as is the interest in your product and potential to convert. When a user arrives via Amazon’s listing, they’re greeted with a spread of competing products, not to mention suggestions of other non-related things they like – and there goes your customer’s intention, and purchase.
Your digital marketing results can improve when paid search and SEO are run together
A few things come into play here that can work in your favor.
Traffic to your website from your PPC campaign signals Google that something about your page appeals to consumers, thus starts to improve your organic listing on the SERP, leading to increased visibility and the potential for more SEO traffic. Seeing your listing twice on the SERP, both in a paid ad and organic listing, also establishes that your company and website are legit.
And what about recall? If your paid search ad catches someone’s attention after appearing in a search on Google, but they didn’t click, they may be apt to do a branded search or another similar search to find you. (Like the display ad you swipe past and wish you could hit the back button to see again.) If your PPC ad isn’t served on the second query, but you appear in the organic listings, voilá – click.
Lastly, one of the greatest benefits rests in the ability to retarget visitors who came to your site via SEO traffic by reaching them during future online activity with PPC advertising and other paid media. This is also known as remarketing.
If budget and bandwidth allow, SEO and Paid Search strategies should co-exist. If you’re curious about which is better for your business – or both, check out this Semrush article.
When paid search accompanies SEO, you have a greater chance of dominating everything above the fold, meaning your company, product or services is one of the first things a potential customer will see, especially on branded searches.
Brandon Caballero, Director of Analytics & Conversion Rate Optimization, Hennessey Digital
People may be skeptical of your paid search ad, then go search for you
If you’ve ever looked at a URL on the SERP and wondered if the company was legitimate, you’re not alone. There are people who see a paid ad, distrust it, and open a new tab to Google the company name, especially if they originally clicked through and were taken to a landing page with an off-domain website without consistent branding. Our clients have mentioned it, and being internet users ourselves, a few of us have done it, too.
For example, take the search for “best athletic socks.” You may see an ad for cooljumpropesocks.com and be taken to a page from a company called Feet For All. Immediately, you start wondering if your antivirus protection is up to date and who are you about to call or submit your credit card information to. So you open a new tab and Google “Feet For All,” see it’s an official company, and make your purchase there.
Disclaimer: This fictional example is based on real events and was independently created by a human author and possesses at least some degree of creativity!
It’s an interesting habit, so don’t get so lost in creativity you lose a potential customer, too.
It’s one of the few times in competition where being #1 doesn’t matter
Yes, paid search gives you immediate, relevant, and good visibility. Kind of like seeing your face on the Jumbotron at a baseball game, it feels so good seeing your company at the very top of Google, doesn’t it? But just like having that prime parking position at the stadium, having your ad park two or three spots away might save you a few dollars and give you just as good of results, if not better.
Why? The act of searching is often a starting point. A consumer is looking for information or a solution to their problem. Fast-paced online habits may result in you getting a quick click without the user fully reading your ad or putting thought into it, which could lead to waste.
Which brings me to point two: the first position is expensive, especially for highly competitive keywords. You can bid your way there, but you want to be as efficient with your campaign as possible. Data shows ranking in the top 3 yields strong paid search performance, but spots 2 and 3 might give your budget the discount it needs.
Of course, there are times where this prime position will make sense for you, and your campaign strategy, data and optimization will tell you that.
The future of paid search conversion may not happen on your site but you’ll still want to pay to play
If you’ve been around a while like I have, what paid search ads look like and where they are placed have definitely evolved. Ads once consisting of simply a headline and copy can now include images, direct links to specific pages, or transactions that can take place without the user ever leaving Google. (Not sure how Doc missed this one in Back to the Future, even if the movie came out before search engines existed. Feelin’ old?!)
It’s not hard to imagine we’re a few innovations away from more transactions, lead generation, and revenue-driving conversions happening directly on Google without the consumer ever leaving the SERP or coming to your site.
The downside? A dramatic shift in your website analytics. The plus? Conversions that affect your bottom line.
Remember, Google makes its purpose very clear: to provide the best user experience possible. They want to deliver what the consumer is looking for fast and effectively. As marketers, we’re Google’s real-time guinea pigs for research and development of their products and improving the consumer experience.
Ad products such as Google Ad Extensions already make it possible with their lead form extension, and so do MarTech companies like LockerDome with their interactive widgets for the native advertising space.
Anthony Founier, Paid Search Specialist, and Brandon Caballero, Director of Analytics & CRO, also contributed to this article.