Paid Search: Taboo or Treasure?

As the industry has come to embrace inbound marketing strategies with open arms, a focus on generating unpaid traffic to one’s website has been clearly established. The concept of inbound marketing seems to carry along with it this unspoken idea that inbound marketing is not necessarily associated with paid marketing… Or at least that’s the way it is in my mind. I think this has to do with the fact that content marketing and social media, which are both traditionally considered unpaid forms of marketing communication, are major pieces of an inbound strategy. This can marginalize paid advertising in the minds of inbound strategists, and for some, it may even be considered a taboo. While traditional forms of paid advertising are outside the realm of inbound marketing, one form of paid advertising that is well within this realm is paid search.

Illusion or Reality?

Paid search, also known as pay-per-click (PPC), is when a company pays a search engine for a link to it’s webpage to appear on the results page of a search query. Instead of appearing on a search results page organically (unpaid), which is the goal of SEO, pay-per-click attempts to draw more site traffic by paying for favorable real estate on results pages. It’s paid, but it’s also inbound. How does that work? It’s not going against the principles of inbound to utilize a paid search campaign. Paid search is not about interrupting, its about drawing interested visitors to your site by placing your company presence in their search results based off of certain relevant keywords that they have entered. This is definitely consistent with an inbound strategy, so any notion that inbound does not involve paid advertising is definitely an illusion and is rather unrealistic.

Okay, but is it necessary?

Necessary is a strong word. It would definitely be a stretch to consider paid search a fundamental part of an inbound marketing strategy, but it can be of some great benefit. Peep Laja, the founder of ConversionXL puts it eloquently:

“PPC can still drive massive amounts of traffic. Facebook and Google have both recently made it more difficult to reach people organically and have enhanced the options to reach audiences through paid means. And while PPC costs have been rising each year, I have a ton of clients who make A LOT of money through PPC. The question is never Inbound vs. PPC. They are not excluding each other. PPC is another channel to reach targeted audiences. If you’re not tapping it, you’re making a conscious decision to not use all the channels at your disposal.”

And if Peep’s advice isn’t enough to convince you, maybe the following statistic will. Apparently, the top three paid ad spots on a search result page receive an average of 41% of all page clicks. That’s a pretty impressive number. This means that if you aren’t using PPC in your inbound campaign, you could easily be missing out on quite a a lot of potential site traffic. So it’s not necessarily a matter of necessity, but rather a matter of inbound optimization.

Insights to Remember

One important thing to keep in mind is that paid search should never stand alone in an inbound marketing strategy. It is meant to compliment other inbound components that are better at driving traffic. In fact, it really shines well in an already effective SEO campaign because it allows for the possibility of double exposure to your content in a search result. PPC should be thought of almost like the cherry on top; It makes the ice cream a whole lot better, but you can have good ice cream without it. It’s not a replacement, it’s a compliment.

Although paid search isn’t meant to stand alone, it shouldn’t be underestimated because it can help your inbound campaign in more ways than one. For example, using Google’s PPC system allows you to direct your traffic to multiple destinations. In other words, whenever someone clicks on your ad, each visitor can be sent two two different versions of your web page. This makes PPC great for A/B testing your landing pages, providing you with the opportunity to work on optimizing your website to produce a better user experience and drive more conversions.

In addition, Google’s PPC program allows you to see which keywords visitors are using to find your content. It also shows you which keywords are most effective in providing impressions and resulting in traffic to your site. This extremely valuable information can be utilized not only for your paid search campaign, but for your organic SEO campaign as well. Knowing what key words drive the most traffic can allow you to optimize your content by including these words on your pages. So clearly, there is great value in having a paid search campaign and it should not be avoided, especially if you are using an inbound marketing strategy. As for the question: taboo or treasure? I would say that paid search is neither, but it should definitely be taken seriously.

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