Google is King of the Mountain when it comes to market share for search. ComScore released their December 2010 search statistics, where Google leads the way with 66.6% of the search market. By comparison, Yahoo was in second place with 16.0% and MSN was third with 12.0% (essentially giving the Search Alliance a 28% share). Google’s numbers are overwhelming and undeniable. If you are running a Pay-per-Click (PPC) campaign, there is a high probability you are either running ads in Google now, or have used their AdWords platform in the past. With that dominant market share comes big-time competition, and it can be very difficult for smaller companies to compete with large companies who can spend ten times or more in PPC campaigns. Optimizing your PPC campaigns, bidding on long-tail keyphrases, and building quality landing pages can help increase your conversion numbers so you can still maintain a presence in Google, without getting buried under an avalanche of competitor ads.
Another option to consider is to allocate budget toward other online media channels. One channel that has recently made positive strides for targeted advertising is LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com). LinkedIn recently unveiled a new targeting option that allows advertisers to target their PPC ads based on job title, company, and specific Groups LinkedIn members have associated with their account. Imagine being able to run a television commercial or radio spot that is only served to people who have a high probability of purchasing your product or service? This type of granular targeting is an excellent way for smaller companies to expand their online presence and still keep a tightly focused marketing message to their most desired demographic.
For example, if you are a painting supply company specializing in paint brushes and other accessories for contractors and design professionals, you can run a campaign just serving ads to those professionals on LinkedIn. That is a very powerful way to brand your business and at the same time closely manage your advertising costs. While you may not see the huge number of visitors or impressions that you get from Google’s user base, the conversion is more important and you may find these alternative channels to Google, such as LinkedIn, are the perfect fit for your online marketing message.
I discovered Wikipedia in 2004 and have used the site extensively to research everything from pop culture and ancient history to current events. While I do recall there being some controversy over accuracy issues in the site’s early days, Wikipedia has been accepted by a majority of people as a reliable source of information. As the site has grown in size, both in terms of visitors it attracts and the number of pages it creates, the website continues to be that free online resource I remember back in the day.
As Wikipedia reaches its 10th birthday, I can’t help but wonder how much longer it will continue to be ad free. If visitors use the site like I do (and yes, I know I should never assume everyone uses the internet like “I” do), the potential for brand messaging alone is huge. I rarely spend less than 10 minutes on the site once I decide to use it as a reference. Almost every (if not all) the articles are interlinked to other pages and I often find myself clicking on those links as well (after I initially look up what I came for in the first place). After reviewing some of the statistics that the Pew Internet & American Life Project has collected, http://pewinternet.org/Reports/2011/Wikipedia.aspx, I see that I am not alone in my Wikipedia usage.
Among some of the highlights from Pew’s findings (that advertisers would be attracted to):
For another year at least, my colleagues and I in the online marketing industry will have to settle for using Wikipedia for personal use only. But nothing stays the same forever, this is particularly true for technology and anything related to the internet. As a regular internet user, I can appreciate the advertising free version Wikipedia has maintained for 10 long digital years. The online marketer in me…would love an opportunity to market for my clients on Wikipedia. I wonder how much it would cost to run a banner campaign on the homepage of Wikipedia? I would anticipate a very large monthly minimum spend and a minimum campaign length in order to be considered. I would also expect some of the largest companies in the world lining up to advertise on the site. We may never know these figures or we may know by next year! I am not predicting Wikipedia will ever change their model, but if they do, the site usage and demographics alone will attract major advertising dollars. In that respect, I do predict those dollars to be greater than the 16 million Wikipedia raised this year to meet their goal of another ad free year.
Another holiday season in the books, did you meet your goals? There are still plenty of customers out there shopping, so its time to get creative with new ad messaging. In addition, make sure those holiday ads are pulled down.
As we move into the 1st quarter of 2011, you are going to see plenty of post holiday specials. When running a Pay-per-Click (PPC) campaign, you need to be imaginative with your message to attract customers. Many companies run big sales on overstock products, but how do you separate yourself from the competition? Price is always a big attention getter, but if you simply offer deep discounts in your ads, you will merely be bunched into a large group of similar companies saying the same thing. Yes, you have a “Clearance Sale” and so do the other 50 PPC ads competing for the first page! Think about inventive ways to attract customers beyond just the slashing of prices. Think about using humor or word play to make your ad copy stand out. Strategies such as these can be just as attractive for a searcher, if not more eye catching, than seeing another post-holiday sale offer. Once they get to your site, you can clearly show they are getting the great deal they expect with compelling landing page content.
While planning out a creative strategy for your post holiday campaigns, make sure you terminate any ads specifically written for the holiday rush. One of the quickest ways to turn off a customer is to have active ads promoting a sale that is no longer in place. You are almost certain to see high click-through rates, higher bounce rates, and very low conversions if you are not closely managing your seasonal ad copy. Additionally, if you have selling points like “Buy Now to arrive before Christmas” in ads still running in the month of January you can be sure customers will be turned off by your lack due diligence. I am always surprised by the number of PPC campaigns that are too slow to adjust to the changes in the season. I don’t think I am alone in ignoring campaigns that offer 25% discounts on orders placed before December 22nd when I am searching on January 4th.
These two concepts may seem elementary but they can go a long way to differentiate your company from the competition. Do not assume everyone is being as creative and diligent with their ads because the fact is, they are not. Conduct a few searches yourself to see what’s being promoted in ads for your top keywords. Avoid the temptation to follow the herd with bland “clearance sale” ad copy and stand out from the pack with ingenuity. Lastly, and I cannot stress this enough, pull down those outdated holiday ads.