Published 26 April 2017
As the names suggests, search advertising is a type of online advertising in which ads are displayed from search engine queries. The world’s largest search engine, Google, offers a pay-per-click (PPC) platform known as Google AdWords. Bing offers a similar search advertising service, Bing Ads. Using these platforms, advertisers can create text ads that are displayed in the search results.
Establishing Your Brand’s Credibility
It’s important to note, however, that search advertising isn’t limited strictly to traditional search engines like Google and Bing. Other websites with internal search functions like Yelp offer their own search advertising services.
Whether advertising via TV commercials, radio advertisements, direct mail, email, roadside billboards, etc., you probably want to know if it works — and search advertising is no exception. So, do search ads really work?
Search-based advertising has been around for over a decade, with origins dating back to 2002 during which GoTo.com (later renamed to Overture) launched the world’s first sponsored search auction. Since then,
Search Advertising Effectiveness
To better understand the effectiveness of search advertising and whether or not it’s “worth it,” you should look at various studies. Several years ago, eBay Research Labs conducted a study to analyse the impact their search ads had on traffic. Conventional wisdom should lead you to believe that spending more money on search ads would result in more traffic. However, eBay’s team found no difference in traffic from investing in search ads.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that search advertising is ineffective. You have to remember that eBay is already a well-known and globally recognised brand, so exposure on the search engines isn’t going to yield much of an impact (if any). For smaller businesses without this level of recognition, search advertising can most certainly translate into more traffic and sales.
Michael Luca, assistant professor at Harvard Business School, conducted his own study on search advertising. Luca’s study, however, focused specifically on U.S.-based restaurants that advertised on Yelp. For the study, Luca and his team designed free Yelp ad packages for more than 7,000 restaurants that had never previously advertised their business on the site. Over the next three months, Luca monitored user engagement with the advertised restaurants.
So, what did he find? Luca found that advertising on Yelp increased page views for the respective restaurants by 22% on desktop computers, 30% on smartphones and tablet, and 25% overall. Advertising on Yelp also increased inquiries for directions by 18%, website click-throughs by 9%, and calls to the restaurants by 13%.
Why Search Advertising Is Effective For Small Businesses
One of the reasons why search advertising is so effective for small businesses is because of the increasing number of people who now use the Internet. According to InternetWorldStats, just 719 million people throughout the world were connected to the Internet in December 2003. Fast forward to December 2016, and more than 3.6 billion people now use the Internet. As Internet accessibility/usage grows, search advertising becomes more effective, allowing small business owners to reach a larger audience.
Search advertising is also laser-focused. With traditional banner ads, you don’t have much control over who sees your ads. Search advertising differs, however, by allowing business owners to target narrow demographics via keywords. You choose your “target keywords,” which trigger your ad when someone searches for one of them. If you run a local wedding dress boutique, for instance, you can target keywords like “wedding dress” and “bridal gown.” Furthermore, you can choose the specific regions for which your ads will display.
The Bottom Line…
To recap, search advertising is worth the investment. While larger and more established brands may find it ineffective, it’s particularly helpful at driving traffic and sales for smaller businesses.
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