The cost of search engine advertising is on the rise, and there has been more than a little scuttlebutt in the industry that perhaps search is getting too expensive for small business or Small to Medium Enterprise (SME).
In a word: hogwash.
The strength of a search engine advertising initiative has a direct correlation to the level of sophistication exhibited in the execution of the said initiative.
In other words, a precision rifle in the hands of a skilled marksman can be a deadly accurate weapon. The same rifle in the hands of a knuckle-dragging cave dweller couldn't hit the broad side of a Tyrannosaur at ten paces.
Small business, big business and everything in between can take advantage of search. As is often the case in an industry that has grown from millions to billions in a few short years, there is much confusion in the space.
Let's see if we can debunk a few of the big search advertising myths.
Myth #1: search is too expensive
Search, when compared to other forms of advertising can be pricey. Of course, it never has been the cheapest form of advertising. However, increased search activity and competition in the category aren't helping matters. The problem with most "measuring services" is the lack of depth and specificity for an advertiser.
That is to say, looking at the top 50 search terms does not provide a clear depiction of what's happening in the industry or what may be specific to you as an advertiser.
In a world with millions of potential keyword and phrase combinations, focusing on the most expensive is a quick way to end search advertising happiness. There's plenty of gold in them thar hills, and lower cost, lower volume terms can still get you to the bank.
Myth #2: my ROI is falling
ROI (Return on Investment) is often too broad a measure and used interchangeably with ROAS (Return on Advertising Spending), the correct measure of advertising success. ROAS numbers can be accumulated with ROI, but the two are not the same. Measurement is critically important in search, and SMEs are arguably less sophisticated (read: have less resources) than big brands.
Are you measuring latent purchase behavior? How about offline sales attributed to search? Return numbers start to look better when you are able to account for spending.
Myth #3: my tool is better than your tool
Often, search engine advertising initiatives are left on autopilot with artificial-intelligence-based bid management tools making bad decisions on the advertiser's behalf.
While bid management tools do have their place in the grand scheme of things, a bid management interface is not a cure-for-cancer pill. A solid search initiative requires active tactical changes and sound strategic direction.
Why are you bidding on the same keywords with the same messaging as last year? Change it up, pay close attention to what's happening, get smarter and dig deeper.
Myth #4: the party is over
Sure, small business once dominated search advertising while big brands scoffed at the space, but what is all this nonsense about the party being over? When did the party start and how did I miss the invites?
Search volume is increasing at about 30 percent per year, according to October, 2006 comScore data. Keyword costs rise and fall with seasons as well as reactive behavior on the part of the consuming and searching public. Publisher-based search offerings have also become more sophisticated, creating more opportunities for advertisers.
Have you taken a look at content search lately? No single aspect of search advertising has evolved to the benefit of advertisers' more than content search.
So… rise again, little fighter
Small businesses lose to big brands all the time; it is the nature of the beast. Small to Medium Enterprise (SME) being pushed out of search due to rising costs is an erroneous explanation or simply a bad excuse. The popularity of search advertising isn't crowding the marketplace as much as it is stimulating change.
Many SMEs are even checking out of search in favor of more traditional advertising means. Excellent choice, perhaps the notion of multiple advertising vehicles to reach a target audience actually does make sense. Don't look now, SMEs you are starting to take the big brand approach.
Then again, dropping out of search and moving back to traditional media due to overcrowding claims is like saying, "I don't understand this new fangled au-to-mo-bile, so I am switching back to my good old horse and buggy."
Kevin Ryan is the chief executive officer of Kinetic Results. .