With all the different ways digital marketers can invest in ad spending it is important to assess which methods work best. One of the most relevant methods has been search engine advertising, mostly utilized as pay per click or PPC ads. This is often considered to be one of the methods of Search Engine Marketing or SEM. SEM essentially refers to advertising within search engines, Google, Yahoo, Bing or others.
Referring specifically to PPC ads, these are the ads located at the top of the search engine results page. But search ads don’t necessarily refer only to ads featured in the search engine results page and can refer to any ads related to how a user is searching in general. More recently, it has been coming into question whether search engine based advertising is still relevant or not.
In 2015, mobile web-search advertising generated nearly $9 billion, which is up 34% as reported by the Interactive Advertising Bureau. However, according to the Harvard Business Review, a study conducted the same year found that when major internet brand eBay started and then stopped its advertising on a large search engine there was no difference in traffic as a result. This led to a question of the effectiveness of search advertising and led to further studies involving a similar business model operated by another major internet brand, Yelp.
In case you are unfamiliar, Yelp is a website that allows restaurant patrons to provide reviews of restaurants that they have visited and post them online. In the Yelp study, the effect of search ads featured on Yelp were recorded to see whether it had any effect on the restaurant websites featured in the ads. The results showed a notable increase in page views on the restaurant websites that disappeared when the ads were taken down.
As to why there was such a significant difference between the Yelp study and the eBay study, the answer likely has more to do with the big brands themselves than the search ads. The well-known name of eBay is one that is so familiar that many users are likely to type it directly into a search engine whereas many of the restaurants featured in the Yelp study were lesser known local subjects. Therefore, a discernable difference in traffic was unlikely to be recorded for the eBay study where the Yelp study was more likely to, and did, ultimately reveal a notable decrease when removing the ad.
Other examples of modern search ads being offered are those recently offered by Apple’s app store. For marketers trying to sell apps, these have proven to be a valuable new resource and it is reported that conversion rates are up by 50%.
It seems that likely search ads still have relevance when utilized as part of a complete marketing strategy. Of course, search engines are among the most frequented areas of the internet by potential customers. The adoption of AdWords-like search ads in the app store is a logical extension of the search ad model which seeks to provide users with advertising based on their search history. This is especially valuable when transactional terms are being used. The app store, unlike search engines, is a market so the utilization of search advertising only makes sense. Even if you are not trying to sell an app on the app store, research seems to show that utilizing search engine advertising would be a valuable part of your business’ digital marketing plan.