There are many misconceptions about paid search. Too often, people can take a very simplified view and perhaps have had a bad experience in understanding the value it can deliver. Too often, opinions can be perceived as fact. I have picked out a few of the most common misconceptions that we hear when discussing paid search programmes.
1. "I need to be in position one”
The highly coveted first position in the search results is where we all long to be, however, when factoring in costs and click volumes of positions 2, 3, 4, etc... chances are you will be paying an awful lot less and only losing a fraction of the traffic. For highly competitive (i.e. expensive CPCs) it is simply not feasible to own position one on every keyword in a given budget – in the same way that every keyword doesn’t have the same value to your business, you would bid for them as opportunities accordingly.
Run the unit economics and chances are, one of the lower ad positions will make more sense for you with lower CPCs but similar click and impression volumes. Get the ad copy to do the heavy lifting to entice the click and you could find one of the lower positions to be a better balance to your CPA and conversion volumes.
2. I don't need to bid on my brand
Brand bidding is a frustration for many marketing managers. ‘Why should we bid on our own brand when the organic listing is below’ is a frequent phrase uttered, but unless you enjoy the luxury of no direct/indirect competitors bidding against you, then you should be prepared to protect your brand, as bidding on your own brand will discourage others.
In a space such as e-commerce I would argue it’s a necessity in the face of owning competition – and as it’s your term, it’s cheaper! If you are in the position of having no competitors in your brand space, don't discount this tactic as you still control the ability to dictate the top messaging in the SERPs as well as controlling where brand traffic lands. Larger brands will run activity largely as brand-led, and others will brand bid in order to showcase new products or support wider campaigns, such as sales periods.
3. Doubling my spend will double my conversions
Generally speaking, once impression shares are maxed out on your core set of keywords, you will find that there is a finite set of opportunities for you. Unlike social or display, you're targeting audiences by the clearest signal possible, however, unless other factors come into play and searches increase amongst your keyword pool, you will have limits. The levers at your disposal effectively boil down to being more aggressive with bids, budgets and best practice optimisation, but at this stage, the larger the investment, the more your CPA will grow exponentially.
4. PPC performance and all channel performance are mutually exclusive
It's easy to forget that whilst we're paying for traffic, factors such as seasonality, buying behaviour fluctuations and general performance are often taken out of the equation when trying to contextualise PPC performance over the past day/week/month/quarter/... Fundamentally, if you have a bad period across other sources, chances are that PPC traffic has suffered a similar fate. When it hasn't followed suit, questions should arise around the various areas of testing you have been running, including keywords, copies and ad positions.
5. Brand conversions should be considered separate to generic conversions
Brand traffic again a topic of conversation, but this misconception is typically borne out of a lack of understanding around attribution. If you believe in prospecting and feeding new users into retargeting then you should believe in generics informing brand.
Yes, brand conversions can be split out from generic conversions, however, are users likely to convert on their first visit to the site? If not, then there is the chance that they will return to the site after a generic search, through a brand search, before then going on to convert. If you don't use third-party tracking software, have a look at Google Analytics to see path lengths to see whether you're being too quick to discount brand conversions from the wider picture - as this will be masking the good work of generic keywords, thus over-emphasising brand performance, meaning they shouldn't necessarily be considered separate.
In most cases, paid search can be a highly viable marketing platform and its dynamic nature allows advertisers to keep pace with the way customers use the internet and use search engines. Do not accept opinion as fact and do invest time in this valuable channel to really understand the benefits it can bring.