Are Search Ads Worth the Money?

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Learn if search ads are really worth the money…

are search ads worth the moneySearch engine marketing, or SEM, is the practice of paying for ads that appear on the SERP, or, search engine results page. Typically, these are found at the top of search results, as well as on a side column.

A standard practice for many marketing groups, search ads are supposed to increase brand exposure and cause consumers to click. Ideally, such ads not only help to increase brand awareness, but also, increase sales. The key question for many who are considering this type of marketing is about return-on-investment.

Are Search Ads Worth the Money?

The results of the study in the nearby quote revealed when researchers turned-off paid ads, nearly all of the clicks came through free or organic channels and practically no traffic was lost. The survey included two groups within 68 direct marketing areas in the United States over a period of 60 days. One group was showed paid ads returned on search results pages while the other group only saw organic search results.

Businesses investing in paid search-engine ads often aren’t getting their money’s worth, new research suggests. A study by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, the University of Chicago and eBay studied whether consumers are more likely to click on paid search-engine ads than on free, organic search results. —Business News Daily

At the conclusion of the study, researchers learned consumer sales from paid search ads showed no measurable increase. The principal researcher noted if paid search ads truly drive traffic, then sales from the group exposed only to organic results should have drastically plummeted. That dynamic did not materialize, “…the impact on sales was indistinguishable and not significantly different than zero,” explained Steven Tadelis, one of the study’s authors, an economist at the Haas School of Business.

Why Paid Search Ads Are a Waste of Money

There are various ways to market your business, and search ads are just one of them. These are traditionally where you pay for each click you receive, but some will require a set amount each month to show your ad. The question many business owners have is whether they are worth the money. The truth is they really aren’t, and here’s why:

  • You have little to no control. Paid search ads appear on the search engines, whether it is Google, Bing, Yahoo or others. The problem is you don’t control where your ad is placed, and you have no control over the search engine. You can’t dictate where your ad appears to make sure you get the best placement for your target audience.
  • Competitor ads appear next to yours. You will also be surrounded by your competitors, all offering something similar. In many cases, it’s one ad after another, and people tend to ignore clutter. Consumers think this does nothing to help their search in some cases; at least, that is something they believe. Even if they do click one, there is a high chance they will click on one of your competitors instead.
  • A big budget is necessary to be effective. Your budget will limit the amount your ads are shown. Once you’ve received the number of clicks to reach the top-end of your budget, the search engine will remove the ad. Those clicks don’t necessarily turn into sales — you might not have reached the right people.
  • Ads will appear out of context. Finally, you have no control over the context and value of the ad. The space is extremely limited, and you can’t control when they show up in the search engines. You’re not necessarily going to speak to your audience, even if it is targeted because there’s not much context, unlike your proprietary site or customized social media profiles.
  • Paid advertisements aren’t trustworthy. Consumers don’t tend to trust advertisements precisely because they understand that a company is paying to be conspicuous and increase its sales.

In addition to these reasons, understand that paid ads do nothing for your site’s organic search rank, “Advertising on Google has no impact on your organic or natural ranking in the search results; the two are completely separate,” Google AdWords discloses.  In short, paid search ads a waste of time and money. Spend your marketing budget elsewhere and really make a bang for your company.

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Alex Ingham

Alex is a full-time writer from the U.K. who blogs about search, social media, and content marketing. Her website can be found at: Alexandria-Ingham.com.