Digital marketing has been on the rise, and there is no sign that it’s slowing down any time soon. One of the most appealing things about digital marketing is the way it provides a framework that enables you to link investment and returns. And the latter is hugely appealing to the board room. This link between investment and measurement is not for all digital channels. In ‘marketing speak,’ we usually talk about the so-called ‘direct response’ channels that provide the clearest link between investment and return. A usual suspect that can be considered a ‘classic’ direct response channel is paid search advertising, also shortened and referred to as PPC or SEA. For most companies, PPC provides steady performance and sensible investment.
The trouble, however, is that paid search advertising is not an infinite investment area, as with any other marketing channel, you will hit a point of diminishing returns. The principle is straightforward, PPC is a ‘demand-pull’ channel. It can grab the demand that is there, but it can’t generate demand. So once the demand that was there has been harvested (by the collective set of advertisers) without this being recognized, an advertiser might still continue to keep investing based on earlier results. This investment will usually flow into areas that weren’t covered before. In the search engine world, we typically refer to search intent and user journey.
Good Money After Bad
As the initial (high converting) search queries are exhausted, we move to earlier stages in someone’s user journey and the intended changes. When someone was primed to make a decision and buy a product, the search intent now becomes more exploratory. At this point, further investment in PPC will start going into the bad side of the diminishing returns curve. In reality, this is quite a harsh realization for advertisers to uncover and accept. It’s tempting to keep investing, hoping for a better result.
Moving Up In The Funnel
The smart money is to go upwards, however. If the demand-pull channels are done, particularly the search intents covering buying queries, the next step would be to target all those search queries that came before that, in that order, going from the back to the front. They might not be as profitable as the ‘buy-minded’ searches, but at least they do generate a return. So the shift goes from ‘buying’ to ‘researching.’ But here’s a curveball, users with the research intent are less likely to click on paid search adverts. This is where the organic search results come in, and the value of SEO services becomes clear.
The latter is often widely accepted, but often companies will underestimate or complete misjudge the value of SEO. For example, most companies will assign SEO decisions to their IT department rather than their marketing department. Also, as organic results play a role in the steps before the buying point in the journey, the value of it is usually undercounted. PPC will take all the credit where SEO might have been doing the heavy lifting. To avoid that the short term focus leads to long term problems companies need to be willing to look beyond the numbers right now and consider the journey that is evident now, and in the future.