In the 1970s and early 1980s a popular expression among the computing fraternity was that ‘nobody ever got fired for buying IBM’. This message was a key element in the FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) school of sales and marketing – implying not only that IBM equipment was superior to the competition but that even if it didn’t turn out to be then the purchaser could hardly be blamed as all they had done was go with the conventional wisdom.
In reality the ‘nobody ever got fired…’ concept has been with us since time immemorial – ‘trust me, Caesar, no emperor ever got fired for building a straight road, so leave it with me and watch those Ides on your way out’ – so it should come as no surprise that it is alive and well in the twenty first century. And for marcoms professionals in large and small companies alike, the modern equivalent might be ‘nobody ever got fired for using Pay-per-Click advertising’.
Before I go on I should say that I love the concept of Google AdWords and other PPC products. The idea that, depending on your willingness to pay, you can quickly guarantee to appear on the first page of a search for your chosen keywords is a simple concept to understand and to sell – both for the major search engines and for the marcoms professional looking to impress their boss. What’s more the success is much more measurable than almost any other form of advertising. However, this is no panacea – a successful marcoms campaign does not start and end with PPC.
Why? Because we all know from our own online search experiences that in many cases it is the ‘organic’ rather than the ‘sponsored link’ results that we turn to first. What’s more, research tells that we are a third less likely to bounce away from a website that we reach via an organic rather than a ‘sponsored’ link (though this may have something to do with the companies that plough all of their budget into PPC to the detriment of everything else, being the same companies that put less investment into making their website attractive to the visitor in the first place).
For the vast majority of companies, PPC should be seen as only one element of a diverse range of marketing communications activities. Investment should also be put into Search engine optimisation techniques designed to improve the organic rankings of sites and individual pages in the major search engines, identifying other methods of driving up website traffic – for example direct marketing – and ensuring that once visitors get to your site they want to stay there.