Every year, media pundits question the wisdom of spending money on Super Bowl ads. They're ridiculously expensive, and it's difficult to track the ROI. Many would argue that Super Bowl advertisers would be better off buying PPC ads.
Why do companies run Super Bowl ads? I'm sure the reasons are infinite: prestige, ego, and buzz certainly make the list. But the two biggest motives usually cited as justification for the expense are branding and awareness – goals not normally associated with PPC search.
One of the compelling reasons to use search is the fact that it can be tracked in detail. No TV advertiser can claim to know exactly who bought a Chevrolet or a six-pack of Budweiser as a direct result of that Super Bowl ad. But with PPC, advertisers do know.
Do PPC search ads really drive awareness?
In many cases, the answer is no. Search is an active channel: users have to type in a query in order for ads to show. If your product or service is brand new, people may not be searching for it. That means you won't get much traffic, and won't drive many leads or sales from search. I've dealt with this a few times recently: clients are launching a new product, and search volume is nearly non-existent.
The key is to create search volume where none exists. But how? Does this mean you have to shell out $4 million for a Super Bowl ad?
Not necessarily. PPC is still a viable option. Here's how to generate awareness using PPC.
Get Clear on Your Goals
If you've been thinking of PPC as an inexpensive way to drive direct sales, you'll need to put that thinking aside for now. You need traffic in order to drive those sales, and to get traffic, you need people searching on your keywords. Your goal for now should be to get people to search.
For an awareness campaign, metrics that are of minor importance in a keyword search campaign will take center stage. You'll want to measure and optimize for some or even all of the following:
- Impression share
- Click-through rate
- Cost per click
Identify Your Audience
Once you've decided on your goals, consider your audience. Are you targeting teenagers who watch YouTube or Hulu in their spare time? Or are you a B2B marketer who needs to reach executives? Will text ads tell your story efficiently, or do you need video to demonstrate? Where does your audience hang out online? Where do youhang out online?
With keyword search, often the audience is “any buyer who's searching on my keywords.” But for awareness, it's critical to hone in on your target audience carefully.
Pick Your Channels
Now is the time to look back at your goals and audience and decide on the best way to reach them.
If your brand is active in social media, you've got a head start. Social PPC can amplify your message and help broadcast it to new audiences.
Consider using Facebook Promoted Posts, LinkedIn Sponsored Updates, and Promoted Tweets on Twitter. Not only do these ads drive impressions and awareness, they'll also help increase your followers. So the next time you're launching something new or run a promotion, you'll have a bigger audience.
If your main goal is impressions, Facebook is by far the best source of millions of them. Remember, unlike Super Bowl ads, with social PPC you usually won't pay for impressions.
Always select the “CPC” or “Pay when someone clicks” option when you can. Most social channels allow you to pay per click – which is appealing when you're advertising on Facebook where there are literally millions of impressions to be had, but CTR is relatively low.
If you have a video about your product, you'll want to try YouTube ads. YouTube ads drive video views, awareness, website traffic, and leads.
The down side to YouTube ads is that you pay per view, not per click. Only about 2 percent of video viewers will actually click through to your site (and this will vary by advertiser). Keep this in mind when you set your cost per view.
If you're active on Twitter, promoted tweets can boost your followers and generate leads at the same time. One client doubled their followers in about 2 months using Twitter ads, and they've seen a significant number of leads from Twitter as well.
LinkedIn is great for B2B clients. If you post regular updates, use LinkedIn Sponsored Updates to amplify your message.
Don't forget about the Google Display Network. The GDN generates nearly as many impressions as Facebook, and has massive reach. With all the flexible ad formats available now, the GDN is a must-have for any awareness effort.
You'll want to track all the usual online metrics, including conversions from awareness channels. While direct conversions might be relatively small, be sure to look at multichannel attribution. It's likely you'll see many conversions coming from organic or direct traffic that were influenced by your awareness efforts.
Also make sure to look at offline sales, if applicable. Chances are you'll see more foot traffic and/or phone calls as a result of awareness ads.
Watch Your Search Volume Increase
Keep a presence in keyword search while you're building awareness. Even if search volume is low, it's important to be there for the small number of people who do search for you.
You'll probably notice more and more search volume as your awareness efforts take hold. Here's a Google Trends graph for one of our clients who launched a new product line using awareness channels:
They went from nothing prior to 2011 to a spike in mid-2011 when the product launched. All the spikes after that came from media flights: print, display, social, and YouTube. Non-search channels literally created search demand.
The next time you're ready to launch a new product or service, be sure to include awareness campaigns in your marketing mix.
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