A couple of weeks ago, an article at Advertising Age, caused a bit of a kerfuffle over whether SEM is advertising. Putting aside the curiosity that the author is a former Yahoo engineer who worked in – yes – their advertising division, let’s break down some of the misconceptions trotted out in the articles.
No Call to Action = Bad PPC
In the author’s first article, he asks, “Who is really being persuaded by 130 characters of text split across four lines with no call to action?”
Sure, there are PPC advertisers who aren’t using a call to action in their ads. Indeed, this is the worst form of advertising – paying money to promote your product or service in a direct response medium like PPC, and forgetting to include a call to action.
But the generalization that all PPC ads lack a call to action is way off base. Many, many, many PPC advertisers are doing a fine job of including a call to action in their ads – and reaping the results every day.
PPC Without Persuasion = Bad PPC
The author also stated that, “SEM is only part of the equation, as it is not persuading users to chose (sic) you over your competitors.”
Is the author confusing PPC with SEO? It’s not clear from the article which he’s talking about, since he calls it “SEM.” The term SEM is sometimes used to describe search advertising, and sometimes used to describe any type of search marketing, including SEO.
Granted, it’s difficult to incorporate persuasive language into organic listings. That said, it’s not impossible – good marketers will use optimized title tags and meta descriptions that absolutely are persuasive. Ultimately, though, organic listings are at the mercy of the search engine, so there’s no guarantee that even well-SEO’d titles and descriptions will actually show up in the SERPs.
While it can be challenging to be persuasive in 70 characters, it absolutely can be done. There are countless stories of small businesses creating highly persuasive PPC ads, enabling them to grab significant market share from their much-larger competitors. It’s one of the reasons why PPC is one of the best forms of advertising in terms of effectiveness.
PPC Isn’t all About the Algorithm
SEMs turned out in such force to debunk the author’s claims that he was compelled to write a second article on this topic. In that article, he stated that “SEM is actually not even advertising. It's search. It is driven by algorithms that connect words and phrases with customers and, as such, it's extremely effective. However, this effectiveness loses the persuasive power of display.”
This quote is all kinds of wrong.
Sure, there is an algorithm of sorts at play in PPC: it’s called quality score. If your quality score is poor, your ads may not display on your chosen keywords.
Ultimately, though, PPC is driven by the advertiser, not the algorithm. Unlike SEO, which truly is driven by the algorithm, in PPC the advertiser chooses the keywords, ad copy, and landing page. A good PPC manager knows how to obtain good quality scores – effectively taking the algorithm almost entirely out of play.
PPC can be Effective Without Display
Thousands of PPC advertisers run highly effective campaigns in search only. Many of these advertisers are small businesses without a huge “advertising” presence in offline media or online display.
The general populace has never heard of display ads. To read the Ad Age article, you’d think these advertisers are screwed without a display campaign.
Nothing could be further from the truth. This is where PPC really shines. Your prospects are telling you exactly what they’re looking for – display lacks that kind of clear intent.
As long as you have a product or service that people are searching for, you can have an effective PPC advertising campaign without display in place. Display helps, but it’s not required.
PPC is absolutely advertising, and an effective form at that. There’s a reason it’s become a multi-billion-dollar industry, and that reason is because it’s an effective form of advertising.