Alternatives to Google AdWords — Worth Your Time?

Small businesses need to weigh cost versus benefit with every decision. That means for dollars and time. Spending time means spending money, especially if the time you spend takes you away from doing work, which also may mean hiring someone to do it for you.

In previous SMB Search Marketing columns, I’ve probably only mentioned alternatives to Google PPC twice because Google enjoys the largest market share of general searchers and reaches the most people without having to invest a bunch of time to reach them. While there are alternatives to Google, you need to decide if you have the time to invest in researching, learning, and running these alternative campaigns.

For certain niche businesses, it’s likely you can find an alternative to AdWords fairly easily. Many times, listing ads on a site that serves your niche may cost much less and deliver much more qualified traffic to your site. When you look for alternatives to Google AdWords (or even Bing or Yahoo PPC advertising), think about how people find the site you’re going to advertise on.

Here’s a list of sites that offer alternative PPC, cost-per-impression, or cost-per-lead advertising programs:


Trades and Construction


Real Estate

General and Local

There are plenty of sites to choose from, so how do you know whether your time investment is worth the return? You can ask each site some questions before you consider investing money with them. Some might answer, while others might make the information available to you via their Web site.

It’s OK to advertise if they don’t answer but you think it’s worth the time checking it out. Here are some questions you can ask:

  1. How many leads do you send in my niche on average per month?
  2. How many leads do you send in my geographic location on average per month?
  3. Do I have to sign a contract? Can I stop my advertising and receive a refund of un-spent funds at any time?
  4. How do you promote your site and bring in leads? (If you can’t find the site in the search results, chances are lots of other people can’t either. Find out how they’re found — e.g., brand awareness, TV, e-mail marketing lists, etc.)

You’ll likely find or receive answers to at least a few of these questions, which can help you feel more comfortable investing time in setting up your advertising on that particular site.

There are some advantages to wandering off the “beaten path” for your PPC advertising. You’ll notice that the cost-per-lead, click, or impression price is much lower than Google in many cases. The reason for this lower cost is actually another benefit to straying from the big three: a lack of competition for extremely targeted advertising.

Think about it, are all of your competitors using Angie’s List to attract HVAC repair leads? Chances are, only a fraction of a percent are likely using that site, but quite a few consumers use Angie’s List to find a home improvement contractor.

Keep these aspects in mind as you look for lower cost and more tightly targeted places to advertise your Web site. Remember, you can go about finding alternatives in a few ways. Niche or geographic targeting are the most popular ways of finding an alternative PPC, cost-per-impression, or cost-per-lead venue.

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