The pros and cons of advertising on search engines

Research shows that about 80 percent of consumers conduct an online search before making a purchase. In addition, 57 percent of the companies that contact you for more information about your product or service have already conducted research online and narrowed down a short list of potential vendors. Is there any reason to doubt how critical it is that your company has an immediate presence within the search results for words and phrases that relate to your business?

Search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo exist to help people find information on the Internet. The search engines crawl hundreds of millions of websites, indexing specific words and phrases to produce a relevant match to the words people use in their searches.

There are two ways to ensure your website shows up within search results: search engine optimization and search advertising. So, how do you determine whether search advertising is a good investment? Consider the positives and negatives:

The pros

  • Highly targeted. There are many settings and targeting options available within an online advertising campaign. If the campaign is set up and managed strategically, every ad click should come from someone within the desired target audience.
  • Immediate results. Search engine advertising makes it possible for a website to immediately show up on the first page of search results.
  • Helps improve SEO. Search advertising will increase website traffic, which in effect helps increase organic search engine performance over time.
  • Increased name recognition. When an ad displays at the top of the search results page, many people within the target audience will see the ad — even if they don’t click on it. These impressions help build name recognition.
  • Budget control. For pay-per-click campaigns, you only pay when someone clicks on your ad. Daily and monthly budgets, as well as maximum bids, can be established so the campaign stays within budget.
  • Clear ROI. Campaign goals and tracking can be established to make it easy to track when a website visitor converts to a lead or makes a purchase online. Online reports directly link marketing spend to ROI for search engine advertising.

The cons

  • Highly competitive. Popular keywords in competitive industries require bigger budgets to essentially pay to play. Bigger companies have larger budgets and SEO experts managing their search advertising campaigns. Therefore, companies with smaller budgets must be more strategic to drive search results and should always engage an SEO expert.
  • Highly specialized knowledge. To maximize a budget and campaign performance requires specialized knowledge of how to strategically set up and manage a campaign. The management platforms have complex interfaces, settings and jargon. Google and Bing offer directories of certified professionals who can help.
  • Time consuming. It takes time to research keywords and create an effective campaign. Once it goes live, it requires constant optimization — daily or weekly. The campaign performs in a live environment and needs to be reviewed, tweaked and changed to produce the best results. Also be mindful that search platforms regularly change algorithms as well as management interfaces, which requires keeping up with ongoing updates.