Web advertising options: an update for 2014

When it comes to web advertising in the engineering and scientific sectors, we believe that Google AdWords search ads have been your first port of call for a long time. But what else is out there, and should you at least investigate it? Here’s our current advice.

First of all, unless you have some excellent historical data on clickthrough rate, we don’t think you should advertise anywhere that’s not on a pay-per-click basis. Two hundred quid a month for a “banner ad” with no guarantees as to what traffic it will produce? No thanks. Five hundred quid a year for your logo next to your name in a “business directory”? Not in 2014. The only exception should be if you can see enough visitors from placing the same ad in the past – and you have confidence it will continue.

So what’s available on a pay-per-click basis? The closest equivalent to Google AdWords search ads is Bing Ads, which might have a lot lower volume, but hey, it’s pay per click, so it’ll cost you a lot less too, right? Well, yes, but do remember there’s an effort involved in setting the thing up and monitoring it, and that cost needs to be amortised over the traffic you get. So if you put £100 worth of management effort into getting 500 visitors from Google at at cost of £1000, that’s one thing, but £100 worth of management effort into getting 50 visitors from Bing at at cost of £100…? Still, it’s worth considering if you’re getting all you can from Google, and in some niche markets that’s quite possible.

The fast-growing kid on the block is LinkedIn, which does pay-per-click text ads like Google, although you can also add a little image alongside. Is it worth investigating? We think it is, if your advertising is primarily aimed at a particular end user group …and if you’ve got the budget. That’s because LinkedIn clicks aren’t cheap. And don’t expect massive volumes, because people on LinkedIn aren’t necessarily looking for something (whereas with Google AdWords search ads, they are). However, unlike search ads, it’s easy to focus on a job function or application sector, something Google is struggling to catch up with in business markets.

Finally, there’s Google AdWords “display network” advertising, which is just putting text or banner ads on third-party sites, but paying for them on a pay-per-click basis through Google’s system. If used with care, this can provide some good value, and we use it for about half of our clients. The clickthrough rate is tiny compared to search ads, but that doesn’t matter as you’re only paying for the clicks (so any “branding” effect comes free). And the sheer number of times your ads show more than compensates for the low clickthrough rate. However, the proportion of “quality” traffic can also be low on the display network, so it’s important to track the cost per quality visitor.

As ever, you can chuck the whole thing at us to handle.

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