Justifying the concept of search advertising

Selling the concept of “search advertising” (such as Google AdWords) can still be quite tough, especially to marketing managers who’ve grown up with print. This is despite the fact that the return on investment for search advertising has been way, way better than any offline advertising from the moment it was first invented. But just how much better?

Let’s compare it with “trade and tech” magazine advertising. What’s the cost of the response there? Fill in your own figures – be as generous as you like.

Magazine Advert example

Magazine Advertisement
Circulation: 20,000
Cost of advertisement: £750
Copies opened and read: 10,000 (50%)
Readers noticing your ad: 5,000 (50%)
Readers responding to your offer by phone: 5 (0.1%)
Readers visiting your website: 50 (1%)
Website visitors responding to your offer: 10 (20%)
Total responses: 15
Cost per response: £50

I think I’m being very generous towards magazines here – I haven’t heard of many sectors recently where anyone expects to get 15 responses to an advert. But let’s continue. With search advertising, you only pay for the response, so I’ve had to work the figures from the middle outwards to get a meaningful comparison. Here it is though:

AdWords Ad example

Search Advertisement
Searches made: 7,500
Searchers visiting your website: 75 (1%)
Cost per click: £3
Cost of advertisement: £225
Website visitors responding to your offer: 15 (20%)
Cost per response: £15

Alternatively, let’s spend the same amount on search advertising as we did on the advertisement:

Search Advertisement
Searches made: 25,000
Searchers visiting your website: 250 (1%)
Cost per click: £3
Cost of advertisement: £750
Website visitors responding to your offer: 50 (20%)
Cost per response: £15

Now, there are many variables in play. The print advertisements you prefer may cost a lot more – or less – than the £750 quoted above. Don’t forget to include production costs. Search clicks may cost a lot more – or less – than £3 (but don’t forget to include the time taken to run the campaign, or the agency costs). However, I’m convinced that this is the most clear and sensible way to justify search advertising, both to yourself and possibly to senior management.

What about the “branding” element? Well, the print ad in our example was seen by 5,000 people. The search advert, for the same cost, will have been noticed alongside most of the 25,000 searches made, if it was at the top of the page. And nobody’s searching on Google for stuff they don’t want, so your audience quality should actually be higher than in the magazine.

There’s no doubt there’s also a comfort factor in being able to tear out a print advert and pin it on the wall, or present it to management in a campaign file. But increasingly, we’re finding that the event which persuades companies to start Google AdWords campaigns is a comment from senior management that our competitors are at the top of every Google search page …so why aren’t we?

If you find yourself having to justify that search advertising, put your own figures in the above examples, and I hope this helps. For those of you who just want a search advertising campaign up and running next month, with no effort involved on your part, you know where we are.

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