NY Post: Buy Sites, Not AdWords
The New York Post’s been a bit down on giving Google money for paid search lately. It may not be surprising to you that the NYP might be a little one-sided on this issue, even unnecessarily snarky, but there is, at least, an interesting concept presented: buying sites with good natural rankings to avoid AdWords altogether.
You may even pause at that, before we get into it, and in conspiratorial spirit connect these dots: News Corp. owns the New York Post and (reportedly) wants to own a fair chunk of Yahoo, too – so much Rupert Murdoch is willing to give up his beloved MySpace. Not that this slam on AdWords has anything to do with that.
Richard Wilner, who chastises those spending too much on AdWords in another post on the same day, and Holly M. Sanders cite a forthcoming audit of search results by London-based Internet Search Management (ISM).
The essence of the expected report, according to the Post, is that paid search is tantamount to "one of the worst-spent marketing dollars on the Internet." Entities in the United Kingdom and the newspaper industry have been rather down on Google in general lately.
The article based on the not-yet-released report touts organic results over sponsored ones, because, well, they’re free. Everybody give a warm welcome to the Post for discovering the concept of SEO.
The audit is expected to say that paid search (SEM, to introduce the Post to another new acronym) doesn’t yield a good enough ROI to make it worth it. Instead of an AdWords campaign, marketers should consider following Amazon’s lead and buy websites that already have high natural rankings.
We’ve talked about this before, and we generally didn’t like the idea of it, from an ethical standpoint – sort of the if you can’t beat’em, buy’em strategy. But it is further evidence that the strategy is being adopted – we might expect Google’s next algorithm tweak to reflect this practice. Length of time a domain has existed or been registered seems to play a factor already.
This is most certainly an option for bigger players with bigger budgets, though. Some keywords are pretty much "locked" at this point, making the natural search results rather impervious. Buy a site that ranks well and you’ve got that result, however finite the number of businesses that can do that is.
However, it seems counterintuitive to offer this advice to the vast majority of web marketers out there, just as it does to suggest AdWords is unnecessary or a waste of money. You may be able to make a case for the lack of attention and clicking that ads in the side panel get. But the top sponsored are another story.
Though eBay pitched a hissy fit, as we say in the South, a bit ago and pulled its campaign, a move that, if permanent, would have cost Google hundreds of millions of dollars annually, the online auction giant realized the strained, symbiotic relationship it has with the top search engine. EBay ads are once again on Google.
Aside from budget and traffic, though, there is another concern. Not bidding on your brand name keyword, as suggested in the Post article, runs the risk of your competitor owning it. Mazda and Pontiac have been through this, and lessons were learned.
Of course we also know that branding, in general, is not always about immediate ROI. It’s about being recognized on the street, or the SERPs, at a glance. Any guesses as to why McDonald’s golden arches are the first symbol children can recognize? Excellent (the best, really) branding.
As for the Post’s "Search & Destroy" Google article, it’s nice to see them holding up the fine, yellow tradition first established during the Pulitzer/Hearst wars a century ago.