Is Search Advertising the Worst Form of Advertising?

    April 28, 2011
    Chris Crum

What is the best form of advertising? Not search, according to a report published this week. In fact, Josh Shatkin-Margolis of AdAge goes so far as to call search the “worst form of advertising”.

Do you agree? Tell us what you think.

“Search-engine marketing (SEM) is the worst form of advertising,” he writes. “Sure, it’s able to get in front of the right audience, but who is really being persuaded by 130 characters of text split across four lines with no call to action? Giving SEM credit for being the form of advertising that drives billions of dollars in sales is like giving the checkout person at a supermarket credit for all the food sales annually. The checkout person does not persuade the shopper to buy Coke instead of Pepsi, and neither do text ads.”

“I’m not saying SEM lacks value,” he adds. “Placing your text listings in search engines, comparison shopping engines and other places users seek out does remind your customers: Oh, right, I remember them. They are who I was looking for.’ But, let’s be clear, SEM is only part of the equation, as it is not persuading users to chose you over your competitors.”

He goes on to discuss search retargeting with display ads, making some very valid points, based on the notion that search is indeed the “best form of targeting”.

Google Ads

We do know that SEO isn’t getting any easier.

There are certainly a lot more options for businesses to get in front of Internet users than there were when search advertising began to take off – namely social media marketing and direct advertising in social networks (Facebook).

Facebook of course has a very highly targeted approach to advertising, as it serves users ads based upon information from their profiles. Still, the ads have seen plenty of criticism over relevance. Of course it is still the advertiser that picks the categories they want to target.

Email marketing is still considered to be one of the most effective ways to reach customers and get them to convert. In fact, you might say email marketing is hotter than its been in years, with the rise of daily deal services like Groupon, Google Offers, etc. Let’s not forget that these services rely heavily on email.

Search has always been an attractive way to reach people, however, as you’re getting to the consumer right as they’re looking to buy, or at least researching a purchase. That’s why search will always be important (both SEO and Paid), even if consumers become less dependent on it for more online activities and information discovery.

SEO vs PPC is a classic debate. Which one is better? About a year and a half ago, we covered a session at Search Engine Strategies Chicago, where some top search experts discussed just that. Christine Churchill pointed to a study about conversion rates, finding that paid search came out ahead of SEO (just barely), but that it also came out ahead in average order value and average time on site. She also listed the following as advantages of search advertising:

– Gives immediate online presence
– Have a new site? Have ads in an hour
– Start getting ROI sooner
– No ramp up time
– Great for seasonal items or time sensitive promotions
– Great for testing
– Easily test effectiveness of new marketing message or site design change
– Quickly gather feedback
– Regulate traffic volume
– Sales pipeline empty? Use PPC to push traffic
– Overloaded? Pause campaigns or cut back spend
– Have limited sales season? Saturate market while demand is high

I’ll add another advantage. Paid search ads are not subject to Google’s algorithm, which changes daily – sometimes very drastically (see Panda update).

There is plenty of change in the search advertising landscape as well. Google is frequently making adjustments to ads. Just this week, they launched instant previews on ads (which could actually save you money).

We asked our Facebook fans if they think search advertising is the best form of advertising or the worst. The majority of responses said “best”. Join the conversation below.

WebProNewsDo you think search is the best or worst form of advertising?

Do you think search advertising is the worst form of advertising? Share your thoughts.


Chris Crum
Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.