The advantages of online advertising compared to its more traditional brethren are readily apparent: online advertising campaigns are generally cheaper and significantly easier to produce than television spots, billboards, print ads, and even those planes that fly banners behind them.
As an ex-Googler who continues to work closely with AdWords (and other advertising networks), I’m certainly a big proponent of the system and the benefits that companies – big and small – can achieve through strong campaigns. Online advertising reach and spend will continue to grow, and advances to SEM algorithms and user experience figure to make the process increasingly beneficial for both advertisers and consumers. That being said, AdWords might not be the answer 100 percent of the time.
Here are four specific instances when using AdWords might leave you feeling annoyed (and leave your ROI with something to be desired):
When Your Target Audience Is Too Niche
Sometimes, even with expert campaign optimization, the audience that you want to target for your product or service just cannot be efficiently found. You see this mostly in the B2B world, where, despite your most diligent campaign work and an abundance of clicks, you just can’t get enough qualified leads.
Example: An Internet networking solution for schools really only wants leads coming from superintendents.
When Celebrities Are Involved
When it comes to SEM, Google doesn’t exactly roll out the red carpet for celebs. For most advertisers this probably isn’t an issue – but for some (like a company with a celebrity endorser), this can create major frustrations. The AdWords system is built to prevent companies from using celebrity names in their ads. While the practice isn’t banned outright, your Quality Scores will be so low that cost-per-click averages will be driven up, oftentimes with drastic impacts to your ROI.
Example: The movie “The Help” is out in theaters. Emma Stone, the movie’s star, figures to be a hot topic keyword. The movie studio might want to bid on her name as a keyword to promote the movie. The way AdWords is set up, however, the studio will not really be able to take advantage of those queries.
When Google’s Stuck in the Past
Google will pause ads when keyword traffic data isn’t high enough. So what happens when a breaking news story or new product introduces a flurry of new search queries? More often than not, the public – and advertisers – are quicker to the trigger than Google.
Example: A news website wants to run an ad promoting coverage on Hurricane Irene.
When the Numbers Don’t Add Up
SEM is arguably the most trackable advertising method available. Assessing your ROI in online advertising is a beautifully mathematical process. Are the leads or sales worth the ad spend? Analyze the numbers: if they aren’t, don’t be afraid to pull the plug. Even if you aren’t tracking a specific conversion, make sure you’re linking your AdWords account to Google Analytics