Lies The SEO Publicity Machine Tells About PPC (When It Thinks No One’s Looking)


As some of us know, paid search works great. It captures users with high commercial intent whether they type in broad queries, specific queries, or something in between. You can budget as little as much as you want. You can customize, test, iterate, and learn at whatever pace you wish. You get search query reports, A/B ad testing data, and much more.

The sense of tight interplay between a business owner’s wish to “go out and get some response from a certain kind of searcher” and the pace of that response can be very satisfying, to say nothing of profitable.

Nearly 100% of pages of Google Search results with high commercial intent show several text ad listings in the most visible part of the page. Think that doesn’t matter? That it somehow doesn’t apply?

Unfortunately, some experts have told business owners just that. The operators of firms that sell trendy tools to help merchants churn out blog posts and the like won’t provide balance in their marketing recommendations, for fear of undermining the value of their tools. They tell business owners that “85% of educated people won’t click on a paid link” or “sophisticated searchers in your industry are clicking on the organic links,” so “PPC is a waste of money.”

So? So? and “Really?”

I never realized until recently that much of the business community is being told flat-out lies about PPC by people who are fundamentally biased towards forms of SEO. Organic search is a wonderful thing — I’d never deny that. But when sold in a certain way, by experts that preach high marketing ideals when all they’re really doing is barely-masked, same-old SEO tactics, it’s a bit of a fairy tale. Everyone can’t get everything for free. There is only so much free to go around. And the tool vendors and evangelists are selling the fairy tale to too many people. The pot of gold has only so many nuggets to spare at this point.

The average small business owner (and by “small business”, let’s make no mistake, that doesn’t mean small dollars: small business owners are often affluent and eager to pursue best practices) is then convinced to spend months committing to a publishing schedule and listening to marketing advice that shapes the pace and tenor of the marketing strategy to the needs of the toolset vendor. Months go by. Targets get missed. Website investments of $35,000+ sit there as expensive, white-elephant fixed assets. The well-off business owner transforms themselves into a “make money in your spare time” content marketing workaholic instead of just investing a few more dollars in variable marketing costs to achieve  the needed balance.

There’s nothing wrong with content strategies, of course. We endorse them. But we endorse them for clients who are neglecting them, and who are currently spending $20,000-$100,000 per month (or more) on paid clicks. They aren’t getting cheated on high-intent paid SEM traffic.

Those who have never done PPC, and who are being told not to do it, are being cheated.

I just talked with one such business owner today. He cited all the statistics about how great organic search is purported to be for his market segment… and how bad PPC should be, if you follow the logic. I said “well, it sounds like you’re trying to create blog posts to generate traffic on some long-tail search terms, which by the way you can also do with PPC [people are often told PPC can’t do long tail terms, or that it can only do long tail terms. For some reason, vendors lie a lot about what PPC can and cannot do].”

I continued: “I’d just like to see what actual referral success you’re having with that strategy. Sounds good on paper, but are you actually ranking well on many of these terms, or do you basically not show up on page 1 or 2 of the SERP’s, same as all the other more popular and unattainable terms you don’t show up for?”

He mentioned that when the tool vendor came to him, he had just surpassed 200 visitors a month to his expensive website. He had set a near-term target of 1,000 per month, and wanted to get to 10,000 a month within about a year. With an aggressive effort (something he was accustomed to executing in his long and successful career), he was going to get to 10,000 one way or another.

Then he told me he wasn’t seeing any results from following all the high-flown rhetoric of the “inbound marketing, content marketing” tool vendor. “Last month, I was around 520 visitors. This month, we’re at 587.”

Want to get to 1,000? Work and wait and believe for another year or two. Want to get to 10,000? Forget it.

587 visitors a month. That’s about how impactful “inbound marketing” is on the ground for real business owners who need real results these days. And the intent of the people who stumble into a site to read content about expensive luxury products they cannot afford? It’s non-commercial. It’s non-existent. Tire-kickers enter gibberish into the lead forms, on the rare occasions they do turn into prospects.

Are we selling solutions, or fairy tales?

For 2,000 extremely high-intent visitors, paying a healthy $3.00 per click, you’ll shell out $6,000. Certainly, that’s why many small business owners would balk at the investment, particularly when respected industry experts tell them it’s a waste of money. But what if that $6,000 turns into $75,000 in sales?

You have to at least try it. You could grow old waiting for the inbound marketing fairy tale to come true.

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