At our company, we often get questions from customers about which search engines would be best to run their search ads on. What search engines, they often ask, present the road most likely to get them to advertising success? While in most instances the answer is “optimize across all three major search engines to get at the best possible results”, for some businesses it may make sense to focus on alternative strategies. But how?
In order to answer this question, let’s think about what you are looking for in a search engine and what pay-per-click (PPC) advertising objectives you’re trying to reach. The answer usually includes some variation of the following:
exposure and results – leads, sales, strong word-of-mouth, etc.
affordable cost-per-click and a profitable return on investment.
I’m sure it’s not breaking news, but this scenario can often be quite a challenge for many businesses — particularly small businesses — to achieve. Most businesses just starting out on PPC advertising try out Google because it’s well-known and because, let’s face it, it generates about 65 percent of the total search traffic on the Web. But there are some alternatives out there that may produce results as good as or better than Google at a lower overall cost per acquisition. Sometimes, in other words, it’s best to consider the road less traveled. Try thinking about your options like this:
1) The Interstate – Google
What’s possible: huge exposure and profitable campaigns.
What’s required: bigger budgets (i.e., $1,000 per month for less competitive keywords; tens of thousands of dollars or more per month for very competitive keywords) and hard work.
For exposure and volume of visitors, this is the place to be seen. And Google is more than capable of bringing in very good results. However, it is also the winner in the categories of highest cost per click and budget you’ll need for exposure. Because there is such high traffic and competition on Google, they’ve had to institute some very stringent measures in the form of a quality score system, which can be tough to understand and navigate if you are not an expert.
So, although it’s a big wide road with lots of traffic, Google isn’t a casual Sunday drive. This search engine requires a detailed map with lots of turn-by-turn instructions to actually achieve real results.
2) The Side Road – Bing
What’s possible: decent exposure and profitable campaigns.
What’s required: a medium-size budget (i.e., starting at $750 per month for less competitive keywords in less competitive markets).
Though a side road, Bing is no bumpy byway you use only to avoid heavy traffic – in fact, we’ve found Bing can be a shortcut to great online advertising results. Our recent experience with PPC ad campaign results from Bing is, quite simply, “Wow!” If you haven’t tried it yet, it would be well worth your while to give it a shot.
Bing very often provides a lower cost-per-click than Google, which means a lower budget is required for full exposure. Bing also offers a much easier on-ramp since its quality guidelines are much less opaque than Google’s. With Bing, you can just turn on something basic and get good results without all the hassle of divining what your quality score is and why. We’ve also seen very impressive traffic quality and conversion results from Bing over the last couple months. It looks like Bing is certainly on the rise as a search engine and should not be underestimated.
3) Well Off the Beaten Path – Business.com
What’s possible: modest exposure and profitable campaigns.
What’s required: smaller budgets can suffice (i.e. $250 per month for less competitive keywords).
While everyone has heard of Google and Bing, not everyone has considered Business.com. Many businesses just don’t have the budget to compete for the keywords in their space and markets on Google and Bing. Many of these advertisers, however, have found PPC advertising success with Business.com. It’s the exact same style of advertising as conducted on Google and Bing, but for much lower costs, while still delivering results. So if your budget is too limited for Google and your space is too crowded on Bing, try out Business.com.
4) Off-Road – Facebook
What’s possible: targeted exposure and profitable campaigns.
What’s required: small-to-medium size budgets.
Though not exactly the same sort of PPC advertising as the others, the ad platform on Facebook is similar in many ways to what you will find on Google, Bing and Business.com. On the Facebook platform, you specify keywords that folks you’re targeting use in their profiles and updates, and you can also specify demographic, psychographic and geographic characteristics to further target your ad. While mostly text, Facebook ads can also include a single graphical element, which its easy-to-use system helps you to incorporate into your ads step-by-step.
Facebook is vying with Google to be the most-visited website in the world (it may have already surpassed Google, in fact), and it’s a traffic source that should not be overlooked. Because it’s not exactly the same kind of thoroughfare as the search engines listed above, you do need to spend some time understanding the differences and nuances involved. But don’t let that deter you from experimenting with this potentially rich source of traffic to your website.
5) Uncharted Territory – Yahoo! Search
What’s possible: good exposure and profitable campaigns.
What’s required: larger budgets.
Later this year, Bing and Yahoo! will integrate search engine operations, and Bing will begin providing results for searches completed on Yahoo! Currently one of the top three most visited sites in the world, with an enormously popular email system and some of the best-trafficked content portals on the Web (think Yahoo! Finance, Yahoo! Personals or Yahoo! Autos), Yahoo! Search should not be overlooked. Still, it’s clear this search engine is in a state of massive transition. It can be tough to optimize campaigns on Yahoo! and its rules are in many ways quite dissimilar to those in use on Google and Bing, which means you need to bring a whole different intuitive sense to using the system. And costs-per-click for your keywords are often similar (or identical) to Google’s, though you can get some bargains on Yahoo! Finally, in our experience traffic and conversions from Yahoo! have fallen behind Bing’s performance of late, so while there are still opportunities on Yahoo!, it’s probably best not to use Yahoo! as a primary search advertising conduit until the Bing-Yahoo! integration is completed late this year and early next year.
Still, with all this having been said, let’s face it: in most cases, the best road map for acquiring traffic at the lowest possible cost is optimizing your PPC campaigns across the three best-known, most-used engines: Google, Yahoo and Bing. A road less traveled can make sense, just be sure it's right for your business.