How Search Advertising Works… Or Doesn’t

Advertising your business on Google or Bing can be a really great way to drive business, but often falls flat due to basic misunderstandings.

How Search Advertising Works

In a nutshell, the goal of search advertising is to have your products or services show up when a person is actively looking for them or for something closely related to your offering. This distinction is key, because many traditional forms of advertising are “disruptive,” meaning that they place a message in front of a person whether they are searching for something similar or not.

How Search Advertising Doesn’t Work

Imagine you are opening a local mom-and-pop pizza restaurant in a local town. You might think, “I want to show my ad to everyone searching for the word ‘pizza’ in my area.” Unfortunately, this is what most people think when they start search advertising. The caveat is that language is messy and doesn’t work that way.

  • “I want a pizza costume for Halloween”
  • “What is a good vegetarian pizza recipe?”
  • “Why do the ninja turtles love pizza so much?”
  • “I want to see that pizza rat video from New York.”

Are People Actually Looking for Your Products and Services?

So here is the million-dollar question. Are people actually looking for your products or services online? If the answer is yes, then search advertising might be worth the investment. If the answer is no, then it probably won’t work. The biggest mistake organizations make when investing in search advertising is spending money on keywords that are related to their products and services but aren’t actually being used by people to look for those products and services.

  • There are millions of people searching for “pizza” and “oven” but probably in no way related to your actual product.
  • Most of the people searching for these keywords are consumers, but your target customer is only owners or operators of pizza-related businesses.
  • Even if you target the keywords your target customers might be already looking for, like “large pizza oven”, the challenge will be selling them a new product they are unfamiliar with while they are looking for something else.

Start with Research

Google provides a lot of great tools for digital marketers to research and understand your market BEFORE you spend money on advertising. You should make sure they help you answer these questions before starting your own search advertising campaign.

  • Do those search phrases look like they are potential customers, or are the keywords being used for other reasons?
  • Does the cost of advertising for the keywords predict a good ROI on your investment?

I’m a marketing strategist who hates the marketing industry.

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