3 minutes read

Everyone is familiar with search engine text ads. Some even confuse them with the organic search results as they’re featured above and on the right hand side of them.

No doubt, search engine text ads are an important part of any search engine marketing strategy. For anyone interested in getting more traffic, in increasing sales or lead generation, text search ads can be a good way to get results fast.

Because search shows strong intent, this type of online advertising brings in fairly good results. For Cyber Monday 2014, search engine text ads were the second highest driver of sales after the all-mighty, powerful email.

However, there are a few drawbacks.

1. Increased competition

PPC is very popular. A report by Hanapin Marketing shows that 72% of marketers want to increase the PPC budget for 2014. Moreover, a similar 2014 report shows that the bigger part of this, 70% will go into Google Adwords.

2. Limited volume

Each keyword is limited by the number of times someone performs a search for it. The number of profitable keywords for your business is also limited and simply adding more won’t solve the problem. Targeting extra keywords just for the sake of it is very likely to backfire as poorly chosen keywords rarely perform well. You’ll end up either losing money (low conversions, low quality score) or with a high bounce rate (you didn’t attract the right people).

3. Limited exposure

With search, your ads will be shown only once: when the user performs the search. They click the ad, visit your website, check out a few pages and they browse off after. They’re interested in that particular product or service as they’re searching for it, but they might not buy then and there. If they remember how to get back, that’s awesome, but what are the odds?

With Google Remarketing Lists for search, you might get a second chance. Still, the inventory is still limited, the competition is the same and you need the user to actually perform a search.

4. Limited ways to convey your message

Text ads are just what the name says: ads that use text and only text.

I know what you’re going to say: “But I can run product listing ads and those feature images!”. Yes, but product listing ads work only if you have a merchant account. You can’t do that if you’re in the SaaS business, like let’s say Mailchimp or Unbounce.

“But I can add link extensions to my text ads”. Yes, that is also correct. While more links can increase relevancy and help you lure people in, they don’t make up for a really good image. Images are said to be worth a thousand words and can be way more effective in conveying your message.

Moreover with text ads, you’re limited to 35 characters per line and you can’t use any color, an element that can influence behavior.

5. High costs

Hands down, one of the benefits of running search engine text ads is that you can control the costs. You specify the your daily budget and depending on the setting you choose, the system will try to get you as many clicks as possible within that budget.

However, limited keyword volume and a large number of advertisers means increased competition over for the same query. Companies with large budgets can afford to bid more and raise the entry bar for other advertisers, leading to a higher average CPC for the industry. For example, in Finance and Insurance, the cost per click for “Self-employed health insurance” rose to $43.39. Industries like finance and insurance, travel and tourism, jobs and education and home and garden are all big spenders – they each spent more than $2billion in 2014 on Adwords.

Moreover, if you don’t select the right keywords and match types, you can run a high cost for your campaign without seeing any return on it.

6. Time-consuming, both for setup and optimization

Managing search text ads can take up a lot of time. The initial setup requires that you do the keyword research, get familiar with match types and create the copy for your ads.

Once your ads start running, you need to to monitor your campaign performance. You need to constantly manage your keywords, take out the low performing ones and adjust the match type to increase quality score and relevance for your ads. Everything gets trickier when you have a high number of keywords and ads to manage. It also takes some time to understand all the metrics and interpret your campaign results.

For a freelancer or an agency that specialize in this, it might be easier, but for small businesses doing their own online advertising, this can be very time-consuming.

Done well, classic search engine text ads can bring in good results. However, because of the limitations, you should also experiment with other types of online advertising.

Search retargeting offers you the best of both worlds: you can show display banner ads to users who have recently performed searches important for your business. Compared to search engine text ads, the available inventory is growing year to year as people spend more time online. That means more space to show your ads and decreased competition.

Executive Account Manager

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