Is Your PPC Campaign for You or Your Users?

It never fails to surprise me how often I’ll click on a pay per click ad only to end up on a page that’s resemblance to my search query is worse than a Canal St knock-off. I experience this both as a consumer and a professional as I compulsively click on ads in an effort to understand the state of pay per click marketing and the often neglected connection to the customer.

Let’s take the search term “solar panels,” a nice, simple, fairly straightforward term, right? After all, what else could someone who types in solar panels be looking for other than, well, information on solar panels?

Well, the answer to that question varies –quite a lot — depending on whether you look at the organic search results or the paid listings.

In the organic column you see a mix of commercial sites with varying degrees of information, the token Wikipedia entry and a nice integration of Google Universal listings including some eCommerce retailers, a YouTube video, and blog entries. While getting dumped onto some of these eCommerce sites may be a little thin on the practical details you might be looking for, what would you expect when typing in such a generic search? (Try something like “learn about solar panels” if what you really want is information…)

What’s really fascinating, though, is how poorly the pay per click ads match the actual query. The answer to the question on most of the pay per click advertisers, instead, seems to be… what do we want people who like solar panels to think about?

This me-centric thinking leads to a variety of oddball ads — one promoting an energy audit (no info on solar there), another promoting the Democratic National Convention (powered by a lot of things, the sun not being one of them), one info-packed if ugly site for a solar panel retailer, and a half-dozen knock off sites by the same advertiser promoting a single product (which, by the way, isn’t a solar panel).

And we wonder why users are sometimes hesitant to click on paid ads?

On the flip side, paid search ads that are properly targeted are incredibly effective. After all, isn’t it pretty cool that I can throw “war and peace book” into Google and then see an ad to Amazon.com that shows me… the actual book? And hey, there’s the “Buy it Now” button…

Relevancy and specificity are critical to an effective pay per click campaign, as we’ll be discussing in our webinar this Tuesday afternoon — Pay Per What? (2:00PM EDT).