Is paid advertising on Google an essential marketing tool for a business?

By Matt Brown,

Online advertising is one tool that most businesses will consider as part of their marketing toolkit. Google's advertising platform (AdWords) is very attractive and with its Pay-Per-Click (PPC) model, advertisers only pay Google when somebody clicks on their advert. But of all the marketing tools available, how important is it, and could you class it as ‘essential’?

Currently, Google is the most searched internet search engine, with 89.92% of all searches in the UK being made on it. 

So it stands to reason that if your customers are searching for your product or service on Google, then you need to do something about making sure you have a presence on it. Which means that search engine marketing and in particular search engine advertising should ideally feature as part of your marketing strategy. But can you go as far as saying a particular marketing tool is ‘essential’?

Really it should not be a question of whether any marketing tool is ‘essential’ for a business. All tools and methods of reaching out to a business’ audiences should be considered, but what is essential is testing and measuring.

Setting up an online marketing campaign may initially appear fairly straightforward. You pick some keywords, create some adverts and run them on Google. It is likely that these ads will get clicked on and bring people to your website, perhaps even lots of them. But visitors do not equal customers, and clicks to your website don’t guarantee sales, any more than busloads of people visiting your high street store would. As obvious as it sounds, they have to be the ‘right’ visitors and your destination (physical business site or website) has to be set-up in such a way so as to engage with them and get the result you desire.

Google AdWords is an incredibly powerful marketing tool. It allows targeting of potential customers very specifically and gives us this important ability to measure and compare the result of each advert and click. But there are very important factors to consider when embarking on a campaign. The following are some of the top areas I will look at to give an AdWords campaign the very best chance of success:

  • What is the purpose?
  • What does success look like?
  • How will we measure it?

Let’s look at these in a little more detail.

What is the purpose?
The goal of any online advertising campaign is usually lead generation or sales. Adverts will click through to a website, but does the website support the goal? Are there barriers that need removing to give the best chance of converting a click through into a sale? Businesses are often too familiar with their own products or services, meaning they overlook what it is like for someone who is new to their business (a prospective customer) to buy or make contact through the website, or even to understand what is on offer.

What is obvious to the internal marketing and sales team through familiarity may not be clear at all to a person outside the business, and potential customers can be put off from buying for very simple reasons. These could include; not easily being able to find details such as a contact number or address, shipping times or delivery costs; being required to register to order and a whole list of other reasons. And all this before looking at product competitiveness in the market, or price positioning. Is the sales team able to follow-up on all the leads generated? Or does a further qualification step need to be implemented to grade prospects and how they are responded to?

Using outside experts, independent from your business, offers tremendous advantages over leaving all this to an internal team to deal with.  An independent expert can look at the journey the customer has to take from an unbiased perspective and can advise on the changes that are required for the website to deliver on its purpose.

What does success look like?
Having established the purpose of the marketing surrounding the website, how will we define success? Not all prospects and customers are equal. In order to target correctly we need to understand who we are trying to reach and how we will recognise when an objective has been achieved. Is there a clear return-on-investment (ROI) target that can be linked back to the marketing campaign? Or with a business-to-business (B2B) longer sales cycle, how will opportunities be clearly defined and graded so that we understand what represents an ideal one?

How will we measure it?
It is easy to measure a sale through an ecommerce store or a phone call from a website and attribute this success (a ‘conversion’ in Google speak) back to the campaign advert and keyword that started the process. But that is a single contact or order and fails to take into account the potential lifetime value of the customer.

A B2B sales situation may have a long sales cycle of weeks or months, with many contacts between the business and its potential customer along the way. So a simple measurement of an immediate outcome from a click on an advert is an inadequate way to measure the success of the marketing campaign. What is important is to find a way to accurately record and measure all enquiries and orders, and attribute the marketing and sales contacts made along the way.

A customer could find a business through a Google advert but might be early in the process of choosing a potential supplier. They may be in the research stage and need to evaluate alternatives, attend a seminar or event, or have a demo and several meetings, before choosing to buy from the supplier. The process may have started with a Google advert but a whole range of marketing ‘touch-points’ interacted with the new customer along the way. However you decide to identify success, it is crucial to find a way to measure it.

The next step
You will notice there is no mention of keywords or advert text in the questions above. That evaluation can only take place once it is understood how the business operates and interacts with its customers and potential customers. Anyone can choose some keywords and create an advert, in the same way that anyone can shoot a video on their mobile phone with some basic knowledge. But having the tools available does not mean that they will be used properly or to their full extent. Running a successful paid search advertising campaign with Google AdWords takes technical knowledge of how to get the best out of the AdWords system, but it also requires broad business and marketing experience to think like a potential customer thinks and work out what will appeal to encourage the action that the business seeks.

Paid search engine advertising has huge advantages over search engine optimisation (SEO) in the natural organic listings. With paid search we can be reasonably certain about achieving a top page one ranking, something that is impossible with SEO, and with paid search we are in control of targeting and exactly what is displayed in the advert, when it appears and where it points to within the business website. We are also in full control of ad spend, and how it is spent.

If your customers are searching for your product or service on Google, then you probably should include search engine marketing, and specifically search engine advertising such as Google AdWords, as part of your marketing. But rather than considering whether it is an essential tool, think more along the lines of how you use it.  You could dramatically increase your opportunity for success by taking a strategic view, and then working with experts who can demonstrate the experience and thinking to best to utilise paid internet advertising in the context of your business., internet searches made in November 2014 on desktop, mobile and tablet.

The Author

Matt Brown is a co-founder and Director of One Vision Ltd, has been managing Google AdWords campaigns since 2001 and provides online advertising management and consultancy.

For tips and advice see and @1visionltd

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