One topic that has been heavily debated over the years is the extent to which PPC can “cannibalize” SEO. When you already have a top ranking organic listing, does it make sense to also pay for an ad to appear right above or next to it? Let’s consider the most basic example – your own brand name. If you have a website that isn’t completely blocked by the search engines for some technical reason, chances are you’re ranking #1 when someone searches you by brand name. And, chances are, the person will click that listing. So, why on earth would you pay for an Adwords ad to appear above it? Won’t that just make you have to pay for something you would have gotten for free anyway?
I’d like to argue that the small investment it will take to run a full-time ad for your own brand name will more than pay for itself over time and is well-worth doing. I promise I have no incentive from Google to make this claim; this opinion is based on years of Adwords experience, and more importantly years of experience interpreting website analytics and figuring out short and long term ROI for various marketing channels, and how they all fit into the overall picture.
Now, if you do some searches on Google for major brand names, you’ll see that some have PPC ads for their brand and some do not. I really feel that the one’s that aren’t are missing out on a relatively cheap way to really dominate the page, promote their brand and engage the user in a dramatic way. You can see that some brands have marketers that understand this and are taking full advantage. I really like the way Sears is doing theirs:
In the past few months, some new features have been added to Adwords that make bidding on one’s own brand much even more appealing than before. The one I’d like to focus on here is Sitelinks, and how Sears is leveraging them. Their PPC ad is, of course, the listing highlighted at the top of the search results page. The Sitelinks are the four blue links that go along with it (“Sears One Day Sale”, “Buy Gift Cards”, etc.). Sitelinks are a new feature in Adwords that lets the advertiser attach up to four links to their ad, essentially doubling your real estate for no extra cost. These Sitelinks can be changed at will and optimized based on ROI achieved by different combinations.
Would someone who searched for “Sears” and clicked the PPC ad have just clicked the organic listing had the PPC ad not been there? Almost certainly. Would this have saved the company a click charge? Of course. However, I’m willing to bet Sears is getting much higher revenue over time and much higher overall conversion rates when running that ad due to the way they so strongly command that search results page and custom tailor it for a potential customer. Between the organic listing and organic Sitelinks, which link to the standard, major parts of their site, and the Adwords listing and Adwords Sitelinks, which highlight more specific and current offers, they are giving the potential customer an enormous amount of info they can use to find and buy what they need more quickly and efficiently, before they even get to the site! And, those that do click the organic listing have the benefit of seeing and being informed by these Adwords Sitelinks, and it doesn’t cost you a thing.