As the Google SERPs have changed and mutated through the last few months in particular, I’ve begun to wonder what’s going to happen to the good old paid search ads? For years, we’ve been saying things like “paid search ads, mostly of the pay-per-click variety are found along the right-hand side of the results page and/or above the general results in a box usually labeled as ‘Sponsored Results’ so that users can easily identify them as ads.” But with the addition of all kinds of additional results on the average SERP, there are definitely more different types of items to attract the eye of the casual observer. Want to see the latest news? Sports results? Social media postings? Search queries to ‘also try’? Related images and videos? Local map with results? It’s all there if you want it, and it can all be personalized by each user.
What’s going to happen with pay-per-click in this explosion of information on search results pages and the surge in mobile and smartphone use for web browsing? Those seeking natural ranking for their websites are already crying foul as they find their listings pushed to the bottom or the next page with the inclusion of all this extra information. But with change comes opportunities, and adjustments to SEO practices and planning to include the type of information now seen as valuable enough to claim prime real estate on the first results page are items that astute online marketers need to keep uppermost.
No need to abandon paid search either. In fact, I’m going to go out on a limb (or a twig) and proclaim that paid search is on the threshold of a gigantic opportunity. It is inevitable that Google will find a way to maintain the value of paid search — after all, it is the basis of what funds everything else. Without advertising, there would be no revenue to support a “free” search engine. And Google needs to keep a fairly simple and easy means for small businesses to partake of the online ad market and ensure that it is effective as well. It’s all very well to capture ad campaigns from big business, but without the variety of smaller online businesses willing and able to enter the online advertising world via such cost-effective means as pay-per-click advertising, Google would be jeopardizing a huge source of revenue.
So, if you haven’t yet investigated paid search or you think it’s headed for the dinosaur heap, reconsider. The model may need to evolve a bit, the presentation will certainly need adjusting (especially as users move to different ways to access web results via new technologies and access points), but the premise is sound and it’s only getting better. When you compare the early days of pay-per-click advertising with what is available now to help with your campaigns, it’s light years different. In a good way.
There are, of course, hundreds of places online to find out about paid search. One that I’d like to highlight is a new series recently started on Search Engine Land by one of our magazine contributors. Josh Dreller is the author of a new column called PPC Academy, which has just begun to delve into the basics of setting up paid search after spending a couple of columns on history and background. The series is basically a one-year-long tutorial into paid search. Check out his post on the history of pay per click for a trip back in the time machine to simpler (but way less interesting) days of the early Internet and the beginnings of this type of advertising online at A Brief History of Paid Search Advertising.
Josh wrote the cover story for the Winter 08/09 issue of Search Marketing Magazine titled “Tracking Sales Triggers With Conversion Attribution,” an article that provoked much discussion among readers. He has a lot to offer from his years of experience working to optimize his clients SEM efforts. I know that he’ll produce thoughtful commentary on the question of the future of paid search and how online marketers can best profit from the changing landscape in his continuing series. It’s certainly on my “to read” list and if you are involved in paid search, I suggest you consider adding it to yours.
The future of paid search is bright. Changes are happening and much more are coming, but if you get in the game now and start adapting to the changes, it could be a very profitable part of your online mix.