Is Paid Advertising Worthless

Just a short time ago one of the largest sites on the entire web was hit with what looked like a manual penalty from Google. This week it sounds like they’re firing back with a little tongue in cheek report stating “there is no measurable benefit” to paid ads – aka Adwords.

MythsIt’s an interesting read as eBay is one of the largest ecommerce sites on the web and they would definitely have the budget and manpower to really determine how much paying for a service like Adwords really benefits them. For a quick review of just what Adwords are to search, they’re the paid advertisements that appear on the top, bottom or to the side of the search results page. They’re like the chocolate bar isle in the grocery store as when you click them you’re brought to exactly where you would expect to. Search for ‘buy cars winnipeg’ for example and you’ll see ads from companies like Ford and Hyundai at the top or side of the page, having paid to appear for that term. eBay contends that using paid advertising is ineffective and that in the majority of the cases they researched the leads generated were people already loyal customers of the company whose ad they clicked.

They did however admit that when using generic terms like a brand name search there may still be a benefit attached to spending on those ads.

Unlike branded search, where a firm’s website is usually in the top organic search slot, organic placement for non-branded terms vary widely

As a search marketer however there is a handful additional uses that Adwords can be used for. We can use paid ads as a test bed of sorts, just to gauge the interest of a set of terms in a specific location for example, over a very specific length of time; instead of investing man hours and effort optimizing for a set of terms that have no traction. Paying for a campaign also allows us to receive important keyword data, doubly important now that Google encrypts all of their searches coming through the results pages, this keyword data can allow us to adjust content based on interest quickly, and accurately.

For eBay to come out and say that paying for advertising isn’t worth the cost is a little short sighted, perhaps they’re just feeling a tad left out after being on the wrong side of the search engines wrath this past week.