SEO or Keyword Advertising Experiment

Posted by mhurston on May 13, 2009
Creative Corner

Outside of the commercial real estate realm I own and operate a very niche market PDF publishing company whose hosting provider, GoDaddy, recently provided me some free credits for Google AdWords and Facebook Ads. The credits consisted of $25 towards Google AdWords and $50 towards Facebook Ads. My first thought was that the amounts were so low, they couldn’t possibly provide any benefit, and since my PDF publishing hasn’t been exactly profitable the last few months I didn’t want to increase any budget items for it.

However, the company I work at recently had inquiries to me to look into both of these ad services so I figured this might give me an opportunity to familiarize myself with these two products. So I began two campaigns on each site and tracked all of my results. I then shared these results with my companies Marketing Technology Director and our PR firm MassMedia; the results were interesting and a little surprising in some cases.

Disclaimer: Since the testing was only done for 2 days for both campaigns, this information is by no means extensive and should be taken with a grain of salt, though I believe it is something I will look into more and I’d recommend others to evaluate on their own as well.

The Ad Campaigns & Initial Results:

For Google AdWords I created a campaign consisting of about 20 relevant key words (short and long included) with a daily max budget of $30 and a bid of 0.01¢ (the estimated bid of my keywords was between 0.04¢ and 0.09¢. The budget increased to $30 because of Google’s “activation fee” of $5 and their “forced” deposit of $10 to open the account. The ad consisted of the name of the company, a brief description of the product and linked to the sites storefront, however, the link shown in the text was to the sites main page, not the store. I ran this campaign for two days prior to beginning the second campaign. After these two days I had generated just under 200 exposures, but no clicks. This was to be expected; however on my Google Analytics I had seen an increase in traffic of 5%. No other ads or releases had been made during this time.

I continued to let this campaign run, as it was not using any of my credits and set up a second campaign almost exactly the same, but with a slightly higher bid of 0.05¢ After two days the ad had generated over 500 impressions, with a click thru rate of almost 0.20%. My websites traffic increase from this was slightly higher obviously. I then paused this campaign for the remainder of the next test, with hardly any of my credits used.

Facebook was a different beast entirely. I started by setting my campaigns to a daily budget of $25, used the same key words, ad text and link setups as I did in my Google AdWords campaign, but had a cost estimate of 0.46¢ to 0.59¢ – apparently my competitors must advertise on Facebook more than Google. I placed two campaigns, one for 0.01¢ and the other for 0.5¢. After the first day with 0.01¢ I had not generated any impressions, so no clicks, but the 0.5¢ had a different story – I had hit my $25 daily budget with over 84,000 impressions and 54 clicks. While the traffic to my storefront had increased that day, the traffic to my sites main page had not seen a change, and since the previous days had been higher, my Google Analytics showed my site had a decrease in traffic for those pages. Which is fine, since ultimately I want people at the store or at least one of my distributors sites since if they visit my home page, blog or forums it’s not going to generate any income directly.

Questions & Answers:

While the Facebook Ads worked the way I had anticipated for the most part – the Google AdWords, which I have turned back on and continue to follow has been causing me to ask questions. While Facebook seemed to generate traffic to me from the clicks to my site, Google AdWords seems to continue to generate traffic to me whether people click on my ads or not.

When I spoke to our companies Marketing Technology Director we came up with the idea that perhaps the people interested in my niche may have seen the ads, but not clicked on them, but for some reason either typed in the web address or name of the book and found my site this way. This would explain why the ads, which link to the store, seemed to increase traffic to the main page instead of the store.

I then thought of the idea, that perhaps looking into ad words as a way of generating a lot of impressions, but not necessarily desiring clicks may be a feasible small-budget marketing strategy. Of course for commercial real estate, we’d have to look at the possibility of higher key word costs, but the concept would remain the same – to underbid in such a way that our ad is seen but not shown dominant enough to generate a lot of clicks.

This was an interesting train of thought for me, but I wanted more input, so I sent a few emails off to our PR firm, MassMedia to see what they thought of these campaigns and their results. The first response was what I had been thinking, but hadn’t voiced, which is that my use of AdWords may have increased the keyword relevancy from an organic SEO point of view. There have been some theories that an advantage of AdWords will increase your sites SEO as sort of a self serving incentive or that AdWords simply grows the SEO algorithm Google Search uses. I don’t know if it’d be possible to really prove this one way or another, but an interesting concept none the less.

Conclusion:

I’m ultimately left with a lot of questions, not too many proven answers, but definitely an interest in researching these results more. While this outcome was a bit different than I expected it definitely made me think about the benefits of organic ranking compared to raw conversions to your site. If someone is simply looking to build site traffic it’s probably best to just focus on the more common optimizations, such as relevant link exchanges, url submissions to directories, enhanced keyword and description tags, consistent content updates and the use of social media networks and tools. Of course, if you have the budget, a well-targeted AdWords or Facebook Ad campaign wouldn’t hurt either.

AdWords Update: I’ve turned my campaign back on and will post a follow up once the $25 has been burned through.

– Michael G. Hurston

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