As recently as a couple of years ago, we would have argued that online advertising was not necessary for every client. Where budgets allow, advertising has always been a powerful medium for raising profile and online was no different. But there was always a choice – PR, SEO (search engine optimisation), using social media organically to engage, email marketing and so on. A lot of these options take time but you didn’t have to advertise to get results.
We’ve noticed the shift, which is mostly a result of evolution and if we stop to think about it, was inevitable. Social networks although “free” had to monetise at some point and search engines have continued to improve their advertising models to make them more attractive and effective to businesses.
Both search and social have also matured so that they are widely accepted as our main sources of information in terms of “what’s happening” (social) and “Google it” (search). This makes them much more attractive to businesses, for instance now it’s not “should we” have a social profile, we must.
Advertising became essential more recently really, when a number of things changed:
- Facebook’s advertising model improved with sponsored posts, stories and offers as well as its more traditional “adverts”.
- Google decided to encrypt keyword data in its Analytics so we can no longer see which keywords people are using organically to find our website pages.
- Twitter’s recent IPO fast-forwarded its advertising offer to make it more accessible to all (previously it was mostly available in the USA and had high minimum spends to get started). Now they are making it accessible for all businesses.
In the past we didn’t always find Facebook advertising effective compared to Google Adwords, but when sponsored posts were introduced things improved. One of the reasons for this is that the combined advantage of appearing in news feeds and the targeting makes them highly relevant, there are also more options to help the advertiser.
Facebook also uses its “EdgeRank” algorithm for organic posts, which means only a percentage (around 16% on average) of your posts will actually appear in fans’ newsfeeds. Advertising gets past this, although quality of the content you’re promoting is still important.
One of the most attractive things that online advertising gives us is instant volume. This means that within usually a matter of days, you have enough data to know what is working and what is not. Another few days will provide further testing opportunities and more data.
Even if you run advertising at a low level, this volume data is priceless. Organically it will take so much longer to learn this. This is now particularly true with Google as the only way you can now see keyword data is by advertising.
Conclusion? To reach larger audiences, carry out meaningful SEO and test content – yes it’s now essential.