Why am I passionate about sponsored links?

I hear it all the time. “But David, I don’t click on the sponsored links.”

To this person I might say, “Someone is. That’s how Google makes money, and Google isn’t short on cash right now. Clearly, people are clicking on the sponsored links, or Google would be broke.”

Well, that’s the easy, if not a little smarty-pants, answer. Let’s look at it a little closer. Let’s look at why a person would click a sponsored link and let’s use a print media to help us translate how this works on the search engines.

You’re reading a magazine – usually for entertainment purposes, right? Let’s call reading a “click” for the purposes of this exercise. So you’re reading this magazine, and you’re probably “clicking” on the articles. That’s why you bought the magazine, right? The articles are the content you’re interested in. You didn’t buy the magazine for the ads. And while you may glance at the ads, you’re not “clicking” on them, right?

Well, when you’re online, most of the time, you are browsing the internet for education, or fun, or information on a certain subject. You’re probably only shopping or looking to actually spend money online a small percentage of your searches, right? So just like when you’re reading a magazine, you would probably ignore the ads and focus on the “articles”. You’re not clicking on the sponsored links because they are ads – they are businesses trying to sell you something. So no, there would be no reason to click on them . . . unless you are shopping.

But when you are shopping . . . when you have an immediate need for something – let’s say you want your deck sealed, and an ad appears that says something like “Deck Sealing – 25 Year Guarantee – Free Estimate”, then you might be inclined to click on a sponsored link – in fact, you probably don’t even care if it’s a sponsored link or an organic link. You just know that the message fits your needs, so you click.

And what if you’re the deck company? Don’t you want SHOPPERS clicking on your link? Isn’t that a little better lead than someone doing research on deck sealing? Isn’t a shopper the kind of lead you hope for on the Internet? Heck yes!

Okay, let me prove this point a little further. Take a second and Google the keyword “GPS”. What you are likely to find is that the majority of results in the organic section of Google are informational. You’ll see gps.gov and wikipedia and a gps magazine and even Garmin and Tom Tom – but they don’t sell GPS units directly from their sites. They just have information available to those who are researching GPS units. For the most part, everything in the organic section is informational and educational. Now take a look at the sponsored links. Every single one of these companies is ready to sell you a GPS unit. Your subconscious has just learned that information can be found in the organic section of Google and that the sponsored section contains many many shopping choices and results.

No, you may not click on the sponsored links very often. But really, of the many searches you did today, how many of them ended up with a purchase? I challenge you to keep track of when you are shopping and see if the sponsored section doesn’t give you the better results. I’m confident that you will start to see a pattern that looks like this: “When I’m actually shopping – looking to spend money on a product or a service, the sponsored links provide the best results.” You’ll become more conscious of this fact. You’ll want your business to appear in this section too.

Is it good to be in the organic section of Google. Of course! Being in more than one section of Google makes the most impact since appearing on the first page of Google more than once increases your opportunity for getting clicked exponentially. But with Google changing their search criteria 480 times in 2008, it isn’t always easy to make that happen, and it can change on a dime. Organic is a very good thing – but it’s a bit of a roll of the dice. (If it were as easy and as permanent as some SEO companies made it out to be – wouldn’t everyone be able to appear on the first page of Google?)

Also, take a look at my last post. You know that sponsored links appear above the organic links. Simply put, the higher you appear on the first page of Google, the better your chances of being clicked. Being at the top is better than not – even if you have to pay a few dollars for the click.

If you still think my logic is flawed, take a tip from some of the big players. A Google search for “sporting goods” has results in the organic section for Dick’s Sporting Goods as well as Cabela’s. But guess who also pays to appear in the sponsored links on this search? Yep, both Dick’s and Cabela’s. How about a search for “refrigerator”? Both Sears and Lowes appear in the organic section of Google. Clearly, they are an obvious result for a search like this. Now look to the top or even to the right of the page. Hello Sears and Lowes. Apparently you feel that customers might be clicking in the sponsored section too. 🙂

Lastly, my team meticulously tracks every PPC campaign we run, and it simply cannot be argued that PPC works. I have seen the results, heard the phone calls, and seen the jobs generated by sponsored clicks.

Would I ever recommend that you don’t do SEO? Nope. But I don’t think you should discount sponsored links.

David McBee, Internet Marketing Strategist

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  1. Planning Your Internet Marketing Budget « Let's Translate – Making Sense Out of Internet Gobbledygook. A Blog by David McBee

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