Should I pay for ads?

I know it seems like paid search results wouldn’t be effective because I never notice myself click them and I’m sure you don’t either, but the statistics say otherwise. I’m sure this data is somewhat skewed by the retail market (Zappos showing up when people search “shoes”) but apparently 30% of searchers end up clicking on paid-for results. And since I’ve heard positive things first-hand from people I know as well, my verdict is yes… if your shit’s tight.

First let’s get into an overview of how it works.

There are basically three ways you can pay for your ad to show up next to relevant searches: Pay per click, pay per thousand exposures, or pay per number of conversions (number of people that click on your ad and end up completing a desired task like purchasing merchandise or songs.)

The need for your landing page and site overall to be effective is obvious when you’re paying for exposures; if a million people see and click your ad but your page isn’t any good, you won’t benefit and it’s no real skin off Google’s back. But this necessity isn’t as obvious for the other two though it’s equally important.

This is because Google uses two parameters to establish where your ad shows up relative to others: How much you’re willing to pay per click or conversion, and the quality of your page and ad. How much you pay per click operates on an automated bidding system like Ebay’s so you don’t pay more than you have to in order to rank well, but the assessment of the quality of your ad and page is a bit more complex and equally important to your ad’s effectiveness.

The overarching concept you should keep in mind here is that Google doesn’t want to be associated with misleading or poor-quality sites, so they use not only their own subjective criteria, but results-based ones as well.

First, Google makes sure that the exact keywords you specify are present in the content on your page (so make sure you include these words early on in your landing page) and they factor in likely indicators of validity such as traffic and where your site’s hosted. Then they use their own metrics to gauge how well your site is performing (click-through rates associated with different queries, bounce rates, how long people stay on your page, how many people convert, etc.)

In the same way that they’ll never say EXACTLY how to make your page rank well in organic search results they’ll never disclose all the criteria and corresponding weights involved in their “Quality Score”, but know that SEO and Quality score will have a lot in common.

However, Google does offer the following “tips” on the subject

  • Provide relevant, useful, and original content
  • Promote transparency and fostering trustworthiness on your site
  • Make it easy for customers to navigate your site (including on mobile sites)

I know this all seems rather obvious, difficult, and airy, but it’s really the same things you should already be doing for SEO and optimization for users, and isn’t too difficult to measure. When you buy their ads Google gives you pretty good analytics to see what ads are working with what keywords or if at all, so over time you can hone your campaign into something that makes sense. You just have to be aware of the mind state of the searchers who would be open to clicking on your ad. For example, no one’s googling “new music.” But they are looking for artists “similar to so-and-so,” shows in different geographic locations, and budding genres (something you’ll always have to stay on top of, by the way.)

Luckily, this is an area in which Google is on your side. They want the smoothest search experience possible, meaning they want your ads showing up only when the users are likely to be glad to see them… plus they’re incentivized monetarily. (How much, I know you’re asking? Of course it’s subjective and difficult to say exactly, but you’d be hard pressed to keep your cost per clicks under $1 each. So make sure you’ve got it dialed.)

The bottom line is that Google Adwords takes some investments of time and money to make the pricing worthwhile and it doesn’t do a lot of good if you’re not showing up on the first page of your target searches to begin with, but once these parameters are in place it’s well worth the investment. So keep growing, getting better, and improving your sites, and when everything is plodding along smoothly and you have something specific to promote, pay for some ads.


P.s. Our readings only addressed Google Adwords, but Facebook, painfully may it die, is an absolutely viable option – especially for musicians. And to this end I highly recommend this article. Facebook is cheaper in general, and when people check out your page you stand a good chance they’ll “like” it, putting them on your mailing list of sorts. (Make sure that when you put effort into anything, whether it’s doing shows or other promotions, you have some way to retain the fruits of your labor. There are a million good artists out there and if you don’t have a way to stay in your audience’s minds they will forget you. I know a DJ who neglects this element. He’s incredibly talented, but by looking at his Soundcloud you’d never know it. Having bar owners know you get the dance floor moving is great, but that doesn’t pack any stadiums.)

Oh yeah, and here are the readings we were assigned if you want to take a look:


2 thoughts on “Should I pay for ads?

  1. One of your goals is to keep people on your blog and reading. Be careful linking out, if you can give your reader the info then do it. Don’t send them away if can avoid it. Of course you may have to if the information is specific or technical. Keep it up.


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