Are Ad Words Dead?

We have seen the headlines over the past few months… “signs of click recession!” or “decelerating clicks!” Obviously these are referencing Google and are referring to ComScore’s recent monthly data reports showing decline in the number of times consumers clicked pay per click ads that accompany Google search results.

We can infer from the headlines that journalists and the powers that be may attribute this to environmental factors as a result of a slowing economy. Others say this is the result of a conscious effort by the company to trim clicks so that they can limit the supply and charge more.

We can go back and forth about the cause, but it clearly appears that advertisers, after years of consistent and meteoric growth, may be getting fewer sales per click, which is bad news indeed for all concerned.

Marketing 2.0 Win has its own theory, borne out of let me say up front non-scientific research in my work as an adjunct professor of marketing at Emerson College in Boston. I see it in the classroom all the time, the search-based PPC ad platform is becoming mature and students (vis a vis consumers) aren’t noticing or responding to them as they have before.

Remember Banner Ads? Or Flash-based web site intro’s? How cool they seemed… then, and how they don’t now?

Thus is it may be with search-based adwords. When we first encountered them, they raised the bar for relevant ads, based on what we were searching for at the current moment. Google not only delivered us better search results than the others, the search based ads as often as naught mirrored our interest at that instant and offered us the potential to find best price for products we may be seeking. We were interested, we noticed, we clicked through and we bought, finally making the long sought after promise of the web to deliver relevance to individuals a reality.

No, don’t me wrong, Google is not resting on any laurels. They are a great innovating company and their acquisitions of YouTube and DoubleClick prove this. However, YouTube even with huge numbers of visitors is still hard to monetize, and the DoubleClick approach to knowing where you have been, as well as where you are in order to make better inferences leading to more relevant ads, well this opens up a whole Pandora’s Box of issues from privacy to trust that will only get more intense and slow things down.

In our world view, if relevance is king then as the Law of Surrender = Victory dictates, control is key… customer control. To make it simple, ask the customer what they want. Offer them a way to choose from a menu of ads or create a profile that can be changed at any time, which can then help serve up ads on search, on You tube, Hulu or wherever, that will be more relevant. For example, when is a car ad most relevant? Probably when you are in the market. Give customers the ability to declare their interest.

By doing this two things happen. 1. With the customers help and control, ads will be more relevant and targeted, and 2. The more opportunities the customer has to raise their hands, the more likely a prospect they will be, which will translate into higher conversions and sales.

So, has search-based advertising had its day? You be the judge. However from where we sit there is no doubt that the novelty may be wearing off and that the quest for relevance is ongoing. In Marketing 2.0 Win, it is certain that if companies do more to bring customers into the mix, relevance will follow, which in the end creates even more opportunities for growth.

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