Not all search engine traffic is created equal.
It is really easy for a newcomer to the world of search engine marketing to assume that the search engines (e.g., Google, Microsoft) are all the same and the clicks therefrom all behave in the same ways. In the words of Lee Corso, the ESPN analyst on College Game Day . . . “not so fast my friends”!! In this post, we are going to learn the differences between Google and Microsoft, their search engines and shopping engines, mobile vs. desktop, and much more, to help you better optimize your efforts here. As you are going to read, there are probably of lot of things you are doing today, that you shouldn’t be. And, vice versa, a lot of things you are not doing today, that you should be.
Google vs. Microsoft
Well, first of all, the biggest difference between Google and Microsoft is reach: Google is materially larger than Microsoft (which includes Bing, Yahoo and AOL traffic in their network). According to Statista, that difference is around 63% market share for Google and 25% market share for Microsoft in the United States, so Google is around 2.5x the size. You would think that suggests you should focus your efforts on Google first, to get in front of more users, right? Perhaps, but everyone else is also thinking that. There actually is less competition on Microsoft, and you may be able to acquire the same amount clicks at a materially lower cost per click and improve your ROI in the process.
And there is a material difference in demographics between the two networks. Google tends to attract younger, more college educated, higher income, and a generally more tech savvy audience. And Microsoft tends to attract an older, less educated, and less income audience, more likely to have kids. Maybe that doesn’t matter for your business, depending on your product offering (e.g., either audience watches movies). But maybe that demographic difference could be a material issue for you (e.g., selling a product targeting older Baby Boomers may perform better on Microsoft).
There is also a material difference if you are trying to attract users from outside of the United States. Google’s international reach is materially bigger than Microsoft’s, in case you are targeting international customers, as well as U.S. based customers.
Search vs. Shopping
Just so we are clear, search ads are the sponsored listings that appear at the top of search engine results when you enter in a keyword (mostly textual based links). Shopping ads are the product listings that appear in the “shopping” sections of those same search engines (e.g,. mostly visual product images), typically loaded to the search engines with a direct feed of your products from your website with feed management tools like Feedonomics or DataFeedWatch. If you are in ecommerce business selling products, the natural instinct is to be advertising in both sections: get your link to “chairs” in the search results and get your image of specific chair SKUs you sell into the shopping results.
That may work fine for you, or it may not, as we learned with the Restaurant Furniture Plus business. For that business, the shopping section was mostly attracting consumers, not commercial buyers. So, there was a material difference in the average order size between the two sections, let’s say $500 from shopping and $5,000 from search. And based on the differences in cost of customer acquisition, let’s say $100 from shopping and $200 from search, it was materially easier to maximize revenues, profitability and return on ad spend by focusing on search, and not struggle to simply break even on the shopping spend. The right answer here for any one business, will be different depending on your focus. Figure out what is best for your business.
B2C vs. B2B
Related to this search vs. shopping topic, are the implications for B2C vs. B2B facing businesses. Continuing with the Restaurant Furniture Plus example, let’s say they were advertising for “chairs”. Yes, chairs are needed for restaurants. But they are also needed by consumers in their homes. When simply advertising “chairs”, they were up against a lot of big consumer brands selling chairs (e.g., Pottery Barn, Wayfair) trying to tap into those same “chairs” keywords. And those big brands have a lot more marketing muscle and repeat buying potential, as those consumers will most likely buy other products for their homes over time. Which means the big brands were willing to pay a lot more for those leads. It wasn’t until they shut off their shopping feed, and changed all the generic “chairs” keywords to more specific “restaurant chairs”, “commercial chairs”, “foodservice chairs”, that they started to truly optimize for B2B needs. Somebody really needs to build the “B2B Only Search Engine”, as you typically can’t get that level of keyword targeting out of the current search engine tools.
Desktop vs. Mobile
When I first started digital marketing back in 2000, there was no such thing as a smart phone. So, all the traffic was coming from desktop PCs. But, over the last 20 years, and thanks to the innovations of Apple, Android, Samsung and others, for many companies, searches from mobile phones has actually surpassed searches from desktop PCs. The problem with that: most businesses have optimized their user experience for desktop, not mobile. And, the search engine algorithms actually produce search results differently, depending on the perceived user experience and site speed of those different desktop vs. mobile channels.
For example, check out this Google tool that lets you check your site speed on desktop vs. mobile. If Google thinks your mobile site (compared to your desktop site) is too slow and you are giving a poor mobile user experience, it will not publish your mobile advertising in the same frequency it is pushing your desktop advertising, or the same frequency of your competitors’ advertising or search engine optimization rankings who are better optimized for mobile. You really need to be living in a “mobile first” way of thinking today, to get the lion’s share of the searches coming your way.
Text (Prospecting) vs. Display (Retargeting)
In addition to the text ads you buy in the search engines, they also let you buy display ads, which publish to those same retargeted users that are visiting other websites that are within those same advertising networks. There are several differences here: what you can say and show in a few lines of text, is very different from what you can say and show in a beautiful image. Not to mention, that image is now being displayed to a user that has already seen your brand once, so they will be much more likely to engage with that second impression image ad, than they were to engage with that first impression text ad. So, if you are going to run a search campaign, you are leaving a lot of potential success off the table if you are not concurrently running the display retargeting ads.
With Reviews vs. Without
Over the years, Google has added a lot of emphasis on social media data, in dictating how it publishes ads and how it ranks sites for organic traffic. One of the biggest drivers of that is customer reviews data. But the reviews have to come from their list of trusted reviews vendors to give the review credibility, and ensure that you simply didn’t make it up.
The benefit of working with one of these trusted third party reviews vendors is, if you have over 100 reviews, Google will add those reviews (e.g., your summary five star score), next to each of your paid search ads and your organic search result links. Which does two things: (i) it gives you higher credibility vs. other links on the page, increasing the odds the customer clicks on your links; and (ii) more importantly, it can decrease your cost of customer acquisition by as much as 15%, on average, with a higher likelihood of converting into sales. So, make sure you have a good customer reviews strategy that will make the search engines more likely to promote you to truly optimize your ROI.
General vs. Custom Audiences
To date, you mostly had to rely on the search engines to identify the audience targeted, and hope they got it right. In the newest iterations of search marketing, the searches engines are giving you more input on who is being targeted. For example, if you are a “whitelisted” email marketer, you can give them your list of email targets, they will match it to their users, and target advertising only to those users. This is great if you are targeting old customer email accounts, or a list of prospects’ emails you have created. Or, as another example, you can give them a list of competitor or industry websites where your likely customers are looking, and they will target advertising to any users that visit those sites. That is pretty awesome!! This is the first thing I have seen, other than customizing keywords from “chairs” to “restaurant chairs”, that will help B2B marketers go after really targeted traffic for their business. So, be sure to set up your custom audiences in your campaigns.
So, as you can see, a lot has changed in the world of search marketing since I first wrote about it in 2011. And, I am guessing there will continue to be many more changes to come in the years ahead. So, please don’t set up your campaigns once and forget about them. You constantly need to be relearning the new best practices and resetting your campaigns to truly have a maximum return on your search engine marketing investment.
George Deeb is a Partner at Red Rocket Ventures and author of 101 Startup Lessons-An Entrepreneur’s Handbook. For future posts from George, please follow him here or on Twitter at @georgedeeb or @redrocketvc.
I am a Managing Partner at Chicago-based Red Rocket Ventures, a growth consulting, executive coaching, shared executive and financial advisory firm based in Chicago. I am
I am a Managing Partner at Chicago-based Red Rocket Ventures, a growth consulting, executive coaching, shared executive and financial advisory firm based in Chicago. I am the author of 101 Startup Lessons—An Entrepreneur’s Handbook, a member of the Chicago Tech 50, mentor at Techstars and an active venture investor via the FireStarter Fund. I am a past Ernst & Young “Entrepreneur of the Year” for my efforts as Founder & CEO of iExplore. You can follow me on Twitter at @georgedeeb or @RedRocketVC.