Why CMOs Should Stop Being Addicted to Pay-per-Click Ads


Back in 2001, when Google AdWords was just launched, I remember the day that my first pay-per-click (PPC) campaign yielded the first batch of leads for the company I was working for. In all, this tactic generated 42 leads, and a significant portion was even qualified. Better yet, the price was just right, ranging between 15 to 25 cents per click. It seemed like a great tool to grow our website traffic, as well as an effective means for generating unique leads. There was no doubt in my mind we were going to scale this campaign.

Since then, a lot has changed in the PPC world. Now there is a great deal more available in terms of competitive products from other search engines like Bing. You don’t just have an array of search ads; now there are native ads on Google that replicate the search experience, remarketing display ads, mobile ads, Facebook-sponsored ads, sponsored tweets via Twitter and LinkedIn ads. The CMO has fallen in love with performance-based ads like these PPC ad vehicles, mainly because they work (to some extent) and it’s easy to justify a budget for it when a return can be clearly shown to the CFO.

But like any ad, the efficacy of a single ad deteriorates over time because people become numb to repeated exposure to the ad. So the typical reaction is to change the ad around and run it again. But what happens when the efficacy of the ad network declines? The usual approach from marketers is to simply run more ads and spread them out in different places — all in the hopes that they will stick somewhere. But hope and guesswork do not make an effective strategy.

It’s amazing to me that so many enterprise-level CMOs focus on increasing their digital advertising budgets as the first option to increase online engagement. That’s only going to lead to a flawed strategy and less-than-stellar results. Why would you spend a lot of money, resources and staff hours on mobile ads if the online or mobile experience itself frustrates, irks and turns away customers?

What CMOs need to do is focus on creating seamless, easy-to-use-and-navigate, relevant and meaningful experiences for customers, regardless of their device or channel. And that doesn’t mean launching a full redesign of your website with fancy UX architecture, nor does it mean you should put all your mobile eggs into the responsive design basket. It means taking the slow and steady approach to test and tweak every single experience across the entire engagement funnel and using real-time data to power more personalized experiences that meet the individual needs, habits and behaviors of customers.

But before CMOs raise their hands in the air in praise of online testing and personalization, they need to make sure that they’re measuring the right metrics (that really matter for their business). For instance, analyze bounce rates and your average number of page views. These types of insights can tell you a story about your visitors — who they are, what they’re doing, where they’re going within your website or mobile site and what types of actions they’re taking. What if you have a high double-digit bounce rate of 30%, 40% or even 50%? This is what’s commonly known as the “show up and throw up” approach in the Web business. Most likely, you have a low single-digit page view of 1.xx or 2.xx, which is not uncommon. This is where the money is literally falling out of your budget. And that’s not something CMOs can or should take lightly.

Consider taking a piece of your PPC ad budget and instead, put it to good use by testing and optimizing your online experience. I’m not talking about search engine optimization (SEO). What I’m talking about is making every single page a funnel within a website or mobile site optimized and personalized for the actual traffic you are driving to it. For example, if Facebook is driving a certain portion of traffic to your website, are you using all of the data you have about those visitors and combining it with Facebook data to create the most intuitive, relevant and engaging on-site experience to convert “lookers” into purchasers? If a mobile ad is directing smartphone users to your mobile site, have you tested the specific page they’re landing on and optimizing it to drive higher engagement, conversions and cross-channel revenue? If your answer is no, then you have a serious problem.

The reality is that in a world where the consumer reigns supreme, there is an abundance of opportunities for brands to connect, interact with, speak to, engage and convert casual browsers into loyal brand advocates. So it’s high time brands stop running themselves ragged with PPC ads and start putting their attention toward creating a unified customer experience across every single device and channel.

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