WHERE DO I STAND ON PPC?
PPC (Pay Per Click) is an interesting topic for me. In my current role, I head up the digital acquisition team for a publishing house, focusing in on magazine subscriptions and one of our biggest acquisition channels in PPC. We invest a huge amount of money into this channel and I’ve found that over the past 3 years working on the account, we’ve seen a huge increase in CPCs and the search volume is steadily declining, making it more expensive for me to drive less volume. Then you layer on the fees for the media agency and it’s becoming a very expensive channel.
We work on a CPA (cost per acquisition) model – the PPC channel has a specific CPA attributed to it and then our other marketing channels feed into an overall average CPA. Owned channels are easy to control and costs can be easily managed but paid channels, where competition is increasing are forcing the average CPA to increase which means that now it’s more expensive and therefore there is a higher cost to the business. If I was driving more volume by spending more money, then it would be easy to justify the overall cost but that’s just not the case.
Over the past year or so, I’ve been running some tests through display programmatic and paid social display advertising with an attempt to drive additional awareness around our product offering. The hypothesis is quite simple, by increasing the overall brand awareness, we would be able to drive additional incremental sales over time. What we found was interesting… we have portfolio of over 70 magazine titles all of which cover a wide range of interests and hobbies including music, entertainment, gardening, motoring and more.
By developing an integrated approach where we ran display ads through social and programmatic, we were able to establish a halo impact which increased the volume of search for specific magazine titles in relation to their subscription marketing terms. We ran these campaigns for 3 months at a time on specific brands and what we found is that on certain titles, this hybrid approach to paid media meant that we were able to drive incremental PPC sales. However, we had to track the funnel over time…we were able to see that incremental increase in last click PPC sales but additionally we drove attributed sales through paid social and programmatic. This was fantastic because that meant that by diversifying our investment we were able to drive additional sales.
Here’s a talk that I did for Figaro Digital back in November 2019, that discusses this in more detail: https://www.figarodigital.co.uk/video/dont-give-up-on-paid-search/
Obviously, there was a learning period – so that cost per campaign was expensive to start with but over time the CPA reduced and that made the test more viable. We were able to establish which campaigns worked both from a last click and attributed perspective while also be able to determine the length of time needed per title before we could see that incremental halo impact. What I am most intrigued about is what happened when we switched off the display campaigns. That halo impact started to disappear and the search volume started to drop again… it was subtle and overtime, but it happened.
So what is the conclusion? PPC cannot be a channel used in isolation anymore, it has to be integrated with other paid media channels (- display, paid social, influencer marketing etc.) aimed at driving awareness with that awareness comes an overall halo effect which will increase search volume.
That’s what we want.. we want to drive increased search volume. So no, if I use PPC as part of an integrated approach then I am not wasting my money BUT if I continue to use PPC as an isolated channel, then I am in for some testing times!