As tends to happen in history, old ways are forgotten when they’re totally outmoded; thus, the old system of buying ads on the Internet is remembered by few. Back in the mid-1990s, ads could be bought for any keyword that the advertisers wanted, whether they were relevant or not it was the Wild West back then for Internet ads and it was watering down the product.
Meanwhile, on the organic side, gaming the system became the norm. SEO was less about content and linking strategies, and more about meta tags and submission tools, writes Tom Hespos. “Search engines weren’t incentivized to spend money on maintaining the editorial integrity of the product, mostly because they were making money selling keyword-triggered banner campaigns for double-digit CPMs.”
In essence, this was resulting in both ads and search results that were irrelevant for what users were looking for. Google changed all this, because it made the searches relevant to users, and made them applicable to advertisers using the same model.
“Google’s economic interests are directly aligned with how relevant paid search results are to the end user,” notes Hespos. “So ads are subject to a Darwinian process wherein if they don’t generate revenue for Google, they either get canceled by Google or the advertiser ends up paying more on a per-click basis for fewer clicks. This lines up directly with how relevant end users think an ad is.”
While the model is no doubt better for all parties, it presents a problem for less experienced advertisers. Efficiency in choosing the right terms to search for can make a huge difference for a company.
“Trying to push irrelevant advertising on experienced search advertisers doesn’t make sense. If I were directing sales at Google, I’d place more importance on making sure that the top advertising spenders in the country were adequately educated about how search works, and less importance on getting experienced advertisers to spend more,” comments Hespos. “I’d also share the right methodology for testing, ensuring that advertisers fully understand what happens when they think their products are relevant to a term when they’re clearly not. I would also emphasize showing how search fits with the rest of the marketing mix. But I most certainly wouldn’t have my sales reps out of alignment with my business model. That’s for sure.”