PPC is Boring. What’s Next?

cpc-q413-tsa-300114A recent article on PPC trends caught my eye. It reports that the average CPC for paid search ads rose again across all search engines in the fourth quarter of 2013; it currently stands at $1.33. Mobile, of course, continued its inexorable rise. And Bing is once again a market-share afterthought at 15.6%.  (Thanks to The Search Agency for the original research and the graph to the left.)

The numbers themselves aren’t that interesting — they merely served to remind us what we all already know: PPC is far from fallow ground, and it increasingly brings diminishing returns.

In the beginning, PPC — especially search-based pay-per-click — was a true paradigm-breaking revolution in advertising efficiency. Think back to ten years ago, when it wasn’t uncommon to see average CPC’s of 0.25 or even 0.06.

Those were good days — and not just because it was cheaper to get a click. The CTR was much higher, most consumers (even sophisticated ones) didn’t understand the difference between paid and organic results, and competition for long tail keywords was especially low. PPC was new. Bargains were to be found. ROI could be amazingly high.

But like a pristine beach overrun by backpackers, PPC is now crowded, prices have gone up, and everyone is well and truly sick of banana pancakes. The prices being paid for the most popular keywords are approaching the marginal value of the leads garnered when sent through a lead funnel of average efficiency. It’s time to move on.

What’s Next?

The easiest answer is also the most pragmatic: get more efficiency with current methods. That means making more effective combined media efforts to move customers along the sales process, getting better conversion rates with more granular landing pages, activating more customized marketing efforts, and being generally more efficient at everything we do. In fact, this is likely where most of us will earn the majority of our living over the next few decades. Refining what we’re already doing today.

Our Big Bet.

glassCanopy is putting a big bet on content marketing. But content marketing is a long-term play (and arguably not even a new one) that allows your brand to build trust and authority over time to eventually bring in and close high quality and low cost inbound leads. A slow burn. And we know that sometimes you need a fast win or a quickly scalable model where dollars-in directly translates to a given number of leads-out.

A New Revolution?

So, what’s going to replace SEM PPC as a quickly scalable engine that drives advertising efficiency? I only wish I knew, but here are some thoughts to consider:

  • Big Companies are amassing Big Data on everyone on the planet. And as the NSA has recently (and appallingly) demonstrated, correlation technology is beginning to make some sense of this massive treasure trove of structured and unstructured data.
  • The human brain has an incredible ability to filter out everything it deems irrelevant. This includes most advertising. SEM was so effective precisely because it was able to combine serious buyer intent for a given product or service with a highly relevant and timely message. But it’s not very useful for creating demand for an unfamiliar product or service.
  • Content marketing is popular because it can break through the brain’s advertising filter. We’re not trying to sell to our prospects — we’re trying to educate them and gain their trust.
  • If you combine the ever-more-accurate and increasingly-wide-ranging predictive technology with educational content-style marketing messages, along with the ability to effectively place it within content that prospects have actively sought out — you will have the equivalent of search PPC, in terms of relevance (and measurability); but with the added ability to lure prospects to new products or services they might not have been even aware they needed.

So there you have it. My prediction for the Next Big Thing: Predictive Advertorial Placements. You read it here first.

I’ve already submitted my bullshit business-process patent so that I can live out my declining years as a patent troll. In the meantime, you’ll find us here at glassCanopy playing the long-game of marketing useful content while obsessively optimizing sales funnels.

 

Rich Quarles

Rich Quarles

Rich is a marketing strategist focused primarily on startups, technology, and financial services. He has advised startups that have collectively returned almost $2 billion to founders and investors. Rich founded glassCanopy in 2001.
Rich Quarles

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