From a very young age, I despised advertising. While TV ads were annoying to me as a kid, I couldn’t have envisioned just how much worse things would get thanks to technology. Today, I work in search engine optimisation because it offers a much more meaningful way to connect with potential customers than paid ads. Let me explain.
Early Signs of the Problem Growing
The boundaries of advertising starting to head down a route of annoyance came with the advent of DVDs. Lest you forget, there was a time where the trip to XtraVision was a weekly occurrence. You’d come up, snacks at the ready, pop in the DVD only to be greeted with unskippable crap.
Don’t get me wrong, piracy is bad mmmmkay. But so is bad user experiences. Just think about what’s happening here. You had just done the opposite to piracy. You’d popped down the video shop and paid a few bob to watch a movie only to be given out to for something other people do.
Unfortunately for the likes of XtraVision, the days of video rentals were numbered. Unfortunately for everyone else, irritating ads were about to get much worse.
Video on Demand
I’ve said in countless meetings over the years where people are discussing video on demand ads, or VOD ads, just how carefully they have to be used, if used at all. VOD ads are either played before or during video content. YouTube is a typical place you’d see the likes of these, but they are also common on other video platforms. The two I personally hate most are SkyGo and RTÉ Player. These are two platforms where you are already paying for the privilege of access to video content before you also have to pay with your attention for ads.
My personal dislike for these ads aside, globally, brands opting for VOD ads completely refuse to empathise with their audiences. Brands are hoping to connect with customers by blocking them from watching the content they picked. Consumers may not even put two and two together, but subconsciously they will despise your brand for blocking them from their content even if it’s just thirty seconds.
Irish research has shown that 75% of ads are skipped when the consumer has the choice to do so. 35% of people surveyed were frustrated when VOD blocked them from getting to their video content while 68% are concerned VOD will grow further.
If VOD usage does grow from brands, you’d be better off not being a part of it and let your competition piss people off instead.
But what are the other options?
Display, Social and Search Advertising
I’m getting near talking about search engine optimisation now, but first I want to take a look at what’s left.
Display advertising has been a misunderstood channel for a long long time. If anyone ever gives you a report that focusses on display ad impressions, you have my permission to hit them a slap. Also, if you expect to get conversions, hit yourself a slap.
Display advertising offers some incredible targeting options, but take it easy. Use impression caps to ensure you’re not hounding people online. Build audiences by focussing on interests and in-market segments, recycling these for search marketing ads. Be clever, but realise that display ads do have massive limitations too.
We can all see that advertising has changed dramatically in recent years, but social advertising is changing by the day. Facebook’s creepy levels of targeting became incredibly apparent with Cambridge Analytica. I know that was down to dodgy apps, but if you’ve ever played with Facebook’s ad interface you’ll have seen how granular the targeting is. Though it does feel like the platform has had its hay day.
Twitter has introduced quite a few innovative ad features over the past 12 months. Brands seem to really be enjoying the ability to take over a top hashtag spot for 24 hours yet brands are also more likely to keep ploughing cash into Facebook, regardless of results.
If you’re targeting younger demographics, you might be tempted to throw some cash into Snapchat. You’ll likely be disappointed with the numbers you see from these ads. Instagram does offer an alternative for brands, but again, those of you who enjoyed the Facebook ads boom will be left wondering what you need to do to see success like the good old days.
This is probably my preferred method of paid online advertising, but only when done right. Paying for clicks on branded terms then counting the resulting conversions as a win is digital marketing suicide. Yet this is a very common practice for agencies around the world. It’s cooking the books. You’ll hear some defend this move with something like “double coverage” or ” it pushes other organic search results below the fold.
It’s nonsense. If you are ranking for your branded terms, stop bidding on them. There are three exceptions to this rule.
- If you are planning a migration I would totally recommend you bid on branded terms until you’re back out of the woods.
- If your competitor is bidding on your brand, you might need to. Google removed most of the rules around competitor bidding. Once they don’t use your trademarked brand name, it’s all fair game.
- If you haven’t been able to secure a stable top spot ranking for a branded search query, bid on it while optimising to do so organically.
Beyond that, keep your Google Ads for unbranded terms you haven’t been able to rank organically for.
Which leads us nicely into search engine optimisation.
SEO as the Ultimate Marketing Channel
I started with VOD advertising and will end with SEO, all very deliberately of course. Video on demand advertising is incredibly disruptive for the consumer and runs the risk of negative sentiments as a result. SEO, when done right avoiding spammy work, is the polar opposite.
I’ve had a mantra in my SEO work for years. Optimise for people, not robots. While machines decide what to show people, it’s people that make those searches. Optimise for those people. In optimising for people, you have to constantly remember that you are trying to help people. Google answers questions. Google solves problems. As an SEO or just as a marketer in general, your job is to demonstrate to people why your brand or why your client solves consumers problems.
The easy option is to force yourself into a consumers life. VOD, display and social advertising are all disruptive advertising. Search advertising isn’t necessarily disruptive, it can be very complimentary, but it’s a financial black hole many brands fall into.
Search engine optimisation, while arguably the most difficult option, provides the greatest opportunity to create a meaningful connection with consumers. Optimise for questions with helpful content. Understand searcher intent and create even more helpful content to ensure your brand appears in front of the right user, with the right content at the right stage of their purchase journey.
If you’d like some help with this, feel free to give us a shout, but more importantly, take this away from this article.
- VOD can easily piss people off despite reports making you feel like things are going great
- Stop bidding on brand terms you rank for organically and stop letting agencies report on these figures for you too.
- Invest time in SEO. Hire someone to manage the organic part of your business. Bringing someone in-house is the most cost-effective long term solution here. Hiring an agency or freelancer is the fastest way to get the job done.