Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re going to chat about advertising investments and how paying for advertising can actually yield positive results for SEO, for links, for social shares, for content investments, for email marketing, for all of these organic channels.
I know this seems weird, but it actually can work. Google has some guidelines around this. They say, “Look, if you’re over here and you’re saying like, “Hey, man, I’ll give you 500 bucks for a link on your site, a live, followed back link directly,’ that is not okay.” Even if the person on the other side says, “Sure, I’ll take your 500 bucks and add that link.”
Google doesn’t want to count those links. They treat those as web spam. They’re going to find ways to avoid that type of manipulation. They can, in fact, penalize you for it, and lots of times they do.
However, Google is totally fine with and they even support, endorse, and run systems, a whole advertising network around this to say, “Hey, I’d love to buy some ad spots from this website.” Sure. My sidebar ads are no followed, and they cost $150 a month. This is totally 100% okay by Google.
In fact, this is okay by any form of things. So social networks are fine with this. Email things are fine with this. The FCC, the Federal Communications folks here in the U.S. are totally fine with this. The EU is fine with this. It’s totally okay. As long as it’s disclosed that this is an advertising relationship on the website, you’re in the clear. In fact, very often it’s the case that there’s a correlation, a strong correlation between advertising and organic types of relationships and returns.
Tactics that are worth trying (depending on your business goals)
Blogs, forums, niche websites, or news/media sites
So a lot of times you’ll see an ad buy is the first step to a deeper relationship between a website or a blogger or a media source and an advertiser, and that will lead to some forms of content sharing. Maybe some of the content will be promoted on the advertiser’s site or the other way around. That might lead to some business development of some kind. That could lead to guest contributions of content or guest posting of some kind. It can lead to social sharing where the advertiser shares something that they’ve sponsored on the media sites or the other way around. It can lead to email inclusions and email sponsorships.
It can even lead directly to links and brand mentions. People will say, “Hey, I want to thank my advertiser,” or “Hey, one of my advertisers came out with this cool product that, in fact, they didn’t pay me to endorse, but I am organically endorsing it because I really like it. By the way, they happen to be top of mind for me because they’re an advertiser.” Sometimes you don’t even realize those relationships are happening, but they do.
This is why often there is a very strong connection between advertising dollars and those kinds of more organic forms of relationships. While Google certainly is smart enough to realize that those relationships exist, they don’t say, “No, it’s not okay that you bought an advertising format from this person, and that eventually led to a more organic kind of relationship and now they’re endorsing you without a followed link, without payment in an editorial kind of way.” That’s actually totally fine.
This is why advertising can be so powerful, not just for search and for links, although that’s certainly a big one. So I’ve actually got a few suggestions, some places where we’ve seen over the course of time, and I’ve seen certainly in some of the companies that I occasionally help out informally, where they’ve benefited from these types of things. On the other side, I’ve seen from bloggers, journalists, and media sites and niche websites and forums, how they have also benefited from these forms of advertising.
What you want to do, though, is you want to go direct. So I want to buy from NicheBloggerABC.com, not from Google Ads or Federated Media, which happens to power advertising on their site. So you want those direct advertising inquiries, where you have the relationship personally, and that’s what you’re building. Don’t use that generic ad provider.
By the way, if you’re going direct, make sure those links are no followed. You don’t want to buy followed links, or you’ll get into the problem that we had over here. You’re trying to build a relationship, not a followed link. Hopefully, all those other positive organic things, those will come later if you buy these no followed links, if you start that relationship with advertising.
Conference and event sponsorships
Especially, in particular, more creative and more audience relevant forms of advertising can create much greater engagement. So if you buy a booth at a conference, well that can help. Maybe you’ve got a trade show booth and people come by and that kind of thing, and that does work for some folks, especially if they’re looking for leads.
We’ve done a few things with conference and events, even here at Moz, where we’ve done forms of sponsorship that are more creative. We give out swag. We share some content. We do something that’s very special for the audience, that happens to be relevant to their interests, usually along the lines of SEO stuff. That works much better. That often will get pickup and coverage by press and media, by bloggers who attend events, by people on social media who go to these events.
Weirdly, almost ironically, the less promotional you are in your advertising, which seems counterintuitive, the better this works for all of the organic kinds of things you’re seeking. It might not work quite as well for that direct lead capture or sales capture. But by saying, “Hey, we’re going to provide free Wi-Fi to the entire conference, and all you have to do is enter a repetition of our brand name three times as the password.” Well, guess what? That builds a lot of brand equity, and it is much more appreciated than, “Hey, we’re going to need you to take this free demo” or “You need to give us your email address and be promoted to,” and these kinds of things. That less promotional can often have greater returns.
Then the last one I’ll mention here, even though this list could go on and on and you can use your imagination, is outdoor TV, radio, print, those old school forms of advertising. I think one of the most interesting studies I saw was a couple of years ago showing the correlation between these forms of advertising and search volume. The team from SEER Interactive put up a case study about some outdoor advertising.
Now, it could have been SEER. It might have been Distilled. I’m going to make sure, and I’m going to put it in the blog post itself. I’ll link over to that study for you guys, showing that when one of their clients had invested in these forms of advertising, they saw a direct bump in search traffic.
Editor’s note: Rand offered up a couple of other relevant links for more information about the relationship between offline ads and search traffic:
Mercedes-Benz: Quantifying how online and offline marketing work together to drive sales volume
Can TV Advertising Really Impact Search Performance?
Essentially more people were searching for their brand name, for their products, and those people went to their website. Now that’s a beautiful thing, especially if you are trying to increase search demand and search click-through rate.
So if you perceive that you have a weakness in terms of, “Hey, we’re just not getting as much branded search. We’re not getting as high a click-through rate. Our brand recognition is low. That’s hurting us in search results. People are getting better engagement than us, and as a result they are getting higher rankings and better links and all this other kind of stuff.” This is a great way to potentially combat this.
With any form of tactic that you’re trying like this, you’re going to want to think really carefully about audience makeup. So many of the times when you’re doing more traditional kinds of advertising, what you’re seeking is an audience that’s made up of people who are going to buy your product, people who have a high potential to be a customer.
That’s actually not necessarily what you’re seeking when you do these forms of advertising. You are really seeking, yes, people who might become customers, but also people who might influence customers. Customer influencers is often a very different group than direct customers themselves. It might be that you’re reaching a much smaller audience, but it is more targeted to that flow.
For conferences and events, you really want those press and media types of people. For these blog, forums, and niche websites, you might be targeting influencers and journalists and other bloggers and social media mavens and that kind of stuff, who consume this type of content online far more than your regular customers do.
So you want to be careful about that when you’re choosing advertising that is supposed to be helping you with organic channels. This is a really interesting topic. It’s one of the newer kinds of forms and ways that people are leveraging paid advertising. It can run the risk, if you get too aggressive with it, that you actually step on some of these FCC guidelines or Google’s guidelines. So you’ve got to be very careful. But if you walk this line well, you can experience great benefit to your SEO, your social, your content, your email, your brand by paying for it and getting those indirect benefits as a second order effect.
All right, everyone. Hope you’ve enjoyed this edition of Whiteboard Friday. I look forward to some great comments. Hopefully, you all have some stories to share about this, and we’ll see you again next week. Take care.