Erin Everhart / Digital Marketing / August 26th, 2011

Why pay for what you can get for free?

I Google a lot. It’s my job, and I kinda dig it. But one thing that’s been ruffling my feathers recently is companies wasting dollars on paid advertising when there’s no need. While I can admint that there are some measurable benefits when it comes to Google AdWords, like being able to see dollar for dollar which keywords of yours are best converting, but it’s no surprise that I’m not a huge proponent of PPC search marketing. Why pay for clicks when with a little elbow grease you can get them for free?

I had to reorder my contact prescription, so like most blind bats, I go to 1800 Contacts. You know, because TV advertising is so just compelling. Naturally, I google the company name. (Sure, I could have typed in their URL directly, but when you’re on Google 99.5% of the day, it’s hard to break that habit.) That’s when I see this:

Mid-click, I did a double take. Am I seeing double here or are competing against themselves on their brand name with ad listings and organic, free listings?
Like most people searching for contact lens, I’m not actively thinking about what I’m doing. I’m just going through the motions. So I have to assume that most people are clicking on the first listing because it’s, well, first. I get that they’re probably not paying a lot per click bidding on their company. It probably can’t be more than a couple of cents. But think about how many people are searching for 1800contacts each day.
To make it easy, let’s say that number is 10,000. If they’re searching the actual company name, your click through rate is likely pretty high, so we’ll say 9,500 of those searches are actually going to click on the 1800contacts.com URL. That’s $190 a day they’re paying. OK, really not that much when you think of how much inventory they’re moving. But that’s $68,400 a year, 1800contacts is spending. Nay, $68,400 a year they’re wasting. How much would they be spending a year if they just relied on their organic. Zero. Zip. Zilch.
To be fair, 1800contacts isn’t the only company doing it. Google any brand name and you’ll likely see the same thing.But this is SEM 101: You don’t need to be appearing twice when you’re on the first page of Google. So what’s the deal, 1800contacts? Are you that concerned about your brand recognition that someone else will also starting bidding on your brand name? While that’s a very real likelihood, and one that happens all the time, is it worth almost $70,000 a year to ensure that?  

What do you think? As a consumer are you more likely to click on the first result when searching a brand name, not paying attention that it’s an ad? As a business owner, is that expense really worth it?

  • Christina

    I’ve seen that recently too and wondered why. They have probably done some research and realized that they actually lose clicks if they are not both in the top organic and the top Adwords placement and are willing to spend the money to get all those clicks….