We always love to get feedback from our readers. Here is a thoughtful response to “Traditional Marketing: An Investment or a Waste?” By James Hurst, a guest blogger.
While I do agree with much of what AJ wrote, allow me to expand upon his original post with some alternate viewpoints.
Billboard Impressions Accuracy
First, he compared paid search to billboard advertising and asked if the numbers that the billboard company provided were accurate. While I agree that those numbers are not as accurate as paid search, in their defense, there are simple traffic counting technologies that count traffic every time they drive over the sensor. These same technologies are used when doing a feasibility study on widening a busy road. Consider the HI-TRAC 110 system which provides multi-lane automatic vehicle counting and classifying. Both the HI-TRAC 100 and the HI-TRAC 110 are capable of monitoring up to eight lanes of busy traffic.
So I’m going to guess that the traffic numbers the billboard companies give you are close enough and accurate enough for the needs of the majority of marketers out there. While paid search is great, it is not perfect, either. You are somewhat at the mercy of the given paid search vendor (Google and Yahoo).
Paid Search Downfalls
For example how broad is your broad match? If the vendor gets too liberal with their match types you can easily be getting irrelevant clicks and impressions. Another question I propose is how accurate is the vendor’s geo targeting? Much has been written about inconsistencies in paid search, analytics, and post sale demographic data.
Let’s admit that reverse IP targeting is not an exact science. To prove this point, go to your nearest Google search and type in ‘dentist’. Find the Google Local Maps listing and see how good of a job Google did at using reverse IP targeting to show you the most relevant (i.e. closest) dentists to you. Did they get the right city? How far away was the city that they guessed? You might be surprised. So again you may find yourself paying for irrelevant clicks and getting impressions that you didn’t want, which, in turn, drives down your CTR and drives up your CPC.
To billboards AJ said, “How many people were looking at your ad?”, to which I ask you when you get an impression, were they really looking at your ad, either? Or were they looking at a page with 20 different results to choose from? It is entirely possible that you got an impression and they never even looked at your ad, but like most people went straight to the number one organic result instead.
I am aware that the ability to detect click fraud has significantly increased, but when clicks are going for $2-8, a piece even a handful of irrelevant or undetectable fraudulent clicks can get expensive in a hurry.
AJ mentioned that, based on the search query, you can tell which stage of the customer buying cycle a searcher is in, and I would have to disagree slightly. Typing in ‘HP DV6000t’ doesn’t mean that they are ready to buy it. They just might know that that is a model that they are considering. In your example, the search query was ‘buy HPDV6000t’ and I agree that the searchers intent in that specific example is much better than you would know from any billboard.
The reason that internet marketing is white hot right now is because it changed the marketer’s paradigm from using gut feelings to becoming data driven. While the internet marketing platform more seamlessly integrates with that paradigm, billboards can also take advantage of the tracking that websites can offer. In the post he said,
With a billboard, you have no idea how much you paid per view, call, or purchase.
That is just not true. To illustrate: I pay $5,000 for one month to have a billboard, and on that billboard I send that traffic to a unique landing page where I offer a unique call tracking phone number. I make $10,000 in sales and I get 40 phone calls, and I can tie those back directly to the billboard. So it’s more of a hybrid approach, so you definitely can have an idea of a billboards effectiveness. With billboards you aren’t flying completely blind by any means. A billboard that sends people to a website can then take advantage of all the tracking abilities that internet marketers have come to love.
Conversion Tracking & ROI Calculations
Finally we talk about a conversion funnel. I think that billboards have typically offered low value in this area. What billboard advertisers need to do is start thinking like internet marketers. Send them to unique landing pages. Have them text a unique phone number. Have them call a unique phone number. Use unique promo codes. Do a better job tying in the offline data to the online data.
Let us also remember that just because one platform can track ROI better than another, it doesn’t necessarily mean give a better ROI than the other. Let’s not chase after sunk costs just because we can track it. There have been many times when I had to pause my paid search campaigns and let my organic search with the lower CPA bring in the business.
Digital Synergy through Traditional
So all in all, I would say that neither medium is perfect, but both have the distinct advantages and disadvantages mentioned above. These two marketing media are employed at different stages in the sales cycle, with some crossover. While it is awesome to present your paid search ad at the precise moment that a customer was searching for it, it may have been the billboard that brought the brand recognition to help convince them to click on your ad because they already had a relationship with your brand. I think neither will replace the other but that the two media will converge. We can already see this happening with the emergence of digital billboards.