Where Is PPC Marketing’s Place?
What happens when millions of internet users gain the ability to block out any commercial messages in their browser? The answer is simple: digital ads get the ax.
When Apple announced last summer that its new iOS would include native ad blocking capability, digital marketers around the world recoiled in shock. A former relatively niche problem – the user’s ability to block digital ads – suddenly entered the national (and global) conscience. Thanks to the ever-increasing capabilities and alternatives in ad blocking, a reliable promotional tool (and revenue stream for publishers) seemed to be on shaky ground.
But, despite some claims, the world of digital advertising as we know it may not be over. Enter pay-per-click (PPC) marketing, a type of digital ad and pricing structure that is at once endangered by the new ad blocking technology and uniquely equipped to help marketers overcome its downfalls.
When Ad Blockers Attack
Ad blockers, especially on desktop devices, have been around for years. Users can simply download a browser extension or plugin like AdBlock which, upon installation, dynamically searches each page visited for ads and blocks out the code.
Apple’s decision to allow ad blocking in its iOS helped to turn it into a mobile phenomenon that sent marketers into a panic. In 2015 alone, ad blocking on mobile or desktop devices grew 48% to 77 million monthly active users in the United States. But in reality, the reason ad blockers are so popular is rooted more deeply than simply availability of the technology.
Consumers are increasingly tired of and cynical about ads. Exposed to countless pop-ups and banner ads every day, they find it increasingly difficult to cut through the clutter to get to the desired content. Add to that the fact that ad blockers increase page speed and reduce data usage, and you begin to understand the rising popularity of the technology.
Some have pointed to PPC marketing as a main loser in the fight to gain exposure despite ad blockers. But in fact, used correctly, this type of digital ad may just prove to be an ideal way to market your business in an ad blocking world.
The Basics of PPC Marketing
At its core, PPC marketing is a simple concept. As the name suggests, it describes any ad that charges a marketer’s budget only if a user actually clicks on it. By paying for clicks instead of impressions, marketers can ensure that their budget is only affected if a member of their target audience is interested enough in the ad to take action.
Because of this simple definition, PPC marketing can occur in a variety of ways. Search engine marketing (SEM) is most often associated with the concept, but social networks like Facebook and Twitter all follow the same pricing structure. Whether you’re targeting ads based on search keywords, interests, or past web visits, you can set up your ad to follow the PPC model.
How PPC Can Help Marketers Succeed in an Ad-Blocking World
Above all, the pricing structure helps minimize the negative effects of ad blocking. But while many of the ads affected by the technology follow a PPC model, its very structure can turn it into a solution for the problem.
Think about it this way: if you pay for impressions, you will pay even for users who may never see your ads because of ad blockers. But if your budget is only charged when a user clicks on an ad, a lack of exposure won’t affect you negatively. In fact, you only cut out users who, due to their lack of interest in ads as a whole, were unlikely to show interest or click on your ad to begin with.
Of course, PPC marketing – like any other marketing effort – has to be optimized in order to be successful. That means focusing on channels least likely to be affected by the technology.
Native ads, for example, are ads that integrate into unpaid, organic content. Facebook continues to be a successful marketing platform, precisely because it allows marketers to show their ads natively within users’ news feeds. Other social media networks, like Twitter and Instagram, are offering similar placement capabilities. As a whole, native advertising receives 53% more views than banner ads.
Another opportunity intersection for advertisers looking to use PPC in combating ad blocking is remarketing. Major advertising platforms like Google and Facebook all offer remarketing capabilities, which allow marketers to show ads specifically to past website visitors. As Dan Shewan of WordStream puts it,
Impression data for display campaigns has always been difficult to quantify. But by focusing on remarketing, you’re ensuring that your campaigns are not just potentially reaching the right people, but the right people who are more likely to convert further down the funnel. Focus on clicks and conversions, not impressions.
In the end, the key remains relevance. In the age of ad blocking, showing relevant ads to your defined target audience is more important than ever before. PPC marketing may indeed be negatively affected by a lack of exposure as a result of the technology. But by focusing on clicks over impressions, it offers an opportunity for advertisers to optimize their digital efforts in order to continue attracting potential customers online.