SEM for VLBs versus SMBs
VLBs have iconic brands and huge markets
VLBs (Very Large Businesses) are characterized by well recognized brand names and typically have annual sales in the tens of billions of dollars (some in the hundreds of billions). You know who we're talking about: Apple, Google. Ikea, Zappos, Amazon, Nordstroms, etc. These companies have marketing and distribution channels that are very well established and they have a history of doing business with a very large percentage of the total population.
Their use of SEM is all about leveraging the branding, marketing, and distribution they have paid billions of dollars to establish. We all see a ton of the pay per click ads from VLBs on Google each day. Those ads are part of an SEM strategy that works – for them. VLBs are in the business of leveraging the immense investment they make in their brand and distribution. And they have the advantage of already having virtually everyone as a customer.
It’s important that you understand the differences between how a VLB uses SEM and how you might use it. And you may not want to compete with their ads on the same Google SERP.
VLBs use SEM differently than you should
These companies do use search marketing, but not in a way that SMBs should be imitating. VLB's can afford to go after much broader search terms than SMB's can. They can use generic ads that feature all the wonderful things they sell. There are many reasons for this; here's a couple. They have much more data telling them who to show their ads to. They have thousands of products to entice clickers who already know all about the wonders that that VLB offers.
Here's some examples of what you'll see in their ads that probably won't work for your SMB:
- VLBs don’t create campaigns that try to link a specific ad to a specific search to improve their conversion rate. They don’t really care why you visit their site - so long as you visit. They want you focused on their brand – not the specific individual product you might have been searching for.
- You might see what appears to be a responsive search ad, but VLBs typically employ very sophisticated “media exchanges” to manage every impression across dozens of different types of advertising media. They do not pay for clicks like you have to.
- Their search ads typically feature a large array of sitelinks (various landing page options within one expanded text ad) that have nothing to do with the search terms that were used. Whereas SMB text ads need to keep the customer focused on the landing page with the most alignment to their search terms.
What this means to how you use SEM
Everyone knows VLBs and buys from them. Because they are so large and successful and you see their ads everywhere, you might be inclined to use ads that look like theirs. You (SMB), on the other hand are not known. Instant brand recognition is not how you get customers on Google.
You are advertising on Google to attract customers who have never heard of you before. You make money on SEM by finding a small subset of searchers who have shown buying intent for the very specific things you are advertising for in a particular campaign. It is a completely different approach to how to use SEM. Your ads should not try to look anything like the ads you see VLBs using.
While the VLB approach might help a company like Amazon or Zappos, it will not help an SMB who pays $5 per click and has to create profit from conversions that require 15 clicks.
One VLB strategy you should emulate
Most VLBs do use paid search for one thing you should consider emulating - PPC campaigns that show ads when users type in their business names or key brand names. Yes...
The companies that have the best SEO engines working for them also pay for ads to show when their brand is searched for. You should too. SEO is not enough.