Search, The First Steps and The Last Tools

A post appeared on the Harvard Business Review Blog yesterday  raising the notion that eBay had just proved that paid search ads don’t work. The author cited a recent preliminary study that “presents results from a series of large-scale field experiments done at eBay that are designed to detect the causal effectiveness of paid search advertisements. Results show that brand-keyword ads have no short-term benefits, and that returns from all other keywords are a fraction of conventional estimates.”

One can view the blog post here:

After sharing the post, and the study, with a few of my Media Experts colleagues, we felt impelled to offer some sober counter point.

Firstly, we don’t think that eBay is the ideal business to test something like this with. Their business model relies heavily on frequent purchasers who would certainly find their way to the site with or without paid search in market.

At Media Experts, we have conducted multiple tests to determine the exact same thing and time and again we see decreases in overall sales and traffic when paid search is out of market, which strongly suggests that organic search doesn’t make up for everything. We have plenty of data, across multiple campaigns and several product categories, which supports this.

It is also bears mentioning that, for years, eBay was the only business with a direct relationship with Google. They were buying up every single keyword that didn’t have other advertisers on them in bulk. So, turning off a massive campaign like that, which probably didn’t have strict optimization practice (by the nature of the deal), would certainly reveal inefficiencies.

Not only do we have data that proves the value of paid search ads, but this study is shortsighted and definitely does not apply to all advertisers and verticals. Search, both organic and paid, are the first steps every marketer must take and the last tools they should abandon. Search captures product demand created by all marketing efforts, builds awareness, helps protect a brand’s reputation and is the most cost-efficient sales driver.

What do YOU think? We invite you to leave your comments below.