There has been a lot of focus given to the ebay study that was recently released by ebay showing that turning off their paid search had little impact on overall sales for the brand.
The study stated that “shutting paid search advertisements closed one (costly) path to a firm’s website but diverted traffic to the next easiest path (natural search), which is free to the advertiser.”
So is this an early indication that more brands will follow suit and look to cease using pay per click advertising (PPC) in order to save money, relying on natural search to pick up the sales? After all, if it works for ebay, one of the biggest names in the digital marketplace, then surely it must be the right thing to do! I would argue that it is precisely because ebay is ebay, a brand that is so synonymous with what they offer their customers that they can still attract customers to their site, regardless of their visibility in the paid search space. I doubt there are many other brands that would be in a position to implement this strategy.
There are many large brands who are known for what they do but exist in such a crowded marketplace that if they were simply to cease appearing in the paid search space they may well find that instead of getting those customers to their site, they may well lose them to their competitors. Take Amazon, who in the UK have become renowned not just for selling books, but pretty much any product you may look to buy. On the term ‘buy books’ Amazon are not in position one for either PPC or SEO, but I do expect that for a large number of shoppers, they would have Amazon on their shopping list regardless. Perhaps, unlike ebay, Amazon simply don’t yet have the data to support this theory.
Now whilst I believe in sharing useful insight that can help benefit others within the digital space I’m not sure that the insight shared by ebay qualifies as useful. Yes it can be argued that ebay have demonstrated they are saving themselves a tonne of money by not investing in PPC, and that they aren’t seeing a dip in their overall sales volume as a result.
However, it can be argued that for far too long ebay have been lazy in their approach to PPC. Ebay have for a long time been the kings of using dynamic keyword insertion within their PPC account, meaning that they literally appear for thousands of products that a consumer could look to buy. In the example, I searched for the term ‘baby bath’ and low and behold sure enough I got served with a generic ebay advert stating that I can find ‘baby + bath’ for less at ebay. Actually ebay I wanted a baby bath, not a bath that comes with a baby!
One thing is for sure, and that is ebay have certainly had a lot of brand exposure over the last few days for sharing some ‘insightful’ PPC information that actually isn’t as insightful or as useful as it appears on the surface.
So in answer to my original question ‘did ebay prove that PPC doesn’t work?’ No I don’t believe they did, they merely demonstrated that their PPC wasn’t working and highlighted the need for companies to utilise the data they have available to better optimise their online activities.