Why Don’t Clients Understand Search?

Tell me if this has ever happened to you: You’re talking to a client, and they mix up PPC and SEO. Or, they don’t understand how keywords work. Or, they’re confused where and how ad copy appears. Or, they submit Facebook images that look like banner ads. Why don’t clients understand search?

I get that the inner workings of PPC and SEO are complicated, and the average person doesn’t understand them. Heck, when I’m talking to our SEO team, and they start talking about keyword density, domain authority, and redirect handling, my eyes start to glaze over. Why is that?

Clients understand media.

Concepts like reach, frequency, and impressions are clear to clients – I’ve never heard a client ask what these things are. Nor do clients find media ads confusing – a banner is a banner. But show them a 140 character PPC ad, and they’re lost.

PPC and SEO are relatively new.

Is it because PPC and SEO are relatively new? I think that’s part of it. After all, digital media ad buys are patterned after radio and TV. In another life, I sold radio ads. We talked all the time about reach and frequency. I won’t tell you how many years ago this was, but it was a long time ago. Radio and TV metrics have been around for 60 years or more. Everyone understands them.

Clients also think of banner ads as online print ads. That’s really what banners are – glorified, and maybe animated, print ads. So the concept of designing a banner ad is familiar to them.

No client would mix up a newspaper ad with a magazine ad, though. So why do they mix up PPC and SEO?

Why do PPC ads confuse clients?

Why don’t they get it?

It’s our fault.

Yes, it’s the fault of the search industry itself. Much of the fault lies with the engines. Just take a look at this search for Bluetooth speakers:

Show this to your spouse, your mom, or your neighbor and see if they can tell you which are the ads and which aren’t. $10 says they can’t. Everything looks the same. The only thing distinguishing the ad from the organic content is a tiny “ad” notation. And what about those images? Are those ads? People don’t know.

Social is little better. Take this LinkedIn example:

The ad is a little better labeled than on Google, but if you’re scrolling through your feed, it’s easy to miss the “sponsored” notation. Ask your friends if they can spot the ads in their social feeds. I bet many of them can’t.

We as practitioners have to take part of the blame too. We have so many levers we can pull in PPC and paid social, I think we sometimes forget about the basics. We assume everyone knows what a keyword is. We assume everyone can tell the difference between ads (PPC) and organic listings (SEO). We throw jargon around with big words and confusing names.

And PPC hasn’t been around that long. Google Adwords didn’t launch until 2002. Overture was around before that, starting in 1996. In 1996, I’d been doing traditional marketing for, well, a few years. Many of our clients probably had been too. And even if they hadn’t, they don’t think about search in terms of keywords and ad copy. They just Google their questions and get answers.

We need to do better. We need to stop wasting time by assuming clients understand what keywords and ad copy are, and explain the concepts to them. Show them examples. Create a glossary for them. I created this one:

Combine the glossary with illustrated screen shots. Take the time to walk through it and answer their questions. Demystify it for them. It’ll go a long way in helping clients understand search.

How do you handle client confusion over PPC and SEO? Share in the comments!

Related Posts:

Expanding Your Adwords Account With The Google Display Network

When you want to expand your Adwords account, and you’ve exhausted your options in Google Search and remarketing/RLSA, you may want to consider the Google Display Network. The Google Display Network, or GDN for short, can be a great way to generate … [Continue reading]

PPC Data Analysis and PPC Goals

This week’s PPC Chat was all about PPC data analysis. It was an interesting chat, as they usually are. (If you’re not participating in #ppcchat on Twitter, stop reading right now and go mark your calendar for Tuesdays at noon Eastern time! You’ll … [Continue reading]

Learning Adwords Scripts

Adwords Scripts have been around for several years. Scripts are basically a little snippet of code that you add to your Adwords account, and they do several things, including: • Run reports and email them to you or output into a Google Sheet • … [Continue reading]

PPC Bid Automation: A Must In 2017

Seems like every year, I write a post on PPC bid automation and bid management. Manually managing bids used to be practically a full-time job when I started doing PPC in 2002; now, it’s almost an afterthought due to automation. Two years ago, I … [Continue reading]

Yes, Google Still Hates B2B Advertisers

Google’s annual big Adwords announcement conference call was held this past Tuesday. As usual, I held low expectations for any great news for B2B advertisers. And as usual, I was right – Google still hates B2B advertisers. I’ve written about this … [Continue reading]

PPC Audiences: Audience Segmentation

Back in March, I wrote about defining your PPC audience. It’s the first step in setting up audience targeting for PPC, including search, remarketing, or paid social. Once you’ve defined your audience, it’s time to think about audience … [Continue reading]

Expanding Your Adwords Account with Remarketing and RLSA

I’ve written before about expanding your Adwords account with ad extensions. Using remarketing and RLSA is another effective way to market to people who’ve already visited your website. Remarketing ads appear across the Google Display Network, “a … [Continue reading]

A/B Testing Is Alive and Well

A/B testing is the bedrock of a good PPC campaign. It's so important that I've written about it on this blog 46 times. Just last week, I wrote a review of AdAlysis, an A/B testing and multivariate testing tool. And just 2 years ago, I asked, can too … [Continue reading]

PPC Tool Review: AdAlysis

PPC tools are a PPC manager’s best friend. We couldn’t do our jobs without the many free and paid PPC tools we use on a daily basis. Probably my favorite PPC tool is AdAlysis. AdAlysis, an ad testing and analyzing tool, was created by Brad Geddes … [Continue reading]