It′s a fact: Google Adwords leads the market for content-sensitive web-based marketing solutions. However, as digital marketing becomes commonplace, lack of business competition and the intensification in competition for keywords, the cost of effective paid search has left many small to medium-sized businesses wondering; can I sustain the cost of keywords?

The issue is painfully clear. While the price of keywords has risen, the effectiveness of pay-per-click advertisement hasn′t changed. It is the same service, but there are more advertisers willing to pay and it has created a pressing problem for businesses with limited budgets. €˜Improve the quality of your ads′ says Google, but it is a weak guidance because let′s face it – everyone′s betting on quality in an environment where potential consumers are bombarded with advertisement no matter where they go.

It has hit the small businesses hardest. Those who initially found success in using Adwords have seen their expected investment in pay-per-click advertising efforts increase dramatically over the last 10 years, just to retain their spot at the top of search results. When you can end up paying $10 per click, in some cases an astronomical $20 for some keywords, no wonder some are desperate for an alternative.

But why this increase in cost per keyword? The main argument lies in the increased commonness of online advertising, a boom which owes much of its life and earnings to Google. With a reported 42 percent increase in paid clicks from 2011 to 2012, Google has been the main benefactor of the development. But the increased interest has driven up the price of keywords so radically that small companies need to reconsider their options. And this is despite the fact that an average of 96% of pay-per-click advertisers spend less than $10,000 a month, according to AdGooroo. What can a small online bookshop do to compete with Amazon′s $54 million pay-per-click budget – just in the first half of 2012?

Though Google′s services are popular, people should start realizing that it may not be the best solution for many of the small to medium sized companies. These businesses can really struggle to get their money′s worth through the Adwords program. Since the bid prices (Cost per Click) have entered a pay range labelled €œabsurd€ by some observers, the cost of directing people to your website can almost be prohibitive of effective marketing.

Opening your mind (and wallet) to competing alternatives to Google Adword could significantly increase traffic for a lot less money.

Today, small and diverse ad agencies offer more affordable solutions through social media and new publishing tools to give any type of business a chance to market themselves online. The new type of advertisement works, for example, through 3rd party distribution of the advertiser′s message; the idea is for a business to supply the company a message in the form of a link or media content (image, video, text) and then the agency funnels the content across the web via a variety of channels, depending on who you go to.

The different ad agencies have different business models; some work with major publishers to find augment traffic or spots for ad-driven content while other use social networks and the power of €˜viral′ campaigning to distribute a message.

Besides having shown positive results, the service stands out in comparison to Google Adwords for its simplicity; in some cases, there is little delay between an advertiser uploading his or her content and setting a budget before the message is on its way through the channels. Compare this to Google, which has been blamed for taking up to 5 days to approve content.

The real-time advantage of some of these new agencies is an important step for advertisers and businesses who wish to ride the waves of time-sensitive ad opportunities in the media. One recent example that wooed analyst was the €˜Big Bird′-gate where PBS showed a fascinating resolve and response; one which would not have been achieved if they did not have easy access to purchasing the advertising keyword of their character on Twitter.

So, as the demand for organic search results increase, a new industry of optimization is potentially rocketing into the digital marketing scene. However, grand promises of improved Web site search ranking, more qualified search results and less money spend on pay-per-click, does not always calm the uncomfortable feeling of entering uncharted waters off the coast of the tried and trusted Google Adwords. There is going to be a confidence-building process before more companies will transition into a more hands-on, organic marketing effort.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) still suffers from a very flimsy job description; anticipating search patterns, associations and life-span of words in different context can come off as €œblack magic€ because explaining the intricate workings of search engines often lies beyond the grasping realm of traditional businesses and laypersons.

Would-be competitors to Google Adwords enter a market place where they, under the right conditions, can ignite a new era of more creative digital marketing efforts. But they shouldn′t rely too heavily on businesses interested in saving money; the cost is only the initial motivation. These spawning digital ad agencies′ greatest challenge, by far, is to make sense of their product and deliver easily-understandable plans for their clients. We are not talking €˜dumbing down′ of the process, but if you cannot convince your clients that your initiatives really improve organic search volume and automate their marketing efforts, you have a slim chance of building the much-needed trust in your services.

Thus, as digital effort becomes more commonplace at an exhilarating pace, I predict more businesses will take the jump in the next year or two, and engage with the powerful world of SEO via new channels. Then hopefully, the future of digital content marketing for smaller companies will break free of the hands of Adwords – to everyone′s mutual benefit.


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