Where Do Your Ad Dollars Really Go?

Dave Kinnear 1-On Leadership, Blog

Every week, between LinkedIn and unsolicited texts or e-mail messages, I receive at least two to three offers to “get me more prospective clients on LinkedIn” or “put me on the first page of Google search results.” I suspect many of you and your people involved in social media or website maintenance have the same annoying experience.

Hi, I’m Dave Kinnear, Board Certified Coach, Certified Veteran Development Coach, and the Leadership Insight Podcast host. Thank you for taking the time to listen to this session.

Now, back to my tirade—I’m frustrated by these sales messages. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a waste of time and money. It may even be counter-productive. Let me break down those two provocative statements. First, SEO can only get your website on the first page of results for unique, narrow search terms. For example, if I asked an SEO person to optimize my site so that I show up on the first page of search results for the word “coach,” they would quickly decline to do that work—unless they thought I was ignorant enough to believe they could actually do that. If I asked them to optimize for the phrase “executive coach,” they would smile and say, that is going to be very expensive, but they might attempt it They and I would be disappointed at the results. I know because many years ago, I tried to do just that. Now, if I asked them to optimize my site to be on the first page of search results for the term “executive coach in Orange County, CA,” they would readily accept the job, and it would be a lot less expensive than the “executive coach” optimization. The point is the more exclusive (narrow) the search term, the easier it is to optimize to be found. However, the more exclusive the phrase, the less likely someone will string together those precise words when searching.

A more important question is whether your clients or customers use a search engine when looking for your product or service. In my case, the answer is a resounding NO! My clients will find me through a personal referral or a LinkedIn search, not a random search engine query. Your customers will likely find you on their favorite social media platform rather than a search engine.

The young people I speak with (those under 40) made a case for my second assertion: that SEO may even be counter-productive. They confirmed that they do not use a search engine for most searches. They use personal referrals or social media. But what surprised me most was the discovery that they “never” use the first page of results on the rare occasion when they do use a search engine. Instead, they skip to the results’ second, third, or fourth page. They explained that someone paid a lot to be on the first few pages of search results. To them, this is just as bad as picking a vendor based on an advertisement. They said they do not look at ads for products or services. The vendors are the ones who create the content in the ads and are not to be trusted. And for the same reason, they do not look at the first few pages of search results. The vendors paid to be there; they did not achieve that position organically and therefore are not trusted.

What my young friends have shared with me squares with information leaking out around the Ad Council’s protective messaging. Ads are obviously becoming ineffective. The latest movement is for “targeted ads,” which the theory claims the consumer will look at for some reason. Instead, colleagues explain that they marvel at how, once they have purchased an item, they “suddenly” notice advertisements for it in their media streams. Really? Don’t the advertisers know that the item was already purchased?

The bottom line for me is this; in today’s world, if a consumer wants a product or service, they either already have it or have determined they can’t afford it. Therefore, if a vendor is advertising, they are wasting money and trying to convince consumers to do something not in the consumer’s best interest. Paying for SEO and ads wastes time and money. Instead, provide value to your followers on your website and social media platforms— that will help boost your visibility and build relationships.

Once again, thank you for taking the time to watch the Leadership Insight Podcast. I’m Dave Kinnear, Executive Leader Coach. I look forward to seeing you on the next podcast.