About a month and a half ago we wrote an article about times when search advertising isn’t worthwhile, focusing on the results of a study by eBay Research Labs. However, that study highlights just two specific instances when search advertising isn’t profitable; there are many more instances when search advertising would not be able to play an effective role in demand generation for life science marketers, and we discuss these here.
The most obvious example is when your product isn’t simply something that scientists aren’t looking for. This is most common with services and software, but sometimes occurs with other products as well, especially those which are non-essential to life science research. You can attempt to expand your targeting to include ancillary terms (for example, if you manufacture an accessory to a product then you might advertise for the terms related to the main product). However, this often leads to a low clickthrough rate, which both increases cost-per-click and decreases the frequency that your ads will be shown, which may lead to lackluster campaign performance. Additionally, if search volume for a given term is too low, most SEM platforms (AdWords, Bing Ads, etc.) simply won’t show any ads.
Another example is when the people doing the searching aren’t the people you need to sell to. For example, in the situation of suppliers of very high-end equipment, most of the search traffic may come from lab techs but the decision-makers may be director-level individuals. It may be that this ultimately doesn’t matter – it may still be worthwhile to advertise even if only 1 out of 100 clicks is relevant – but this can dramatically increase the cost per conversion, which is a much more meaningful metric by which to measure ROI.
Chemical / biochemical companies often face a unique problem with search marketing. Depending on the substances they sell, they need to take care to not be flagged as an “online pharmacy” by ad platforms, which can result in account suspension.
Additionally, for low-cost items it is often the case that search engine marketing isn’t profitable on the initial sale, especially for distributors and for manufacturers of lower-value products who often operate on fairly thin margins to begin with. In order for SEM to have a good return in these situations, it is imperative that life science suppliers continue to re-engage with customers in order to drive repeat sales.
As we said previously, search engine marketing is a fantastic tool and can work wonders for lead generation but we should not blindly expect results from it. Regardless of the situation, SEM should be carefully monitored and coupled with appropriate analytics and CRM such that results can be measured, informed decisions can be made, and campaigns can be improved over time.