I found this interesting since Ebay is one of the largest online retailers - Ebay's internal report found that paying for keywords did not show any significant effect on their sales. They tested paid search results by removing paid search keywords from MSN and Yahoo while retaining keywords on Google. Ebay found that customers still clicked through to their site as results appeared in the Natural search regardless of paid ads. In addition, their organic search profile rose.
Can we extrapolate these results to any and all businesses? It sure is appealing to think that we no longer need to pay for keywords. To answer that, we need to dig deeper into the data.
One obvious fact is that Ebay is an internationally well-known brand. Ebay customers are likely to find their site either by directly visiting it or through organic search terms for products. Ebay is such a large site, it's pagerank so high, Ebay usually shows up on the first page of a majority of searches. The result: Ebay is too big to pay for keywords!
For most of us, paying for keywords isn't just about the sales, it's also about the branding. Small businesses require more outreach to get their product/service to the customer. While this idea of not paying for clicks is great, Ebay's results really don't translate to most small businesses.
Paid Search Strategies
The best results for keyword purchases is to make sure you are not buying keywords that customers already use organically to find you; your company name, for example. Green Owl Consulting would make a terrible paid search keyword string - internet marketing consultant would be better. Testing and more testing is required to find the perfect keywords for driving the most qualified traffic to your site. Continuing to test those keywords, even after they've become proven, is required as search terms are, in effect, moving targets. Terminology changes rapidly and so do the way people search. Finally, compliment your paid search with social media. Pepper your Facebook pages with your product names and services - get your customers used to thinking of your products the way you want them to - using the terminology you would like to brand your products/services. While in today's world you can never have full control of your brand, you can help your customers along by making your branding clear and concise. This in turn will help you target the best keywords for your business.