Paid search remains a key digital advertising strategy for gaining customers, and Google is the dominant player in search engine marketing, but companies are now looking to diversify their search ad spend to lessen their dependence on the tech giant and achieve more cost-effective conversions.

Google's share of the global search market is nearly 89%. The second largest is Yahoo, with 2.7%. Although Google's hold on the industry is strong, it has recently been challenged by concerns regarding possible antitrust violations, inflated click prices for keywords, and its acquisition and bundling of ad tools.

A brand's ability to be less dependent on Google Search is tied directly to its level of brand recognition and keyword strength: Well-known companies can rely less on Google, whereas small to midsize businesses should continue to use Google Search Ads. Evaluating brand strength is key to any digital advertising that seeks to improve return on ad spend (ROAS).

Discovery and Conversions for Lesser-Known Brands

Digital ad strategy depends heavily on brand impact and size: Are you a Nordstrom or are you a relatively unknown company? Newer or smaller companies must get the word out and educate consumers about their products and brand values. Over time, those companies will develop cost-per-acquisition (CPA) goals that best work with their marketing metrics.

Search strategies should first focus on video ads published on major social platforms, such as YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram. Those placed directly into relevant feeds showing the product and its use cases will go far, as video content is much more likely than text ads to drive search results. Moreover, these companies should focus on generating high rates of engagement and interactions to earn the trust of potential customers and influence their buying decisions.

Nearly two-thirds of respondents in a poll said they became more interested in a brand after they discovered it on Instagram. The potential ad reach of this popular platform is above 800 million users. After mastering the discovery phase of an ad campaign, lesser-known brands can then focus on conversions and retargeting social media leads via display ads, which also will result in additional high rates of conversion.

Another platform that lesser-known brands should consider is Pinterest, which is especially helpful when selling long-lead seasonal products, such as an oven for Thanksgiving or wedding gifts for spring. Prompting consumers to pin products and build on relevant content through the platform is an effective method to build interest over time. A search on Pinterest such as "garage pool room remodeling ideas" can indicate purchase intent.

Outbrain, a popular native Web advertising platform, is another great option; it helps more than one billion people find content, product,s and services. Using targeted advertising to recommend articles, slideshows, blog posts, photos, or videos to a reader, Outbrain has a high click-through-rate (CTR), however, it is better suited for discovery or pay-per-click (PPC) plans than CPA purposes. To get the most out of this platform, smaller brands should test a variety of images, titles, and list inclusion opportunities for a product or product line.

Big retailers and major enterprises face less difficulty convincing consumers to move forward with buying products and services, especially if they involve basic retail items such as electronic devices or cosmetic products. Well-known brands can create remarkably focused ad campaigns with lower-funnel goals to strategically reach the right consumer at the right moment.

The Big-Brand Playbook for Zeroing in on Conversions

While major search engines like Google are useful for targeting every part of the funnel, well-known brands have the opportunity to leverage additional digital marketplaces to get conversions for much lower CPAs.

In addition to using platforms like Google Ads, big brands can use cost-effective, intent-driven, and long-tail keywords through mid-tier publisher networks to garner leads they may be missing.

Major brands and retailers can easily surpass advertising key performance indicators (KPIs) by combining audience targeting and keyword search results to reach the right person with the right message at the moment of purchase decision-making. For instance, if a platform's advertising partner is aware that a website visitor has searched for "best gardening supplies" and visited Home Depot's website in the last few days, it's much easier to target this user over other potential buyers.

Another great CPA and PPC ad network to leverage is Amazon, the go-to site for customers who are in-market. Using this online platform, big brands already know the level of intent of users and can focus on highly targeted long-tail keywords with confidence. This platform's ability to reach online buyers at the point of purchase is one of the reasons that eMarketer estimates Amazon will have gained 12.9% of paid-search market share in the US by the end of 2019. Yet, the multinational e-commerce company has its own drawbacks that advertisers should be aware of, including the promotion of its own products over paid search ads. When using Amazon as part of ad spend plans, major brands should manually target and test the automated platform in concentrated instances to confirm positive outcomes.

In general, brands creating paid search strategies should understand their recognition level and plan accordingly. The larger the company, the more likely it will have potential buyers slip through the cracks despite relatively successful results if they spend exclusively on major platforms. By diversifying their ad spend plans, large brands can maximize ROAS and potentially double or triple customer conversions, whereas smaller brands should leverage major players in the market to grow their businesses.

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Going Beyond Google to Gain New Customers With Search Advertising

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image of Jon Waterman

Jon Waterman is the founder and CEO of, an advertising marketplace that helps Fortune 500 brands acquire new customers outside the major search engines.

LinkedIn: Jon Waterman