As many of you know, I have a long history in direct mail.  I began as a direct mail copywriter in 1980 and have been at it ever since.

But I would be the first to tell you that direct mail is not the solution for every business or every situation.

Direct mail is but one marketing channel at your disposal.

You should be open to all marketing channels …

… but only if you can measure your results.


The power of direct response

Direct response is a powerful marketing concept that allows you to target prospects, generate a measurable response, produce data you can use to compare with other activities and make adjustments.

Direct response has been the core discipline for all successful direct mail.

For some unexplained reason, it has never been fully embraced by TV, radio or print.  The use of direct response does exist in these media channels (and does work for those who use it) but it’s only being used by a small group of advertisers.

Most TV, radio and print advertisers are still focused on brand awareness advertising.

Online advertising, however, is more encouraging.

Here you will find direct response advertising at full throttle. From paid search to online display, direct response strategies, tactics and metrics are at the center of all discussions.

As a result, online advertising decisions are being made not by how clever, creative or inspirational an ad campaign is, but by how many clicks, leads and sales it produces.

How refreshing.


Google Adwords

One of the first and most popular online advertising platforms is Google Adwords.

You’re probably most familiar with its Paid Search program.  Paid Search puts you in front of potential buyers who are actually searching for what you sell.  This is often referred to as the new Yellow Pages.

Finding prospects who are in search-mode is a real advantage, but as you can imagine, there’s a lot of competition for the top spots on page 1 of Google.  And more competition always means a higher costs.

It’s all in the math 

As with all direct response, Paid Search requires some math to figure out whether your campaigns are working for you.

When you combine your cost-per-click with your lead conversion rate (what percent of your clicks become leads) and then your sales conversion rate (what percent of your leads become customers), you will be able to determine your cost per lead (lead acquisition) and your cost per sale (customer acquisition).

We’ve prepared a Google Advertising Cost-per-Lead Break-Even Chart that you might find helpful.

The problem is when you do this math, sometimes you find the cost-per-click is too high – and you come to the conclusion that Paid Search (for your industry) is just too expensive to achieve a competitive spot.

It should be noted that cost-per-click is just one of the elements in this equation and that you should also be looking for ways to improve your lead conversion rate (by fixing your landing page) or your sales conversion rate (by fixing your follow-up sales process).

But certainly the cost-per-click can be a concern.

So what to do?


Enter the Google Display Network

Shifting gears on the Google Adwords platform, you can quickly move all or some of your budget over to the Google Display Network (GDN) where you can run banner ads on millions of websites across the Internet …

… at a fraction of the cost of Paid Search

Yes, a fraction – meaning as little as 10% (sometimes less) of the cost.

Here’s what I mean …

Let’s say you were spending $20 per day on Search and each click was costing you $4.00.  Your budget would only allow you to generate 5 clicks per day.

But if you apply that budget to the Google Display Network, you could reduce your cost-per-click to 40 cents.  This would get you 50 clicks per day based on the same $20 budget.  You might even find that you can generate as many as 100 clicks per day at 20 cents per click.  This will require some trial and error.

To be fair, a click from the Google Display Network is not as good as a click from the Paid Search campaign.  Search-mode prospects are by far the better click – and when you look at your comparative conversion rates, you’ll see that very clearly.

But sometimes more volume is desirable – especially because you can continue to reach those clicks after they leave your landing page or website through Remarketing.  With Remarketing, you can keep your name in front of those visitors as they travel around the web.  More about Remarketing in a moment.


How the Google Display Network works

When it comes to the Google Display Network, Google is essentially an advertising broker.  It doesn’t sell its own advertising.  It sells advertising on behalf of the millions of websites within its network.

If you own a website and want to sell advertising on it, you can sign up for Google’s AdSense program and Google will feed you with ads based on various size configurations.  If someone clicks on an ad on your website, you share the click revenue with Google.

Flipping this program over, if you want to buy advertising through Adwords, you are effectively buying ad space on those same AdSense websites.


Can this work for you?

If you’re new to the Google Display Network, here are some things you should know:

Local Targeting
Google is very adept at geographic targeting.  You can narrow your ad exposure to your local zip code or any radius distance from your business location.

Of course, you can also target by city, metro area, state or country.

Advanced targeting
In Paid Search, you have one way to target your prospects – keywords.  You compile a list of keyword phrases that searchers are likely to use when searching for a business like yours.  And then you bid on those keywords.  With the right bid and relevant ad copy, your ad will appear on a Google search page waiting to be clicked.

On the Google Display Network, you can use keywords too, but you have many other options as well.  You can target websites based on their subject matter or you can target individuals based on their browsing history.

Targeting individuals based on their browsing history is an exciting development for Google advertisers because it allows you to reach niche markets not previously available.  If you can identify websites that your prospects frequently visit, you can submit those websites to Google and your ads will start showing to those visitors wherever they go on the web.

Ad design options
In Paid Search, you are restricted to text-only ads.  But on the Google Display Network, you have many more options – actually 15 different ad sizes.  We’ve prepared an ad template to show you the sizes available.  Download our Google Ad Template.

By creating a single ad in multiple sizes, you increase your advertising opportunity across the web.  The reason is that most AdSense websites don’t offer all the available sizes.  Most only offer a few.  So the more ad sizes you have, the better your chance of getting placed.

Remarketing is a must investment

You may know it as Remarketing or Retargeting.  They are the same thing.

If you’re not familiar with either term, I’m sure you’re familiar with the practice.  You visit a website and then leave – and before you know it, that website’s ads are showing up everywhere.  Coincidence? Not at all.

Remarketing is a Google Display Network program that allows you to place your banner ads in front of everyone who visits your website.  It’s a great way to stay in touch with people who have already demonstrated an interest in what you sell.

In our view, it is a must investment.


Learn  more about Google Advertising

If you’d like to know how you can use direct response in Google Advertising – Search, Display and Remarketing – visit our Google Advertising page and download the following:

  • Google Advertising Service & Price Guide
  • Google Advertising Cost-per-Lead Break-Even Chart
  • Google Advertising Ad Template

To schedule a FREE Strategy Session, contact Bob McCarthy at 508-473-8643 or

About Bob McCarthy

Bob McCarthy is a direct response consultant and copywriter with a focus on direct mail, email and digital marketing. Bob works with B2B, B2C and Non-Profit clients. You can download his free ebook, "Making Snail Mail Work: 13 Lessons in Direct Mail Strategy."