Google ads are 768% more effective than print ads…uh oh

by Jason Preston on March 10, 2009

Jeff Jarvis shared a bit of wisdom from the Wall Street Journal yesterday that paints an ugly picture for the future of print advertising. From the Wall Street Journal:

In the first six months of the program, Ms. Bouthillet says, the search-engine ads delivered 5,250 applicants, at an average cost of $4. By contrast, Baylor paid an average of $30 for each of the 3,125 applicants who came via job boards, and $750 each for the 215 applicants who replied to a newspaper or magazine ad.

If you wrangle that into a spreadsheet…and I’m sure I’ve done my math wrong in here somewhere, so feel free to correct me in the comments, but we find that the Google/Search ad campaign is 768% more effective than the print ad campaign.

Here’s my logic:


With those kinds of numbers, why would you buy a print ad?

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1 Seth Long 03.10.09 at 11:28 am

I’d like to see a study about the effectiveness of search ads in smaller markets. Does search scale down well enough yet to yield the same or similar economic benefits to businesses with a smaller geographic reach?

2 Jason Preston 03.10.09 at 11:48 am

I agree, ad styles will have different effectiveness in different size markets, and I don’t have any data offhand that shows it for smaller publishers, but I know that at my day job in Redmond we rely exclusively on google ads, e-mail, and direct mail.

We’ve never bothered with display advertising because it’s just laughably inefficient when we’re trying to sell conference seats.

3 The Truth 03.10.09 at 11:49 am

I’d like to here more about the quality of the respondents. Were the search applicants just as qualified as the newspaper respondents?

4 Michael Shearer 03.10.09 at 12:20 pm

How small of a market, Seth?

I’d bet a yoga studio in a local city would see comparable results (% wise) as this. Doesn’t get much smaller than that.

5 John Doe 03.10.09 at 2:24 pm

I get the idea search ads maybe more efficient especially down the road, but I would like to see the conversion rates of those applicants though.

Also, what if you had a value of 0.1 on the search applicants and a value of 100 on the print applicants. Then the ends do justify the means.

6 Jason Preston 03.10.09 at 5:31 pm

The Truth, John Doe – both good questions. I’ve e-mailed Sarah Needleman (author of the WSJ article) to see if she has any more information on the topic. My guess is: no response, but we’ll see…

7 Matt Andrews 03.10.09 at 8:05 pm

Interesting figures, but I have to say I disagree with the choice of the headline stat. That’s a comparison of the total cost of each campaign, without regard to the cost per applicant – which is the real statistic that matters. On that count, Google is 18,750% more effective than print!

8 Seth Long 03.10.09 at 8:20 pm

Michael – Our markets tend to be in the 5,000-15,000 pop. and then 50,000-150,000 pop. ranges.

9 Jason Preston 03.11.09 at 9:17 am

Matt – You’re right! I could have been more sensational! Drat!

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