Estimating demand for arts organisations’ PPC advertising

In my earlier post about arts organisations spending their PPC budget on brand keywords I said there was good evidence to show it was a smart move. However, I also said that assumptions should be tested and there might be reasons for not doing it. To give one reason:

High demand may have pushed the price of the keyword out of the range of their bidding (it happens where there’s a strong secondary market for an organisation’s tickets, for example).

I said that I would look at this in a later post. So here it is.

Google AdWords comes with two very handy tools:

  • Traffic estimator. Give it a keyword and this tool will give you an indication of how much you’re likely to pay per click and how many clicks you might get per day.
  • Keyword tool. This gives an indication of the competition for a given term (ie to what extent other people are bidding for it) as well an estimate of the number of monthly searches for that term (both globally and restricted to the UK).

Using these tools, can we find out how much demand is there for arts organisations’ branded keywords? Yes we can.


I put the names of the 100 arts organisations in my sample group into both those tools. I also set very high maximum bids and daily budgets so as to max out the various estimates. The results are in the table below, which I’ve sorted by cost per click:

Data was collected on 16 March 2013.

Before I go on, I should point out that the numbers here need to be taken with a good pinch of salt. They’re estimates and indications, rather than anything more solid.

Thoughts and observations

So what does this information tell us? Well, first of all, we can see that most of the organisations in my group should be able to afford their brand keywords under a Google Grants allocation. For the uninitiated, Google gives a free AdWords budget to qualifying not-for-profits and lets them bid up to $2 (or about £1.30) per keyword.

In fact, even where the cost per click (CPC) is above £1.30, there’s a good chance the other organisations’ ads would show up if they were to bid at or below the £1.30 level. That’s because competition for these keywords is shown to be low across the board.

The reason that the level of competition and the average cost per click are low for these keywords is that it’s not really worth lots of people buying them up. The reason for that is that you’d only buy them if you had a way of making a profit from people searching with that term. With many of these organisations doing their own ticketing (usually without affiliate deals for third parties) the result is that there’s no competition out there.

In this sector, if you see a keyword with a high CPC it’s often down to competition between ticket agents, ticket resellers or companies that are selling travel, hotel and ticket packages. You also tend to see much more competition around the names of a production than around the name of the venue. Put the names of some West End productions into the traffic estimator tool, for example.

In fact, I found quite a good example to illustrate what I’m talking about. The band Atoms For Peace are playing at The Roundhouse later this year and the search results ‘atoms for peace london‘ currently tell quite a story:

atoms for peace london - Google Search

In the screenshot above, you can see that The Roundhouse doesn’t show up at the top of the organic search results for the term I entered, trumped by sites deemed by Google to be more relevant. Fair enough, so The Roundhouse have used AdWords to jump to the top of the page and snag potential ticket buyers. A smart move, depending on the CPC they’re paying and the margin they make on tickets (or the lifetime value of the ticket buyer whose data they collect as part of a transaction).

You can also see that Viagogo and StubHub have bought ads. They’re likely to be bidding more than The Roundhouse, which is why they appear higher up. Still, the cost should be more than covered by the commission they charge on transactions.

Compare that with the search results for ‘roundhouse‘:

roundhouse - Google Search

Nobody but The Roundhouse themselves are advertising on that one, because they’re really the only people likely to gain from that kind of traffic. After all, if someone buys any of the tickets on their site then it’s a good result for them. On the other hand, a ticket resellers might not necessarily have something to every person who wants to visit that venue.

I should point out that the Roundhouse are a client but I’ve had nothing to do with their PPC campaigns.

On a related note, you can see that lots of people seem to be searching for keywords relating to The Place, The Drum, Sound and Music, The Junction, Unicorn, National Theatre and Watershed. Of course, it’s because those are also generic terms (no offence) but the good news is that nobody’s that interested in bidding for them, so competition and prices are still low.

Is this information useful?

Interesting as it is from an outsiders point of view, if you’re one of these organisations then no, it’s not especially useful. There’s not much to be gained from looking at other organisations in this way and you’ll get much more useful information from your own AdWords account (especially when connected to Google Analytics).

However, it’s useful to know about those two keyword tools when researching what you should spend your PPC budget on. There’s also some interesting sector-wide info here if you’re into that kind of thing.

Quick note: before I write the next post in this series (which will probably be about YouTube) I’m going to send out the first Arts Analytics email newsletter. It’s FREE and it’ll have some nice extras in it so join everyone else on the mailing list here. Oh, and share this post with folks – they’ll be impressed you made it to the end.

Published by Chris Unitt

I work at One Further, doing digital projects with cultural organisations. Follow @ChrisUnitt or find me on LinkedIn.

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