I tell anyone who will listen to me that the current crop of advertisement methods is too short-lived. Advertising works only as long as you write checks.
I wouldn't say you're wasting your money when you spend it on advertising; however, I do think you're renting when you could be buying. When you rent, you do get to live somewhere - though you aren't building equity.
Even money spent on press releases and rich releases can be ephemeral as they only exists online as long as you pay for them to live there. Again, they'll work only as long as you pay.
SEO, social media engagement, blogger outreach, content marketing, and community engagement are ways you can - and do - build something for the future.
The moment you stop paying rent on your online advertisements, you'll be evicted - thus is the ephemeral nature of online advertising; if you invest in your community and develop connection, attachment, and encourage your friends, fans, and current customers by making them brand ambassadors, you'll end up owning your own home and all the associated equity.
While a contextual text ad feels like SEO because shows up at the top of search results, it isn't. The moment you stop paying, all the benefit goes away.
Even native advertising, with its focus on being "viral" and "sticky" mostly only exists as long as you pay - and, it's always anchored to content, be it an article, photo, infographic, or video - at the end of the day, even native advertising depends on content marketing.
My specialty is content marketing, online conversation marketing, online public relations, and online earned media. When you earn people's attention and when they choose to speak about you, your clients, and your services, then you have a gift that keeps on giving - this is content that lasts well past the campaign and into the future.
This is both the sort of thing that Google loves - it is SEO catnip - and it is just the sort of content that flows, both upstream to A-list bloggers and to mainstream media and down to your readers, aggregators, and to other bloggers and other blogs.
Remember how much fun Communication Arts is to page through? - CA is intoxicating! Well, every ad you make can be as interesting, as long as you're willing to come out of your art department and share your process, share your experience, share your steps. Keeping those ephemera alive through narrative, sharing, conversation, and story, is what social media is, it is what customer service is, it is surely what branding should be.
Anyway, there is a lot of opportunity in this time of chaos, of this time of transition. The same sort of transition (and opportunity) happened when PCs came online, replacing the IBM Selectric II; when the Internet changed E-Commerce, threatening to eviscerate bricks and mortar stores, and it is happening now, more than ever, with advertising, marketing, and PR.
I call it white knuckle syndrome: holding on to the handholds you have, frozen on the face of the cliff, because you don't know where the handholds of the future are.
Advertising knows it needs to jump off the locomotive before it pitches into the gorge (the bridge is out!) but reaching out to the proffered hand of the guy in the helicopter seems pretty risky too.
So, as those handholds start to get chalk and begin to crumble, it is important to at least set your eyes on a new handhold - or maybe a helping hand - before your original handhold turns to powder.
With all of our social media outreach, we at Gerris work on providing earned media for our clients. Do you want to spend it on contextual ads? Contextual ads can drive a lot of traffic immediately to your target, to be sure, but when you stop paying for your key words, everything comes to a halt. All that traffic goes away... and, even while you're paying for the ads, the conversion might not be there -- it might just be a waste of money, a budget burn.
When you put your time and budget into blogger outreach, social media outreach, and blogging, your results may be less immediate than they are with ads, but whatever coverage you get, whatever earned media -- and it can be an astounding amount of coverage, too -- never goes away. Never! It becomes permanent record on the Interwebs, stashed and findable on Google until the Internet collapses through some sort of evil DNS hack.
Go git 'em, Tiger!