“There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch,” because at the very least, you have to spend some time to eat that lunch. Plus whomever you are eating with gets to enjoy your company and find out a little bit about you. These are the same benefits of free trials: Companies give out their software or product worth a lot of money for free because they get customer information in exchange; and the customer gets to spend some time with a free product. In this blog I will talk about how free trials can work in search, how to offer free trials, and the benefits of free trials to search marketers.

Search Benefits of Free Trials

SEM marketers may be wary of marketing free trials instead of directly marketing their products or e-commerce sites because they think they are wasting marketing dollars on something that won’t yield any immediate cash flow. The truth is, it’s possible for search marketers to make more money promoting free trials than they would make promoting purchase opportunities. There is no need to worry about the immediate results (or lack thereof) of free trials because the results in the long haul make marketing your free trials in SEM worth the spend. SEM ads for free trials will have much higher clickthrough rates (CTRs) than advertisements that directly sell products.

Free trials have a much lower barrier to entry than direct sales. Usually, all a customer has to give up in exchange for a free trial is some information and five to ten minutes of time. Thus, wary and initial customers are much more likely to “pay” for a free trial in time and information than they are to pay for a full product in cash. Searchers are more likely to click through to a free trial than to a direct sales page, especially if they aren’t yet ready to buy. Still, you need to keep an eye on your conversion rates to make sure that of that the people who download your trial, many of them end up purchasing it.

How to Offer Free Trials in SEM

There are two types of customers—those who are ready to buy your product, and those who are not—and you need to accommodate both types of customers. If your customers are ready to buy, then an SEM link that leads to a landing page offer for a free trial can be distracting and make it difficult for a customer to make a purchase. That’s the last thing you want to do: make it difficult for your customers to purchase your product. Always make action easy for your customers. Give your customers what they want.

You need to balance your SEM ads for your diverse customer base, and the best way to do this is sitelinks. If you use sitelinks in your SEM ads, you can make offers for all of your different customers. It will be easy for customers to purchase if they’re ready to do so; and it will be simple to download a free trial, if they’re not. Sitelinks will take care of the problem of having distracting or irrelevant SEM links, and using them will help you satisfy your various customer types.

Although there is no such thing as a truly free trial, customers are much more likely to give up time and information to get a product in return. The barrier to entry is so low that almost anyone can sign up for a free trial. And once they’ve seen how good your product is, they may not want to live without it. Giving out free trials is a great way to build up your customer base. Just as you get to know that person who you take out to a free lunch, you get to know your customer through a free trial. And knowing your customer is at the foundation of digital marketing.