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.