These days, it seems as if the only way to market your small business online is by using content. It wasn’t that long ago however, that pay per click search marketing was the number one choice of online marketers.
While the truth is that content marketing IS a great way to drive traffic to your site and generate leads, pay per click search marketing is still alive and well and in this post, I’m going to introduce (or reintroduce) you to an online marketing strategy with a long history of success.
In other words, this is not a “this-or-that” post; I will not be comparing pay per click search marketing with search engine optimization (SEO). In fact, few approaches work as well together as those two and often, the best way to market online includes a mix of both.
Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Search Engine Advertising
When a search engine site displays your search results, they are typically surrounded by search engine ads such as shown in the image below.
These ads are the primary source of revenue for most search engine companies, but more than that, they can be one of the most effective ways to drive targeted traffic to your website.
Search engine ads are more commonly known as “pay-per-click” (PPC) ads because an advertiser (i.e. you) only pays when someone clicks on the link within the ad.
How much the advertiser pays for each click is based on a number of factors and is at the heart of being successful with PPC search engine marketing.
This is all “marketing math”; not my favorite subject either, but key to your success here.
You see, when you use advertising, you want the “cost per sale” (CPS) to be as low as possible.
In other words, you want to convert as many of the potential customers who see your ad into actual customers as possible.
The more customers that are captured by one ad, the lower the CPS and thus, the less expensive it is for you to advertise.
The amount of money you are willing to pay for each click on your ad is called your “bid”.
When using PPC ads, the amount of money you are willing to pay for each click on your ad is called your “bid”. Since search engine ads are driven by keywords (you decide when your ad is shown by selecting keywords – when those keywords are in a search, your ad will be shown), you are essentially bidding on keywords.
These keyword bids determine the order in which your ads are shown on the search results page.
A high bid can assure that your ad is shown at the top of the page or ad column;
A low bid may land your ad on the second or third page of search results, not an ideal situation.
The key is to bid high enough to show up on page 1 while also minimizing your cost per sale.
So, the key here is to bid high enough so that your ad shows up on the first page of search results, but not so high that you end up with a high cost per sale.
This is a tricky balance and advertisers often change their bids to retain their ad’s position or to lower costs. Often, these changes can result in a bidding war that greatly drives up the price of specific keywords, which in turn drives some advertisers out of the market. Fun!
One safety valve on cost is the ability to set a daily spend limit.
One safety valve on cost is the ability to set a daily spend limit; a function that most search engines provide.
For example, you can set your ads to show until you’ve spent up to $30 on that day. Once you reach $30, your ads stop showing, only to appear again the next day when the cycle starts all over.
PPC Ad Copy
One of my most successful PPC ads ever:
Creating effective PPC ads is an art unto itself. You don’t get much space to add details about either the offering or its benefits, so brevity and wit both serve well to grab attention here.
One handy feature that most search engine companies provide is the ability to create multiple versions of each PPC ad, using either the same or different keywords, for each of their marketing campaigns.
This ability allows you to collect data on which keywords and ad versions work best so you can keep the good ones and adjust those that are not driving enough potential customers to click your ad links.
PPC Landing Pages
As with all advertising, the goal of a PPC ad is to send potential customers to a place where they can take an action such as purchasing products and services from the company that placed the ad.
It’s for this exact reason that many PPC advertisers configure their ad links to send potential customers to specialized landing pages. These landing pages:
Are designed to drive one specific action – focus is the key to a good sales landing page.
Often look different than the rest of your site. For example, many advertisers remove any navigation from PPC ad landing pages so that potential customers don’t get distracted and leave too quickly.
In the same way that advertisers test with different PPC ad versions, many also use multiple landing page versions with different designs and calls to action.
In fact, mixing up which ads send potential customers to which landing pages can be a very effective way of testing the effectiveness of both the ad and the landing page. This practice, called “A/B Testing” is very common.
More than just search engines
One additional benefit to pay-per-click ads is that they are not only shown on search results pages.
One additional benefit to pay-per-click ads is that they are not only shown on search results pages. In fact, your ads can be shown on hundreds, if not thousands of sites, all of which target and attract the potential customers you want to capture.
The key to this, and I’m talking mostly Google here, is the network that search engines have created.
For example, I used PPC ads to attract folks on YouTube to come see my videos. They saw my ad after searching on the site or if they were viewing a video with a similar topic. This worked like a charm and drove tons of traffic my way.
In addition to the big network sites, search engines also allow other businesses to display search engine ads on their site (e.g. Google AdSense). This benefits all parties as shown below:
Search Engine Company
More clicks on ads
More revenue from ad clicks
Company with Site Displaying Ads
Clicks on ads
They get paid a small amount for each click that occurs on their site
Ads shown to a much larger segment of the target market
More targeted customers driven to their “call-to-action” landing pages
Should Your Business Use PPC Ads?
Though some folks claim to ignore them, PPC ads are actually very effective, especially when you’re selling a product or service for which potential customers go online to find quickly.
I use them all the time, both as a business and an online consumer and believe they will be around for a long time to come.
The Bottom Line
If you are not currently using pay per click search marketing, it is an approach well worth investigating.
If you find that bids for your industry are low, or if you can find keywords for which folks search, but on which not many folks are bidding, you can effectively and inexpensively drive targeted traffic to your site and capture customer leads and sales.
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