by Valerie McCord on March 9, 2012
Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising is the online advertising choice of many successful eCommerce sites and businesses with an online presence. PPC advertising helps you connect with your audience when they are searching online for the products or services you offer. If done well, PPC advertising drives your target market directly to your site with a very good return on investment. Some believe that it is one of the most cost-effective ways to advertise online.
In search marketing, PPC advertising and natural search engine optimization are two major approaches for driving target markets to web sites. Successful online businesses tend to use both, diversifying their search marketing strategy.
In PPC advertising, you create targeted ads. These ads are associated with keywords and landing pages and will be triggered by the search engine when someone includes your keywords in a search. Advertisers specify the maximum cost or bid they are willing to pay per click. Along with other criteria, their bid determines the ad's position on the search results page. The most well known PPC services are Google AdWords and Bing Ads (which serves ads on Bing and Yahoo).
PPC ads can be positioned anywhere on a search results page. You commonly see ads at the top of the results, above the natural listings, and running down the right side of the page. Google, for instance, identifies them as Ads or Sponsored Listings to separate them from natural results.
The PPC service charges the site owner when a searcher clicks on a link to the site in the ad. The cost will be up to the maximum cost per click set by the PPC manager. Click costs run from $0.05 to $25 or more depending on the competitiveness of the market and the keyword(s) on which you're bidding.
So, why should you pay for clicks when there is no cost for visitors to enter your web site from natural search engine results? If your website is on the first page for every major keyword relevant to your business, that's good. In this case, you may find that having your brand seen even more through PPC ads is valuable enough to warrant the ad-spend. The only way to find out for sure, is to test it. On the other hand, most websites don't have top rankings for all their primary keywords. This is particularly true for large eCommerce sites selling thousands of products. If this is the case with your business, PPC advertising can fill in the gaps where natural search optimization is not performing as desired.
A great benefit of Pay-Per-Click advertising is you can get immediate traffic. Getting high rankings in natural results can require moderate to very aggressive search optimization measures, depending on your market and the competition. This can take months to achieve and have a variety of costs, including directory fees which can run over $1,000.
If done properly, the return on investment for search engine optimization can outweigh the return for PPC advertising. Over the long term, the initial upfront investment can pay for itself.
However, achieving top natural rankings is not always possible or cost-effective given:
If you want to start driving immediate traffic to your site, you can do so at any time with PPC advertising.
Geographic and network targeting are powerful features of PPC advertising services. Geo-targeting, as it is known, allows you to target your ads to specific geographical areas or search terms. They can be as broad as countries (i.e., US, Canada, France), at the state/city/province level (i.e., Vermont, Burlington VT, Quebec) or an area within geographic coordinates. When ads are geo-targeted they are only served to Internet visitors in those areas or for related search terms that include the locale. Search engines use computer IP addresses to determine visitors' locations. This tight targeting of ads ensures that only those in your target market area, or those searching for products or services in your geographic area, will be seeing and responding to your ads.
Your ads can be on search results pages or displayed on related websites and web pages — or both. In addition to text ads, image ads and animated ads are options, which increase brand awareness and customer interaction.
As a PPC advertiser, you are in control of your advertising and the budget. As an example, with an investment of just $5.00 you can create a Google AdWords account and start creating targeted ads to any page within your site. You set a daily budget, which you can modify at any time. All changes are real time and are reflected in Google within minutes of being saved.
All major pay per click services have similar features and tools to help you maximize your advertising campaigns.
Monitoring PPC advertising results is a great way to learn about your customers and mine keyword data to find keywords to naturally optimize your site. The benefit to your search optimization efforts is that you can determine which keywords and ads cause sales/conversions. This will fine tune your keyword list over time. Recognizing the slight nuances between keyword search intentions can also make a difference between a successful ad campaign and an unsuccessful one.
If done right, the features and flexibility of PPC advertising can give you a very respectable return on investment. If done poorly, PPC advertising can eat your advertising budget very quickly and produce poor returns. Understanding the keyword selection process and regularly monitoring and optimizing your campaign are the keys to real success.
Keywords and ads need to be tested and monitored. And they should be removed, added or replaced based on these findings. Cost per click values need to be managed to reflect ideal ad positions and then monitored. While you are working on your campaigns, the competition isn't sitting idle. Watch your ad positions; you may find yourself making frequent max cost per click changes to compete in a competitive marketplace.