Pay-per-Click has grown substantially more competitive and expensive over the past 24 months. Whereas competitive bids once commanded $0.35-$0.60, they now range from $1.00-$5.00 per click. These rises are due in part to the recognition by companies big and small of the ROI on this form of exceptionally targeted advertising. No other paid method of inclusion provides such a well chosen audience, and measuring conversion & traffic down to the exact point of profit requires only a few steps. In order to compete in this market, search advertisers must use intelligent strategies to beat their competition. Attracting eyeballs and clicks to your ads while armed with the best tracking technology has to offer are the keys to using PPC successfully.
Writing Great PPC Ads
There is no 'secret' to writing great PPC ads. It is often trial and error that creates the best ad. However, common sense and a deep understanding of your customer base can help to start off on the right foot. Before writing your PPC ads, you should be able to cogently answer each of the following:
- What are the demographics of your target market - geography, income, gender, age, etc.?
The demographics will tell you what messages your audience will be receptive to - i.e. don't use the same writing style for urban males age 20-30 that you would for rural women aged 40+.
- Are your buyers new to your product, or are you selling familiar goods/services?
If your products are unfamiliar, you will have to do a little explaining in your ad - tell them what problem your product fixes or why they need it. If your products are well known and are being directly searched for, use more nuance and sizzle to generate click-throughs.
- Is your company well established? Do you have a reputation?
Depending on the degree of branding you want to achieve and your current standing, it may benefit you to reinforce why consumers should buy from your firm, or simply push the product - i.e. Amazon doesn't need to say anything about themselves; consumers already know who they are.
- Are you selling on price, quality or intangible values?
When selling on price, it's critical to mention free shipping if you have it, or sell the idea that your prices are the lowest. When using other qualities, don't forget to use words that appeal to the consumer who is willing to pay more - luxury, quality, guarantee, etc.
The best PPC ads also use something that catches the eyes of consumers - interesting or unexpected lead ins, text that requires a second glance, etc. The key to writing this type of text is to be creative - try new words, titles and phrases that are surprising and unique. The click-through rates will quickly tell you if your ads are working.
Using Tools & Tracking
Overture, Adwords & several of the minor PPC engines offer a high degree of accountability through their vast arrays of tracking tools. Setting up the tools properly and knowing what to track and how it should impact the decisions you make is critical to running the most successful PPC campaign possible. The following are critical measurements you should know in order to make the most of your PPC dollars.
- Click-Through Rate
Overture & AdWords both track this automatically - what it tells you is what percentage of people who were exposed to your ad clicked through to your site. This statistic can be misleading, however, because it does account for people who may visited the page your ad was on, but not seen it because it was "below the fold" - meaning below the area initially visible on the screen without scrolling. The PPC companies are not yet able to calculate how many actually saw your ad - so skepticism, particularly when your ad is not in the first 3-6 positions is wise.
- Conversion Rate
Conversion Rate measures how many visitors to your site made a purchase. The advanced tracking systems from Google and Overture enable you to add very specific conversion data to your website that gets reported back in the PPC Tool admin center. However, adding your own tracking system that measures all keyword phrases and referral traffic can be even better as you can use the ideas and terms to optimize your PPC use.
Google's Adwords service serves two types of ads - search match and content match. Search match ads are listed on top and right-hand side of a search engine results page. Content match ads are provided on third-party (read - not Google) websites that serve the ads either vertically or horizontally on the page. According to Google, content match is determined by the words/phrases, etc. that appear on the page, however, many inconsistencies have been reported. If you decide to use content match from AdWords, make doubly sure that your ROI and conversion rates perform adequately.
An additional piece of information about Google's AdWords program of interest is how to get a site up to the top of the search rankings, rather than simply on the right-hand side of the search results pages. According to a Google AdWords rep at SearchEngineWatch Forums, the top position is achieved by getting a particularly high click-through rate, rather than paying a particularly dominating price per click. Manual approval by an AdWords worker is also required, although they will look at your ad (supposedly) if you are doing particularly well.
It's important to remember the power Overture has - although Google has a lion's share of the search market, Overture provides results to both Yahoo! & MSN as well as many other smaller sites - like AltaVista & AlltheWeb. Google provides results @ AskJeeves & AOL too - giving Overture only a slightly lower number of total eyeballs each day. But, Overture's click-through rates, conversion rates & satisfaction rates have always been superior to Google's - this could be due to the intrusiveness of the ads, the difficulty in distinguishing them from unpaid results, or the better, more usable system has built for its advertisers - being able to write individual ads for keywords, bidding by the keyword, etc. In any case, a PPC campaign may be better off starting with Overture and adding Google, rather than the other way around.
Additional PPC Information
It's important for webmasters and PPC buyers think of the service in very different terms than normal (organic) search engine optimization. Pay-per-click must provide a direct return on investment and the ROI is the most important factor to measure. If you're spending $1000 per day on PPC, your profits (not sales, but profits - after ALL expenses) must be greater than $1000 to make any return at all. If your production, shipping or other per piece costs are high, it's even more important to have a good grasp on the numbers to see if PPC is paying off for your business.
On the other hand, it's also important not to discount a minimal ROI from PPC - by spending more money, you may be able to make slim margins, but compensate through quantity. PPC is a great tool for advertisers and web-based businesses, but using it properly is extremely important.
For more information on who provides what results, see Bruce Clay's sublime relationship chart.