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Technology / SEM strategies

Getting started with pay-per-click (PPC) ads

If pay-per-click (PPC) advertising isn’t part of your online marketing strategy, you could be missing out on vital sales. Here’s what you need to know to get started with pay per click ads.

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With millions of Australians using the leading search engines, it could be argued that traditional methods of finding businesses and suppliers are dead – or at least mortally wounded. (As an example, check out this chat we had in the forum a while back, which highlights the changing attitudes of small business owners towards the Yellow Pages).

At the same time, PPC advertising is making significant inroads. For those who aren’t familiar with it, PPC is a method of bidding on keywords for ad positions on search engines and other websites. When someone searches for your keywords, your listing appears, they click on your ad and you get a valuable lead. Simple.

Here are three of the most compelling reasons to try pay per click ads:

  • Remember the old marketing adage “I know I’m wasting half my advertising budget, I just wish I knew which half”? Pay per click ads allow you to track your PPC traffic, conversions and leads. You can even get updated statistics in almost real time – something that’s virtually impossible with traditional media.
  • With pay per click ads you can be highly targeted about the customers you reach. Geo-targeting is ideal for many soloists, because it allows you to stipulate that your ads should only be displayed to searchers in your local area. Target by suburb, area, city, state or country or even groups of countries.
  • You can customise your budget and choose when your ads are displayed. This is very important as it allows you to test your ads and landing pages and minimise your costs.

Google AdWords is the largest vehicle for paid search advertising, but Bing and Yahoo also offer similar models. Any of them can quickly turn into a money-sucking black hole if you don’t know what you’re doing, so here are three important issues to be aware of:

Pay per click ad quality

Spammers, scammers and other assorted snake oil salesmen love PPC and do their utmost to exploit its weaknesses, so in an effort to boost the value of their PPC programs to small businesses, big advertisers, and the searching public, the search engines analyse the quality of the pages your ads send visitors to. Bing and Google call this a quality score, while Yahoo uses the term quality index.

"Testing your pay per click ad campaigns thoroughly will ensure you spend your money wisely. If you’re not prepared to spend time testing, consider outsourcing this task."

I recommend that you don’t start a pay per click campaign without understanding what a quality score is and how to improve yours.

Want more articles like this? Check out the SEM strategies section.

Research your keywords and target your landing page

You need to know your campaign is targeting the right keywords, hopefully ones that are not too competitive (and therefore too expensive). Once you have your keywords, you also need to ensure that the page your ad sends searchers to (called a landing page) is highly relevant to their search. Without an effective, optimised website, PPC could end up costing you buckets of money.

Test, test and test again

Testing your pay per click ad campaigns thoroughly will ensure you spend your money wisely. If you’re not prepared to spend time testing, consider outsourcing this task.

Getting your head around the nuances of PPC advertising takes time. Do you have any additional tips to help others get up to speed quickly? Please share them below.

Matthew Keath

is one half of Platform B, and is a passionate advocate for social networking for business. He lives in Melbourne with his young son and partner.

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