Welcome to the Pay-Per-Click Jungle
Pay per click (PPC) is one of the fastest growing segments of the advertising market. Imagine: unprecedented opportunities to reach new prospects, expand geographic reach and drive highly qualified traffic to your website.
PPC is an internet advertising model where businesses pay only when a visitor clicks on an ad. Many forms of PPC exist, but we’ll focus on search engine PPC, and more specifically Google AdWords, the most common PPC program available. Advertisers use Google’s automated system to bid on keywords relevant to their target market. The more competitive the word, the higher your cost per click.
There’s no end to the “free” information available to help businesses navigate this electronic jungle, but confusion still reigns—and wherever you find confusion, you’ll also find opportunists and charlatans ready to take your money. Let’s hack through a few of the myths.
Myth One: AdWords don’t work.
Not every tactic works for every business, and rarely do tactics work in isolation. With that caveat, I can say with certainty that AdWords can produce high-quality leads and conversions—when effectively planned and managed. The first—and often only—place that people now go for information is the Internet. People searching on Google are actively looking for product, service or information. Unlike traditional advertising that hits people when they don’t necessarily want it, AdWords hit people when they are actively seeking information. The key is attracting the right people—and making sure you deliver what they want when get to your website. AdWords are not “once and done.” To succeed, AdWords must first be tested, then rolled into a full campaign, and then monitored and revised on an ongoing process.
Whether you are buying keywords or not, your competition is. So if you can’t budget for the optimum level, budget what you can—or your competition will grab all those leads.
Myth Two: AdWords are too expensive.
With Google AdWords, you can set a daily, weekly or monthly budget, or even a maximum budget per keyword. One of our clients invests $125/month. Another invests $5,000/month. Finding the right balance between what you can afford and what the data indicates is the ideal budget—that’s where testing and revising comes in. For example, if test data shows you can expect 200 clicks for $1,000/month on a certain term, but only 300 clicks for $2,000/month, you can easily see the point of diminishing return. Whether you are buying keywords or not, your competition is. So if you can’t budget for the optimum level, budget what you can—or your competition will grab all those leads.
Myth Three: The more I pay Google, the higher my business will appear on the search.
Any search results that show in a gray box at the top of the Google page, as well as the results along the right-hand sidebar—these are all paid placement through Google AdWords. The rest of the entries on a Google search page are known as “organic search” results. You can pay Google $10,000/month for AdWords, but if your site isn’t optimized for search engines, it won’t rank well on the organic results page. Period. Google doesn’t operate a “pay to play” model. Appearing higher on the organic search is dependent on of having relevant, keyword-rich content and proper coding for your website. In other words, if your site stinks, Google search won’t like it. (But they’ll still take your ad money.)
Myth Four: Wind ’em up and let ’em go.
To squeeze more out of my jungle metaphor, AdWords are like plants—they need diligent care and watering. This is where initial testing comes in. A test will help you determine best-performing keywords—the expected click-through rate, cost, scalability, even the keywords your competition is buying. Once you enter full campaign mode, monitor your AdWords results on a weekly basis. If certain ads are getting excellent click through—and more importantly excellent conversion—up the budget for those terms. If other keywords aren’t generating good leads, drop them. Consumer search patterns evolve, so it’s important to adjust your keywords and budget on a regular basis.
Determining the cost-per-click is easy, because you’ll learn that before you pay a dime. Determining the return on investment requires a bit more analysis and open-mindedness.
Myth Five: AdWords provide a questionable ROI.
Determining the cost-per-click is easy, because you’ll learn that before you pay a dime. Determining the return on investment requires a bit more analysis and open-mindedness. A conversion in Internet parlance is when the visitor performs a specific action after visiting the site—filling out a contact form, signing up for a webinar, buying something, requesting more information, and so on. Anything that nets in a name and contact information. To determine ROI, you need to figure out an acceptable cost per conversion. One of our clients has a prospect base that’s limited to the top 100 decision-makers in their industry. They are willing to pay a lot of money per lead. Conversely, a client in the nutritional supplement space decided not to move beyond initial AdWords testing when they discovered that their conversion cost per sale on a $15 item was $22. In their mind, they were losing $7 on every sale. What this client failed to consider, however, was the lifetime value of a customer—which assumes that new customers will purchase more products in the future, resulting in a positive ROI for this conversion.
Myth Six: Picking keywords is a simple matter.
Too often, business owners wear blinders. They don’t think like their customers. You may think you know how your customers search for your product—but how do you know for sure? This goes back to the importance of research and testing. Before we came on board, one of our clients operating in a highly competitive software niche had purchased a dozen keywords he felt related to his product. Turns out, in 90% of the searches for this type of solution, people actually use completely different terms—which means this business owner was missing out on 9 out of 10 searches. (Side note: If you have a product or company name that is subject to misspelling, you should purchase the common misspellings. Just because someone can’t spell doesn’t mean they aren’t a viable prospect!)
Even the best researched and tested AdWords campaign will fail if you don’t deliver on the ad’s promise after a click.
Myth Seven: AdWords prefer to work alone.
Even the best researched and tested AdWords campaign will fail if you don’t deliver on the ad’s promise after a click. If someone searching for a product or service sees your ad, and they believe that’s what they’re looking for, they click. The click takes them to your website. From there, it’s up to your website to do the rest of the selling or lead capture. That’s a key point worth remembering.
AdWords should lead to a specific landing page that speaks to the person clicking the ad. Having a unique landing page not only helps you track the effectiveness of the ad, it increases the likelihood of conversion. And perhaps most importantly, to help avoid bait-and-switch tactics, Google will use its search algorithms to judge how pertinent and accurate your landing page compared to the ad. Aligning both ad and landing page means you won’t be penalized by Google. Suppose you’re in the medical supply business and you sell four dozen products, but you really want to push a new scar removal product. Your ad may read “Revolutionary scar removal product. 25% off. FDA approved!” The landing page should then reference that product specifically, with a clear call to action (in this case, buy now), with the offer in both the headline and the URL of the page.
Myth Eight: Trust the “experts.”
Google itself offers has a bevy of tools and information to help you navigate the AdWords system. Start there first (www.google.com/AdWords). You owe it to your bottom line to learn as much about the process as possible. That way, if you decide to work with an outside partner to manage your AdWords campaign, you’ll be less likely to fall victim to the opportunists prowling around the jungle like tigers, waiting to pounce on the uninformed.