Pay Per Click, or PPC, is a common service offered by major search engines, and search engine optimisation (SEO) agencies to help you gain traffic to your website. For many small businesses, PPC represents an immediate way to gain new online customers.
Unlike other kinds of SEO, it does not actually improve your website’s ranking in the main search results; instead, you basically buy advertising space in the Sponsored Links part of the page, or on other people’s websites (as with Google’s AdWords and AdSense programmes), and pay a fixed fee if somebody clicks through to your site.
This makes PPC more of a short-term form of optimisation, as each click only has that one chance to earn you positive return on investment, whereas other kinds of SEO can improve your website’s ranking for an extended period of time.
Choosing a Network
There are several major PPC networks to choose from when placing your ads.
Google AdWords is one of the biggest markets, and one of the best-understood among its advertisers, and among the webmasters who host ads under the corresponding Google AdSense programme.
However, Microsoft and Yahoo! have also teamed up to create their Search Alliance, making it easier to advertise on both Yahoo! Search and Bing from a single, central account.
Setting Your Budget
You may already have a set marketing budget in place to spend on PPC activities, or on web marketing as a whole.
Whichever advertising network you’ve selected, it’s worth checking whether you qualify for extra support based on your budget – there’s often a threshold above which you can get specific advice or telephone support, rather than simply being referred to the web-based help pages for the relevant service.
Of course, you should also set your budget at a sensible amount, based on your available funds. Particularly at the outset, there’s no guarantee of a positive ROI from PPC campaigns, so you should expect to lose at least some of your budget before you get your advertising spot-on.
Choose Your Keywords
Once you’ve got a network and a budget chosen, the next step is to bid on your preferred keywords – this determines how much you will pay for each click you receive, and also whether your ads will appear, or those of a competitor.
The highest bidder gets their ads shown for their primary key terms, so in principle higher bids buy you better positions – but higher bids also cost you more per click, so can make it harder to achieve positive ROI.
Don’t get carried away at the start, but set your bids at a sensible level and make minor adjustments later, and you’re less likely to waste your budget by bidding too highly on the wrong terms.
Adjust Your Campaign
Achieving long-term ROI with PPC depends on a couple of things – firstly, as there’s little to no long-term benefit from each click in terms of SEO, you’ll need to have a steady marketing budget available to keep buying more advertising space.
Secondly, tweak your bids and your chosen keywords. You may want to bid on seasonal phrases, or on competitor names or new product launches – whatever you think might work, as long as it complies with the terms of your chosen ad network.
Finally, as you become more skilled at administrating your PPC campaign, you may want to look into more formal AB testing to compare two different advertising options, and determine which is the most effective; you can conduct multivariate testing to change more than one variable at a time, but AB testing is a good, and relatively easy, place to start.