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Paid Search: One-Way Ticket To The Poor Farm Or Great Profits?

Nov 17, 2007
Pay-per-click is a fantastic way to drive web traffic to your site from the major search engines. It can also suck your marketing budget dry in just a couple of days if not done properly. The bottom line is someone is going to profit by implementing paid search. The question is, is it going to be you or the search engines? The goal of the search engines (and their strategies) is more clicks. The more people click on your ads the more money the search engines make. Their strategy is to get as many clicks as possible with in your budget and they are willing to do that all day long. This is great for them bad for you.

The real goal should be more conversion with less clicks and lower cost. Let's take a few minutes to look at some strategies that should make a difference in your campaigns. We will get more specific and articles to come.
General strategies

1. Turn off Content Network

In Google when you first set up a campaign there is a default setting that turns the "content match" setting to "on". For now, turn that setting off. What this does is present your ads on websites that are using AdSense. If you go to a website and see "Ads by Google", those ads are coming from Google paid search accounts. Those ads show up on these websites based on the content of the website. At first glance this may look like a good idea and it usually is, for Google. There are two things that you need to consider before turning on the content match. The first is that the website that is hosting your ad gets paid every time someone clicks on your ad. Most of the click fraud that happens is when an owner of a site or so want affiliated with the site clicks on these ads. The second thing is that individuals who click on these ads are not actively seeking what you are offering. These folks are tire kickers. Even though your ad may be presented (number of impressions) to a lot of people, the click through rate and conversion rate is very low. The magic of search engine marketing is that you come in contact with individuals who are actively searching for what you have to offer. Only pay for clicks that come from people in that category.

2. Search Terms.

The more general the term the less qualified to lead (generally speaking). Personally, I am not a big fan of hundreds of key words for paid search. This is a great strategy the search engines and paid search management companies that are paid a percentage of your spend. What I try to figure out what terms would work in order to get my ideal customer to my site. Remember, you want people to come to your site who are actively searching for what you are offering. For example if you sell "long term care insurance" what type of people do you want clicking on your ads? Of course, you want individuals looking for long term care insurance, not "long term care" or "insurance". You can use these terms if you create a list of "negative" key words. We will talk about that at another time.

3. Keyword "types"

There are three types of keywords "Broad", "Phrase" and "Exact". Do not use "broad match" except for phrases with four or more words. For example, long term care insurance quote. The rule of some that I use is for single word phrases, I use exact match and four search phrases that are two to three words, I used "phrase matching". I am also experimenting with using "exact" matching for these terms as well. Remember the more specific the search term is to what you are offering and who your ideal client is the more qualified to lead will be. Better a small number of qualified leads than a large number of leads that waste your time and ultimately cost a lot more money.

4. Ad Copy Just a couple thoughts on writing ads. When you write your ads put the following in your "headline" box: {keyword: "your main keyword}. This will put your keyword phrase into the headline. This is very important for a lot of reasons that we will get into at another time. Your ad should be specific enough to attract only your ideal client (someone who is looking for exactly what you have to offer). Your ad contained at least one of your "unique selling propositions". This can be very challenging because of the space limitations. Rule of thumb, find out what your competitors are doing and do something different. For example, if everyone is offering free shipping, use one of your other unique selling propositions.

5. Landing Pages

You need to put a lot of thought to your landing pages. Your landing page has to do one thing that is answer the questions are up that the searcher had in mind when he typed in his key words. The searcher type in his search terms because he has a problem, needs a solution and is in some kind of "pain". You have about two seconds to convince him that you understand what he is going through and what he needs. It does not matter if you are selling hammers, insurance or investment products. The last thing a searcher wants to see is that you can jump higher, run faster and do it better than the competition. He just doesn't care. Besides, 99% of the websites that he visited probably stated that they do that. You must show him that you have the answers to his needs. Do not just send him to your home page unless your home page can accomplish the above. Once you connect with your searcher you must have a call to action. It can be a "buy now", "for more information contact us", "contact us for a free evaluation" or "consultation". You must be very specific and clear about your next steps. Have your phone number or contact us button on every page.

6. Tracking

Finally, track everything. Paid search is not an exact science. It takes time to set up and optimized your campaigns to get the results that you are looking for. You must monitor your campaigns at the least weekly in order to catch market changes. Unless you have a time of venture capital money laying around, paid search is not something you turn on and forget about. Google, Yahoo and MSN have free tracking tools that work great.

Pay-per-click is a great marketing tool, if used correctly. It can also, as stated earlier, suck your marketing budget dry in a heartbeat. It is a lot cheaper to find someone who knows what they are doing and does this day in and day out to help you than it is to lose thousands of dollars trying to figure it out yourself.
About the Author
Terry Stanfield is a SEM consultant with over 15 years of sales and marketing experience. His company, Clickadvantage, manages PPC and SEO efforts for his lead generation and ecommerce clients.
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