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Top Pay Per Click Search Engines: The Big Three And The Others

Jan 24, 2008
It's time to ratchet up your pay per click advertising and you are looking for the most effective way to use your ad budget. Maybe you've just begun PPC advertising and need help. Let's take a look at the most effective ways to optimize your search marketing ad campaigns using Google, Yahoo, MSN and others.

The Big Three in PPC

Don't stray far from the proven winners -- stick with Google, Yahoo and MSN for the best results. The Big Three are now offering very similar PPC services. These services all include being able to geo-target ads, set ads to turn on and off during peak times, and split test ad copy. Also, you have quality scores to optimize with each. The large majority of search traffic still belongs to Google, but each offers opportunities.

AdWords From Google

Google drives more quality traffic than ever, but you still need to be careful about monitoring your results with frequency. Either do this yourself or hire a professional PPC management company.

Keep in mind that pay per click with Google can sometimes be a challenge. Sure, the competition can be fierce in the PPC arena, and that can make things difficult. But the real challenge is how complex Google continues to get. "Quality Scores" play a major role these days and more bids come up "Inactive for Search." And there's more factors to consider in the making of a successful Google campaign. Don't be discouraged. If you make the effort to continually test and monitor your keywords, you can maintain a thriving account and avoid getting penalized. You'll also avoid seeing bid minimums raised or even being priced out. With a steady vigilance, you can finely adjust your ad campaigns to the point where you are actually paying lower prices, but getting higher ranks than the competition.

With any of the PPC engines, you need to make sure you separate out your content network advertising from your search advertising and track those separately. If you don't in Google, bad keywords are probably leaking your account right now.

Are you an advertiser with a big monthly budget? If so, you can't afford to put down your guard with Google -- it can be costly. We recommend either dedicating more time, allocating more staff and hours or using a professional management company.

Yahoo Search Marketing: Still Essential

Yahoo Search Marketing (Formerly Overture, which was formerly Goto.com) underwent a major change early in 2007 with their Panama update. This overhaul was in direct response to what Google had done in the PPC marketplace. While they no longer dominate the pay per click arena as they had years back, they are still a very worthwhile place to invest.

Similar to Google, Yahoo has a "Quality Index" ... and again, this is something that you have to pay attention to. Continual testing is a must. Yahoo won't hit you as often and as strongly as Google, but your campaign will suffer if you don't frequently split test to fine tune your ad quality.

We recommend focusing on the three C's when it comes to testing that ad copy: Customer, Competition and your Company. Why are you better than your competition? Why are you more relevant to your client or consumer? Try varying your approaches with your ads. Once you've discovered one that really works, use it as a control and tweak your ad with little changes. For best results, continue the testing to drive up that Yahoo Quality Index.

AdCenter by MSN

MSN is a late comer to the PPC game, but still a player to consider. MSN's AdCenter has some excellent quality traffic and some unique targeting tools. AdCenter lets you manage the same geo-targeting type of local pay per click campaigns as the others, but you can also take it up a notch and target user demographics. If you find that you have high conversions for a certain demographic segment, you turn up your bids when AdCenter identifies those potential customers searching your specific keywords.

MSN also recently launched a new method to import your campaigns from Google AdWords. This will make your expansion easier than before. Word of caution when you do this: Make sure your Google account is as fine tuned and optimized as possible, or you will be simply repeating the same mistakes. If you have large Ad Groups with large lists of keywords, you need to break those down into smaller, more manageable ones. This will allow you to target the searches with more relevant ads. Again, test, test and re-test that ad copy.

Going Beyond the Biggies

We've seen mixed results with Ask and Looksmart. You can find some traffic that will pay off one week, then next week you are flooded with bad results and your Earnings Per Click go south for the winter ... and sometimes the other three seasons, as well. Miva can also be hit or miss. If you are doing a poor job managing your other PPC accounts, we definitely suggest you don't push your luck into any of these others. There is some good traffic there, but you have to double your efforts on tracking and keep a tight eye on results since things can turn sour fast. Avoid all the other pay per click engines.

Most PPC advertisers find the Big Three to be more than enough work to keep them busy -- or, at least they should. If you are not running daily split tests with your ads, if you aren't tracking results down to the keyword level, if you aren't searching for the profitable keywords that your competitors are on, then you are missing out on some tremendous bang for your buck with the big three.

Taking Care of Business

If you have been ignoring the daily management needs of your PPC accounts, bad keywords are likely leaking your funds. Meanwhile, the good keywords are getting more and more expensive because your quality scores are slipping compared to your competitors. Protect your investment with close supervision or hire a professional pay per click management company to do the critical work for you.
About the Author
Josh Prizer is a Senior Account Executive and PPC Expert for Zero Company Performance Marketing, a pay per click management company. Visit his website today to learn more about how to improve your PPC advertising campaigns and performance.
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