Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising can be disastrous for companies that are inexperienced in this type of advertising. Keywords can be costly and may not be specific enough to generate enough traffic and sales to justify the advertising expense. With companies becoming more aggressive in this channel, bid prices can quickly increase and exceed budgets if the pay-for-placement ad campaigns are not monitored carefully. The strategies that follow will help drive higher quality targeted traffic to a site.
Advertise on Multiple Pay-for-Placement Search Engines
Advertisers should test their ads on various pay-for-placement search engines in order to reach a broader Internet audience and determine which search engine has the best return for them. I recommend implementing PPC campaigns using both Google AdWords and Yahoo! Search Marketing.
Use Focused and Targeted Keywords
The more focused and targeted the keywords and the ads, the better they pre-qualify users before they click. For example, if an online retailer is selling Bark-Free, a product designed to humanely stop dog barking, they may use some of the following keywords: bark free, stop dog barking, no dog barking, stop barking, etc. These keywords will likely be more effective in pre-qualifying traffic to the site than broader keywords such as dog, barking, and bark. If the keyword terms are too broad, the ad for Bark-Free might display when a user searches for “dog parks.” Because the ad isn’t relevant to the user, any clicks that may occur are unlikely to result in a sale. By using more specific keywords, an advertiser can better match the user’s needs.
Many of the pay-for-placement search engines offer features that enable an advertiser to limit the conditions in which their ads will display. These free tools can be very helpful to advertisers to lower advertising costs and better pre-qualify traffic to their sites, providing a better return on their pay-per-click investment.
Create and Test Multiple Ad Versions
Another highly effective pay-per-click strategy is testing multiple versions of ads. Each ad consists of a headline (usually displayed as a hypertext link), a description (ad copy), and a URL (also displayed as a link). Advertisers can create several versions of the ad with modifications in each of the sections listed above and measure the performance of each ad. Things to test include: using a call-to-action in the headline, adding benefit-rich language to the description, and parts of the ad (several of the primary pay-for-placement search engines offer a feature that automatically inserts the searched keyword into the ad where the advertiser specifies). Google AdWords has a built-in feature that will automatically test different versions of an ad and continue to serve the one that performs the best (gets the most clicks).
Test Landing Pages
In addition to testing the ads, advertisers should also test and tweak their landing pages. Landing pages for pay-for-placement ads should be targeted and contain language similar to that of the ad itself. For example, if the user clicked an ad for “Bark-Free” after searching for the keyword phrase “stop dog barking,” the landing page would be most effective if it also contained the phrase “stop dog barking.”
Advertisers need to make it as easy as possible for users to proceed with their call-to-action. This can be accomplished through placing the call-to-action above the fold, making the “buy” button prominent, providing enough (but not too much) information about the product or service on the landing page, etc. Testing landing pages is critical because the effectiveness of each approach will vary depending on industry, product, and target audience.
Use Day-Parting Tools
Pay-per-placement advertising can get expensive when an advertiser isn’t reaching and converting their target customers. One way to better reach their target audiences is through day-parting. Some of the pay-for-placement search engines allow advertisers to control the days and times during which their ads will display, also known as day-parting. An advertiser who is trying to reach high school students would benefit from limiting their ads to display only during the times in which their target audience is typically online (not during the school day). This tactic can save advertisers a lot of money and make their pay-per-click ad campaigns more effective.
Test Ad Positioning / Keyword Bidding
A final strategy for driving higher quality targeted traffic to a site from pay-for-placement ads is to test the position of the ad itself on the search engine results page. For certain products and industries, it’s unnecessary for the advertiser to be in the sometimes-costly number one position. Through testing, an advertiser may discover that their optimal position for a particular product / keyword is number two or three in the sponsored listings. This ideal position will vary by product, keyword, industry, and target audience. It’s also subject to evolve with consumer behavior and thus requires ongoing testing, analysis, and management.
Use Search Engine Optimization with Pay-Per-Click Ads
The best pay-for-placement strategy includes search engine optimization. Although users are becoming more familiar and comfortable with sponsored listings, the majority of search engine users still click the natural search results. Users tend to believe that the results at the top of the natural search list are the most relevant (even though they rarely are). Advertisers can benefit from this by optimizing their Web pages so they appear high in the natural search results alongside their pay-for-placement ads.
Although each pay-for-placement search engine runs on the same basic premise, there are large differences in the user interface, bid management tools, and customer service for each. Advertisers should conduct additional research into advertising restrictions, features, reporting options, and policies for each pay-per-click engine before registering and displaying their ads. Once advertisers have determined which pay-for-placement engines to test, they can improve their return on investment by utilizing proven PPC strategies including using targeted keywords; testing multiple versions of ads, landing pages, and ad positioning; day-parting; and using Hotel SEO and Travel SEO techniques. The secret to pay-for-performance search engine success is to test everything on an ongoing basis in order to continue to provide the best solutions to users’ needs.
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