Is PPC the Quick Fix?


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Is PPC the Quick Fix?

Being listed in some of the most popular search engines is a great way for a company to market its Web site. A 2001 study from Forrester Research found that it is the best place to form a loyal audience, and that same year, Jupiter Media Matrix and NPD said people who are looking for products are more likely to go through a search engine (28 percent), than browse a shopping channel (five percent) or click on an ad (four percent).

With so many new companies creating their sites daily, the competition is becoming even fiercer. It is often difficult to reach the top 10 listings, even if the keywords chosen are both specific and general. Because of this growth, and since it takes anywhere from 60 to 90 days before a new Web page is visible on the engines, more companies are turning to pay-per-click search engines (PPCSE), otherwise known as pay-for-placement.

Originally created by GoTo.com (now known as Overture) in June 1998, PPCSE has become one of the hottest ways to market a site on the Web. There are critics who believe it is a shady way of searching because a company has paid for the keywords, so it is bound to show up even if it isn’t what the searcher is looking for. And, since some of the PPCSEs list exactly what the advertiser is paying for each click, it is similar to showing others what sort of budget the company is working with.

This form of advertising is not to be confused with search engines where advertisers bid on a keyword and then their listings are included at the side of the page, such as Google’s Adwords campaign, or the engines where advertisers pay just to be included in the database, with no promise of rank.

The system is similar to inclusion in other search engines, as advertisers create a title and description for their listings. Most of the process is the same, with the exception that the placement is not determined by keywords chosen, but rather on how much money the advertiser is willing to pay. In addition, the company has the ability to make changes to its bids, in order to control how much is being spent on advertising each given day.

Striving to get to the top is a challenge for some smaller companies, but PPCSE allows them to bid precisely (what they are willing to pay for the traffic coming to the site).

PPCSEs are a great way for companies to get noticed right away. Web site owners don’t have to wait for spiders to pick up on their site or work for hours a day trying to figure out what keywords will be rewarded with a top 10 placement. And often, because the cost-per-click isn’t too high, companies experience a return on investment much higher than if they were placed in an “organic listing” search engine (ones that search based on keyword popularity).

One of the keys to a successful PPCSE campaign is to keep all the costs down. Careful management is essential.

Benefits of Paying for Ranking (The Pay-Offs)

The most impressive part of any PPCSE marketing campaign is that all visitors to the site are targeted and are likely to have a valid interest in what the business has to offer.

Advertisers control exactly how much money they are spending. There is so much flexibility that if there is a little less room in the budget, they can change the click-through rate to make sure that they are still noticed, but perhaps not as frequently.

This usually means there is an increase in the number of visitors coming to the site from the PPCSE. But not only are there more people, but those who are visiting are more likely to purchase something. If the click-through cost is 20 cents and produces even a $10 sale, it is more than worth it!

In regular search engines, it is often difficult to rank near the top because the algorithms are constantly changing. But if a company is willing to pay a few cents for each click-through then the position is fairly secure – it is only a higher bid that can do that.

But how do consumers feel about PPCSE? Generally, they have mixed feelings. Many actually prefer searching there because the advertisers are legitimate – no one has spammed the search engine with unnecessary terms because all clicks will be coming out of their pockets. However, others feel that the algorithms of the regular search engines provide specific information – exactly what they are looking for and not just a link to something that they aren’t interested in.

Preparing To List on the Site

1) Where the site is marketed is probably the most important aspect of a PPCSE campaign. Basically, this breaks down into great traffic at an affordable price.

2) One of the first things a company should do when looking to advertise on a PPCSE site is to think of all the keywords that they wish to include for the search engine. Estimates have shown that getting this all together could take up to 30 hours. Although it seems as though it is a lot of time, it will not be in vain. It has been estimated that anywhere between 10 and 20 keywords and phrases is a good number. Make sure to choose targeted keywords. Choosing the most popular terms means tons of traffic, but how much of it will result in an investment? Without choosing the right words, companies are merely paying for people who are just surfing the Web.
Although tempting to place words of all kinds into the keyword selection category, it is important to choose phrases that will ultimately lead to a transaction. Using a popular keyword that will get people to click, only to hit the back button, isn’t the goal. The idea is to bring in visitors who will buy. This is the downfall of some companies that have tried the system – they want to include all the words they can think of, using broad terms that bring visitors who really have no interest in the site.

3) A maximum bid must be determined for all keywords. What must be kept in mind, however is that the higher the bid, the elevated the placement is in the listings. Just remember that although a bid has been made on a site, it doesn’t mean that the keyword then belongs to the company. Others are still free to bid on that word, and it is those with the highest bids who take the top spots. And, be smart when creating the bidding maximum for each keyword. There is no point in spending a penny or more unnecessarily. And if there are any sites offering their engine free for a limited time, by all means, give it a try!

4) Write good titles and descriptions. The more detailed the description is, the less likely someone who isn’t interested will click on the link. This ultimately results in further cost savings.

5) Design a “tracking page” that the link will directly go to. Since the point of this advertising is to be able to see how many people clicked and how many bought, it is important to have a page just for this purpose. To track the page, the formula is simple: if the Web site was www.tophosts.com, simply add “?source=Overture” (if that is where the PPCSE is). So the clicks will direct to www.tophosts.com/?source=Overture. This should be easy to find in the server log files to see how many people have come to the site. This should also help if there is ever suspicion of fraud.

6) Also remember that while the point of the PPCSE is to get people to the site, the planning doesn’t end there. Once at the transaction point, they need to be able to see things that will make them want to buy. Once more people start to visit the site more frequently, try to use the site itself as a marketing tool.

What Does It Take To Be Number One?
Although it may be a common mistake to want to be in the first spot, sometimes this is actually a bad thing. Often people will get excited and click on the first link they see. Or, they will see it as the regular search engines and think the number one listing is the most relevant. This results in unnecessary payments. It is a common belief that the best spot to be in is the third from the top.

Words of Wisdom…
Even though PPCSE is becoming one of the best ways to market a Web site, it is important to remember that it isn’t always a gold mine. It is designed to bring more people to a Web site, which should happen almost immediately. Some companies spend thousands of dollars each day, only to find that the people they were targeting weren’t really interested in what they had to offer. Instead, it helped them realize that they needed to make a change. Remember – the goal is to pay as little as possible to receive the most targeted traffic.
On a final note, be prepared to research the PPCSEs before signing on with anyone. Make sure the company is legitimate so that the click-throughs being paid for are actually relevant to your business’ site.

Companies Offering Pay For Placement
Some of the companies that offer this sort of placement search engines are Overture, FindWhat, Ah-ha and Kanoodle, although there are hundreds of them on the Web.