a Smart PPC Campaign
So you’ve decided to give pay-per-click search engine marketing
a try? That’s a good move, because PPC is one of the most
affordable advertising options available to small businesses. But
like most advertising, you need a good strategy to get your money’s
worth. I find that too many people running their first PPC campaign
make mistakes that can quickly turn expensive.
In this article I’ll offer some basic advice about bidding
and keyword selection to help you run a smart PPC campaign.
The most important thing to know before starting your PPC campaign
is how much you can afford to bid for a keyword. High traffic keywords
on Overture and Google – the leading PPC providers - can cost
$5.00 per click for a top ranking. Can you afford that?
Consider this: the typical e-commerce site converts about 2% of
its visitors. That means you need to bring 50 visitors to your site
before you make a sale. At $5.00 per click, you’ll spend $250
dollars to generate one sale. Ouch!
Also keep in mind that you usually want one of the top 3 listings
for a keyword. These are the listings distributed to most of the
PPC engine’s partner sites. For example, a #3 ranking on Overture
will place your listing on Yahoo, MSN and Alta Vista. A #7 listing
won’t appear on any of these search engines.
So you’re caught in a catch-22: you want a high PPC ranking
to get traffic, but the top rankings for popular words are too expensive.
The solution is to cast your net broadly, targeting a large number
of less popular keywords. These words are usually less expensive
and, taken as a group, can give you a considerable volume of traffic.
For example, suppose you run a ski resort. The
keyword “ski vacation” currently receives over 60,000
searches per month. That’s great, but it costs $5.01 per click
for the top ranking. Instead of competing head-to-head for that
keyword, you would be better off choosing “ski trip”
(4,771 monthly searches at $0.57 per click for the top spot) and
“ski lodge” (4,244 monthly searches at $0.55 per click
for the top spot).
By targeting a number of these less popular keywords, we get nearly
the same traffic as if we had targeted “ski vacation,”
but at a fraction of the cost.
Note that this is the opposite strategy you typically use in your
search engine optimization campaign. In an SEO campaign, you focus
on perhaps a half dozen high traffic words. That’s because
it takes a lot of hard word to earn a top listing.
In contrast, it’s relatively easy to create a new PPC listing.
Since you don’t pay unless someone clicks on your listing,
there’s no added cost for doing this, so targeting a large
number of keywords makes sense.
The word “ski chalet” only receives 930 searches per
month. So what? At $0.52 per click, it’s worth adding to your
It’s common for PPC advertisers to target dozens of keywords.
I’ve managed PPC campaigns for clients using over 1,000 words.
The downside is that it can be hard to manage a large number of
keywords. You’ll want to track your listings, making sure
your rankings haven’t dropped. Plus, you’ll want to
know which keywords are sending you traffic and converting visitors
Many businesses also use a software package like Bid Rank or GoToast
to manage their listings. These software packages track your listings,
and can adjust your bid if you drop in the rankings.
Many companies also outsource the management of their PPC campaigns.
Most SEOs now offer PPC management services. These options cost
money, but they usually pay for themselves by running your campaigns
Keep in mind that you don’t have to use a software package
or a consultant to start your PPC campaign. But you do need to know
what sort of cost per click you can afford. If you decide that $2.00
per click is your maximum bid, then stick with it. Don’t get
into an emotional bidding war if you lose a top ranking. It’s
much smarter to look for new and cheaper keywords. Cast your net
broadly and you’ll save money.
About the Author
is President of KeyRelevance, a full service search engine marketing
firm offering search engine optimization and pay per click management.
She is on the Board of Directors of the Search Engine Marketing
Professional’s Organization (SEMPO), the newly formed advocacy
group for the search engine marketing industry.