Rapaport Magazine

Click, Click

Pay-per-click can be an important part of online marketing

By Lara Ewen
RAPAPORT... While almost all e-savvy retailers will say that Search Engine Optimization (SEO) [RDR, March 2006] is an essential element in their marketing campaigns, they will also caution that gaining ground in a search engine’s organic ranking system takes a while. A new etailer may not have the time or patience to wait for his or her site to achieve the desired placement in a search engine’s results for, say, “diamonds.” That’s why many turn to pay-per-click [PPC] advertising to supplement other SEO efforts.


In a ClickThrough Search Engine Marketing white paper titled “How to Implement Successful Pay Per Click Advertising,” PPC is defined as “a marketing technique that requires you to pay a fee every time someone clicks to your website from an advert that you’ve placed in a search engine’s results.” For example, imagine a potential customer entering a search term like “diamonds” into an engine such as Google or Yahoo! In addition to the “organic” results that come up — diamonds.com, diamonds.net — a number of sites are presented at the top or in a sidebar of the results page, such as BlueNile.com and Abazias.com. These listings, which appear with a short one-sentence description and a link, are paid ads placed by companies hoping to catch a searcher’s eye. In order to be listed at the top of an engine’s search results, advertisers bid on selected terms.

“Bidding in its simplest form is applying value to individual keywords, which will determine their place in the network’s ranking system, which in turn will determine your keyword ads place in the pay-per-click search results,” explains John Brock, general manager and chief editor at PayPerClickAnalyst.com (PPCA.com). Obviously, the more general the term is, the more expensive it will be to outbid competitors. Bidding for prime placement with the largest PPC network operators — Google’s AdWords, Yahoo! Search Marketing and MSN AdCenter — can be as costly as placing a large, prominent ad in a popular consumer magazine.

Why PPC?

With PPC advertising, there are essentially two elements that need to be managed and paid for: the bidding that determines ad placement and the fee that is paid when an ad is clicked on. Because of the complicated variables involved — not to mention the expense — some novice etailers opt to rely on SEO solutions that do not include PPC campaigns. This can be a big mistake. “While both pay-per-click and SEO are marketing techniques to bring you to the forefront on the web, they are two very different animals, and both are very important to a marketer’s online strategy, [but they’re] almost apples and oranges,” says T.J. Kelly, vice president of marketing for LookSmart, an online advertising and technology company. “[The two techniques] complement each other. Savvy web marketers can actually use both SEO and pay-per-click to help each other and drive conversions [from clicks to actual sales].”

Brock agrees. “While SEO is a great form of marketing and does have its place in the marketing mix, it leaves advertisers at the mercy of search engines. Engaging in SEO marketing means consistently having to adapt and modify your strategy and techniques to accommodate changes in search engine algorithms and tactics. Pay-per-click advertising is much more stable, allowing the advertiser the time to focus on marketing penetration and selling strategy. Moreover, pay-per-click advertising is extremely competitive now, which has driven keyword pricing down on many good networks, thus making it more bottom-line friendly than ever before.”


Choosing the right keywords to bid on, writing effective search copy and implementing a successful PPC campaign can be a full-time job. But there is ample help available online; Google, Yahoo! and MSN all feature comprehensive “help” sections on their PPC networks. There are also many companies that will help to mount a PPC campaign. But before hiring any company, Brock suggests doing a bit of research to determine what sort of keyword selections and general strategies will work best. “Analyze, analyze, analyze,” Brock emphasizes. “Always strive to understand which keywords are successful for you, at which bid prices, at which days of the week, times of day, geographical area — if this applies to you — and even on which networks. Just setting up a pay-per-click campaign without proper monitoring strategies will either make the campaign fail or most certainly result in a less-effective campaign.”

Furthermore, many of the same strategies that prove helpful in other SEO processes can be used in PPC marketing. “Keywords and ad copy that work for SEO can work for pay-per-click, and vice versa,” says LookSmart’s Kelly. But keyword selection, which on the surface seems simple, is, in fact, an extremely complex art.

Google’s AdWords “help” section provides some useful initial guidelines, suggesting to a user that he or she “review your site content to identify which keywords describe the main categories of your business. Write down every relevant keyword under each category you find. Expand the list by including all of your brand and product names as well as plurals and synonyms for each word or phrase on your initial list. Also, remember to think like your customers. How might your customers ask for your product or service?”
But Kelly cautions that being too general will make it more difficult for customers to find what they want. “Choose your ad titles and descriptions wisely,” he cautions. “Your title and description serve as an introduction to potential customers. The more relevant your ad, the more likely a click will convert.”

Kelly also suggests using terms that are as specific as possible. “For example,” he says, “a marketer for management training courses should bid on ‘management training’ and ‘management courses’ instead of general terms like ‘training’ and ‘courses.’”

In the end, the planning for a successful PPC campaign is as important to today’s etailer as traditional print campaigns — perhaps even more so. Budget accordingly.

Article from the Rapaport Magazine - May 2007. To subscribe click here.

Comment Comment Email Email Print Print Facebook Facebook Twitter Twitter Share Share
Tags: Lara Ewen
Comments: (0)  Add comment Add Comment
Arrange Comments Last to First