The Dark Side (and the Bright Side) of Pay-Per-Click
Advertising today is taking new turns all the time. So savvy marketers need to stay ahead of the game. Its not rocket science to know that now, more than ever, people are turning to the web for news, entertainment and, of course, shopping. Industry statistics indicate eight out of 10 people are guided by search engines. If you’re offering product or service on your Web site, but your company doesn’t appear on the first page of the results list, you’re missing out. Some businesses have discovered a new way to target prospective customers – paying to put their site and product at the top of the online search results list with pay per click advertising (PPC).
There are pros and cons to a pay-per- click program. Working directly with search engines, like Google, Yahoo or Ask.com, this type of program allows advertisers to position a direct link on the first page that appears in response to a consumer’s search for a specific key work or phrase. The advertiser pays only when the consumer clicks on the link to their site. The goal is to generate targeted traffic to an advertiser's Web site. The program charges a modest amount for each keyword (often less than one dollar). Advertisers pay each time a viewer clicks on a sponsored ad resulting in a Web site visit. PPC programs can benefit smaller businesses that don't have huge advertising budgets and want to control and measure their spending. Seems simple right?
To be sure, pay per click advertising, when done right, can be a very useful and effective advertising tool. However, companies often don’t have a clue as to how to make PPC advertising work in their favor and end up unhappy because of the lack of results. They say that hind site is 20/20, so to save you the hassle, here are a few points to consider when initiating a PPC program.
Keyword Selection: Make sure when you’re considering keywords to buy, you think like your customer and not like an industry insider. If you’re targeting teenagers, for example, make sure you’re using the lingo and keywords they would use to search. Purchase more terms than just the industry standards and insider phrases. For instance, if you sell skateboards, make sure you buy the phrase “skate boards” as well as “skateboards”. Just because consumers often misspell words, doesn’t mean they don’t have buying power. Extensive research on potential keywords and key phrases before purchasing is critical.
Fraudulent Clicks: Click fraud is a very serious thing with PPC advertising. Web users can accidentally click on a site that they don’t really mean to click on, which costs the advertiser money without getting anything in return. Worse than that, competitors have been known to click repeatedly on a link to a site just to drain your budget. According to statistics provided by Dynamic Digital Advertising, “an estimated 15 to 30 percent of click-throughs are fraudulent, conducted either by software created just for this purpose or by actual human beings. Thousands of companies in India are dedicated to clicking on a competitor's Web site for pennies.” And there’s nothing an advertiser can do to stop this problem. Just cross your fingers that it doesn’t happen to you.
Results: Long-term, accurate results are somewhat hard to achieve with PPC Advertising because according to The iProspect Search Engine User Behavior Study, April 2006, “four out of five search engine users report that they do not click on paid placement sites”. Most people will also admit that they don’t’ like to click on paid advertising because usually it takes them to a junk site, propaganda, or is totally irrelevant to their search. Pay-per-click advertising, if done correctly, can generate a boost in clicks to your Web site; however after your budget runs out the boost will drop off if PPC is your only advertising method.
The Ultimate Solution-Organic Search Engine Optimization: With an organic search engine optimization you can maximize your potential results the natural way. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of improving the volume and quality of traffic to your Web site from search engines through "natural" ("organic" or "algorithmic") search results. You can make your placement more effective by doing simple things such as tagging key words to your images or including key words in your copy. Also, press releases and news information that is linked to your site from an RSS feed can increase your clicks. The basic idea behind SEO is that a site’s coding, presentation and structure can allow search engines to index your site’s relevance and eventually place it higher in the results list. A professional Web site developer can review your site and help improve your search engine optimization.
Bear in mind that organic search engine optimization is no guarantee your Web site will always appear at the top of a search engine list. There are many factors involved – not the least of which is the amount of competition. If you are in an industry with thousands of competitors, you are all battling for the same results.
In the end, the most effective program is often a combination of organic optimization and a strategically crafted pay-per-click program. If you understand the potential and the pitfalls of Internet marketing, your chances for success will increase dramatically.
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