Customers often ask me about pay-per-click (PPC) advertising programs with a certain amount of skepticism behind their questions. Paid ads are how the search engines make a profit, after all, so how do we know we’ll benefit as they squeeze what money they can out of us? Many are surprised to find, once their campaigns are running, that PPC does indeed offer the strong return on their investment that they’d hoped for but never expected. Why? Because paid search programs offer a great deal of control over how you get your message out. You can deliver your ads to the audience you want, show them the message you want, and get them to the ultra-effective web page that you choose. Well-crafted PPC campaigns attract highly targeted visitors that are often more likely to convert than organic search visitors. Below are answers to some of the questions about PPC advertising that I hear most often.
1. How do search engines decide how to rank the ads?
Pay-per-click advertising runs on a bidding system, like a digital version of an auction. For each keyword you want to show up for, you decide how much you’re willing to spend on a single click. Unlike a traditional auction-house auction, the search engines also consider factors like the geographic areas and times of day you’ve specified, as well as the all-important Quality Score. Just like with organic listings, the search engines aim to deliver highly relevant results that are useful to their users. The relevance of the keywords to the landing page, the ability to attract clicks, and other “quality” factors are considered alongside the bid amount as pay-per-click algorithms determine placement.
2. Will doing paid search help boost my organic search rankings?
According to the search engines, paid and organic search are completely separate and running ads will not influence your organic rankings. That said, many of the same factors that make your web page a good contender for organic visibility will make it a good paid search landing page. Make sure your landing pages contain valuable, well-written content around a central theme.
3. How big should my budget be?
There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to help you determine your budget. Keyword costs vary depending on your geographic area, volume and quality of competition, and other factors. The good news is you can change your budget at any time. Think about your overall marketing budget and what you can afford, and then plan your campaigns accordingly. After collecting data for a few weeks, you should be able to get a good read on opportunity, and you can ratchet your budget up or down as needed. A generally good starting point for a small- to medium- sized business targeting a local market is $15-$20 per day.
4. Will my ads have a shot next to ads from the big, national players?
Remember, PPC rankings are not just about how much you bid. If you’ve put a good effort into building targeted campaigns pointing to quality landing pages, you’ll have no trouble competing with the big brands on many relevant keywords. In some cases the most competitive keywords may be expensive and outside your reach. Generally, these are the broader and less targeted keywords that don’t convert as well as other, more specific keywords. Narrower keywords tend to have less competition, cost less, and often generate better leads.
5. How will I know if it’s working?
Paid search platforms include detailed reporting so that you can see exactly how many people have viewed your ad, how many have clicked on it, what your clicks cost, how effective your ad copy is, and more. Even better, the reporting (regardless of PPC platform) can be easily integrated into Google Analytics, for even more insight into what your paid search traffic is doing once on your site, and whether it’s converting. PPC advertising is getting renewed attention following some major organic algorithm changes from the search engines in recent months. The integration of map listings and more social, video, image, and news listings into the search results page have made it harder to get listed on Page 1 in the traditional organic results. Many advertisers are finding that paid search provides an opportunity to grab back some prime search real estate and gain more qualified leads. Check out the post 3 Off-Site Marketing Techniques for Realtors for more ways to boost your search engine visibility. To learn about Union Street Media’s paid search program, click here.