An SEO explanation first.
Long, long ago when the web was new, the only constant source of traffic (visitors to your site) was from the myriad of search engines which were around in those days.
Ranking high was easy. A high rank for your keywords brought a lot of traffic and still does today. However, it’s very competitive these days as there are only a few search engines. Google, of course, being the most dominant.
The problems associated with trying to rank high on Google are enormous and there are millions of pages explaining everything you could possibly want to know about it. The art of ranking high on search engines is commonly referred to as SEO (Search Engine Optimization). I call it an art because it kind of is, there are no definitive rules and no one knows the algorithm used by any of the search engines so it’s all pretty much an educated guess.
Also, it’s not something you can just ramp up when you want more traffic. Even if you are number one for your keywords you will only get a share of the traffic available for that keyword and no more.
Google doesn’t make any money from sending free traffic to your website and they are making it increasingly difficult to get free traffic. They stuff paid ads all over the top of the search results resulting in the organic listings to be pushed further and further down the page. They want you to click on the ads. That’s how they make their money.
Also, there are around 2 million new websites launched on the web every day. That’s a lot of competition for the available free traffic.
That’s not to say you should not bother with making sure your site is optimized to rank highly on the search engines for your keywords. You definitely should.
What is a keyword?
A keyword is anything you might enter into Google when you want to search for something. For example, if you were interested in buying some new shoes you might search for “men’s white cross trainers size 9”. That’s a keyword
Google would present you with the sites it thinks best suits your keyword search. The top 3 or so would be paid ads and their might be a local map on the right showing you some local stores which probably have what you want. Underneath the paid ads would be the organic listings which are the sites which are best optimized for your keyword search.
Remember, Google wants you to click on the paid ads so you must scroll down to see the organic listings.
Of course, it’s very rare that anyone goes past page one on Google. If your site is not on page one you can forget about getting any free traffic.
What is PPC?
Webmasters know all this and so does Google. The Google (and Bing) business model is to sell listings for keywords. Sticking with our shoe example. Sites which sell those trainers can pay Google to be listed within the paid ads space whenever that keyword is searched for.
PPC stands for Pay Per Click. This means Google will display your ad but only charge you when someone clicks on it. To ensure they maximize the opportunity for a visitor to click the ad, you must ensure that the ad is relevant to the search term. For example if the Google user types in “Men’s white trainers size 9” they are not going to show an ad for alarm clocks. That would just confuse and annoy Google users.
The setup of a PPC campaign can be quite complex and tedious but if it’s done correctly the returns can be spectacular.
A good PPC campaign will bring targeted traffic to your site and should increase sales or signups or whatever it is you are wanting to happen.
You get to determine how much you are willing to pay per click and you will never pay any more than that.
You can have as many keywords as you want and all the search engines have keyword tools to help you with this. Their tools will tell you the average number of times each keyword is searched to give you a reasonably good estimate of the number of people who will see your ad. Whether they click on it is another thing.
When you use PPC you are in direct competition with other advertisers. Therefore, most clicks go to the highest bidder. If your competitor bids $5 per click and you bid $1 your ad will not be shown as often. Thus, your competitor will get substantially more traffic than your site.
There are other factors involved here as well; the “click through rate” is important. The search engines want to display ads that get a lot of clicks. Well written ads will always get more clicks than badly written ones.
While several factors determine how successful your PPC advertising campaign will be, you can achieve a lot by focusing on:
- Keyword Relevance – Crafting relevant PPC keyword lists, tight keyword groups, and proper ad text.
- Landing Page Quality – Creating optimized landing pages with persuasive, relevant content and a clear call-to-action, tailored to specific search queries.
- Quality Score – Quality Score is Google's rating of the quality and relevance of your keywords, landing pages, and PPC campaigns. Advertisers with better Quality Scores get more ad clicks at lower costs.
Managing your PPC Campaigns
Once you have a campaign up and running the worst thing you can do is forget about it. You need to check in every day or so and look at the reports provided by the company selling you the traffic.
It will be an ongoing process, you will be like a gardener, tending to your campaigns to continually optimize them and to produce the very best return on investment.
Here’s a rundown of what you will be doing:
- Add PPC Keywords: Expand the reach of your PPC campaigns by adding keywords that are relevant to your business.
- Add Negative Keywords: Add non-converting terms as negative keywords to improve campaign relevancy and reduce wasted spend.
- Split Ad Groups: Improve click-through rate (CTR) and Quality Score by splitting up your ad groups into smaller, more relevant ad groups, which help you create more targeted ad text and landing pages.
- Review Costly PPC Keywords: Review expensive, under-performing keywords and shut them off if necessary.
- Refine Landing Pages: Modify the content and calls-to-action (CTAs) of your landing pages to align with individual search queries in order to boost conversion rates. Don’t send all your traffic to the same page.
Most articles, including this one tend to focus on Google Adwords. However, Google Adwords is the most expensive, most complicated and most restrictive and most competitive PPC platform.
The most overlooked PPC platform is Bing Ads. Their rules are much more lax, their prices are much lower and they reach up to 30% of internet users.