Pay per Click Management

Pay-per-click marketing is a great way to get visitors when you need traffic and you need it now. But it's risky: You can spend a fortune, generate many visits, and end up with nothing to show for it. This article will provide you with a high-level view of pay per click marketing, provide some general strategies and provide an example of what to do, and what not to do.

What is Pay-Per-Click Advertising?

On its face, pay-per-click marketing, or PPC, is pretty simple: Search engines and services, such as Google or Overture, provide listings on a per-bid basis. This is in addition to their 'natural' search results, which are still powered by a combination of keywords found on your site, link popularity and other formulae.

If you place the highest bid for a specific keyword or set of keywords, then you rank number one in these paid listings. On Google, PPC listings show up in the Adwords column on the right-hand side of the screen. Other engines, such as MSNSearch or Yahoo, display PPC listings as 'sponsored listings' in the same column as the natural search results.

If someone clicks on your PPC listing, they arrive at your web site. And you are charged the amount you bid. So, if you bid $.15 per click on 'widgets', and that's the highest bid, you'll show up first in line. If 100 people click on your P P C listing, then the search engine or PPC service will charge you $15.00.

The Role of PPC Advertising

Most businesses can't afford to solely rely on PPC advertising. It's too expensive, and bid amounts inevitably climb. But pay-per-click can fill a few important roles:

Campaign- and issue-based traffic: If you have a short-term campaign for a new product, service or special issue, pay-per-click can be a great way to generate buzz. You can start a pay-per-click campaign within, at most, 24-48 hours, and you can generally change the text of your ad in mid-campaign, so adjusting your message is easy. If you need to focus attention for a finite amount of time, PPC is perfect.

Direct-response business: If you sell a product or offer a service that folks can purchase the moment they arrive at your web site, pay-per-click is a great tool. Online stores are a great example: You know that each click generated is a real potential customer, so spending money to increase the number of clicks makes sense.

Niche terms: If you are trying to generate traffic for a highly specific keyphrase, PPC can often provide bargains. For example, you might not want to pay the top bid for 'bicycles', but 'Landshark Bicycles' is probably a lot less expensive ($.10 per click as of this writing, actually).

Natural search engine optimization is a PR-based, long-term attempt to grow your brand and image. Pay-per-click advertising, however, should be handled like any other form of paid advertising: Gingerly, and with a clear, quantifiable short- or medium-term goal in mind. In other words, concentrate on conversions, not clicks.