Sep12

Making Things Click

Posted by Sarah Holt

A beginner’s guide to Pay Per Click advertising…

Pay per click may sound like something you’d find in the office stationery cupboard, but this internet marketing tool has caused a quiet revolution among ad agencies and branding firms throughout the world. Typically abbreviated to PPC, it involves a method of advertising where people only pay money when a viewer clicks on their advert for more information.

This is highly cost-effective, since each click-through from the advert leads directly to a nominated target destination – typically a company website. A great deal of additional information about that unique visitor can also be captured in the process, and the percentage of people seeing the advert who respond to it is measured as the click-through rate.

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Pay per click has been defined as the amount spent to get an advertisement clicked. The price companies pay is determined by a variety of factors. Base costs are influenced by market sector. For example, terms relating to the finance or pension industries tend to cost more than terms that apply to the gift industry for example. Often, PPC companies hold auctions for certain terms. However, it’s not just a case of ‘he with the biggest budget wins’. Quality score plays a part in determining the cost per click, too.

A quality score measures how well your advert fits the keywords it’s been created to target. It also takes into account things like the quality of your landing pages. High quality scores get you discounts on your cost per click.

Flat-rate PPC contracts are less common but they do exist, particularly on price comparison websites. Google quoted a flat charge per thousand impressions for the first two years of its results-based advertising, before the current PPC model was introduced in 2002.

The world leader in PPC advertising is still Google’s Adwords package. This allows people to position minimalist adverts beside search engine results and on affiliated third-party websites, in response to specific search terms. The adverts appear down the right-hand side of results pages, typically headed up with a discreet box marked “Ads”.

A record is kept every time an advert is displayed in response to a particular search term, but a charge is only incurred when someone clicks on the advert for more information. Beyond Google Adwords and its Microsoft/Yahoo-based rival Bing Ads, PPC accounts may be directly managed by an individual website. More commonly, they’re farmed out to advertising agencies who handle ads across numerous third-party websites such as forums. PPC example

The presentational techniques used in PPC advertising vary according to the nature of the advert itself. On websites where visuals are supported, companies promoting glamorous items like Caribbean holidays or new cars can use alluring images to attract attention. These campaigns frequently dovetail with existing advertising, possibly reprising a familiar aesthetic from a billboard or TV ad.

Usain Bolt’s unmistakable appearance has glowered out of many website banner and sidebar adverts lately, just as it has from newspapers and billboards. By contrast, search engine results are text-only and therefore require a strong message to grab the casual observer’s attention. These adverts may be less eye-catching, but they’ll still attract click-throughs if the message is relevant to the target audience.

Setting up a PPC account is usually quick and easy, and it’s possible to begin generating results almost immediately. The ability to adjust account settings and expenditure levels in real time is far more effective than traditional methods of advertising, where clients could be locked into fixed-price contracts for long periods. There is no minimum term or minimum/maximum daily spend for PPC contracts, although constantly fluctuating costs mean these campaigns require regular scrutiny to ensure they’re still effective.

The pros of PPC

One of the great beauties of PPC is that alongside keyword terms, advertising can also be targeted around certain parameters such as specific times of day or geographic locations. However, such targeted campaigns can reveal major flaws in other aspects of your business if the click-throughs aren’t leading to conversions. Perhaps the products or services you’re offering aren’t impressive enough, the prices are too high, or your sales message is getting lost when people visit the website behind the click-through ad. Many companies have invested heavily in PPC campaigns, only to subsequently realize that their website is hard to navigate, incompatible with mobile devices or simply not as good as its rivals.

The cons of PPC

A common mistake with search engine-based PPC campaigns is to insist upon placing the highest bid and ensuring your product or service appears above any competitors. This sort of vanity advertising often leads to costs that can’t be justified by the resulting sales uplift, particularly since many adverts won’t appear in prime locations. Ads are sometimes farmed out to smaller search engines and less relevant destinations, where the likelihood of genuine interest is lower. It’s worth pointing out that the quality of the target website (specifically the landing pages that each click-through ad leads to) can also have a bearing on cost per click rates.

Above all else, don’t place your adverts beside overly general search terms. If you rent out vehicles exclusively in London, there’s no point having your adverts appearing across the UK. Equally, if you specialize in electric car rentals, there’s no point advertising beside commercial vehicle search results. Any clicks you do get will waste other people’s time and your money. Instead, target PPC ads at directly relevant terms, and remember that more specific keywords or phrases will not only be cheaper but will also yield greater results. Someone looking for a tipper truck might click on a “van rental” advert, but they’re much more likely to click on a “tipper truck rental” ad, which will also be cheaper than the more popular “van rental” term. Click-throughs to conversions should always be the focus of any PPC campaign, which is why it’s so important to regularly check accounts for underperforming keywords or missing phrases that could drive extra traffic your way.

Pay per click isn’t the panacea for all marketing ills, and it’ll never completely replace more traditional methods of advertising. It does provide a flexible and cost-effective companion to conventional ad campaigns, and it’s particularly useful for companies whose products are available to buy directly from their website. Two clicks from a search engine results page or discussion forum can lead a consumer to the Checkout pages of your website, but you won’t pay a penny if they ignore the advert entirely. In terms of advertising efficiency, that’s hard to beat.

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