If you can recall my post on how to become a natural at SEO, Search Engine Optimization is the method of improving the visibility of a website or online page in search engines through unpaid search results, also known as “natural” or “organic” results.
Search Engine Marketing and Pay-Per-Click, on the other hand, refer to a kind of online advertisement that seeks to market websites by increasing their visibility in computer program result pages via the employment of paid placement, discourse advertising and paid inclusion.
As its name indicates, unlike other varieties of promoting, with PPC you merely pay once somebody clicks on your ad. In some cases, SEM is used as the umbrella word for PPC and SEO. Paid results can be seen either on top or at the right hand-side of the search result page.
As I cited before, search isn’t a particular science, but a bit like SEO. There are strategies to optimize your SEM/PPC efforts.
The following are some of the many ways for you to start with.
1. It may seem like a no brainer but, as with any selling campaign, it’s vital to list your objectives before diving on your PPC adventure. Whether or not you’re trying to get traffic, sales or prospects, you would like to see that right off the bat.
Without a transparent purpose and understanding of the info you’ll be obtaining, it’s terribly easy to induce in PPC since it’s absolutely cheap to start with. However those tiny amount of cash add up in an urgency, and before you realize it, you would have dug yourself into a hole.
The great benefit with PPC is that it’s super versatile. You’ll be able to create alteration to your campaign while on the progress or stop the campaign completely if you want it. Thus it’s pretty easy to regulate if the results don’t exactly meet your expectations.
2. List creation. This is usually the part that will create or break your campaign, therefore take time to think about it. Again, because of PPC’s flexibility you’ll be ready to modify your keyword settings immediately, therefore any slip are often simply corrected.
Keywords are usually divided into two classes:
a. Brand: these are directly “connected” to your company, (i.e., your company name, product/service names, trademarks, etc.) In our case “VerticalResponse” or “Roost” would top the list of brand terms.
b. Category/non-brand: these are more generic terms that can be used to describe what you do. They are also the ones you and your competitors will be battling for (even though it IS common practice and fair game to try to “leverage” others’ brand keywords as well).
In VerticalResponse’s case, they include “email marketing” or “social media“.
Matching options: once you have your nice huge set of keywords and key phrases, you select to add them to your account in 4 methods:
- Exact match: As the name implies, it will just show the results if the exact keyword has been inputted in the search bar. To manually input a keyword as an exact match, just add brackets around it (e.g., [spa]).
- Phrase match: The results will show as long as the information carries the keyword in exact order as you have inputted them. For example, an ad will be shown if the user types in “what is the best email marketing software” and one of your phrase match keywords was “email marketing.” To mark a keyword as phrase match type, just add quotation marks around it (e.g., “spa”).
- Broad Match. This matching option relies on the search engine’s capability to pinpoint which search query is related to your keyword. As the term implies, this could mean that your ad will show on search queries which are entirely non-related to your business.
- Negative Match. This matching option allows the get some degree of control on your keyword, especially if you are using a number of broad or generic keywords. For instance, if your product or service is under the cloud computing industry, you may want to exclude keywords such as “weather channel” or “rain” so your ads will not display on people searching for weather forecasts. Negative keywords are inputted with a minus sign preceding the keyword (e.g., -weather forecast).
You may think that Broad Match is an entirely irrelevant option for you. It can actually work for you.
If you have phrases with more than 2 keywords, broad match can be used as the number of keywords gives the search engine more cues on what you’re actually looking for. In this case, it can use it to eliminate searches which are not relevant to your business.
3. Setting up your SEM/PPC Account(s)
- Picking a provider. There are several companies offering SEM and PPC services, Yahoo, Google and Microsoft all have their own solution for PPC service. Google has Google Adwords, Yahoo has Yahoo!Network Plus and Microsoft adCenter. It will be good to start with one of these top search engines as your customers are using them already for their searches. Please note that each of these search engines utilizes their own algorithms so make sure you understand how they work before investing any of your advertising money. Once you’ve picked up the provider, you will need to create an account and then proceed in implementing your strategy.
- Campaigns and ad groups. Once you’ve created an account, you’ll be asked to group your keywords into buckets which will be the basic structure of your campaign and ads group.
Campaigns – For the campaign, you would want to be as specific as possible. Have one campaign per goal you have. For instance, if you have several product categories on your portfolio, you can have one campaign specific to a category if each one has a different goal.
Ad groups- Ideally, you should have 3 ad groups per campaign. For instance, in a campaign like “ Sell Red Wines” you can have Syrah, Merlot and Pinot Noir as part of your ad groups.
- Network devices and extensions. This determines where your ads will show so you can optimize your customer reach and maximize your tight budget.
- Delivery. This function can be handed over to the search engine or you can opt to do it yourself. If you choose to have the search engine do it for you, it will use the clickthrough rate to decide how it can optimize your ad visibility. On the other hand, you can choose to do split testing using measures that best suits your goals.
- Scheduling. This function allows you to run, pause and stop your campaign as you please. You can also modify you keyword bids if you think that your previous bid is higher or lower than optimal. Google Adwords has Google Auction functionality which allows users to see the other users bidding for their keywords. In this case, users can monitor the activity of their competitors and manage their bids accordingly.
- Audience. This feature allows you to define the users you would want to see your ads. You can target users based on language, country, city or even specific areas (e.g., all within a 30-mile radius of San Francisco).
4. Writing your Ads
While the keywords act like a secretary who manages your meeting with your potential customer, the ad is where you get to talk to your customer. As with other form of advertising, writing or creating the ad is crucial and difficult to master. Make sure that your ad is linked directly to your KPIs(Key Performance Indicators).
Since most providers allows you to create multiple versions of an ad and that you get charged only when the customer clicked on your ad, you can perform split testing to see which ad works and then take down the others.
You Ads will have (5) lines but only (4) will be visible to the searchers.
- Ad title (25 characters maximum): Include keywords in your headline so you quickly grad their attention.
- Description (2 lines, with 35 characters each maximum): Relate what you say in this paragraph to whatever landing page you’ll be directing the searcher to. Get straight to the point, deliver the most relevant information about your business/products/services (depending on the search query) and don’t forget to include a strong, enticing call-to-action. Be consistent on your message.
- Display URL (35 characters maximum): The URL is visible web address that will show below the description. You can either type in your homepage or most relevant product/service page, just make sure it is short enough and clean.
- Destination URL (1,024 characters maximum): This is the invisible line I mentioned, and where the ad title will actually link to. It doesn’t have to be identical to the display URL, as you can choose to have it point instead to an entirely different landing page you may have created for the purpose of your PPC campaign, or your display URL but tagged with any referred-by codes you might have assigned to this particular campaign.
Finally, the good stuff. An old coworker used to say “PPC is like playing chess against a supercomputer,” and it’s not difficult to understand why. Not only do you have to pick which keywords to focus on, you must also try to anticipate which ones your competitors will be bidding on.
Throw in the different types of matches, account settings, ad versions, and you’ve got quite a lot of levers to pull and moving parts to keep in mind. Thankfully, here are some tried and true strategies for you to use:
- Choose your weapon: there are 3 different ways to place a bid available:
- Manual bidding: you get to set the highest price you are willing to pay. This is the method that leaves you with the most control, so if you have a clear understanding of your goals and typical conversion values, you should be able to determine what a good bid is fairly easily.
- Conversion Optimizer: based on historical results, the search engine will calculate the bids based on conversion data.
- Budget Optimizer: the search engine does the bidding, to get the most clicks possible for your budget.
- Winners don’t necessarily finish first. The biggest mistake PPC users can make is to obsessively go after the number one spot. The spots below it will cost you less per click, and by extension, a lot less per conversion.
- It’s all about tweaking. PPC requires constant attention as yesterday’s truth is rarely today’s, given your competitors’ activities and constant traffic fluctuations. Be prepared to pause your campaign if, despite all your efforts, bidding proves too expensive with too little return on investment. Give yourself some time to assess what is going wrong.
Once your ads are out in the World Wide Web for all to see, it’s time to see how they actually perform. Here are the main metrics to keep an eye on:
- Impressions: the number of times your ad has been served.
- CTR (clickthrough rate): the number of times your ad was actually clicked on divided by the number of impressions.
- Bounce rate: the number of visitors viewing one page only divided by total page entries.
- Conversion rate: the number of goal achievements divided by the number of visits.
- CPC (Cost Per Click): the amount you earn every time a user clicks on your ad.
- Quality Score: this is the other major factor in deciding where your ad appears in the rankings, besides bidding. It is the search engines’ way of rewarding relevance and they calculate it based on clickthrough rate, ad content and quality of the landing page.
In the end, this is how your rankings are determined: Max bid x quality score = ad rank
- Head and long tail: these aren’t metrics per se, but they are pretty crucial to keep track of. Head is the few keywords that account for most of your visits, while long tail are the ones that individually account for little traffic by themselves, but collectively often could account for a huge amount of traffic.Typically, brand keywords are included in your head, while category keywords are part of your long tail.My recommendation would be for you to focus your PPC efforts on your long tail, and leave your head to SEO. Why?
Well, category terms are typically used in queries by people who are unfamiliar with your company itself, so you’ll be able to capture prospects and introduce yourself to them early in the sales cycle.
On the other hand, optimizing your website for brand terms suddenly becomes easier as you just have a few keywords left to concentrate on, and you won’t have to pay too much anymore for people who already know you.
And now you should be set for SEM. Let us know if any of these tips work out for you or whether you have burning ideas you would want to share.