So far on our Homestead Blog, we’ve talked a lot about how to build traffic by achieving high rankings in the search engine results pages using a process known as search engine optimization (SEO). And while these techniques are incredibly valuable in terms of your site’s long term success, there’s no arguing with the fact that SEO traffic can take a long time to materialize.
But what if you don’t want to wait for your site’s rankings to increase naturally to start earning money or generating leads from your website? What if you want to start seeing results right away?
In fact, there is another way to get visitors to your site – pay-per-click (PPC) advertisements. Although there is some cost involved with this method, when used carefully, it can be a great way to start testing your website’s conversion process before you begin seeing an influx of SEO traffic. Here’s how to get started:
Step #1 – Choose a PPC System
First, let’s cover a little background information on PPC ads. PPC ads are small snippets of text (or images and video files, depending on the service that you use) advertising your website that display in various places, including in the natural search engine results and as ad blocks on websites that publish these ads. They are free to run in most cases, and you only pay when a reader clicks on your ad and winds up on your site.
As you might expect, this type of system offers a number of advantages for businesses. Compared to the upfront cost of magazine or television advertisements, you don’t pay for your PPC ads until you’ve found an interested prospect. In addition, the nature of PPC ads allows you to target visitors more effectively (again, compared to the broad reach of magazine and TV ads), ensuring that your ad spend reaches only the people who will be most interested in your products or services.
So where can you find PPC advertising programs? The most widely known program is Google Adwords, which allows you to display ads within the Google search results pages, as well as on a huge variety of websites that participate in the Google Adsense publisher program. Other top-tier programs include Microsoft’s adCenter on Bing and Yahoo’s Search Marketing platform.
Working with one of these top-level PPC providers gives you the most extensive reach and a greater number of opportunities for your ads to appear. However, because these programs are so widely used, average cost-per-click (CPC) rates may be substantially higher than on second-tier PPC engines, like Ask.com, 7Search and AdBrite. Be aware, though, that although these services may be cheaper, the traffic they provide isn’t often as high quality as what you’ll get through the Big 3 PPC engines.
For most beginners, the best approach is to start with Google Adwords. Although it’s slightly more expensive, the interface is easy to understand and the help section Google provides is extensive. Once you’ve honed your PPC advertising skills here, you can move on and apply these lessons to other sites as needed.
Step #2 – Identify Your Target Keywords
Once you set up your account with Google Adwords, the first thing you’ll do is to create a campaign for each web page you want to send traffic to, which will contain the specific keywords that your ads will display for in the search engine results pages. Choosing the right keywords for your ad is as much an art as it is a science, but the following guidelines should help you to choose the best phrases when you’re first getting started:
- Start small – Create a single campaign at a time and add no more than 5-10 highly-related keywords to each campaign. This will allow you to create ads that are well tailored to your chosen phrases.
- Think narrow – Advertising for popular keywords like “lose weight” or “make money online” will be prohibitively expensive. Instead, target less expensive long tail keywords that still have the potential to drive significant traffic back to your site.
- Focus on “phrase” and “exact” match to start – Read up on keyword match types in the Adwords help section, and stick to “phrase” and “exact” match keywords for your first campaign. When you’re more experienced, you can add in “broad” match keywords to expand your reach.
- Track your competitor’s keywords – See which advertisers are running PPC ads in Google for the keywords you’re considering. If you see your competitors there, chances are good the phrases will work for you as well.
Step #3 – Write Your Ads
Once you’ve chosen your target keywords, the next step is to write the ad that will display in the search engines when your phrase is searched for. Because you’ve only got a limited number of characters for each ad, it’s important to make them count! Here’s how to structure your ads effectively:
- Write a compelling headline – As with other types of internet advertising, you only have a short time to cut through the noise and engage a prospect, so make your headline as compelling as possible.
- Use your target keyword in your ad text – When you do this, your keyword will appear bolded in the search results, setting your ad apart from others.
- Consider your landing page – Don’t simply send visitors to your homepage! The specific landing page to which you direct visitors should be as closely related to your keywords as possible.
- Split test your ads – Whenever you set up a new PPC campaign, create two ads that can be split test against each other to improve your performance.
Step #4 – Set a Budget
Because the default setting in Google Adwords is to run your ads as often as possible in order to generate data faster, it’s incredibly easy to blow through your entire advertising budget – and much, much more – in a short amount of time.
To protect yourself from overspending, take advantage of features within Google Adwords and other PPC programs that let you set a daily spending budget. Set your budget as low as $5-10/day until you get a feel for how these ads work and how you can maximize their impact on your business.
Step #5 – Evaluate Your Conversions
Of course, even if you’re only spending a few dollars a day, it’s still important to ensure that you’re seeing a positive ROI for your efforts. That is, if you’re paying for traffic, you’d better be sure it’s resulting in sales!
Although there are several third-party software programs that offer this functionality, the easiest way to evaluate the conversions of your PPC ads within Google Adwords is to tie your account to your Google Analytics data. This will help you to see which of your PPC keywords are resulting in conversions for your website, and which keywords should be eliminated from your campaign for non-performance.
Finally, as you begin adding PPC advertisements to your promotional strategy, be aware that there is a learning curve associated with this technique. It may take some time until you achieve a positive ROI with your campaigns and are able to implement them on a wide enough scale to make a difference in your bottom line. But by carefully launching campaigns and tracking the performance of every ad you run, you’ll ultimately find that PPC ads can be used to bring fast, steady traffic to your business website.