I recently caught up with Andrew Webber of SEO Maverick to talk about PPC Advertising. Andrew has some great insights into how PPC (pay per click) works and how to maximise the benefits for your business.
What is PPC advertising?
PPC stands for “pay per click” and is the pricing model that most search engine marketing ads are sold through. Advertisers who promote their products and services using pay per click ads are only charged if a potential customer clicks on one of their advertisements.
How is PPC different from other forms of advertising?
Pay per click advertising is one of the most targeted and measurable forms of advertising. There are not many forms of advertising that allow you to put your ads in front of potential customers at the exact time they are actively doing research or looking to make a purchase.
What are it's advantages and disadvantages?
Advantages: Highly targeted and extremely measurable. Easily see return on investment, overall ad spend, and which ads are performing the best.
Disadvantages: Can be time consuming to set up correctly
Is Adwords the only PPC provider you need to worry about?
If I was just starting out I would absolutely focus just on Google Adwords first as Google has around 90% market share in Australia for search engines. The return on investment for setting up a campaign on the Bing/Yahoo platform wouldn’t be there so I would focus all of my efforts on the Adwords platform to begin with.
Obviously once you start seeing some success in your Adwords campaign, then you can start to look at the Bing/Yahoo platform and see whether you can make some inroads in that market.
Facebook also offers PPC advertising and can be a very useful platform.
Who else offers PPC? How do they differ from Adwords?
Bing/Yahoo are the other major provider in the search marketing space with their AdCenter platform. Their interface and tools are not as user friendly as Adwords at this stage.
The Facebook PPC platform differs as it allows you to segment your ads based on some really detailed demographic, age and interests information. This means you can target your ads directly to very niche markets based on things you know they are interested in.
Can every business benefit from PPC advertising?
I think so. Whether it be for lead generation, selling a product or service, or general branding I think most businesses can use it as a low cost solution to marketing and customer acquisition.
Which types of businesses does it suit most?
Pay per click suits the big markets like insurance, banking, finance and real estate as it is easy to measure costs vs return on investment.
But there is definitely a large scope for smaller local businesses to put together PPC campaigns such as dentists, physios or other health products that have a long average customer life cycle.
Is it difficult to manage an Adwords account? Could the average small business owner do it successfully?
No it isn’t particularly difficult. It takes a bit of forward planning but most businesses know their markets very well and intuitively know what types of things their customers would be searching for.
The first thing they should do is take a look at their analytics and see what keywords are currently driving traffic to their website, and then plug some of these into the Google keyword tool to discover some other variations.
I think most business owners can easily create their own campaign. I would recommend opening up a spreadsheet and writing down all the different product and services and organise them into common themes or clusters of related products and keywords.
Start small – but keep adding to this list as you go along and you have some seriously good segmentation and data in no time.
What aspect of managing an account takes the most time?
The initial keyword research and segmenting these keywords into small ad groups is definitely the most time consuming part. From there, making sure you test different bid prices, match types, negative keywords and ad copy is what takes time.
Once an account and campaigns are set up, can they be left to run on their own or do they have to be maintained?
Generally it is advisable to keep an eye on your bid prices to make sure you’re not paying too much for your clicks. Also testing new ad copy variations can have a significant impact on click through rate and conversions.
How much should a business expect to pay to have their account managed by someone else?
Percentage of ad spend or a flat management fee are the most common forms of account management fees. It really depends on the scale and complexity of the campaign and the value to the client.
What benefits can an Adwords professional deliver that a regular business owner can't?
Setting the campaign up in a structured way using the correct match types, ad variations and tight keyword groups. Having the knowledge on how to structure a campaign and use different targeting parameters can give a much higher ROI than if a business owner set it up themselves.
I’ve seen several businesses set up campaigns with one ad group, one ad copy and 500 keywords. We separated this into much tighter ad groups around keyword themes and were able to increase click through rates, lower cost per clicks and increase conversions within the first day of running the ads.
Is there a minimum ad spend recommended?
A few hundred dollars to test the market is usually a good place to start for smaller businesses. There are plenty of free adwords coupons out there that can give you $50, $75 or even $100 to start off your campaigns.
I find its usually a good idea to use a few hundred dollars just to test the market to see what the general competitiveness is and what the most popular keywords are going to be.
What is 'Quality Score?' What is it used for?
Quality score measures the relevance of the landing page to the keyword and ad copy. In general, the higher your Quality Score, the lower your costs and the better your ad position.
The quality score is calculated every time your keyword triggers one of your ads and is determined by several factors. These are just a few:
- Landing page quality
- Historical click through rates
- Keyword relevance to ad copy and landing page
How can you improve your Quality Score?
Having smaller and more specific ad groups with less keywords that match closely with the ad copy. Creating specific landing pages for each keyword group can dramatically improve quality score which in turn will lower your cost per click and increase your ad position.
What's the difference between Google's display network and their regular search results ads?
This page outlines extremely well the differences in Google’s different advertising options. Here is my take:
Display network as defined by Google: “Text, image, video, or rich media ads are targeted based on themes in your keyword list, rather than specific keywords”
The regular search network results are the sponsored links you see on a Google search results page and are ads targeted based on what search terms users type in.
Do the two mediums require a different strategy?
It’s always advisable to run separate campaigns - one for just search, and the other for the content network. The content network allows for interactive ads such as videos and images that are not offered on the search network.
Obviously the ads that you will use will be quite different depending on what you are trying to achieve.
What kind of businesses/ads are best targeted to internet devices?
Local businesses such as restaurants or cafes as many local searches on mobile devices are done when looking specifically for a local service
Is location an important targeting factor to consider? How canlocation targeting be used to improve a campaign?
Absolutely. Having the ads only displayed for your particular area is vital. You can do this by city, suburb, state or GPS region. This way you can create broader themed campaigns around a keyword that are only displayed to people who are searching from a given location.
This means you don’t need to rely as much on keyword location modifiers such as “adelaide cafe, melbourne cafe” to have your ads displayed. Instead you can buy “cafe” and have it geotargeted to anybody searching for that who is located in Adelaide.
Is it easy to track PPC performance?
Extremely easy. In Google Adwords automatically ads a tracking string which makes it easy to see the data in Google analytics. The Google URL builder is something you can use to track your campaigns as well – a very useful little tool.
In competitive markets, which aspects of PPC advertising become more difficult to manage successfully?
Managing bid prices and working out the optimum amount to pay clicks based on your conversion rate and return on investment as opposed to the click through rates.
Are landing pages important for improving PPC performance?
Extremely important. A lot of PPC campaigns drive visitors just to the homepage with no real clear call to action for that specific search.
Having specific landing pages tailored to particular keyword groups that heavily promote the call to action can improve conversion and ROI dramatically.
How should your website be set up to maximise performance?
As mentioned above I think having specific ad groups for related keyword groups with several different versions of ad copy can have a huge impact. Custom landing pages for different groups of products or services is extremely important in maximising performance as well.
What can you do to reduce competition?
More specific ads, geotargeting and use negative keywords.
What are five things small business owners can do to best take advantage of PPC advertising?
- Use one of the free advertising vouchers from Google
- Set up a small campaign based on a couple of local keywords and use to determine market size, competitive and potential – then use this to power your SEO efforts
- Use it to drive customers to your site and sign them up to your mailing list
- Use in conjunction with your Google places page to dominate your local area
- Start right away!
PPC can be excellent for researching volume, competitiveness and cost of a particular market or keyword. You can use this real data to determine which keywords you should target in your SEO campaign.
How do PPC and SEO costs and returns compare?
PPC gives immediate returns and can show exact ROI numbers - very quickly and easily. The returns are definite but you are limited to the markets you are currently competing and buying ads in.
SEO returns are harder to quantify, longer term and more closely tied with your branding and strategy. However, it is a more defensible strategy as if you have strong organic traffic not just from Google but from other websites, this can improve brand value, increase customer retention and allow you to charge higher prices.
I don’t think one is better than the other – they are both different ways to market your business!
Thanks very much to Andrew Webber for agreeing to be interviewed. You can learn more about Andrew's company; SEO Maverick at their Company Profile in our Internet Marketing Directory.