by Azam Corry
Pay-Per-Click (PPC) search engines offer some of the best value advertising online. Where else can you get targeted visitors from just $0.01 each?
However, because they aren't sure how it all works, or perhaps unconvinced that it does, many have yet to take advantage of the medium. With that in mind, I'm going to explain how you can benefit from PPC search engines, and spend as little as possible in the process.
In the PPC model, you write your own title and description, select a keyword searchers must enter for your listing to appear, and bid against other site owners for its rank in search results. Your bid equals the amount you will pay for each click on your listing.
I use several PPC search engines. Widely acknowledge to be the best performer, GoTo brings me more traffic - and sales - than all the rest put together. Being the most important, I will focus on it here, although the same techniques apply to any PPC SE.
#1 Secret To Big Returns On A Shoestring Budget
Bid prices for good rankings on very popular, common keywords are often high. However, the vast majority of advertisers *only* bid on these obvious terms. They ignore THOUSANDS of other keywords. Because few people are bidding on those overlooked keywords, the bid prices remain low. You and I can get good listings here for just a cent or two!
Of course, less popular keywords aren't searched for as often. But that *does not* matter. Play smart. Bid on LOTS of keywords. Hundreds, thousands even. Here's an example of how it works:
|# Times each Keyword
Searched per Month
|Number of Times
Your Ad is Seen*
*Assume all listings have the same ranking, say the #3 spot.
As you can see, listing under 200 keywords, each of which is only searched for 100 times a month, can bring you the SAME amount of traffic as 20 listings for much more expensive, popular keywords that are searched for 1000 times each month.
Researching Your Keywords
Once you've opened your account, start researching your keywords. You will probably already have several relevant words and phrases in mind. Write them all down and head over to the GoTo Keyword Suggestion Tool with your list.
The Keyword Suggestion Tool tells you how many times in the previous month people have searched for the keyword you input, or any phrase containing it. Results are listed in order, with the most popular searches at the top.
Type your first keyword into the tool's search box. When the results come up, select "Save As" on your browser, and choose to save as "Text." This will save your results in a small plain text file that can be opened by any text editor (like NotePad). Use the keyword as the file name.
Do likewise with all of your keywords, phrases, and other potentially important terms within phrases. For example, one of your main keywords may be "marketing" and one of your phrases "marketing courses." In this case, search for "courses" as well. Although the majority of results will be inappropriate, you will usually find a handful of new terms that you wouldn't have thought of otherwise.
When you've finished your list, open the first file saved. Delete all irrelevant terms. From the remainder, identify potentially good words that you haven't yet investigated. Input these into the Suggestion Tool and repeat the process. Do the same for every file and you will soon have hundreds of terms.
For even more suggestions, try JimTools Keyword Generation Tool at http://www.jimtools.com . Bear in mind however that these are terms found in Web pages, and therefore not necessarily keywords used by searchers.
Create a simple database for your listing details - it will make managing your account much easier. You can use Excel or similar; I personally prefer FileMaker Pro for PPC accounts (Vicki at http://www.sitesell.com/info.html provides a basic template for affiliates).
Essential headings you will need are:
- Search Term
- Current Bid Amount
Optional headings Include:
- Number of Searches per Month (from GoTo tool)
- Title Length (auto calculated function)
- Description Length (auto calculated function)
- Listing Status (New, On, Off, Pending, Rejected)
- Product (helpful if advertising various products)
- Current Rank
- Top Bid Amount (time consuming to update: select terms only)
- Minimum Bid Amount (as above)
- First Page Minimum bid amount (as above)
- Date Last Modified (suggest auto function)
I also have FileMaker assign a serial number, so that it can mark terms as 'original' or 'duplicate', making the latter easy to delete.
Once you have your database, paste in the search terms from your collection of text files (if you have a good text editor, use 'search and replace' strings to batch process, deleting unwanted information, and tab-delimiting the remainder for direct import, either individually or merged into a single file).
Your Titles And Descriptions
Next compose your titles and descriptions. Remember you are writing an ad. Make your title catchy. Incorporating the search term within it usually increases clickthroughs. Beware however that more clicks doesn't always equal more sales (or more targeted visitors).
Some searchers will click on the first title they notice containing the term searched for, thinking it more relevant. What you are offering may be an exact match to the keyword, or it may be related. If the latter, think before you automatically include the term in your title. In addition, writing a different title for every search term is very time consuming.
Make your description as comprehensive and benefit-laden as you can within the space allowed (with GoTo, this is 40 characters for the title and 190 for the description. Other PPC engines vary, but most have higher limits).
If your budget is tight and you simply wish to sell something, consider making it obvious from your description. Unless you have a secondary strategy (like collecting email addresses) save money by filtering out those least likely to part with any cash. Concentrate on attracting your perfect prospect: one open to the possibility of making a purchase.
Your Maximum Bid Price
How much should you bid? Ideally, calculate your maximum bid limit based on the average conversion ratio of the page you are linking to. If you don't know what that is, I suggest you initially base your limit on a 1% conversion ratio (1 in every 100 visitors buys).
Lets say you make $20 on every sale. That means - on average - for every 100 visitors, you get $20. To be in profit, those 100 visitors must cost you less than the $20 you make. It therefore follows that one visitor must cost less than $20/100, or $0.20. This is your break-even point. Always bid below this figure.
With a bid of $0.04, the 100 visitors required for a $20 sale will only cost you $4. You make $16 profit. If your conversion ratio is in reality 3%, at $0.04 per click you will make $56 for every $4 you spend. That's a 1400% profit!
Use coded (tracked) URL's for your PPC listings, or if feasible link them to specific pages that cannot be accessed by a surfer on your site (can be duplicates with no inbound links). You will soon have a good idea of your real conversion ratio.
The idea is to bid as little as possible for the highest number of targeted visitors. Being first on the results page will bring most visitors. However, as I mentioned earlier, simply getting more clickthroughs is not necessarily a good thing.
In the top position, you are more likely to attract 'lazy' searchers that simply click on the first thing they see, and others who automatically assume that since your listing is at the top, it must be the most relevant (like a regular search engine). Although your listing may be highly relevant, it might not be what THEY had in mind.
How important or not this is, depends on the cost of the listings and your budget. If the current top bid is, say $0.10 and the second $0.05. It makes more sense to bid $0.06 and get the number two position, than pay $0.11 for the top spot.
The further down the listings your ad appears, the less likely it will be seen. This is not only due to the behavior of searchers. Web sites that partner with GoTo seldom display all of the listings. AOL for example only displays the first three. Others display the first five, ten, or possibly twenty listings.
With this in mind, create various 'cut-off' points in the listings, in relation to your budget. Can you afford to be in the top three listings? If not, look at the top five, then ten.
Don't overly concern yourself with individual positions within these groupings. Your exposure and - all else being equal - the number of clickthroughs you get will be almost the same whether you are at, say, number 7 or number 10. The difference in bid price however can be substantial. Pay as little as possible to get into the highest group within your budget. That notwithstanding, increasing your bid by 2 cents to jump five positions in the top half of the page would be worthwhile.
On popular terms where bids are high, simply try to get into the first half of the results page (the top 20 on GoTo). If that is still beyond my budget, I aim for a cheap position right at the bottom of the page.
My theory is that most searchers who have bothered to scroll more than halfway down the page will continue to the end. In addition, most people tend to scroll in 'chunks'. This makes them likely to miss listings in the middle, as their eyes are naturally drawn to the white space at the bottom of the page.
If you can't afford page one at all, try and get within the first five or ten listings on page two.
Getting Your Listings Online
GoTo have a good account manager, and I would suggest using it to submit your first listings. However, like most online tools, it can become extremely tedious when you have a lot of work to get through.
GoTo will happily accept bulk submissions in an Excel spreadsheet they have available for download. If you don't have Excel, you can send your listings in tab-delimited text format (other PPC engines operate the same way, but some don't advertise the fact, requiring you ask).
Use the account manager to get your first few listings online. GoTo check all submissions for relevancy (good for your conversion ratio) so it will be 3-5 days before they go live. Meanwhile, work up a list of several hundred keywords. Instead of spending hours inputing these yourself, email them to GoTo and let them do it for you.
If you're not yet using PPC search engines, now is the time to start. You won't regret it. Follow these guidelines and it's impossible not to profit!
© 1999-2000 Azam Corry "Do it Better. Do it Faster. Do it Right!"
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