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How it fits into your Internet marketing strategy
Ian Lurie, Portent Interactive, Seattle, WA
December 29, 2003
marketing is a great way to get visitors when you need traffic and
you need it now. But it's risky: You can spend a fortune, generate
many visits, and end up with nothing to show for it. This article
will provide you with a high-level view of pay per click marketing,
provide some general strategies and provide an example of what to
do, and what not to do.
What is Pay-Per-Click Advertising?
On its face, pay-per-click marketing, or PPC, is pretty simple:
Search engines and services, such as Google or Overture, provide
listings on a per-bid basis. This is in addition to their 'natural'
search results, which are still powered by a combination of keywords
found on your site, link popularity and other formulae.
you place the highest bid for a specific keyword or set of keywords,
then you rank number one in these paid listings. On Google, , PPC
listings show up in the Adwords column on the right-hand side of the
screen. Other engines, such as MSNSearch or Yahoo, display P P C
listings as 'sponsored listings' in the same column as the natural
If someone clicks on your PPC listing, they arrive at your web site.
And you are charged the amount you bid. So, if you bid $.15 per
click on 'widgets', and that's the highest bid, you'll show up first
in line. If 100 people click on your P P C listing, then the search
engine or PPC service will charge you $15.00.
Why PPC Advertising is Bad
But PPC advertising can cost a fortune. It's easy to get caught up
in a bidding war over a particular keyphrase and end up spending far
more than your potential return. Some PPC engines, such as Overture,
offer convenience features such as 'autobid' that will automatically
increase your bid amount to maintain a particular rank. That sounds
great on its face, but it can get expensive in a big hurry.
Also, ROI can be very hard to measure. Some PPC engines (Adwords and
Overture, specifically) provide conversion measurement tools, so
that you can track whether your pay-per-click campaigns are
generating the desired result. But these tracking tools aren't 100%
accurate, and at the time of this writing the smaller PPC providers
don't deliver any conversion tracking.
And watch out for junk traffic. Most pay-per-click services
distribute a segment of their results to several search engines.
While you certainly want your listing displayed on Yahoo, AOLSearch
and MSN, you may not want your listings showing up and generating
clicks from some of the deeper, darker corners of the Internet. The
resulting traffic may look good in statistics reports but is very
unlikely to generate a return.
Finally, pay-per-click advertising does not scale. If you get more
traffic, you pay more money in direct proportion to that traffic -
your cost per click stays constant, and your overall cost increases.
Compare that to natural search engine optimization, where you invest
a fixed amount of time and/or money to achieve a better rank, and
your cost per click goes down as you draw more traffic.