Starting an ultimately effective pay-per-click campaign is difficult. Although the paid search engines like Google Adwords and Overture (now re-branded as Yahoo Search Marketing Solutions) want you to believe otherwise. A goal of "getting website traffic" is logically appealing since marketers tend to directly associate website traffic to producing website actions like sales, subscriptions and so on. The problem is "all website traffic is NOT created equal." Just because you receive "traffic" does not mean you will achieve website actions.
For example, if you are selling a real estate course on buying foreclosures and you bid on the keyword "real estate" ? you may receive thousands of website visitors yet not sell a single real estate course. A large percentage of the businesses that come to us for assistance relate their pain from this experience by commenting, "We were getting x,xxx visitors to the website per month and no sales, we can't figure out why?"
Let me tell you "why?" ? All traffic is not created equal. What this means is that you need to attract visitors (your target market) who are most relevant to your product or service. In the example above, the keyword "real estate" is so general that its relevance is diluted especially for a niche market for a course on buying foreclosures.
You need to actually perform a search for each of your primary keywords and look at the type of websites that rank high in the natural search listings. They have earned (well...in most cases) a high ranking because they are highly relevant to the meaning of the keyword.
A search engine's mission is to deliver highly relevant search results to their customers. Therefore the natural search results indicate what the search engines believe most effectively satisfies their customer's expectations when they search on a particular keyword.
Paid search increases the simplicity of "getting website traffic" yet the difficulty lies at the heart of your primary goal - getting actions that drive business growth like sales, subscriptions or contact us form completions. Here lays the challenge not advertised by the paid search engines ? how to generate website actions.
You are faced with a number of real challenges when aimed at achieving website actions from your paid search engine campaign. The challenges focus on two key aspects: the cost you pay per click and the relevancy you present to the click-through. These are important because they affect your business growth in terms of conversion and profitability ? the intersection of website visitors with website actions.
Paid Search ? Bidding Strategies
The first aspect is your cost per click. It is controlled by your willingness to bid and budget a certain amount for an ad placement. All pay-per-click search engines possess unique bidding nuances. However, for the two largest, Google Adwords and Overture do not become fixated on the top bid position. Test how each keyword performs in achieving your primary website actions all the way up to the seventh bid position.
Depending on your product or service, you may be amazed how bid position six attracts less click-throughs but produces more website actions. Or maybe position four generates more actions. Regardless - test, test and test ? the outcome may mean lower costs and higher actions for you.
One tested strategy is to determine the keyword "click price" you are willing to pay using your performance metrics (e.g. your cost per action, conversion rate, value of a buyer and so on) and then search for that keyword on the major search engines where your ad will appear. Check out where each bid position is listed on the search results page.
Recently Overture and Google Adwords have increased their number of displayed results to up to eight "sponsor results" or paid ads on the first page. In some cases, the fourth and fifth or fifth and sixth bid positions will show at the bottom of the first search results page and again at the top, right margin of the page ? in essence two ads for the price of one. Be aware of this strategic opportunity!
Here is another proven strategy that has worked wonders for our clients. In Overture's direct advertiser center, a marketer only views the top five bid placements. Bid a penny below the fifth bid position to attain the sixth one. Typically, because this bid placement is not "visible" in the marketers' control panel, you can obtain a great bid placement at a dramatically lower click cost with sustainable or increasing conversion rate.
For example, we set a real estate client's bid for a high demand / high cost keyword to the sixth bid position and paid $0.59 less than the fifth position and increased actions significantly while drastically reducing their cost per action. Even better, this bid position was sustained for the keyword for over four months! Because it's under the "radar screen" in the Direct Advertiser Center in Overture and marketers never bothered to view the actual search listing results, we made a killing! If you want to conquer your competition ? follow this strategy.
Landing Page Development
Have you heard of landing pages? If not, you must get familiar with them this week and immediately start implementing them for your paid search campaigns especially your primary and most competitive keywords. Why the sense of urgency? Because highly-relevant landing pages have proven to increase website actions.
In one of many possible examples, a client's website actions to website visitors' ratio increased from 0.7% to 10.8% in one month because of implementing and testing different landing pages. That's a ten times increase! Landing pages work.
So, what are landing pages? Landing pages are simply web pages designed specifically for a keyword or related group of keywords. They are highly relevant to the keyword searched and consistent with your ad's claim. They immediately focus a visitor's attention to a primary action. In essence ? landing pages ask your visitors to take an action.
One of the reportedly major reasons why pay-per-click marketing programs fall short of their intended goal is because businesses direct all of their click-throughs to their home page. Since most businesses' home pages are designed to serve mutliple audiences (i.e. media relations, investors, current clients, potential prospects, customer services, etc.) they do not provide the level of relevancy and consistency expected from the visitor.
If your pay-per-click marketing is not living up to your expectations, consider which web pages you are sending visitors to. Are they relevant and consistent with your pay-per-click ads and keywords? Do they offer too many calls-to-action? Do they "fit" the expectations of the visitor searching on the particular keyword?
For example, are you sending a visitor searching on the keyword "Sony LCD TV" to a web page with twenty varieties of electronic products? An effectively designed landing page would present the visitor a "Sony LCD TV" with customer benefit oriented copy, an immediate "buy now" call to action and all applicable guarantee, shipping, customer service and return policies.
A study conducted in April 2004 by Atlas DMT called "Search Listing URL and Conversion Rate" connected the use of landing pages to their affect on increasing website actions. The study showed the following astounding results?
? Headline of landing page matches keyword = 0.79%.
? Headline of landing page is on Home Page = 6.31%.
? Headline of landing page matches theme of Keyword = 9.28%.
? Headline of landing page matches specifically to Keyword = 11.81%.
The study showed that the more relevant your landing page is to your website visitors, the higher your website actions.
Landing pages also provide an excellent format to "split-test" different relevancy strategies like changing your headline, changing colors or graphical images, and alternating actions to determine which produce the best outcomes. If you are not familiar with split-testing (also called A/B split-testing) then do a little research ? it has emerged in the mainstream as a proven strategy. But a word of caution, don't get caught up in the scientific application of split-testing. Instead use a simple tool like www.Hypertracker.com and focus on trends ? like are your website actions increasing or decreasing.
Marketing whether online or offline has historically been viewed as a cost of business which breeds simplemindedness. A laggard's attitude of "why spend the extra time to achieve a positive ROI?" To some degree in the offline world, the complications and costs of tracking campaign results supported this attitude; however, the connectivity of the Internet enables real-time campaign tracking. It allows the extra effort focused on generating positive ROIs to reap significant rewards to those who learn and implement proven and tested strategies.
For your paid search campaigns, do not take the simple road to get more website visitors. Instead take the "road less traveled" to get more website actions. Start implementing landing pages and strategically building a paid search campaign that generates astounding ROIs and conquers your competition. The strategies are now in your hands ? the rest is up to you.
Kevin Gold is a writer, speaker and co-founder of Enhanced Concepts, Inc. Enhanced Concepts specializes in turning website visitors into leads or sales through web conversion strategies and ROI-driven search engine marketing. If you want to increase your leads or sales and get a free copy of "Understanding Your Conversion Rate" and "12 Surefire Ways to Increase Your Website Conversion" visit http://www.enhancedconcepts.com