SEO Expert Guide - Paid Site Promotion (Marketing) (part 7/10)

In parts 1 - 6 you learnt how to develop your proposition, identify your key words and optimize and promote (for free) your site and pages. You were also introduced to our mythical Doug (who sells antique doors, door handles, knockers, door bells or pulls and fitting services) in Windsor in the UK.

Now we turn our attention to paid site promotion, which will be relevant to those of you trying to enter an already crowded marketplace, where your key words are saturated!

(a) Pay-per-click (PPC) Advertising

Run a search on Yahoo or Google for a popular consumer product like "MP3 players". In the results, you'll see a set labeled as 'Sponsored Links' or 'Sponsor Results'. Some results will appear in colored text boxes along the site of the page, whilst others may appear in the same format as the main search results. All these results are paid advertisements from the sites listed within the ads.

The ranking order is a product of the bid amount (CPC) and the popularity of the ad (CTR%) and are purchased through pay-per-click (PPC) advertising suppliers. The largest two are Google's Adwords (displayed on Google, AOL, Ask Jeeves) and Yahoo's Sponsored Links - run by acquired company Overture (appearing on Yahoo!, MSN, AltaVista, and others). MSN are planning to release their own PPC scheme soon.

If you have tried and failed with free promotion tactics, the chances are that you are operating in a highly competitive area (where a PPC campaign may well be justified). After all, if you can make more money from a converted click-through than it cost you to buy the click-through, why wouldn't you look at PPC?

Look at your A-list of keywords. Refer back to your research on Overture. How many searches are conducted per month on your keywords? How much are you - and your competitors - willing to pay for those keywords?

For your first campaign, use a large number of relevant search phrases, so that you can test and learn what works best. Build unique ads for each search phrase, as this will help to optimize your click-through rate or CTR% (defined as clicks - or unique visitors - divided by page impressions on the ad pages - expressed as a percentage). This in turn means more targeted traffic, in some cases paying less per click (due to the methods by which advertising is priced).

Make sure you use a suitable (and perhaps even a dedicated) landing page for each campaign. Simply sending people to your homepage (from where they have to navigate your site) will not help your conversion rates (defined as sales divided by unique visitors, expressed as a percentage)! Help them to buy, as they are likely to be in a hurry!

The PPC providers give you useful interfaces with which to track the effectiveness of your campaign and overall return on your investment. Pay close attention to which keywords are delivering for you and make notes for future campaign planning.

Whilst there is no hard and fast rule, a CTR% of 1.8% - 3.5% is in an acceptable range (and anything over that represents a very good performance). On Google, if your ad achieves less than 0.5% CTR, your ad may well be de-listed. The lower your CTR%, the more you will have to pay in cost-per-click (CPC) to get into the top 3-4 results in your chosen keywords (vital if you want to appear on partner sites like AOL).

(b) Paid Directory Submission

I mentioned earlier that Yahoo! Express Submission is the best way to get a listing on Yahoo! Directory. With a node-level PR of 10, Yahoo! Directory carries much weight with Google and the $299 fee (whikst steep and not absolutely guaranteeing a listing) is probably worth the cost.

Do not submit to Yahoo! until you have really tested which site description works best on the free search engines.

(c) Express Search Engine Submission

In the past, it was only worth doing a paid submission with Ask Jeeves, as this engine continued to enjoy a small but loyal following but did not grow it's index as aggressively as the big boys. This meant paid submission was the only way to guarantee a good placement.

However, Ask Jeeves withdrew this service in 2004 (in favour of a strategy that mirrors the larger players). As such, I would not recommend paid listings with any search engines now.

Next we turn to tools you can use to monitor your ongoing optimization effectiveness...

Navigate the guide

Previous : SEO Expert Guide - Free Site Promotion (PR) (part 6/10)

Next: SEO Expert Guide - Black Hat SEO - Activities to avoid (part 8/10)

About the author:

David Viney ([email protected]) is the author of the Intranet Portal Guide; 31 pages of advice, tools and downloads covering the period before, during and after an Intranet Portal implementation.

Read the guide at http://www.viney.com/DFV/intranet_portal_guide or the Intranet Watch Blog at http://www.viney.com/intranet_watch.

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