Let’s face it: you aren’t exactly going to buy an ad for next year’s Superbowl. You simply don’t have the budget. But that doesn’t mean your marketing efforts can’t compete for some major clicks, either.
Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising is a simple model: in sponsored advertising for websites like Google and Bing, you simply outbid the other company on a per-click basis. The smarter you handle the PPC, the better chance you have at reaching your target market. You set the budget limit and the system does the rest.
The result? No mammoth, Superbowl-type fees, but plenty of targeted traffic for your small business website. You can win over the big guys even if you don’t have an army of marketers fighting by your side.
That is, if you do it right.
PPC Advertising: The Basics
To win at PPC, you have to know the landscape.
First, you’ll be expected to write a brief advertisement for your company. This typically includes a headline, a caption, and maybe even a URL. You tell the search engine where to send any traffic that clicks on your ad.
Next, you’ll be expected to pay for each click – not each view of your ad – on an auction basis. The better your ad tends to perform, in terms of metrics like click-through rate, the better chance you stand at getting your ad displayed for popular keywords.
As long as you’re selecting the right keywords for your target demographic, your goal is to beat the other companies with 1) a more effective ad, and 2) higher payment for click. Needless to say, you’ll want to constantly tweak #1 so that you can limit #2.
How to Win (Part I): Key Phrase Selection
If this is a battle against other advertisers, then you want to first pick the battlefield most favorable to you. That means picking out a targeted key phrase that your audience is most likely to type in to search engines like Google and Bing.
This can get tricky. As Neil Patel points out, modern search engines have gotten sophisticated enough to know that typing in “Chinese cuisine” after typing in “Gilmore girls” means you’re probably looking for some takeout food – not to study Chinese cuisine.
What does this mean? You have to figure out customer intent. The intent and context behind the search query says a lot about the user’s behavior.
Neil recommends finding longer key phrases with more obvious intent: for example, if someone types in “birthday cake,” they could be thinking about all sorts of things. But “order a birthday cake” is a more obvious opportunity to sell the cakes you ship online.
The key is not to simply generate a list of keywords from an original brainstorm and hope for the best. Instead, put yourself in the position of someone who might need what you’re selling. Try finding those services yourself, and write down which phrases you type – you might be surprised.
How to Win (Part II): Target, Test, and Tweak
The “three T’s” might not guarantee that you’ll win every time – but they’ll certainly help.
First, targeting. You’ve done a little bit of that with your key phrase research. Now you’ll need to write ads that are targeted specifically to each key phrase. You don’t want to use a generic “Custom T-shirt” headline for someone who’s looking specifically for “XXL” T-shirts, do you? You want to tailor the advertisement to each audience.
Next, testing. Don’t be afraid to run multiple advertisements at once to test for individual variables – a process known as A/B testing. Give preference to ads that perform better and toss the ones that don’t.
Finally, tweaking. After you’ve done your targeting and testing, you should have a better sense of which advertisements are grabbing the attention of your audience. You’ll also notice which key phrases tend to get more traffic. Keep adapting and adapting – early and often. Over time, you’ll discover those hidden gems of key phrases that beginners simply don’t know about.
Making the Most of Your Clicks
Winning at PPC doesn’t matter if your clicks don’t turn into leads and purchases.
This is marketing, after all, and marketing only yields ROI if you can turn your audience into customers. That means putting yourself in your customers’ shoes once again: how will your website look to someone who’s never seen it before?
Better yet, focus in and think about the following:
Customer intent. If you sell cakes and wrote an advertisement for people who want birthday cakes, you can’t very well redirect them to a page on your cupcakes. You have to make sure that your website matches what people are looking for, even if it’s simply to direct people to a main page from which they can navigate. But the fewer clicks you demand from leads, the better.
Visuals. If someone searching for a birthday cake sees a fantastic birthday cake on your website, then they know they’ve wound up at the right place. It takes some very persuasive writing to accomplish as much without a picture. A good rule of thumb? Use web site visuals to show that you intend to deliver on your ad’s promise.
Simplicity. A customer who clicked on an ad at a whim will click back just as swiftly. You only have a certain amount of time to ‘wow’ them. The more demands you make on their attention, the greater the chance they’ll simply click away from your site to keep browsing.
A Big Opportunity
PPC might sound tremendously complicated – it might even seem like a long journey all the way from keyword research to customer purchases. But if you put it all together and tackle the process one step at a time, there’s no reason you can’t beat out larger companies with guile and skill alone.
That’s what’s great about the democratization of the web, and it’s what makes PPC an enduring and intriguing option for small businesses.