The Beginner’s Guide to PPC for Small Business
Whether you’re a seasoned PPC’er or setting up your first campaign, there are some steadfast guidelines to pay attention to in order to maximize your client’s advertising dollar for good ROI (return on investment…see, I told you this was a beginner’s guide)
Below, I’ll outline several key steps to pay mind when starting your PPC campaigns for small businesses. As you read through them, you’ll probably have a few eye-rolls, a few smacks of the palm to your forehead, or maybe you’ve already copied the URL into an email or your own blog. These are all common-sense preparation steps/solutions to running a successful campaign. And so, without further ado:
1) Review Your Analytics. Then review them again.
Can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people ready to fire off campaigns willy-nilly without even thinking to look at the analytics. (It happens more than you think)
How can you accurately prescribe a solution without knowing the problem(s) are first? How can you leverage what users/consumers are already searching for, roll those searches in a mass of conversions, if you don’t know? You can’t. When looking through the analytics look for the following:
The percentage of search engine traffic that makes up the total visits. This is more for the PPC’er than client. You’ve got to know what you can expect from the campaigns and how to deliver your strategies with reasonable expectations. If you promise them the galaxy, and only end up at the moon, that’s egg you can’t wipe off your face too easily.
Of the search engine traffic, what engine(s) provide the most traffic. If you are dealing with smaller clients, with smallish spends, then you need to know where the majority of search traffic comes from. Sure, you can mostly expect that Google will always be Number 1, but you might find that Live sends more high quality traffic over Yahoo (not likely, but you never know). In this manner you can plan a strategy and carve up that budget accordingly.
Find all the high conversion keyword phrases that users are already using to find the site. Chances are it’s branded keywords and phrases, but on occasion you find a diamond in the rough. (see point #3 for more Keyword Detail)
Geo-Location: Find out where the users are coming from. Remember, this is small business, so the traffic is likely to be localized within a state or a region. Talk with the client about their strong markets, and find those gems they might not have considered. Select some high impact areas to begin with and as the campaign progresses expand the net. In the beginning it’s about getting a good bang for their buck.
Remember this one equation: DATA=CONVERSIONS. Without data, you’re just flying blind and guessing. Ask every single client for at least 1 week of data analysis prior to PPC campaign strategy recommendations and set-up.
2) Goal Establishment: Find Your Finish Lines
Once you’ve done all your research, you need to establish GOALS: goal pages and goal funnels. Work with the client to find out what it is the REALLY want to accomplish with this PPC campaign. Never believe them when they tell you they want increased traffic their site and nothing more. Their lying, and might not even know it. They want to convert something on their website: an email sign-up, a line of products that have become stagnant recently, a contact form, just about anything that can be monetized on the site.
Take that extra step, work with the client to determine just what they want out of this. Never leave it at “increased traffic and more pageviews”.
3) Keyword Research: Big Nets = Quick Spends
Here’s where I’m going to buck tradition because remember we have a very limited budget in order to get high ROI. Be selective about the keywords you choose; meaning, you’ll have to be the decision-maker about which keywords get the axe because they are too broad and are likely to burn up your budget quickly. For small business, it’s mostly about the long-tail phrases and more niche phrases.
Chances are you’re going to be competing with some major corps on that small budget, where you can get priced out of the game easily because they simply have more dollars to throw at it. Over time, if you see good results, you can augment your campaign to compete, but the safe bet is to stay out of the broad terms and work the niche phrases and smaller broad terms. For instance, instead of buying “DVD Players”, you may want to target “Sony XML102100 Blu-Ray Player” or ” Sony Blu-Ray HD DVD Player”.
It may not bring in a flood of impressions, but those that do search for those phrases are most likely farther down the the purchasing funnel and more apt to converting.
4) Ad Variations: A Merry-Go-Round of Words
The key to any successful campaign is to have plenty of ad variations. And, since they are free to create, you have no reason not to experiment with different word combinations. While this seems counter-intuitive to #3, in the long run it’s not. The objective is to find the ad the produces the most conversions. Writing a single ad doesn’t give you enough to test.
5) Get Your SEO On
Yes, I know, everything comes back to SEO. And, unfortunately, it’s true. PPC can be used as a long-term tool, but to be effective for small business clients, there must be an SEO base.
Quality scores are dependent on on-site content and the relevancy for the keyword on the page the ad links to. In essence, the better you do on your SEO, the lower you click-thrus cost, all while maintaining the same position.
5a) Landing Page Optimization: Testing Out Your Landing Pages for Success
More importantly, SEO can be used to optimize landing pages that your ads are linking to. What do I mean? Well, if you see an abundance of traffic coming to your landing page but no one is converting there’s one of two problems:
- You aren’t sending the user to the right page and they aren’t finding enough compelling information to make the conversion.
- Goal Presentation is not optimal and users are not getting into the final leg of the purchase funnel.
The idea here is to test, test, test, different landing page combinations to find which landing page entices the most users to finish the purchase cycle. Try using Google Website Optimizer, now free to public, if you think you might have this issue.
So there you have it, 5 (ok, 5.5) basic guidelines to follow for small business PPC campaigns. If you have any that you think must be added to this list, feel free to write back and let us all know.
Welcome to the Dark Side: SMX Advanced 2008
Don’t let the title scare you (or for those of you who enjoy the “Dark Side”, get excited) no Give It Up! Tips will be talked about here until the full 30 day time period expires. (Sorry. Being ostracized and shunned in a community is something I won’t do just yet.)
This was the first major SEO/SEM conference I’d been to, and it didn’t disappoint. Outside of the awesome information flowing through each session, it was a real pleasure to meet some of the folks I’d been reading and following around the net for the past several years. The networking opportunities were worth it alone. And, now that I’ve had a few days to reflect on it, I know now that there is a real “dark side” out there in the SEO world. Let me explain.
I’d always considered myself ethical and moral (not exactly a “virgin” white hat, but a nice shade of off-white) when it came to my SEO: I’d look to cut some corners, be a smidge sneaky when it came to optimizing, and take advantage of as many search weaknesses as possible, as long as it was in the Google/Search Engine Playbook. But, never in my wildest imagination did I think the Black Hats were as strong as they are, nor as simply creative as they are.
Jay Young, of Link Fish Media, had a quote that I didn’t necessarily think pertained to SEO, but always felt like it should be said, “SEO isn’t about morality, it’s about money.” And, really, in a nutshell, that’s what is all about. Yet, that being said, I can’t justify nor condone the attitude, the behavior, of some of the things I heard at the “Blow Your Mind Link Building” session or the “Give It Up!” session. Some of those techniques were just downright dastardly and could potentially destroy businesses. And, perhaps I have a weak constitution when it comes to being “dark”, but I could never do some of those things, even if I knew it would bring successes to my clients.
I think the Developer Track was excellent, and out of the Organic track, the “Analytics Every SEO Needs To Know” and “International SEO” were tremendous. Tons of incredible information those two sessions that can really help businesses struggling to justify SEO/SEM/SMO to their clients.
I will say this: at least I know they exist and what techniques other might be using against me. I have knowledge of it now, and it makes me wiser to the games others might be playing. Was SMX Advanced advanced? Yes. Was it advanced in a way that would be applicable to “White Hat SEOs”, no. It wasn’t. That’s the sad truth. If you can, check your morality and business ethics at the door, then this conference was a gold mine. If you can’t or won’t, then you’re like me, and found some useful things, but none that you’d be willing to risk a client site over, or your job over.
The best part of working at Aloha Digital Marketing, is that I have a team dedicated to same principles of clean SEO that I subscribe to. Again, I never claimed to pristine and virginal; I want to maximize as many advantages as possible, I want to build my clients’ businesses along with our own, but I want to do it in clean, ethical, and moral manner.
SMX Advanced was quite informative, excellent place to meet and network, but not enough “White Hat” I can really take back and apply to my clients’ sites. Unfortunately, I don’t have the luxury of “burning” a site or two in pursuit of rankings and conversions. And, my guess is, neither do most of you. So, my hope is that next year, there will be ONE Give It Up, not several Give It Ups under the guise of “White Hat” Sessions.
Become A Complete Marketer for Search 4.0
This post stems from something SlightlyShady mentioned in his post about Where SEO and Google Will Be in the Next 5 Years“. (On a side note: SlightlyShady has his finger on the pulse and tends to very straightforward, frank conversations about the Search Marketing Industry. Moreover, I’d just like to give him a quick shout-out, say “thanks” and keep the veritas coming.)
So here’s what struck my attention in the post:
The only way to get above the map results(definitely a click killer) is to…..pay for a PPC listing. Now, SEOs are not PPC experts(largely).
It’s not far from the truth. SEOs are not PPC experts, but they should be and they could be. And, to be frank, it’s the only sure-fire way to build solid goal conversions for clients:
SEO in combination with PPC
- SEO is (in most cases) for the long-haul. Most clients come to us without optimization, without knowing what it is or how it’s done. While the rules of SEO have changed in the past 2 years (thanks to the advent of social networks and media sites), the standards remain the same:
- On-site optimization of as much content as you can effect.
- Off-site link building campaigns: Paid, Free, Corporate Partners
- New ways to generate fresh, engaging content on the website
- PPC is, in my estimation, an excellent and reliable quick strike tool. It’s for the instant impact clients’ need to have to build brand awareness and site traffic while the SEO portion builds solid content and backlinks.
- It’s my opinion that PPC spends should increase after 3 months. By that time, SEO efforts should be bearing fruit in organically, and you’ll have plenty of data to weed out the non-performers and boost the high CTR and conversion-producers. Why increase?
- Because if you do a good job on-site for your best converting keywords and long-tails, you’ll increase your Google Quality Score and be able to achieve the same position at a lower cost.
Will This Technique Matter in 3 Years?
The question is, do I really believe this is going to work anymore? For the time being, yes, I do. I think SEOs and Search Marketers have about 2 and half to 3 years before the shift happens. Danny Sullivan wrote a very extensive and informative post on SEL about Search 4.0. I think we’ve got just about that timeframe before personalized search turns SERPs and SEO on it’s head.
How To Compete After Google RE-Invents Search
And, I guess, to echo the sentiment, I think SEO will survive that semi-apocalypse. Because, as we all know, there are companies and sites that really need help, even with the basics. However, I believe it will become about each engine’s proprietary/purchased applications. For Google: FeedBurner, Local Business Center, AdWords, Reader, Base, YouTube, FriendFeed (not exactly owned by Google, but probably will be), FriendConnect, etc. I don’t expect Google’s numbers in search domination to drop anytime in the near future, more than likely never. Just look at the latest numbers (thanks to SEL)
I think the only way for Yahoo to survive is to team-up (read “be bought in a hostile takeover”) with Microsoft. And, let’s face it, Microsoft needs help with search and Paid Ads solutions. They’ve always been a “Johnny-Come-Lately” with every application (yes, even Webmaster Center and Local Live). And, while Yahoo also isn’t up to snuff on the Paid Ads, their search capability and seeming transparency (Search commands: there is a reason that we all use Yahoo! to find the true number of anything on the web) is something Microsoft needs to latch on to in order to have a snowball’s chance in hell against Google.
Right now, I’m advising my whole team to get familiar with every application Google has to offer. Know the ins and outs of each application. And as for AdWords, well, it’s taking over. My prediction is that before the year’s end, Yahoo will be delivering over 25% of Google Ads. And, two years from now, if they haven’t teamed up with Microsoft, they’ll be over 75% Google Ads. And in 3 years, Sponsored Search/Panama will be nothing but a sad memory, a failed experiment swallowed by Google.
The new way to compete, and I hate to admit it, will be GRAY SEO. Personalized search is going to force everyone to find the shadow-advantages to be the MOST RELEVANT web page in a particular niche. So that, the woman in New Mexico and the guy in Montana both see your client as the one of the most relevant pages for the search they’re conducting. To compete, Search Marketers will have to be savvy in all things, not simply SEO, because SEO as we know it today just won’t exist. It’s going to be a hybrid, a chimera of each engines’ applications.