Chances are, if you’re reading this you’re either running a cost-per-click (CPC) advertising campaign or are considering it. You probably know that CPC advertising involves selecting a set of keywords and writing an ad to appear when someone searches for that keyword in the major search engines. And you’re aware that CPC advertising requires you to set a cost that you are prepared to pay for a click. And you are probably familiar with the benefits of CPC advertising; namely, generating leads, driving sales, and creating brand awareness.
But what you may not know yet are these ten tips that can increase the effectiveness of your CPC campaign, while also helping to keep your search engine marketing budget on track. These tips focus on Google AdWords, but many apply to CPC programs across the board.
Show when it counts. Adjust your campaign to consider user peak times. If your target audience is primarily searching for your products between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. on weekdays, then only show your ads during these times. Within its “Edit Campaign Settings” Google has a handy option called Ad Scheduling, which allows you to automatically turn your campaigns on and off at specific times. What’s more, if there is a peak time of day when your customers tend to search then you can even up the budget at that time and lower it at others.
Choose keywords carefully. Various tools will help find specific keywords or phrases that are being used by your audience. You can pay to use tools such as Keyword Discovery, but a free and easy way to find out is to use Google’s Keyword Tool (accessible when you’re logged in to AdWords). To use it, you type in your term and the tool instantly gives you variations people have searched for, a rough idea of the number of searches, the advertising competition against those terms, and, if you add a max CPC, an estimate of the position and cost for each term.
Select longer tail terms. Another useful aspect of the Google keyword tool is that it can help you find Longer Tail terms. Longer Tail terms are ones that appeal to users searching for very niche or specific items. For example, a generic term from the B2B world would be ‘valve’. A Long Tail term would be ‘pneumatic pilot valve’. If your budget is limited, it is worth avoiding the high cost generic terms and trying to pick up traffic from people doing very specific searches. Not only will the CPC be significantly cheaper, but you’ll tend to find that prospects know exactly what they want, and the quality and number of inquiries resulting from the clicks will be much higher.
Go negative to be positive. Staying with Keywords—think negative! A lot of keywords are included in B2B, B2C, and general social searches. Appearing in the results for anything other than your target market is a waste of time and potentially a waste of money. Adding negative keywords is an ideal way to exclude your campaigns from areas that are not relevant to you and enquiries you cannot fulfill. For example, if your company sells power tools but you don’t rent them, then words like “rent,” “hire,” or “lease” would be your negative keywords.
Think seasonal. Some products are going to be more or less popular depending on certain times of the year due to holidays, weather, or major events. If your business sells seasonable products, it may be worth upping your spend in the months leading up to these high-demand times to reap the extra traffic…and profits. To the same effect, if seasonal keywords are not part of your core business, focus your energy elsewhere until the excitement (and bid price) decreases.
Ad copy is key. You’ve spent ages picking quality keywords and setting up your campaigns and hopefully now your CPC ad appears high on the Search Engines…you’re there in front of your potential customers, so don’t fall at the last hurdle. Ad copy is one of the single most important components in differentiating you from your competitor. To help improve your copy, try Google’s Dynamic Keyword Insertion Tool. Automatically adding the keyword someone searched for into the ad copy is an easy way to ensure relevancy in the eyes of both Google and users, but is no longer the most effective. This is a trick that many people already know and it is therefore overused. Try to use distinctive, even quirky, verbiage to catch your prospect’s eye. Include a major call to action; if you have a unique selling proposition or new offer, say so.
Back it up. Don’t think of your other promotions, be they offline or online, as separate entities. People may see your print ad, for example, and remember the creative and the product you’re selling but not your company name. If they typed your latest marketing slogan into a search engine, would a recognizable CPC ad appear for your company taking them to your site for more information? If not, then you could be missing out. Likewise, the only thing they may remember from your print ad or trade show booth is your company name, so make sure your ads are appearing when someone is searching for you by name (and don’t just bank on your company appearing on the first page of organic results).
Go vertical. Google AdWords allows you to display your ads across their content and partner networks. However, the content network is not always great for the B2B market, as it relies on Google understanding the contextual content of pages and then only bringing your ad back on the pages that are relevant. To make ads more effective, you can specify the sites you wish your adverts to appear on by creating a placement targeted campaign.
Another option for reaching a more focused, relevant audience is vertical search engine advertising. Because of their more segmented nature, vertical search engines reach a very targeted audience, and often produce far better quality traffic at the same or smaller spend levels than you’ll find with their general search engine counterparts.
Go local versus international. Is your business local or international? If it’s international, you may need to set up campaigns on a country by country basis and tailor your keywords and ads to the various languages, time-zones, product variations, specific landing pages, etc. Also, determine your business’s capabilities. If you can only deliver locally, there is no point displaying your ads to the whole US. Google allows you to target your ads (based on users’ IP addresses) to a named state or town, a radius around a specific location, or even a specified geographic area of your choice.
Use CPC management tools (Google AdWords). In addition to Google’s keyword tool, there are two others that are particularly helpful. The first is AdWords Editor. It’s a free tool that offers you great control over multiple and/or large campaigns. The benefits include uploading bulk campaigns and keywords, making multiple changes to any part of the campaign, getting stats across all campaigns, etc. The second tool is Google’s Search Query Performance Reports. These reports show you what people are searching for to trigger your ads, which you can then use to adapt both your CPC words and the content on your site for SEO.
Hopefully you’ve discovered a few new ideas from our list of top tips for effective CPC advertising. Adding these to your repertoire of online marketing tools can help improve your current (and future) online advertising campaigns without expending a vast amount of resources.
Matt Lester is the Search Marketing Executive for Kellysearch.com, a comprehensive online buyers’ guide and vertical search engine, with more than two million company listings from over 155 countries worldwide. The Back To Basics column appears periodically at Search Engine Land.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.