Maximizing PPC Budgets Using Alternative Search Engines

When building out a successful campaign on the major search engines, there often comes a time when the influx of traffic hits a plateau. To continue growing results, advertisers need to extend their reach and resources elsewhere. There are a few different routes to take when it comes to acquiring new traffic—however, the path most traveled is alternative search engines. Tapping into the alternative engine resource pool gives a business access to unique and pretty large volumes of traffic, but only proves successful if the person managing the campaign knows how to effectively work the sources. Here are a few tips for maximizing your PPC budget through alternative search engines.

Implement your campaign effectively

Keep in mind, no two engines generate the same results for your campaign. If a campaign is running successfully on Google, it may bomb on Yahoo. I suggest using a successful campaign as a starting point, but take into consideration that each engine performs differently, so it is imperative to use the resources you are given. Talk to your account manager for each search engine. Not only do they know the network’s ins-and-outs, but they are also aware of what may or may not work for your specific advertising campaign.

Take advantage of any tracking code they may offer so you can fine-tune the campaign’s performance. If available, track and optimize your sources of traffic so you can cherry pick the more valuable ones while weeding out the ineffective sources.

Some search engines may even offer white lists and black lists for traffic sources. Combined with conversion tracking, this can be a very effective tool for maximizing results, if managed correctly. If this is available to you, make sure you fully understand how this works and that your account manager will be there to help you properly set up your account.

Avoid PPC pitfalls

Optimizing is an important practice when it comes to a successful campaign; however, please be aware of the types of damaging campaign practices that can hinder performance results. The most common PPC pitfall is over-optimization. Hesitate before completely eliminating a source or keyword that has not converted. Let’s say you get ten clicks from a source, but none have converted. As a result, you decide to remove it from your campaign. But what if clicks eleven and twelve might have produced a conversion? Make sure you allow enough clicks to take place before judging the source. A good rule of thumb would be to allow three-to-five times the number of clicks it take to generate a conversion before halting an ad. Let’s say you have a 1% conversion rate. So, it takes 100 clicks to generate a conversion. So that you don’t over block, you may want to allow 300 – 500 clicks before judging whether that source of traffic is effective or not.

It’s also very important to measure cost per conversion. If you have a lower conversion rate, but pay less it may still be worth it to use that source. Remember, you don’t pay the bills on conversion rates—you pay the bills with dollars, so if your cost per conversion is good, then it is good regardless of the conversion rate.

Also, avoid under bidding on keywords. Remember, you get what you pay for, so bidding too low for high conversion traffic is not a good strategy. Don’t be cheap—start with a “good” bid and then let the numbers guide you to the “right” bid on any particular engine. A good starting bid on alternative search engines is usually about 50% of what you pay on the major search engines.

Optimize traffic and avoid fraud

It’s important to closely monitor source and keyword conversions through conversion tracking. Begin optimization practices around what is working for you. Let’s say you have one or two keywords taking up most of your budget, but they don’t really seem to be producing any results. With enough conversion data collected, it’s best to remove these keywords from your campaign so you can focus your budget on other terms.

Make sure whatever search engine you’re working with has some type of fraud detection technology. If the fraud detection technology is built internally, they should be cross checking their results with a third party, such as Click Forensics or Anchor Intelligence. This way, fraud detection decisions are being validated by a third party system and are providing you with solid quality traffic. This of course will give you reassurance that your budget won’t be depleted due to fraudulent clicks.

Before signing up with an alternative search engine, make sure you are assigned to an account manager that knows what they’re doing, has an extensive knowledgeable of the network, and is cognizant of the nature of your business. This person will help you get the most out of the network and will be very instrumental in your overall success with the company. Also, find out more about the people running the company and their experience. Find out if they are available to you if there is an issue that your account manager cannot handle. Make sure the line of communication is open because this will be essential to the growth of your campaign.

Some reputable alternative search engines Continually recognized as a respected pay-per-click search engine advertising network, uses third party source, to reduce click fraud and monitor traffic quality. After being rebranded from last year, is one of the leading alternative search engines. implements their own patented ClickShield program to prevent click fraud.

Looksmart. As one of the oldest and most reputable alternative search engines, Looksmart offers many of the more sophisticated features and products of the majors. Looksmart partners with external sources, such as Anchor Intelligence, to enhance the quality of their network. Another recommended alternative search engine is Also one of the oldest in the search industry, integrates their own click fraud technology to safeguard their advertisers.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEM | How To: PPC


About The Author: has been a leader in the online advertising industry since 1993. Currently, Rich is CEO of search engine company and search engine eZanga, which he founded in 2003.

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  • davidthemavin

    Hmm, where do you think the “Alternative” ppc search engines get the traffic. Most of them buy up the junk listings from Yahoo & Google and resell them at a higher rate! It would be cheaper to just buy direct from Google & Yahoo.

    If you’re going to offer up alternatives please outline exactly where they REALLY get their traffic because we all know that no one goes to any of those sites to search! I remember being quite disturbed years ago when I tried a test with FindWhat (which used to be good back in the day with their own ad network), just to find out they bought cheap listings on Yahoo and marked them up.

  • SEO-Enthusiast

    You say “Talk to your account manager”??

    If alternative search engines want our business, having actual account managers will certainly get my attention.

    When it comes to Google, I don’t know weather to laugh or cry. Their personalized customer service seems to be nonexistent at best (perhaps my modest $30,000/ year is too small for them to want to bother?), they keep telling me their system works best if I delete my cookies, “update my browser” -(shouldn’t it be THEIR job to accommodate their customer’s browser preferences?) and when Google Adwords support created a suggested content focused campaign, they actually included my NEGATIVE KEYWORDS as positive keywords. I am floored by the astounding incompetence from Google Adwords.

  • GregGoodson

    It’s nice to be reminded of these alternative search engines every now and then, but I only recommend them to clients if I am really desperate to spend their budget. On that note, if you have accounts that have “plateaued” that make you look towards these alternative networks, I think it would be more worth your time to take a look at your accounts in the big three and see if there is any additional opportunities to test/expand. Bottom line, it’s just not scalable to advertise through any of these networks.

  • RichKahn

    True, some “Alternative Search Engines” have a lot of crap traffic. That is why at we spent over $5million in development and testing to design our Traffic Advisors platform which removes fraudulent traffic in real time BEFORE spending your money. We even validate our results using Click Forensics.

    In addition, we are in the process of rolling out version 5.0 which will offer our clients even more insight as to where the traffic is coming from so that you are fully aware of what you are buying…something you don’t get from many engines.

    Our team is fully trained on our system and how to help our clients get the most out of our system. Not only do you have access Mon – Fri from 9am – 6pm EST to your account manager, but you can access their Manager (usually have 2 + years experience), then if they can’t help, our Director of sales can step in and he has over 4 years experience with us…and I am the last resort :). I do get involved with campaigns on a regular basis, and with over 17 years of experience, I don’t believe ANY company can offer their clients that level of expertise on their accounts.

    We take customer service VERY seriously here and if you give us a try I am sure you will see why we keep doubling year after year.

    That is actually a service that we also offer. We help our clients expand their budgets on the big three and do the right job in optimizations and management. However, I have to disagree that “these alternative networks” are just not scalable.

    I can’t speak for other engines, but at, we have over 12 Billion searches each month and growing. That is about 1/7th the size of Google’s volume…so yes, we are not as big as them…but we do have enough traffic to have some of our clients spend six figures a month with us.

    If you haven’t tried us, you may be missing out on some really good traffic for your clients.

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