Aug 26 '14
This post, by Elephant Creative PPC specialist Rich Mehta, follows on from the previous post, “The Times They Are A-Changin’ – The Impact of SEO on Websites”, and is the second in a three part series discussing SEO.
With a little thought, research, careful content curation and a whole lot of time it’s possible to push your website to the revered first page of the Google search listings. Of course, the hope is you’re on the first page for terms that are relevant to your business (otherwise they’re going to produce poor leads) but that’s besides the point. Time, in Google’s eyes at least, is a good ranking factor.
But what of those of us who don’t have the time? What of those businesses who need a quick influx of visitors in order to play the numbers game to get quantifiable results? How about those websites which need actual users in order to test what the best layout for a page will be? For those there is also an answer; Pay Per Click (PPC).
Given our introductory nature, this article will mention a couple of platforms available but will focus mostly on Google’s tools for PPC and strategies to match as we’ve found it to work best for the sectors we work with (business to business and professional services).
What is Pay Per Click?
Pay per click, sometimes called “cost per click”, is essentially just a revenue model for Internet advertising. Pay per click is so called as instead of advertisers paying based on number of views (impressions) of their advert, they pay when someone takes a physical action on their advert (usually a click; hence the name).
The benefit of this system to advertisers is that the action indicates a willingness or need for the user to find out more – a quantifiable lead – which can only be assumed from a rough calculation on impressions. Pay per click has diversified a little since this early model but for the purpose of understanding, this is the best way to describe it.
Pay Per Click has been around a long time. With the first systems being recorded around 1996, there’s been plenty of time for multiple platforms to spring up. The majority of the big advertising platforms use PPC as their charging model including Facebook, Twitter and Google. Google’s platform, called AdWords, is the one we use the most and relies on users’ search phrases to target ads.
Most of the bigger ad platforms allow the advertiser to build and customise their ad campaigns as they see fit. For example, Adwords allows us to set keyphrases to target, ad copy to display, a link to point the advert to and various other business information (address, phone number, website address etc).
PPC platforms vary mainly on the data used to target the adverts. Facebook & LinkedIn’s platforms both use profile data whilst Google’s Adwords uses keyphrases from a users’ search query. Both produce varying results across different sectors for this reason; this usually comes down to relevancy of the adverts to the target audience.
The strategy used must be applicable to the platform you’re targeting. Working out the best keyphrases isn’t going to help you much when it comes to setting your advert up on Facebook. For this reason, the first step is establishing which platform you’ll be using. The information in this section will suit Adwords but some of the advice will be applicable on other platforms too (especially those based on keyphrases or search terms).
There are a number of steps to an effective Adwords PPC strategy (having defined the target platform):
- First, work out your budget; how much can you afford to spend on advertising? It’s a tough question but remember; if your advertising works you’ll be making a lot more than you spend
- Research the target audience; in this case by researching the search terms in use
- Of those search terms, choose the most profitable (often this will be the ones with the lowest competition that have a reasonable or higher level of usage)
- Set up specific landing pages for your adverts; the key is to make these as relevant as possible to your target audience so there will probably be a few of them unless your campaign is already very targeted
- Write your ad copy. Keep it engaging, concise (you’ve only got two lines remember!) and ensure it contains some of the keywords you’re targeting. If you can, make it different in some way to the other ads that appear for your target queries as this can help make your ad stand out
- Decide if your ad campaign will use any of Adwords additional features (these are usually called extensions; Google’s documented them); we’ve used the call extensions in the past to great effect.
- Finally, group your ads into meaningful ad groups in your Adwords campaign. This helps you later on when it comes to calculating the effectiveness of your campaign (which usually boils down to cost of advertising versus increase in sales)
- Finally, keep revising your campaign. This is the most important part; use the data Adwords provides on the effectiveness of your campaign to refine and improve it. At a minimum, you should use Adwords’ suggestions feature which will give you ideas on new keywords and structure for your ad groups to improve your campaign (it’ll start suggesting these after a few days)
Structuring Websites for PPC Campaigns
Ideally, your website should allow for easy creation of content within a pre-designed template. On a page-level, this will need:
- A simple layout (some landing pages even remove the navigation menu to focus the prospect on the goal of the landing page)
- A clear heading
- A clear area for short, punchy content to sell your service or product (bullet points work well but for more nuanced campaigns employing a professional copywriter is usually worthwhile)
- Some sort of clear call-to-action item (like a button or clear link)
Overall, your website also needs to allow you to be able to:
- Set a clear hierarchy of pages and content
- A relevant template/design for the page
- Ideally, some way of completing the goal within the website
- Also it’s great if you can include Google Analytics in your website as this ties in nicely with your Adwords account and see how well your campaign is meeting your aims
Your landing pages don’t need to appear in your main navigation; in fact, sometimes it’s best they don’t. Because of this, your landing pages can look completely different to the rest of your website (this makes your landing pages the ideal place to test new designs and ideas).
Overall the key thing is to make it clear to the user what you’re offering, why they need it and how to get it. In terms of frameworks; for our purposes we find WordPress works well but there are lots of other Content Management Systems capable of reaching the same aims.
PPC is a great way to push relevant, targeted traffic towards a particular area of your website (and lots of it!) but it requires some clear goals and strategy in order to see the benefits of your advertising spend. For this reason, my advice is always to seek a professional who works particularly with PPC; not all search engine optimisation (SEO) professionals work with PPC often and so it pays to find out what you should expect to get for their involvement. Remember to include their professional cost in any return on investment calculations too.
Elephant Creative has a number of PPC specialists on hand to help and, should you need help building those landing pages, web design & development specialists too. If you’re interested in how we can help, we’d love to hear from you!