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The Four Secrets of Successful PPC Campaigns

By Barbara Fischer

Dated July 30, 2007. Copyright © 2007 Barbara Fischer. All rights reserved. Published at with permission.

Over the past decade, online marketing has become an integral part of most businesses' marketing strategies. In particular, Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) have become one of the most common channels for any business to sell its products and services. In this article, I will share some insights into successful SEM and SEO campaigns.

The attractive quality of SEM and in particular pay per click (PPC) advertising is that the results are measurable. As a strategic marketer, I have never come across any sales or marketing tool which is so transparent and cost-effective.

PPC campaigns allow you to see vital statistics on user behavior, text ads, keywords and much more. Best of all, however, is the fact that you can use PPC campaigns as “instant sales generators:” You can pause your campaign when sales are high or you can switch them on again when sales are low to get a new sales boost.

Secret 1: Have an Online Strategy in Place Before You Start!

Prior to implementing your online strategy you should consider the following:

I. Define the Purpose of Your Online Marketing Campaign

Some businesses use PPC purely as a “sales generator” tool, other businesses use it as a way to encourage new client leads and others simply for increased brand awareness.

II. Identify the Medium and Long Term Online Strategy

It is important to have realistic medium and long term expectations. Bear in mind that online campaigns deliver improved results the longer you run them.

III. Set a Realistic Monthly Budget

Always consider your budget relative to your product's profit margin. PPC can have a massive effect on sales and lead generation, but in our experience, we often find that very few businesses develop a strategy before they start their campaign.

The alarmingly common approach of “let's allocate some budget for 6 months and see what happens” is a recipe for disaster. Particularly for the first weeks of your PPC campaign run time, it is imperative that you dedicate a significant amount of time to fine-tuning key words and text ads.

An alternative solution is to employ an agency and ask them for a trial PPC campaign in which the results are assessed after 4 weeks. If your agency cannot deliver results within the first 2-3 weeks, chances are that they are not allocating your budget to the right key words and text ads or did not consult you properly in the first place.

Secret 2: Prepare Your Website!

Statistics show that you have got exactly 6 seconds to convince a visitor to stay on your site. If the visitor does not instantly find what he or she is looking for, your budget will not translate into business or leads. It is critical for your website to have the following characteristics:

Enticing images
If you offer a service, pictures of happy people will give the impression of satisfied end users. If you are offering a product, make sure that your images are clear and represent your product in a true manner.
Good web copy
Remember that less is more when it comes to web copy. Don't clutter your site with unnecessary text. Good web copy should fit in one frame.
Call to action phrases
Tell your visitors what you want them to do. Examples of good call to action phrases are: “Call now!”, “Buy today!”, “Contact us!”.
No scroll bars
Wherever possible, fit everything into one screen or frame. The more a user has to scroll, the more chance you have in loosing the visitor.
Site design in HTML
Flash websites might look great, but are a killer for any SEM campaign. You may incorporate some flash images to enhance your site's look and feel, however keep your site predominately HTML.

Remember: Unless your site is ready, your traffic will not convert into sales or leads.

Secret 3: Start Small - Choose One Search Engine Only

Especially if you are dipping your toe into the pay per click pool for the first time, it is more than OK to start off small. In my experience, too many companies are confronted by the variety of choice between different PPC search engines and are tricked into thinking they need to be on all these so-called “networks” immediately.

New online advertisers are often considering big players such as Google AdWords and Yahoo! Search Marketing (Yahoo!7 and ninemsn in Australia), but also the smaller fish such as Sensis, Ask, MIVA and Mirago. Too many different campaigns - each of which are run according to different rules, different budgets and different funding - are too much to juggle for most first time online advertisers.

It is important to stay focused when deciding on your first search marketing network, and refer back to your online strategy to properly match your purpose to the correct network. I would always recommend trialing a campaign on Google due to its amount of market share (55%) and quality traffic. If your campaign performs well on Google, chances are it will also perform on other networks.

Walk before you can run. Test your campaign on one network first to get a feel for it, and when you feel more confident then consider branching out.

Secret 4: Trial and Assess the Results

After choosing the correct search engine network to implement your PPC campaign, embark on a simple three week trial campaign. The great thing about PPC is that you can pause it whenever you like, so you are not locked into any long term commitment after your designated 'trial period.'

Once you have seen the campaign results for the first three weeks, you (or your online agency) should be able to identify trends for your particular business. For instance, you should be able to see which of your key words were most sought after, which words attracted most enquiries or led to sales, which “click-days” and “click times” were extremely popular and which companies you compete with.

Example: one of our clients in the beauty industry knew after their three week trial period that Wednesdays and Thursdays between 12 noon and 4pm were extremely popular for them in regards to clicks and enquiries for their services. As a result, they shifted their entire media budget on these 2 days and now receive twice as many enquiries as they had gotten in previous weeks - with the same investment!

Whilst trends are important to analyze for both your medium- and long-term online strategy, you must also closely analyze the direct impact that the campaign has on your business. Your sales team (or whoever answers calls in your business) needs to be briefed before the campaign starts and should monitor where new business leads are coming from.

Analysis of your new business enquiries and where they found out about you is important to accurately gauge the impact of a prolonged PPC campaign. Use your trial campaign as an indication of what is to come.

In my experience, PPC campaigns improve immensely over time and a feature of their success depends on the amount of time that is invested in their development.

About the Author

Barbara Fischer is the founder and director of Sydney based agency, Trendhaus Marketing. The core service offerings are strategic consulting, branding and online marketing.

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