the art and science of pay-per-click advertising

    The Art and Science of Pay-Per-Click Advertising

    1000 584 Lisa Martino

    Every day, millions of people are searching online. They are searching for answers to problems, people, products, new places to eat and great places to stay. Each one of these searches is an opportunity for businesses to appear in those results and attract new customers.

    Are you leveraging those opportunities in your digital strategy? Here is a quick, smart panda guide to the critical strategy of search engine marketing.

    bang for your buck

    Search engine marketing, abbreviated “search marketing” or “SEM,” is the process of promoting your website by increasing its visibility in search engine results pages (SERPs). This is done primarily through paid advertising, known as pay-per-click (PPC) ads—a scalable and efficient strategy designed to connect your ads with people who are actively searching for what you provide.

    The name says it all: pay-per-click advertising means you pay a small cost each time (and only when) your ad is clicked. PPC campaigns are a great way to drive targeted traffic to your site in a short amount of time, and the data generated may help you improve factors that influence your organic rankings as well.

    There are two main types of PPC:

    • Search engine advertising: Advertisers bid on keywords in order to have their ads appear in related search engine results. The search query provides a strong indication of what the searcher is looking for, so advertisers can focus their marketing dollars on the audience that is mostly likely to buy from them.
    • Advertising on partner networks: You can also place text, display, banner or remarketing ads (highly targeted ads that promote the products your visitors browsed but did not purchase) on a large network of partner sites. Google’s Display Network provides targeting tools to help your ads appear in the right places at the right time.

    PPC ads are paid for with flexible bidding strategies that let you decide how much you want to spend per click. Here’s how it works:

    1. You decide which keywords and phrases are important to your business when building your ad campaign.
    2. Every time a search is initiated, the search engine digs into the pool of advertisers and chooses the most relevant set of winners to appear on its search results page. Relevance is based on an algorithm that factors in the highest amount an advertiser is willing to spend, existing click-through rate, keyword relevance to the search and landing page quality.

    This system allows winning advertisers to reach potential customers at a cost that fits their budget. When your predetermined budget has been reached, the ad comes down. This makes it easy to control your costs, and you can update your ad spend at any time.

    For a more detailed explanation of how PPC auctions work, check out this popular infographic by Wordstream.

    pay-per-click perks

    Merchant, civic leader and marketing pioneer John Wanamaker coined the popular saying, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” Had he lived another 100 years, he might have taken back his famous line. Search marketing offers big data and big results, including:

    • Excellent ROI: Compared to other advertising channels, SEM costs are efficient (you pay only for clicks) and controllable. Run tests with a limited budget, and grow your budget as the data rolls in.
    • Control: With PPC ads, you determine the message that’s displayed. Ads appear where and when you want them, capturing customers at different phases of the purchase cycle.
    • Instant results: Click-through ads make it possible to send users directly where you want them to go. Want to really customize their path to conversion? Our pandas can help you create dynamic landing pages that respond to the specific ad they clicked on.
    • Measurability: All search-engine-generated traffic is measurable. You can know what keyword your customer searched for, the ad they clicked on and the conversion they completed.
    • Brand awareness: Even if you don’t want to spring for the more competitive, expensive keywords, a strong ad campaign using less expensive keywords can still generate brand awareness and recognition over time.

    mind your PPCs

    While search marketing may sound as simple as opening a Google AdWords account and spinning out keywords, there is both an art and a science behind successful digital marketing campaigns. Smart Panda Labs is a Google partner, for example, which means our experts have met Google’s most stringent eligibility and training requirements. We can help you set up your PPC campaigns with best practices in mind, such as:

    • Managing PPC settings. The Google Display network can quickly deplete your budget if not managed properly. However, it can be extremely effective with carefully selected keywords, testing and analysis.
    • Unifying your search engine approaches. Combining organic SEO with the power of paid search often yields results that are greater than the sum of its parts. We call it the 1+1=3 factor. With an integrated SEO and PPC marketing approach, you can leverage copy from your best performing ads in your SEO strategy and/or test copy from top performing organic pages in paid ads. Users are also more likely to click on your paid link if they see your organic link listed, too.
    • Establishing conversion tracking. Assign values for different types of conversions, so you know what’s really working.
    • Implementing the right ad extensions. Extensions are additional text that can improve your ad’s visibility and click-through rate.
    • Formatting ads for mobile. Google recently announced a new mobile ad format that is here to stay.
    • Constantly measuring and analyzing results in order to understand and improve your performance
    • Refreshing ad copy to make sure customers don’t see the same messages month after month, year after year
    • Optimizing your e-commerce strategies. Our pandas are experts in Google shopping, Google PLA (product listing ads) and comparison engines.
    • Creating highly efficient ads that reach only the people that matter to your business, such as remarketing ads that reconnect site visitors with your products or detailed ads for specific users on social media channels, like Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest.

    Why is it so important to get your search marketing strategy right the first time? Because it’s difficult to recover from a poor first try. Think of SEM like a GPA score—it’s hard to move the needle after one bad grade. After all, we prefer our customers have a 4.0. Feel free to contact us for a free consultation.


    Lisa Martino

    Lisa heads the firm’s search engine marketing practice and brings more than 15 years of experience to Smart Panda Labs, where she implements and manages a variety of paid search and paid social campaigns for clients, each with unique budgets and goals. Her areas of specialty include paid search and search engine optimization; paid social advertising on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube; display ads; email marketing; CRM; affiliate marketing; direct mail and web analytics. Prior to joining Smart Panda Labs, Lisa was a Search and Auction Media Manager for the Walt Disney Company for over eight years, where she managed extensive, multi-million dollar paid search and paid social campaigns for numerous Walt Disney Parks & Resorts websites and brands. She has also worked in marketing for Cox Target Media/Valpak and American Express. Lisa is a Microsoft Accredited Professional and is Google AdWords qualified in search, display, video, mobile and shopping.

    All stories by: Lisa Martino
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