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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

pay-per-click (PPC) advertising

Brian OBy Brian O'Connell
You may have heard that pay-per-click (PPC) advertising—aka advertising online—is expensive. And it can be. But if you know how to set up your account correctly—and you're committed to tracking its progress and making adjustments over time—then you can reap the benefits without paying the hefty fees. Before I explain how to do this, I want to address the question of why you might want to create a PPC campaign. PPC ads are the ads that display in the top shaded area and on the right side of the search engine results page.

The center listings are called organic search results. It can take months or even years to get a top listing in this area. So, if you have a website that isn't showing up in the first page or two of search results, then a PPC effort is the quicker way to get on the first page of results.
Because Google is the largest search engine with two-thirds of the market share, you should start out with a Google AdWords account. (AdWords is the name of Google's PPC program.) How do you undertake online advertising, get on the first page of results, and keep some money in your wallet?

The key is in the keywords.

The Right Keywords

Set Up Campaigns and Ad Groups
Google explains that to make the most of your keywords, you need an organized campaign. Structure each campaign to cover either a geographical area or the main services you offer. For example, an accounting practice might have one campaign for local, one for national, one for tax preparation, or one for QuickBooks.
Then, within campaigns, establish ad groups that are even more specific. For instance, under the tax preparation campaign, accountants could have three ad groups: tax planning, 1040 tax preparation, and tax consulting.
With this structure, you can identify the best keywords for each ad group and more easily monitor each ad's performance.

Discover Your Search Terms
Begin the process of finding the best keywords by making a list of two or three of your core services. Then think of every possible variation for each service. Those are your keywords.
My focus is on marketing for accountants, so I know the best keywords in that niche. What I've found is that potential clients search for accountants in their area, which means they type their location into the search engines.
Therefore, accountants need to include various iterations of their location in their search terms, from the name of their city and state to their general region and the local zip codes.
Here are some of the search terms I've found to be the most effective for CPA firms:
  • "location" CPA, CPA firms
  • "location" accounting, accounting firms
  • "location" payroll, payroll services
  • "location" business accounting
  • "location" business planning
  • "location" financial planning
  • "location" retirement planning
  • "location" tax planning
The Wrong Keywords

The Danger with Broad Match
If you choose a broad match for your keywords, you need to be careful.
Don't get me wrong; broad matches are important in PPC campaigns and can have excellent results. But I've seen accountants lose hundreds of dollars when their keyword phrase "accounting firms" was set to a broad match and was triggered with the search term "accounting jobs."
When people searched on the term "accounting jobs," ads for accounting firms came up. These ads were intended to draw in new clients, but because they came up when folks typed in "accounting jobs," they pulled in hopeful job seekers.
Accountants with these broad-match campaigns saw their costs skyrocket because too many people—the wrong target audience—were clicking on their ads. And since you pay for each click, this was skewing their budgets.

Define Your "Negative" Keywords
What did these CPAs do to fix that? They had to set "jobs" as a negative keyword within their campaigns. That way, when people typed "jobs" into the search engines, the "accounting firm" ads were not triggered.

Pay Attention to Metrics
Your Google account will have a variety of helpful tools that allow you to monitor your ads' performance and track your conversions.
You can set up reporting that delivers data on who clicks on your ads, how many bounce back out of your site (i.e., quickly clicking away), and how many conversions you get.
Pay close attention to these metrics to ensure that your ads are reaching the audience you intend—and that you're not losing money on the wrong audience.

The Devil Is in the Details
A PPC campaign is a must if you want to draw in new clients quickly with a high-visibility website.
But to do it without breaking the bank, you need to understand the intricacies of keywords so you can control your PPC budget effectively.
Create a well-structured AdWords account, with campaigns and ad groups. This will help you target specific keywords. If you're in a profession that's dominated by local business, be sure to include your location as a keyword.
Once your campaign has been active for a couple of weeks, use Google's tools to take a close look at your ads' performance. Are the costs for a particular ad group skyrocketing? If so, and you've set up the campaign with a broad match, you might want to add in some negative keywords.
A successful PPC campaign takes work, but if you know what dangers to watch for, it doesn't have to take too much of your bottom line.

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