Many search engine professionals and PPC marketing consultants will tell you to steer clear of using second tier search engines such as LookSmart, Ask, Shopzilla and others but if you are careful, do your research and target your audience more closely then you may find results that provide you with a significant return on your PPC dollars. You must follow a few very well established rules in order to succeed with this type of campaign but it can be done and often for a lot less money than when you try to increase your exposure on the big 3.
The first thing that you must do when starting with second tier search engines is to determine the target demographic that is using the particular search engine at which you are looking. This can often be done by looking at current advertising, visiting forums and reading company information about their users. The smaller a search engine is the more focused its viewers are and this offers you unique advantages if your audience is the one focusing on that particular search engine. Make sure that you find independent verification of demographics before exposing your entire budget to a particular outlet.
As with any PPC marketing campaign, ensuring that you have strong tracking in place before you being is important. Second tier search engines often do not provide the same level of click through and conversions tracking as larger sites do and these numbers are important for tweaking your campaigns. You can also use the old tools such as URL Builder from Google and have unique destinations that you can set up and track with Google Analytics. This tactic alone can save you huge amounts of money versus buying specific tracking software. While tracking your ads may require a bit more creativity, the increase in clicks, revenue and leads should more than make up for the time required.
PPC marketing has always required that you monitor your campaigns closely. Software is continually being developed that can help you do this work. Split testing, keyword relevance scoring, keyword tools, click tracking and the like continue to be big business. However, with second tier search engines many of these tools will not function and you must do much of it by hand making advertising here a much more labor intensive function. When you decide to go off the beaten path make sure that you are ready for the work involved to track your performance and optimize your keywords by hand. Your ads will need to be different for each search engine that you target because of the differing demographics that each of these targets.
Organization, targeting and tracking and managing will always be the key to PPC campaigns but when you decide to travel the less used path then you must truly step up your game in these areas. While your CPM may be much less than with larger systems each click still costs and it is up to you track these second tier search engines in order to maximize your PPC investment dollars.