Definition of the Pay-Per-Click Process and PPC Search Engines
Because it is a relatively recent phenomenon, many online business owners do not understand the meaning of the term “pay-per-click advertising,” nor do they realize its enormous potential for increasing their online presence and bringing more traffic to their websites. Even those who understand basic search engine marketing techniques sometimes fail to make the distinction between pay-per-click (hereafter, PPC) ad campaigns and organic search engine optimization.
Pay-per-click (PPC) search engines are those that offer the marketing option called “pay-per-click” to users. PPC advertising is the placement of a small ad on the search results page for a specific keyword or keywords in return for a specified payment when a visitor actually clicks on the ad. Advertisers pay nothing to appear on the results page per se; they only pay the amount they have agreed to (or bid for) when someone actually clicks on their ad and is taken to the landing page on their website. The term “pay per click” means just what it says: the advertiser pays each time a visitor clicks on the ad.
The most popular PPC search engine is Google; their PPC advertising program is called AdWords. The next most popular search engines are Yahoo!, MSN Live, and Ask. A large number of other search engines offering PPC advertising opportunities are available – ranging from metasearch engines that incorporate traffic from numerous other engines and online sources all the way to small, niche search engines that specialize in one or more categories or topics of interest. Here at PPC Universe, we have included reviews of what we consider to be the Top 10 Search Engines, as well as a section of reviews of other search engines that offer paid advertising opportunities.
Below are screenshots of a Google search engine results page and a Yahoo search engine results page, indicating the locations on the page where PPC ads are typically placed on each of the two engines.
A PPC listing on a search engine results page typically consists of a title, which is usually a short heading (around 50 characters maximum) and also a short (typically no more than 200 characters long) description of your service or some promotional wording, as well as a link to your website. Most PPC search engines strictly control the type of text that can appear in the listing, and sometimes include a manual review before approval; others automatically approve ads that are submitted.
Basic Steps to a Constructing a Pay-Per-Click Campaign
The first step in putting together a PPC campaign is to decide your budget and the level of risk you are willing to take. Both aspects help determine which PPC search engine(s) you ultimately choose to start with. As one would expect, the larger search engines are less risky endeavors, because they already have excellent market coverage and tend to offer a lot of assistance to their users. However, they also are the most expensive in terms of how much money you must spend to acquire a visible ranking.
The second step is to choose your keywords. There are plenty of free, independent tools available to help you research keywords. Many will also reveal current bids for specific words or phrases on different search engines.
The third step is the composition of the headline that will appear on the search results page, and a description of your product or service, or other promotional text.
Next, you must open an account with a PPC search engine. Be prepared to supply your name, company name, address, phone number, email address, and so on. As a rule, opening an account is free. No charges apply until you have bid on the search words you want and have funded your account.
You may have a number of alternatives for funding your ad campaign. For instance, you may fund your account with a credit card for a set amount, such as $100. When this amount is exhausted, all advertising stops. Alternatively, you may be able to set a monthly spend limit where your ad will no longer appear once the limit is reached. Carefully consider the consequences of the funding option you choose to avoid unanticipated draws on your credit.
Be sure to read the fine print in the agreement to be clear on minimum deposits required, as well as what happens to your deposit if you decide to cancel your campaign.
In general, the initial deposit for a PPC ad campaign varies between $25 and $50. Some search engines will even give you a nominal amount of money as a bonus to begin your campaign.
Now you can begin bidding for keywords. When you first register the keywords you have chosen with the search engine (and some large businesses will have thousands of keywords), you must specify the maximum amount you are willing to bid for those keywords.
The price of a keyword can range anywhere from 1 cent to a few dollars or more, depending on its popularity as a search term and the search engine itself. Naturally, advertisers who pay more appear higher on the search results pages.
Key Tips to Keep in Mind While Running a Pay-Per-Click Campaign
There is sometimes fierce competition for specific keyword(s) on a given PPC search engine. Most PPC search engines automate the bidding process for you (stopping, of course, when they reach the maximum bid you have indicated), but personal involvement and the judicious use of third-party tools by the user is advisable to ensure that the tracking mechanisms built into the search engine’s control panel are in sync with what is actually happening.
Up until quite recently, the general rule was that the business that bid the highest amount of money for a specific keyword would be ranked first in the PPC results, the second-highest bidder would be ranked second, etc. Over the last six months or so, an element called “quality score” has become the determining factor in Google AdWords listings, and has just been introduced into Yahoo! listings and there are indications it will also become a factor for MSN. Typically, PPC search engines limit the number of PPC ads on a results page to less than 10, and research has shown that unless you are in the first 3 or 4 of the PPC ads, you are much less likely to be investigated by visitors.
Because the competition is so fierce, most PPC search engines do not require a minimum amount of money be invested in a campaign – in fact, some will even give you a nominal amount of money to begin your campaign with. Some may require a deposit of a small amount (in the neighborhood of $25 to $50), but this money is then applied to your account.
For current offerings from some search engines, take a look at our Special Deals page.
Be sure to check out the fine print in the agreement to be clear on minimums required, deposits required, what happens if you decide to cancel your campaign. Be prepared to spend a fair amount of time monitoring your campaign, especially in the beginning.
Is a Pay-Per-Click Campaign the Right Investment for my Business?
With more and more consumers looking online for information on purchases and making more purchases online than ever before, and recent studies indicating that searches still rarely go beyond the first three pages of organic search results (an example being the iProspect Search Engine User Behavior Study of April 2006), engaging the user early on takes on even more importance. The highly relevant PPC ads results on the first search engine results pages (SERPs) can be a prime source for conversions and sales.
PPC ad programs are evolving and becoming easier for first-time advertisers online to understand and use. The programs are flexible, can handle anything from one keyword to thousands of keywords, offer a dazzling array of bells and whistles, and come packaged with analytics and reporting options that range from the simple to the complex.
The apparent simplicity can be deceiving. You can set up a PPC on a search engine with only a few steps and get results that will satisfy you, but if you want to milk all that you can from the PPC method of advertising, you need to be prepared to take advantage of every option and every advantage available to you. You need to investigate the details of the programs you are taking part in, keep an eagle eye on your bids and the performance of your ads, and spend time keeping up with the latest changes in the search engines to ensure your money is placed where it will do the most good. It takes time and effort, but it is not rocket science – at least not yet!
To help you, tools have been developed to automatically monitor and bid, track your Return on Investment (ROI), craft your PPC ads, and help you choose alternate keywords that may be just as effective but cost much less on the particular PPC search engine they wish to use. Reviews of many search engine tools and services are elsewhere on our website.
Once you’ve mastered the basics of PPC and have learned more about the options, tools, and search engines that offer this form of marketing, you will be in a position to fine tune your campaigns and perhaps try some of the niche-market PPC search engines, which offer lower keyword costs and may be more suited to your product/service.
Keep in mind that even companies with experience in online marketing struggle with the intricacies of the techniques needed to judge which PPC search engine to use and how best to play the bidding game.
And so we come to the bottom line – PPC sounds like a great option, but what does it really cost and is it worth it for my specific business? Each campaign is different, depending upon the bid amounts, number of actual click-throughs and the Return on Investment (ROI) generated.
Our main goal at PayPerClickUniverse is to help educate you to make the best choices by offering free, totally unbiased reviews of PPC search engines and the tools designed to be used in conjunction with the PPC process, both to help you with understanding the process and to evaluate its usefulness to you as a marketing tool. Different search engines offer different advantages and disadvantages, depending upon your needs and the amount of risk you are willing to take. But with a little investigation, it is not too difficult to begin to consider and evaluate the usefulness and efficacy of PPC advertising for your own products and services. The rewards can be great, and the risks can be minimized. It is definitely worth consideration for any online business today.
What’s The Next Step?
If you have decided you would like to give pay-per-click advertising a try, the most logical place to start is to choose a search engine on which to advertise. This can be a complex decision in the long run, but in the short term, if you are completely new to PPC, the best option is to open an account with Google AdWords and experiment. Then, access the information on this website to find out about other available search engines and decide if and when to diversify your campaigns.
Top 10 Pay-Per-Click Search Engines
Other Pay-Per-Click Search Engines