For small business owners, PPC advertising is incredibly tempting, almost irresistible. It’s easy to set up a Google AdWords account, pick out some keywords, set a budget, and bingo — you’re in the PPC business.
However, in my 10-plus years of helping small businesses that dove belly-first into PPC, the failure rate is close to 100 percent … and to make matters worse, a lot of those companies squandered a considerable amount of money before throwing in the towel.
I think because PPC is so easy to jump into, it gives participating small business owners the illusion they’re doing something constructive to generate revenue. Given the difficulty and complexity of setting up SEO and social media campaigns, along with a comparatively hazy line between activity and results, PPC is straightforward, measurable, and perhaps most important, familiar— we all know what PPC ads look like, and what happens when we click on an ad. So businesses gravitate to PPC, but fail to appreciate how carefully and thoughtfully campaigns must be executed.
So the question is, how do you beat the odds and succeed with PPC? Here are five tips that will give you a big edge over competitors — even big ones with 10 times your budget.
1. Pick the Right Keywords
If you pick the wrong target keywords, bad things will happen:
*You’ll spend your budget too quickly because the keywords are too competitive.
*You’ll never spend your budget because the keywords have no search volume.
*You’ll get clicks but no conversions because the keywords aren’t relevant.
Smart keyword selection consists mainly of selecting keywords compatible with your budget, having a critical mass of search volume, and being highly relevant to your advertised product or service. There are other factors to consider as well, but get these right and you’re off to a promising start.
A good strategy is to look at “long-tail” keywords — specific search terms that are not highly competitive but particularly relevant (for example, “entry level shrink wrapping systems”).
2. Pick the Right Geography
As a small business, a winning PPC strategy is to make peripheral attacks rather than go after established competitors in their areas of strength. In terms of geography, you want to zig where everybody else zags:
a.) If you are selling nationally, target geographies in your campaign the big competitors overlook.
b.) If you sell locally, target geographies adjacent or near your core market.
Smart geo-targeting of keywords — for example, “entry level shrink wrapping systems in Utah” — further cuts down on the competition. You may not have as many eyeballs on your PPC ads, but you may have a higher than usual click-through and conversion rate — far more important.
3. Pick the Right Offer
Assuming you’ve targeted the right keywords, the next step is to have a killer offer. A lot of companies, surprisingly, use no offer at all! They just take users to a landing page that describes the product or service, and I guess cross their fingers hoping someone inquires or orders.
With a strong offer, however, conversions can skyrocket. Sticking with the “shrink systems” example, here are some offers that would be tempting:
* Free one-year service for orders in April.
* Extended warranty for orders placed now.
* $500 off orders placed in April.
Strong offers deliver serious value, are time sensitive and appeal to a wide audience. By the way, I mentioned landing pages in passing a minute ago: As a bonus tip, make sure to use a customized landing page exactly relevant to your PPC ad. It’s the only way to fly.
4. Pick the Right Elements to Test
PPC campaigns are NEVER maximally productive out of the gate. Smart PPC campaigners test campaign elements to improve click-throughs and conversions. While there are hundreds of variables to test, here are the ones with the most potential to move the dial:
*Keywords — Put more emphasis on the best-performing ones, drop underperforming ones, and keep testing new ones.
*Offers — If free service isn’t getting action, try $500 off. If that does better, think of another offer to test against that one. This is how PPC campaigners slowly, steadily improve offers and the ensuing results.
*Bid times — It’s likely some times of day and some days of the week get better results than others. Testing different time frames enables you to steadily concentrate bids where they have the most potential to generate clicks.
As a bonus tip, be sure to test only one variable at a time. If you change the offer and the bid time together, and results skyrocket, you won’t know whether it was the offer or the bid time that made the difference.
5. Pick the Right Budget
Budgeting for PPC involves careful consideration of two things: time and money. Let’s talk about money first. Many small businesses set too small a budget to ever have hope of moving the dial. If you’re thinking in terms of $100 or $200 a month, I’d really advise you to think again. Even successful PPC campaigns have click-through and conversion rates in the area of 5 percent or less. A budget too small simply won’t generate enough clicks to produce a substantive number of clicks and conversions. With a budget of $500 to $1,000 a month, you have a chance to succeed.
Consider time frame as well. One or two months is not enough time to judge a PPC campaign. By giving testing a chance to do its magic over a six- to 12-month period, you may be pleasantly surprised. Many small businesses fail at PPC only because they gave up too quickly, or failed to test over the duration of the campaign.
Is PPC Worth It?
Put all five of these tips into action, and your chances of a successful PPC campaign will go up dramatically from whatever it is you are doing now. But before diving in or overhauling your campaign, take a step back and reflect on the overall strategy. In particular, determine whether the underlying economics of a campaign are in your favor.
By that I mean this: If you are selling shrink wrap machines that generate $10,000 in lifetime profit, then one sale would pay for a six-month campaign with a $1,000 budget. On the other hand, if you are selling widgets with a lifetime profit of $100, the cost of a PPC sale may be too high even if the campaign is running at full efficiency. As with all Internet marketing, PPC is not fundamentally sensible for every business. However, managed correctly, PPC has great potential for a majority of them.
This article is by Brad Shorr, Director of Content Strategy, at Straight North. Straight North is an internet marketing agency that focuses on SEO and PPC. This article originally appeared on altushost.com.