Pay per click (PPC) search engine marketing (SEM) has been a key contributor to the resurgence of online advertising since the dot com bust. To know how big this segment is, one has to just look at Google – most of its revenues come from PPC advertising.
The popularity of PPC marketing can be explained quite easily: relative ease of setting up, negligible starting costs, total control of budget and spend, unprecedented reach for the advertising message and highly results oriented. The immediate visibility into the results (and theby, the effectiveness) of a campaign that PPC marketing offers marketers unmatched flexibility to act immediately on the results. With PPC marketing, the marketer is in greater control than the advertising medium.
Yet, the fact is that PPC marketing has still not been adopted to the extent to which one might expect it to – there is an inexplicable connection among many small to medium enterprises to experiment with PPC campaigns.
This can be attributed to insufficient awareness of the medium (search engines) and the method (PPC). However, small to medium sized businesses and marketers wary of search engine marketing need to realize that if they can apply the same basics of marketing, the probability of a successful SEM campaign is very high.
A key differentiator of a PPC campaign from other forms of traditional advertising / marketing is the dynamic nature of a campaign. Couple that the ability to measure results instantly complying a marketer to react and / or proactively alter campaigns to get a better ROI.
Let's structure the execution of a PPC campaign into the following components:
o Mission : Define the objective of the PPC campaign clearly: is it to create awareness of a company or brand? Or is to drive traffic to let people read articles or buy something through a website or register as a member? Whatever it may be define it – as this affects the other aspects of the campaign.
o Market : Who is the target market? How closely can the marketer define this market? Say, by geography, by age, by gender, by the search terms the market uses …. In the context of search engine marketing, the last mentioned is extremely critical, because the keywords used in a search engine demonstrate a certain intent and interest. As a marketer, your objective is to capitalize on that intent & interest.
o Medium : The medium is of course a search engine but what I suggest here is to get more specific ie. which search engine do you advertise in? The obvious choice that comes to mind is the Google AdWords program, which is unduly the most popular PPC platform. Yet, take into account the other factors such as the target market to decide your spend. For example, if the PPC campaign is targeted at 18 – 21 year olds in Singapore, evaluating whether Yahoo or MSN has a greater reach among this audience in Singapore than Google is important.
o Money : The all-important budget. How much does one spend? How much does one need to spend? While the budget will in all likelihood be determined beforehand, the marketer may have to alter and adjust the budgetary allocations while setting up the PPC campaign. The most popular PPC engines use variants of an auction model, where how much an advertiser is willing to pay has a significant bearing on the exposure the ad is going to get. Bidding is a dynamic process and a PPC campaign manager needs to monitor the bids and the money being spent on the campaign.
o Message : Like any other form of advertising or marketing, the importance of the message can not be overstated. Can you get the right user to click on your ad? The success of your PPC campaign depends on whether you have been able to attract the user to the target website, and the quality and clarity of that message will determine regardless of whether the user does that.
There is another part to the message component – and this is more critical to the ROI. What is the message on the destination page (commonly referred to as landing page)? Is there an easily outstanding continuum between the message that greeted the user to that landing page and the message on the page itself? If not, you could almost safely assume that it is a non-productive click that dents the profitability of your PPC campaign.
o Measurement : One of the best things about online marketing and search engine marketing in particular is the availability of sophisticated reporting mechanisms that can provide vital insights into your campaign. With statistics on the campaign available as close to real time as possible (within a few hours), marketers do not have to wait to do post-mortems of money-down-the-drain scenarios. Instead, smart marketers can quickly adopt the "market, measure, modify, market" cycle to optimize their campaigns and increase their ROI.
As the above shows, the foundations of a paid search marketing campaign are exactly the same as that of well planned, traditional marketing campaigns. Obviously, certain aspects require more specialized knowledge, expertise and experience; but sticking to the above basics well will hopefully not only help increase the resistance to adopt this marketing technique, but will also assist in executing and evaluating a PPC campaign effectively.