Pay-per-click (PPC) marketing has been a graveyard for a lot of affiliate marketing programs. In many cases, ambitious amateurs with a dream and a high credit limit have found that a lack of in-depth knowledge about Google Adwords, MSN (Bing) adCenter, or Yahoo Search Marketing led to a lot of click charges but few sales. However, there are a lot of savvy PPC practitioners in the world of affiliate sales, and some new products on the PPC horizon may create a renaissance in the land of commission-based marketing.
For the newcomer, there are some basic rules for PPC advertising. You can use “search match” to present your ad when people type in particular keywords or synonyms. You can also use “content match” to appear on websites where relevant content is displayed. If you run a supplement affiliate, you can potentially run ads next to articles about vitamins and medical trends. Search match usually costs more per click than content matching, but content is a numbers game and can yield some pretty impressive results on its own if it is done correctly. This is why you see so many ads for teeth whitening products.
If you’re just breaking into the field of online marketing for affiliate sites (or standard ecommerce, for that matter) then you need to have some serious expectations, a lot of patience, and a strong stomach. Normally, the best solution is to start slow, so you can build a profitable marketing model that doesn’t break the bank. For instance, you may create an AdWords account that lands visitors on a certain page where they either fill out a form or follow a link to a third party. This sounds very straightforward, but depending on your marketplace, people will react to the landing page in different ways. By starting out with a trickle of traffic, you can test several different landing page variations, and even learn which keywords result in sales vs. which keyword just result in wasted clicks.
Another challenge for PPC involves the quality of the web page people land on. If Google, Bing, or Yahoo likes your page more than that of a competitor, it may actually cost you less money to hold the #1 paid spot than your rival is paying to be #2. This is because search engines assign a “quality score” to your landing page that is based on factors like the appearance of similar keywords on the page, the text in your ad, and the amount of time you’ve been running a PPC campaign. If you can present a relevant landing page with good calls to action, your opportunities for profitability will multiply while your cost per click may actually decrease.
What are the keys to success in affiliate PPC marketing? The first involves constant vigilance. You need to constantly monitor your accounts, or have someone else who does. Second, you need to build landing pages on your website that turn visitors into buyers. In a manner of speaking, your keywords and ads make a promise, and your landing pages have to keep it. Third, you need to be innovative. You can test out new keyword combinations, and most platforms (like Google Adwords or Bing adCenter) will recommend popular new phrases. Lastly, you should monitor your competition and take notes. If you competitors have an interesting value proposition in their ads, you may be able to beat it, and then their clicks will be yours.
A new opportunity for PPC comes in the field known as “remarketing” or “retargeting.” You can actually run content match ads that are only seen by visitors who have visited your website, and you can refine this to visitors who have gotten to a certain part in your shopping process and left the site. Essentially, a cookie is placed on the visitor’s browser, and your ad is triggered when they visit certain websites, which may be social media outlets or even similar sites that have are part of a remarketing network. The conversion rate on remarketing can be higher than standard PPC, since people already know your site and generally won’t bother to click if they’re not interested.
If you can build a good ROI model for PPC on an affiliate site, you can generally scale it up for 100% exposure with no ill effects. In fact, since many affiliate programs give you incentives like a bigger percentage of sales or a cash bonus, a higher spend level results in greater profitability! There have even been cases where the affiliate’s business was purchased by the upstream channel because the affiliate did a better job of marketing the product. While not every affiliate channel is a sure thing, and high click costs may rule out some lines of business entirely, a properly executed PPC management campaign is often a great way to generate sustainable income.