Getting More Mileage Out of Traditional PPC Tactics

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Synopsis – Paid search has been a successful online tactic for a number of years now, and it definitely should be an integral part of the online marketing plan of many businesses looking to market their products and services on the Internet. However, with the increasing number of companies becoming involved in traditional paid search, even with the predicted continued growth of online advertising, it is imperative that paid search managers look beyond the status quo and explore ways to maximize their efforts beyond business as usual.

In his article “Getting More Mileage Out Of Traditional PPC Tactics,” Scott Severson analyzes this problem, and provides seven tips to help you maximize efforts and boost return on investment in your PPC campaigns.

1.  Don’t Let The Economy Scare You
2.  Develop Successful Metrics And Allowable Costs
3.  Buy PPC And Fill In Gaps With Complementary Tactics
4.  Reduce Junk Leads
5.  Work With Partners
6.  Gather/Analyze Only Applicable Data
7.  Validate

By sorting out what is working from what isn’t, and expanding your parameters where it makes sense, you can discover ways to reap more benefits from your traditional PPC tactics and campaigns. Follow Scott’s tips and you will soon be in a position to see positive results.

The complete article follows …

Getting More Mileage Out Of Traditional PPC Tactics

Companies spend billions of dollars each year on pay-per-click campaigns — and for good reason. It’s a given that traditional paid search and search engine optimization are efficient and effective elements of a company’s overall marketing campaign. Even during this period of economic uncertainty, online advertising continues to capture a greater share of marketing spending, while traditional advertising budgets are whittled away. More than a few industry sources predict continued and significant growth of online advertising in the near future and beyond. In my own role as an online marketing service provider, I also am seeing an upward trend.

However, if you focus all of your online efforts on paid search, you’re missing the bigger picture. At some point, PPC campaigns reach a point of diminishing returns, with only so many keywords and only so many people searching for them. As more marketers learn the value of online and PPC advertising, the more competitive the search engine marketing world will become. All of which makes it more difficult — not to mention more expensive — to break through the clutter to reach prospective customers. So, how do you reach people who aren’t actively searching for you and increase your ROI in the process? Here are seven tips to help you maximize your efforts beyond traditional PPC and boost your ROI.

1. Don’t let the economy scare you into cutting your advertising budget — Now isn’t the time to pull back on advertising, particularly online. Recessionary periods are actually times to punch up advertising to snare market share from competitors. An economic downturn may turn into opportunity as companies put spending under a microscope to figure out where to get the best returns. Now more than ever, marketers need to strive to be more efficient by reducing cost per lead, closely measuring clickthrough, and quantifying consumer conversions to the desired action. Gravitate toward tactics that provide the most value.

2. Develop a success metric and establish an allowable cost — This may sound obvious, but before starting any campaign, it’s crucial to determine exactly what you want to happen when a visitor arrives at your landing page. Where on the “conversion continuum” does the metric fall? Is your objective as simple as driving a visitor to the site or have you set a more challenging goal, such as completing a transaction and capturing payment? Or does your objective fall somewhere in between?

Having chosen the success metric, establish exactly what that action will cost and how much it’s worth to you. Often, a good indicator of conversion cost is where the success metric falls on the conversion continuum. In addition to laying the groundwork for accurate ROI tracking later, understanding your allowable cost helps set realistic expectations at the outset. Set clear and measurable goals for both your success metric and allowable cost, and you’re already halfway home.

3. Buy all the paid search that makes sense, and then fill in the gaps with complementary tactics — The most successful campaigns include elements designed to complement paid search with effective and, above all, measurable tactics to reach web users not actively searching for information. Consider testing hybrid tactics that blend the best of several marketing disciplines, delivering the broadest-based and most cost-effective results.

One way to generate impressive ROI is with article-based online ad campaigns that employ “brand storytelling,” designed to reach prospects who are qualified and self-selected, but aren’t necessarily looking for what the company is offering at the outset. The old days of treating advertising, interactive, and PR as separate entities are gone. Brand storytelling relies on proven public relations techniques — like compelling headlines and well-crafted, informational copy — to generate interest and entice prospects to click again to reach an action-creating landing or offer page. The tactic works because it combines the best of three worlds — blending the branding value of advertising, the credibility of public relations, and the measurability and ROI of traditional online tactics.

4. Reduce junk leads where possible — Increasing the ratio of qualified to unqualified visitors can significantly impact ROI. Over the past few years, paid-search companies have moved to develop and implement algorithms designed to reduce click fraud. Google touts its three-stage system for detecting invalid clicks, which includes real-time filters, offline analysis, and reactive investigations. Despite the big steps forward, the major search engines would be remiss if they didn’t admit that click fraud remains a major issue.

You can simply accept that part of your PPC budget will be lost to click fraud or you can monitor fraudulent activity and reduce your exposure. Most importantly, stay vigilant. Consider using fraud-monitoring software to follow clickthroughs. Some programs offer real-time reporting every time a visitor clicks through, sending email alerts when it catches suspicious activity. Watch for sudden increases in daily per-click costs, and put the brakes on your campaign if it appears you are racking up fraudulent clicks. Finally, report your data to the search engines to bolster your case for a refund.

Another option is employing next-generation tactics that add an additional filter to the mix. Emerging web strategies using a two-click model improve relevancy and results because they use self-selection to qualify visitors. For example, with article-based advertising, you only pay for pre-qualified visitors who click through to a landing page after reading an article they’ve chosen based on their interest in its subject matter. With this model, ROI increases considerably — and click fraud decreases — because leads are qualified and educated before making a purchasing decision.

5. Work with partners supporting your ROI-focused efforts — Regardless of the tactics you implement, look for companies that pass the most critical data back to you to help you optimize your campaign. Many online marketing networks severely limit the data provided or don’t share it at all. You need the whole picture to determine which efforts are working and which aren’t. It doesn’t matter if it’s raw or already analyzed, you’ll get the best results by working with partners that share critical data with you. It’s your data — you have the right to see it and use it to your advantage.

6. Gather and analyze only the most applicable data — Brick-and-mortar retailers used to struggle to gather enough data — usually through intrusive store-intercept customer interviews — to make critical business decisions. Today, online retailers have done a complete 180. With so much online data available, it’s easy to be overwhelmed. It’s what we call “analysis paralysis” — and it’s a common malady, wasting considerable time and resources. You can measure everything about how consumers interact with your site, but do you need to? Limit the data you collect to what’s actionable, and focus on that. Gather enough data to draw a reasonable conclusion, and use that to promote positive change.

Before investing time and money into software, ask yourself if you really need complicated, pricey measurement, analysis, and optimization tools. You may find that Google Analytics offers more than enough data in a user-friendly format, and it’s free. For more complex analysis, products like SiteCatalyst and WebTrends offer sophisticated measurement, analysis, and optimization tools for online marketers — at a price.

7. Make sure it can all be validated — Online marketers can learn a lesson from those in the direct mail business, who live by the motto “test to establish a control.” Always validate that your control results are repeatable, and test against your control until you can beat it. Also, unless you have a sophisticated testing platform allowing you to track and optimize multi-variant tests, limit testing to single variables so you can understand which are effective. Use the data to make decisions about next steps, and direct your resources toward the most effective tactics.

Conclusion

Online marketers need to take a hard look at every single strategy and tactic to ask the tough questions. What’s working? What’s not? How can we best measure results? And, most important, how can we most effectively improve on our successes? The answers to those questions will determine which marketers limp through these challenging times and which ones thrive.

About the Author

Scott Severson is the president of ARAnet, Inc. Its Adfusion product, an article-based cost-per-click advertising platform, is one of the nation's most dynamic online advertising networks. For more information, visit www.ARAnetOnline.com of call 866-755-1486.

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