Posted to Ben Finklea's blog on September 13th, 2010

PPC, It's Easy As 1, 2, 3

PPC, or Search Engine Advertising, is a quick and easy way to test your brand’s savvy in online search markets. With Google Instant, users are learning how to refine their search queries using shorter and more specific keywords - meaning paid search advertisers need to be sharper with identifying and targeting their keywords.

You might be thinking, “does that mean my paid search campaign isn’t as relevant?!” No, quite the opposite. This presents a very unique opportunity to revisit paid search as a very profitable option for driving valuable search traffic to your site. If your paid search ad targets the right keyword terms, Google Instant will give your ad instant exposure to people who are more focused on the conversion in mind.

Don’t let Google Instant cause you hesitation, quickly prepare a successful Search Engine Advertising campaign in three easy steps:

Step 1: Determine When People Are Buying

Search engine traffic is just like regular traffic. In this case, most people choose to surf the Web during certain parts of the day than others. Luckily, you don’t have to sit through an Internet jam if you don’t want to.

According to some very intelligent people, search engines experience click-happy traffic during the first few business hours, when people are just getting “busy” at work. Click-happy traffic piles back onto the Internet during lunch and the first few hours after the work day ends.

Search engine advertising campaigns can be configured for time-sensitive exposure. You may be wasting your time paying for ads running at 2:00 in the afternoon when everyone is zonked out in a food coma. Determine the best times to run your campaign during the day and every click can land you another valuable conversion.

Step 2: Pick Where Your Campaign Runs

The hottest social phenomenon this side of SXSW is geo-location services. FourSquare and Austin’s GoWalla are “checking” millions of people for all to see where their boss, co-worker, softball coach, or penuckle partner just ate for dinner. Search engine advertising, while not having a full, built-in social sharing platform, can help you choose the geographical reach of your ad exposure:

You can leverage geo-location ads for your paid search campaign by choosing a zip code or radius size - in increments of five miles - for which your campaign can reach from your physical location. If you want your campaign to run in several major markets, determine the size of exposure you want to reach in each metro area and send your ads out to search and acquire new customers.

Step 3: Choose What Keywords and Copy to Test

Search engine advertising is a great way to test out which keywords, body copy, products, reviews, and headlines are converting your traffic into customers more than others. Write two different versions of one ad, or use the same ad and target two different keywords. If you are an ecommerce site that relies heavily on reviews to drive sales, you can test out which reviews are more helpful at converting clicks into customers.

In the example above, I typed in “Austin wedding venues”, which can be a pretty competitive word around these parts. Your sponsored ad could pop up just above the organic rankings or in the right column side bar. This is a great way to test which headlines, keywords, and ad copy is more attractive to your target audience. Run the same ad with different headlines or run two different ads with the same headline. There are several different ways to use search engine advertising to your advantage, and it can even benefit an organic search campaign by helping you determine the right set of keywords to target.

The When, Where and What of PPC

Once you have determined when you should run ads, where you should run ads, and what keywords and copy you should feature, your paid search campaign is primed and ready to start working for you.

With the right PPC campaign and manager, paid search advertising can drive valuable traffic to your site on a daily basis. Many businesses use paid search advertising to compliment their organic search campaigns, combining solid search rankings and highly qualified traffic to build their business on the Web.

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