Bowling for Business: Clear the Clutter

Clear the Clutter from your Marketing Strategy with Pay Per Click

This column appeared on on January 10, 2010 and in the Business Press on January 20, 2010.

Cleaning House with Pay Per Click

On the heels of the holiday season, our house looks a bit like a war-torn country. Half-eaten plates of cookies, broken candy canes and stale cinnamon rolls crowd the kitchen counter. Torn tissue paper and abandoned gift bags pepper the living room floor. Opening a cupboard is like preparing for a bomb blast, requiring deft “duck and cover” maneuvers to guard against plastic Del Taco cups and Tupperware that fall like mortar.

The reason for the disarray is simple. We have too much crap. (Sorry for the vernacular. But there is really no other way to describe how much junk my small family somehow manages to accumulate.) Every January, to combat the onslaught, we schedule an informal “Clean up the Crap Day.” We spend hours sorting through our possessions and arranging them into piles to throw away, donate or stow. And whenever we take on the task, I wonder how, in a single calendar year, one family could have possibly made so many trips to Wal-Mart.

After clean up day, we breathe a collective sigh of relief and vow never again to repeat the practice of letting things spiral out of control. We agree to live simply, cut out the clutter and streamline our household so that we won’t have to spend needless energy sifting through excess in order to find what we really need.

In this economy, the same might be necessary for your current advertising strategy. It might be time to clear the crap. And if you’re going to get down to brass tacks, consider implementing one of the best advertising options available today, Pay Per Click.

Also known as Pay Per Ranking, Pay Per Placement, Pay Per Position or Cost Per Click, Pay Per Click (PPC) is an Internet advertising model used on websites, in which advertisers pay their host only when their ad is clicked. When you enter a word or phrase in the search bar using an engine such as Google, Yahoo or Bing, two different sets of results are returned… organic (or natural) and sponsored (or paid). When I explain this phenomenon to Mountain Marketing Group clients, I’m surprised at how few are aware of these two very different categories.

Organic results are purported to be completely non-biased—meaning that the engine will not accept any amount of money to influence the rankings of an individual site. This is quite the opposite of paid advertising which appears in “sponsored” or “featured” search engine results, in which higher positions are rewarded to the companies willing to pay the most per visitor. You can tell the difference between the two types of search results because sponsored keywords appear in shaded areas just under the search bar and at right.

The nice thing about PPC is that you pay only when a searcher clicks on your listing and connects to your site. By using PPC, you pre-qualify your audience, since they were actively searching for your product or service or they never would have found it in the first place.

For Free—

Although it is not possible to advertise for free using PPC, I have managed campaigns for clients who have set campaign limits at $10, just to see if their keywords generate any activity. When you consider the cost of advertising using other mediums, where you have to pay regardless of the effectiveness of the ad, PPC is a great alternative. There are simply no hidden costs.

On a Budget—

Keywords cost anywhere between .05 per click and several dollars, depending on competition. The most expensive keywords relate to the mortgage industry, where people pay up to $40/ click. Our clients pay an average .75 per click. If your product or service is highly competitive, there are still plenty of ways for you to utilize PPC without having to pay an arm and a leg for the privilege. One is via Facebook, which offers PPC ads which are different than Google AdSense, Yahoo Search Marketing or Bing Search Ads. On Facebook, you can create an ad, which includes artwork, for free, set campaign limits, handpick your audience and leave thousands of impressions for only a few dollars per month.

The Sky’s the Limit—

One of our clients spends $2,000 per week on Pay Per Click advertising. The reason he is willing to invest so much is because he is happy with the results. If an advertising strategy had the potential to change the game for you, would you consider it? PPC might not be the best marketing method for everyone. But, for many, the strategy is the single most cost-effective way to hunker down and cut the crap.

Until next time, I’ll be Bowling for Business.

Bowling for Business: Click it Good

Giving a card
Click it Good: A guide to Internet Advertising

This column first appeared on on October 19, 2009

How to use pay per click, banner ads and email marketing to sell widgets

Several people have asked me if the ads that appear in orange boxes throughout my weekly ROTW columns have anything to do with my business and/or blogs.

The simple answer is, “No!”

The ads you see weaving in and out of my text are placed there by affiliate advertisers who want to capitalize on traffic to sell their products and services.

I take particular offense to the ad that so often pops up in my pieces, that says, “Lose embarrassing belly fat now.” Since advertisers generally try to place their online ads in places that make sense, I wonder if they checked out my head shot and figured, naturally, the best advertising marriage is weight loss.

Whatever their reasons for associating my writing with an intense desire to lose weight, promoters advertise on websites, search engines and blogs because they know that, despite all of the buzz about free advertising with social networking, in the final analysis, it still makes sense to ante up for business leads.

But what exactly is the payoff and how much do you have to invest in order to secure actual paying customers? The answer is as individual as your business budget. Before we get into specifics about costs and strategies, let’s discuss the three most popular forms of paid electronic advertising.

1. Pay Per Click

Advertisers pay their host only when words and word combinations they successfully bid for, are clicked. Internet searches produce two very different types of results:

Natural or organic results are determined by closely guarded algorithms that match Internet content with search terms.

Sponsored search engine services like Google Ad Words or Yahoo Search Marketing are results that advertisers pay for. These are included in the top two or three search results, as well as to the right of the search screen, inside a light pink box, or noted as “sponsored links.”

2. Display Advertising

This type of advertising is paid per click, per impression or per term. Display ads typically contain text, logos, photographs or other images, maps, and similar items, which appear on the same page as, or on the page adjacent to, general editorial content.

The text boxes that appear inside my columns fall into this category as does the ad at the top of the masthead. Display ads allow sponsors to effectively target their audience based on publication and website user-profiles.

Banner advertisers efficiently track and measure which websites, blogs or publications result in the highest number of direct responses, known as “click-through-rates.”

Affiliate marketers gain Internet real estate by offering click-through revenue to blog authors and webmasters. Successful Internet writers earn money by allowing affiliate advertising to run on their sites.

One of the reasons we advertise our agency on is because they charge by the month, which is easy on the budget, instead of by-impression, which is a bit unpredictable.

3. Email Marketing

Despite being considered a bit passé in web 2.0, emails remain popular for targeting prospective customers.

At the risk of being blocked as “spammers,” email marketers continue to advertise using this method because it is inexpensive and targeted. Emailing to people who have voluntarily surrendered their email addresses assumes at least a passing interest in whatever product or service an advertiser wishes to promote.

So which method should you pursue? I suggest you choose a strategy based on which budget, below, reflects the amount you can afford to spend on advertising. Remember, before you decide, that most experts agree you should invest at least 4-8 percent of your previous year’s gross sales on marketing.

Tight (I can’t even afford to pay attention.)

When funds are scarce, the bottom line is that you have to advertise. Don’t wait until you no longer have a business to promote. Email marketing is probably your best bet.

  • Gather business cards you collect at chamber mixers and networking events and enter email addresses into your contact list.
  • Create a brief, straight-forward email, with an attention-grabbing subject line, that does not promote your product or service so much as it provides an answer to your end-users point of pain. Focus on what your customers need to hear, instead of on what you want to say.
  • Give your recipients a reason to reply. The best way to do this is to offer a discount or giveaway.
  • Send the emails.
  • Measure your results.
  • If your campaign didn’t work, change it up. Don’t give up until you find the secret sauce.

Limited (I have a few bucks to spend. But I have to be careful.)

  • Find a website whose users match the profile of your customer-base and which provides banner advertising payable by term instead of by impression.
  • Hire someone to design an ad that will produce a direct-response.
  • Commit to the strategy for at least three months.
  • Measure your results.
  • If your ad doesn’t bring in revenue, alter one element of the ad, or its location, at a time.
  • Use the revenue generated from your campaign to pursue a second form of Internet advertising.

The Sky’s the Limit (Money is no object. And, yes, believe it or not, some business owners fall into this category, even in this economy).

Experts agree that people need five touches with your organization or product before they will make the move from prospect to client. Since your advertising budget affords you the luxury to pursue all five at once, results will be swift. I suggest the following:

  • Hire someone to develop an effective ad campaign.
  • Buy associated ad words on Google or Yahoo.
  • Send an email blast to introduce the campaign.
  • Invest in Pay per Click display ads.
  • Run banner ads on high-trafficked websites and blogs.
  • Watch the money roll in.