PPC Search Marketing – Buying Website Traffic

What is PPC

PPC or Pay-Per-Click is a paid form of advertising provided by search engines. It is the fastest way to drive large numbers of highly targeted visitors to your website. The principle is that you bid on keywords and then pay the search engine that amount every time a visitor clicks on your ad. Your ad then appears on the search engine result pages or on websites relevant to yours that are affiliated with the search engine.

Many webmasters have spent years building and marketing their sites, and still do not come close to the flow of visitors that a PPC campaign can generate in a matter of hours. However, even if you plan to run a PPC campaign, do not forget to do all the basic things that will help you get traffic for free.

A PPC campaign is an efficient marketing solution because costs are strictly controlled and adverts precisely targeted. PPC gives you the flexibility to display a variety of advert formats and even target your ads to specific languages and geographic locations. You get all of this and you are only charged if people click on your ads – meaning every dollar of your budget works towards harnessing new potential customers.

PPC is not for Everyone

Buying visitors is only a viable strategy if you earn more money than you spend. It is therefore a strategy mainly useful for Ecommerce sites or Content/Ecommerce sites. A Content only site relying mainly on advertisement income is unlikely to earn enough revenue per visitor to make the transaction profitable.

Choosing a PPC Provider

The first part of setting up a PPC campaign is deciding where you want your adverts to appear. At present the top international PPC providers are Google AdWords and Yahoo Advertising. Other big names in the PPC market include: MSN Adcenter, MIVA and Marchex. Doing private ad deals with other site owners and companies is another option.

Google AdWords

Google AdWords is the biggest PPC provider. The registration is free and you only pay for clicks. Clicks can cost as little as $0.01, but some highly competitive keywords can cost upwards of $10 or more.

Your purchased ads are displayed above and to the right of the normal search results, under the sponsored links sections. Adverts can also appear on search sites within Google’s Search Network, which includes AOL Search, Ask.com and Netscape. Additionally, adverts can appear on relevant websites that have joined Google’s AdSense program.

Determining a Visitor’s Worth

When you pay for visitors to your site, it is essential that you have optimized the site for converting visitors into customers. If your site is not converting, then you have internal issues to handle first. Before you even think about a PPC campaign, you need to calculate the average income you earn from every visitor. The formula is simply:

  • Average income / Average number of visitors = Income per visitor

For example, if you earn on average $250 from 1000 visitors, then your average income per visitor is $0.25. Therefore, in order to make a profit in this example the average cost per click for the product keywords needs to be less than $0.25. If you determine that your income per visitor is larger than the cost per visitor for your targeted keywords, go ahead and make a test run with Google AdWords.

Bear in mind that different traffic sources have different conversion rates. PPC traffic generally has a higher conversion rate than other traffic types – typically around 2 to 3 times higher than search engine traffic. This is because PPC allows you to target keywords that signal buying intent. Therefore, even if your income per visitor is a bit lower than your cost per visitor, you may still want to try out a PPC campaign.

When starting an AdWords PPC campaign, you get to create your own advert units and select for which keywords the units will be displayed. You also get to set a daily budget and the maximum cost per click. These settings will be explored further below.

AdWords allows for a variety of different ad types – including text, image and video ads. To keep things simple, you should start with a text ad. The elements that make up a text ad are the headline, the description and the destination URL. You want to focus on optimizing only the ad text and the headline.

AdWords text ad
Example of an AdWords text ad.

With PPC it is undesirable to pay for untargeted visitors who will not buy anything. The ad unit should therefore be designed to eliminate window shoppers, while still attracting the target audience. It needs to be optimized to qualify the reader and not for the highest click-through rate. For this reason, the ad description and headline must describe exactly what you offer. The reader should know without going to the website whether the product is for them or not.

Though you do not want to optimize for a high click-through rate, you also do not want your CTR to be too low. This is because Google will punish a bad click-through rate with a low quality score, placing your ad lower on the search result pages and making you pay more per click.

To find the best combination of headline and text, you need to experiment by creating a number of different advert units. You can start with a basic ad unit that simply states your product or service offer. From this basic ad unit you then make additional ad units that vary in only the one variable you want to test. For example, you can try adding a guarantee, a benefit, a keyword phrase, a limited offer, a call to action or a price to your ad description. Be sure that all ad units send the customer directly to an offer-specific Sales page dedicated to closing the sale.

After deciding on your ad units, the next step is to decide for which keywords your ads will appear. A keyword phrase can be specified using any one of these four keyword matching options: broad, phrase, exact and negative match. The first three were described in the Keyword Research chapter. The last one, negative match, is specified by prefixing the keyword with a minus sign (-). It can be used to prevent your adverts from appearing when a user searches for something that is unlikely to result in a sale.

  1. Broad match – The ad will show for similar phrases and relevant variations – e.g. keyword.
  2. Phrase match – The ad shows for search terms that include this exact phrase – e.g. “keyword”.
  3. Exact match – The ad shows for this exact search term – e.g. [keyword].
  4. Negative match – The ad will not show if this search term occurs – e.g. -keyword.

To find keywords for your product, visit the Google AdWords Keyword Tool once again. Use this tool to create a list of keywords that are relevant to your product and have very low ad competition, as listed by this tool. This will bring in targeted visitors while you pay as little as possible per click. You should try many variations of the keywords people may use when looking for anything related to your product. You may also like to include plurals, abbreviations and different word orders in your keyword list. Make sure that each keyword phrase appears on a separate line. This will make it easy to import the list into Google AdWords.

In addition to ad units and keywords, you can set the daily budget for your campaign. The budget specifies how much you will spend on AdWords advertising each day. You want to start small to see if the campaign is profitable. Provided that you earn more money than you spend, you can keep on increasing the budget more and more. The more money you spend, the more money you can make. Keep in mind that the larger your daily budget becomes, the more important it is that you monitor your campaign carefully. Since you bid on the keywords against lots of competitors, the cost-per-click can vary greatly, especially in highly profitable niches. It is essential that you do not pay more per visitor than you earn in return.

Another important setting is the maximum cost per click (CPC) bid. This is the highest price you are willing to pay for someone to click on your ad. It can be set globally for a campaign or ad group, as well as for specific keywords you advertise for. This keyword budget will be used to automatically bid on ad placements against competing bidders. Even if there is no competition, the ad will not be free. The minimum CPC is determined by an AdWords quality score. Every keyword in your campaign has a quality score associated with it. The score can be displayed by adding the “Qual. score” column from the campaign’s Keywords page. Your account as a whole also has a hidden quality score that comes from the average of all individual keywords’ quality scores.

The most important attribute for raising your quality score is to have a high click-through rate (CTR). Only the CTR on Google Search matters and what will be considered a good CTR varies for different keywords. Another quality attribute is to use ad units that are relevant to the keywords in that ad group. To get a higher quality score, you want each keyword to also appear in your ad copy. For this to be possible, you should create several tightly focused ad groups. One more factor is the quality of the landing page. In addition to having credibility indicators on the page, you want the keywords you bid for to also appear on the landing page. All in all, there are more than 100 factors affecting the quality score and not all of them are disclosed. However, those mentioned here are considered the most important ones.

By setting a high maximum CPC bid you can have your ad appear for more expensive keywords and locations, which may result in higher conversion rates. On the other hand, a low maximum CPC bid can bring in more traffic for your daily budget, provided that you can find keywords with little to no competition. To estimate the amount of traffic you will receive for a given CPC, daily budget and keyword list, you can use Google’s Traffic Estimator.

Once your campaign is set up, AdWords will begin to bid for and show your ad units automatically. To be able to track your paid traffic separately from your free traffic, you want to link your AdWords account to your Google Analytics account. Statistics will then begin to appear in the AdWords section of your Analytics account. During testing, you may want to configure your campaign to rotate your ads evenly, instead of only showing the ones that yield the most clicks. You also want to set up conversion tracking from your Analytics account, to be able to track which keywords and ad units convert the most. This involves placing a tracking script on the page that appears after a purchase has been made, typically the Thank You page.

With your tracking set up, you will begin to see which keywords and ad units perform the best by earning you the most. Once that becomes apparent, you want to dedicate your budget towards those ad units and keywords. Keywords that do not perform well can be removed from your list while you add more keywords similar to those that are performing. Based on the ad units that convert the most, you can create a new set of ads that includes the best performing elements of the successful ad units. As you find your PPC campaign becoming optimized, you can raise your daily budget and tweak your CPC further to bring in ever more targeted traffic.

Recommended additional reading:
Brad Geddes - Advanced Google AdWords