Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising can be a powerful tool for driving traffic to your website and increasing sales. However, it’s important to take a methodical approach to your campaigns to maximize your return on investment.
PPC ads show up on search engine results pages when potential customers enter keywords you have chosen. You pay only when someone clicks on your ad.
By monitoring the performance of your ads, you can fine-tune your keywords, ads and website to increase the effectiveness of your campaigns.
“There’s a lot of room to experiment with online advertising,” says BDC Advisor, Web Conversion and Personalization Adrian Turner. “It requires more hands-on management and monitoring than traditional advertising, but it allows you to achieve more targeted results.”
Turner offers the following steps for creating successful PPC campaigns.
1. Set up your website analytics
The goal of online advertising is to drive people to your website, either to raise awareness of your business or convert traffic into leads or sales. To know if it’s working, you need to use software like Google Analytics to collect data about who is visiting your site. If you don’t already have analytics in place, your tech manager or web agency can set it up for you.
Analytics can tell you if your specific goals, such as increasing page views or number of sales, are being reached. You can also learn where visitors are coming from, which pages they’re visiting, how long they’re staying, and if they are repeat visitors.
Turner says it’s important to maintain control over access to this data.
“Your web partner can do the set-up, but make sure you own the login credentials. If you change web agencies at some point down the road, you don’t want to be locked out of your analytics or lose your historical data.”
2. Create an online advertising account and choose your keywords
Turner recommends starting with search ads on Google, where about 90% of online searches are conducted in Canada. To create your ad, set up a Google AdWords account. Once you learn how to use AdWords, and have a functioning ad campaign, you can easily set up an account with Bing, the second-place search engine.
Search ads are based on keywords: Words or phrases people use when looking for products, services or other information on the web.
To figure out which words are most relevant to your business, see which ones your competitors are using. Try searching words and phrases you think a customer would use and see what ads and search results they generate. Google’s Keyword Planner is also a useful tool for learning which keywords are likely to drive traffic to your website.
The cost of keywords is determined by an auction process. Turner suggests bidding on lots of keywords at first. You’ll quickly see which ones get your ads into top positions on a page—if they rank at all—for the amount of money you are willing to pay. Then you can narrow your list. (There are four ad slots on a search result page. The higher you are, the more clicks you’re likely to attract.)
“As you learn more, you’ll be able to be more strategic in the keywords you select,” Turner says. “You can start saving money and differentiating your business by bidding on less common keywords but still have your ad seen by a lot of people.”
How the Google Keyword auction works
If you want your business associated with a particular keyword or phrase, you submit a bid to Google—how much you’re willing to pay to have your ad displayed when someone searches for that word or phrase. Then, when someone searches, Google compares your bid to all other bids to determine how high ads will be displayed on a page, if at all. But it doesn’t just promote the highest bidder to the top of the list.
Instead, Google also looks at your ad—how relevant it is likely to be for the person who is searching. It’s the combination of relevance and price that determines how your ad ranks.
This process happens every time someone submits a search using your keyword, so you could “lose” one auction but win another. That’s why you need to monitor your ad performance over time to get a sense of a trend. You can do this by using the preview function in your Google AdWords account.
People sometimes expect to see results right away. If your goal is to drive more traffic to your site, you may see volumes go up pretty quickly, but if you’re looking to increase sales, it can still take time. Be patient and monitor.
3. Monitor continuously
Once you’re familiar with the basics of PPC advertising, you can use the control settings in your account to adjust the time period during which you want your ad to appear and how much you are willing to spend.
The web is a dynamic environment. By monitoring your ad performance, you can make sure your PPC investment keeps producing strong returns.
Beyond search-based ads, Turner says there are other forms of PPC available you can also explore, like re-marketing display ads.
“Re-marketing ads follow people who have been to your site and pop up on other sites they visit. They remind people who you are and that they’ve looked at your business. You can develop an awesome synergy with both search and display advertising working together.”