There are a ton of different marketing methods out there, and paid advertising methods are one of the most readily available and most effective. As opposed to generating organic traffic or working through social media, many people opt for services like AdWords which connect you directly to the top of Google when the searches are right.
If you’re wondering if paid search marketing is for you, then I’ll be happy to show you the basic ins and outs so that you can make the right decision rather than just being pushed along the line.
A Quick Glossary of Terms
I’m going to be using a bit of jargon up ahead, so you’re going to want to follow along. Rather than explain terms as we go along, here are the quick definitions of common acronyms in paid for advertising:
- SEM-Search Engine Marketing. This refers to any sort of paid advertisement which places you at the top of an ads list on Google or other search services. While most people use only AdWords, which is Google’s service, you can pay for ads on most search engines out there to reach a wider audience. It’s particularly useful for targeting older audiences who may still be using Yahoo! and people without tech savvy who may have other search engines as their default in their broswer.
- PPC-Pay Per Click. With this model of payment, you only pay when your ad is clicked directly rather than each time it’s seen and is the most common model of advertising used by search engines.
- CPC-Cost Per Click. This is how much you’ll be spending on each click that leads to your page.
- CPM-Cost per One Thousand Clicks. Some people running ads will charge you per one thousand clicks, and it’s also a good metric for those who’re planning longer campaigns even if they only pay per single click.
Why Use SEM?
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Search engine marketing is great for some businesses, especially for those who can ensure that their customers have a high chance to buy things pretty much immediately.
They’re also a useful way to put yourself on top of the game when they’re searching for a way to get your product or service in person.
While many users have learned to automatically “filter out” advertisements at the top of their searches, they’ll often not do so when there’s a high intention of purchasing something. This means you can slide to the coveted top of Google, or whichever search engine you’re using, just by paying for the clicks.
Obviously, this is a strategy which is directed almost entirely at making the sale immediately. It can get costly if you’re targetting the wrong keywords, after all, and that’s no good for anyone.
In addition to making sure you have sufficient search volume on your keywords, you’re also going to want to ensure you’ve got commercial intent behind them.
So, if you’re selling fishing gear then advertising under “best spinning reel” or “best blue ocean reel” would be wise, paying for clicks on “setting up a surf fishing rig” probably wouldn’t. While articles like that can incorporate items, you’re not going to want to pay to get people on that page. Organic traffic, via SEO, is a much better idea in that case.
When you’re picking keywords under a PPC model you want to ensure that there is a clear intention to buy, otherwise you’re likely to run a negative ROI.
With these platforms you can often laser target on commercial intent, which is another advantage over organic traffic: if you can find customers when they’re looking to buy then your chances of making a sale go up quite a bit and high conversion rates are possible.
Even better, you can often eliminate keywords which would show a lack of intent. If done properly you’ll only have two types of individuals who aren’t buying: those who are comparison shopping and those who can’t afford your product.
In the real world it will mostly end up being less ideal than that, but the point is paid marketing, when you’re doing it correctly, can often lead to much higher conversion rates than is possible with organic traffic.
It’s relatively easy to adjust how much you’re spending on campaigns as long as you keep an eye on them. Of course, it takes some time and experience to learn exactly what you’re doing, so many people opt for a more hands-off approach.
Another big advantage of paid advertising is an easily calculable ROI. Since you know exactly how much you’re spending, how many people are coming in, and what your conversion rate ends up being you can be sure that you’re actually spending your money wisely.
Combined with being able to tweak campaigns on a constant basis you end up with a quantifiable investment. Techniques to drive organic traffic can often seem a bit abstract, especially if you’re not the one managing your strategy.
Provided that you’re not pushing on a fad business, you can get remarkably consistent traffic through the use of paid search engine traffic.
While your organic rating may fluctuate over time, you’re likely to receive a remarkably even amount of traffic through paid advertising. Your bid may have to fluctuate to maintain this level of traffic, but you’ll be able to get a consistent stream of new customers through the use of paid traffic.
You can also target only people in your area if you have a brick-and-mortar business. This ensures that you’re not paying for clicks from people who are outside of the area which could drain your advertising budget in a hurry.
While you can also target locally with SEO practices for organic traffic, and you should, local businesses can benefit quite a bit in the early stages of their organic traffic-gathering by utilizing SEM.
Unlike organic methods, or even social media marketing, you can immediately begin to gather traffic when you’re using SEM. As soon as your campaign is live your ad will be at the top of the page and that means traffic almost immediately.
This is one of the big advantages and you can transition to a more organic strategy later if that’s in your plan.
Understanding AdWords Auctions
SEM is powered, at its core, by an auctioning process.
In essence: you “bid” on your advertisements in order to ensure that you rank along with everyone else. If you target a keyword with an average bid of $0.25 for instance, and you bid much under that then your ad is only going to appear rarely. You can also bid much above it for a better chance at appearing higher on the AdWords advertisements which appear at the top of Google.
While the bid is an important factor in your ranking on the AdWords, there’s another factor which affects your ranking quite heavily.
AdWords will rank the quality of your ad as well, and that’s taken into account when it decides which advertisement is going on top of the others.
The quality is tied to four key factors:
- Relevancy of your ad to the keyword
- The page’s relevance to the keyword
- The performance of your account in the past
- The CTR(click through ratio) of your ad
So, you can have a super high bid, but if you’re targeting bowling balls and selling tennis balls on a page which is mostly about general sports… you’re not going to pop up all that often.
That’s an extreme example, but it shows off the strengths of SEM: since you can get a laser-like focus on your targets you need to use it for your advantage rather than just throwing money at the problem and hoping it works.
That means you’ll be able to achieve the best results by not trying to game the system in any fashion.
Sources of SEM
While most people will end up targetting Google, there are a couple of other large networks out there to consider. As a general rule, the big two are:
Formerly, you would have found Yahoo! Search Marketing on this list as well, but they seem to have been consumed by Bing at this point.
Most people will end up sticking with these two forms of SEM, although certain super tight niche applications can also be found. These aren’t nearly as common these days however.
Other Sources of Paid Traffic
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Paid traffic doesn’t end with SEM however. There are a ton of different services you can use in order to pay for traffic, with better or worse results depending on how you want to do things. A comprehensive list would be almost impossible to put together considering the vast majority of the internet is comprised of advertising, but we’ve put together some of the larger sources below:
Google AdSense is one of the most widely used services out there, and it’s easy to see why.
AdSense places your ads on relevant web pages, and they can be more complex than then little snippets of text which you utilize on their AdWords service so don’t get them confused.
You’ll find the vast majority of guides on the internet to using AdSense are geared towards webmasters looking to profit from it by increasing the CTR on their pages.
Social Media Advertisements
Facebook, and some of the other social media platforms, allow you to pay in order to put up ads. With the ever increasing amount of people using these, you can actually end up with quite a bit of traffic if you’re willing to pay and you can target your demographic pretty tightly.
The CTR tends to be worse than many of the other advertising services out there, however, and quite often you’ll end up with a stranger pay model like “pay per engagement” than the usual PPC.
If your copy is spot on, however, it can be a good decision.
While more rare now, since many people instead go through advertising agencies in order to handle things, you can also contact webmasters directly and see if they’ll sell you some space on their page.
This kind of advertising can take a few different forms:
- Ad Space-This is the basic form, just buying a place for a banner or sidebar ad. It can be remarkably effective or rather ineffectual depending on the placement, relevancy and ad.
- Influencer Advertising-Through this method, someone with a large number of followers is found and then paid to show off a product or service. This method of outreach can be hard to measure, especially if you’re not already familiar with social media marketing tactics.
- Covert Content-Much more popular these days, you essentially pay someone to write a piece of content which serves as an ad for your product or services. This can be very effective if done subtly or can hurt a page’s reputation with their readers if it’s done in a blatant manner. Overall this is a risky method, especially if you’re not able to do high-level content yourself.
Really, the possibilites here are endless, provided you have a good plan and someone who’ll be able to enact it.
Paid traffic, particularly SEM, are some of the best ways to ensure that you’re getting the traffic you need to make your business flourish. Like all forms of advertising, there’s a certain amount of artistry which goes into the entire thing but with a bit of thought anyone halfway competent can make it a definite boon to their business.
SEM allows you to reach a wider, targeted audience quite simply and effectively. Make sure that your advertising budget is in order before you begin, but once you start going you might just have found a great revenue stream.
With wise campaign choices and the right connections, the ROI can get pretty high. It’s just a matter of doing the work to get there. Whether you hire a professional or just give it a shot yourself, more and more people are agreeing that paid traffic is a great way to go.