Feature Article (Pub:May 04) Pay Per Clicks - Is it worth it? by Paul Rudman

The days of quality free search engine submission and listings have all but disappeared. The major search engines realised that providing a quality index of websites that was growing by thousands per day, and making the necessary technical advancements to remain competitive amongst the major engines was not bringing home the bacon. This problem created the concept of paying a fee to be placed within the index, and most recently paying for traffic directed to your website from a specific search engine - and pay-per-click marketing was born.

So is PPC marketing worthwhile? The simple answer is yes, as long as it thoroughly researched and matched according to products and services your website offers. After all, when considering offline marketing tactics, you would make sure your full paid ad in the newspapers was written to hook the relevant audience and maximise your ROI wouldn't you? PPC marketing is exactly the same.

The important thing is not to distinguish between PPC marketing and search engine optimisation. They are two sides to the same coin now. As much as we all wish we could still keyword-load our meta tags and gain number 1 placement in Altavista, MSN etc. it is now a necessary evil that to gain high rankings with major engines you need consider both optimising your website (and all the relevant areas such as link affiliation) and paying for targeted key phrases to generate targeted traffic from the same engines you optimise your website for.

The benefit from PPC marketing are that the money you are paying have been invested in providing a better service for you the client. Total control over how your listings appear in terms of the title, description, and the phrases you target give you the power to fine tune your marketing effort to a agree that was and still is impossible from an infrequent visit by the Google or Inktomi spider for example.

2004 is a great time to consider putting aside some of your marketing budget for PPC's, as many areas of interest to search engine users are still relatively cheap with the major players in the PPC market who are Overture, Google, and in the UK, Espotting. This is unlikely to be the case for more than 6-12 months so you would be wise to consider taking advantage of relatively low cost clicks while you can.

So who should you spend your budget with? The simple fact is that a lead is a lead, so if you decide to choose a specific PPC campaign as opposed to distributing it between all the market leaders then your decision will probably be based on personal experience, e.g. you always use Google as a user so you invest in a Google PPC campaign.

They all offer a variety of requirements such as setting a budget ceiling so that you can choose to spend 100 pounds per month for example, and when your ceiling is reached your rankings are just dropped till the beginning of the next month.

The two most important parts of conducting your PPC campaign are making sure you target the right audience with the right phrases, and to make sure you monitor the results of your campaign results, investment is nothing without evaluation.

Conclusions

PPC marketing is all part of the evolution of search engines in providing themselves with a sustainable revenue and improving the technology to stay market leaders. At the same time, the element of control you get when investing in it is justifiable when considered carefully to make sure you target the right audience.

Paying for placements and indexing is not going away, in the next few years it will become more and more prevalent with the search engines that generate millions of searches per month, so if you are interested in search engine leads you cannot afford to ignore it, just go with the times and make sure you invest as much of your time and your industry expertise as you do in terms of cash to make sure you get the most from your campaigns.


Paul Rudman is the director and head of optimisation at CommerceTuned, he's been involved in developing search strategies and search engine optimisation for 7 years.

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