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What is SEO? Part 3- Pay Per Click Campaigns (PPC)

For the third edition of ‘What is SEO? a guide for beginners’, we will have a look at how PPC campaigns come to life and discuss their advantages over more traditional advertising methods. I believe PPC is a good place for a trainee SEO to start as it gives them knowledge of how search engines find information, whilst keeping that marketing side of the brain working.

First, let’s explain what PPC actually is: When a search is undertaken on search engine, there will usually be 2 kinds of results (all you PPC experts thinking “wait a minute…”: bear with me, we were all beginners once). There are the natural results which are the ones you are familiar with, and then there are sponsored results which appear on the right hand side of the screen; effectively they are advertising messages (Not everyone knows that these results are sponsored, even though it is written underneath). These ads operate on a [tag]Pay Per Click[/tag] basis, meaning that you (the advertiser) only pay when a user clicks your advertisement instead of every time it is displayed.

“so why should I go for PPC?” via flickr

Advantages

The tools that allow you to post and change these ads (note that the word change will now be replaced by optimise) tell you how many people saw the ad (impressions), how many people clicked the ad (clicks), and how many people clicked the ad and then purchased something on the website (conversions).

And what powerful tools they are! Imagine you had such a tool for measuring the impact of a traditional advertising poster: do you think the amount of money ‘creative’ agencies charge to make a 30 second video would be so high? If Saatchi had such a tool, they’d probably be very annoyed at the ‘Comet’ ads they commissioned which have absolutely no message but an abundance of cheap graphics; Comet should have asked a student on a placement to make the ad…

That’s the basics, now let me explain how [tag]PPC campaigns[/tag] operate

Keywords

First of all, a list of keywords has to be made. Here, you are choosing which keywords will trigger your advertising messages. You can have between 30 and 50000, depending on the market sought by your client, their budget, but not the size of your company: there are tools out there, some of them free, which will help you find relevant keywords, and will also tell you if there is a lot of people competing for that specific word. Oh and by the way, words can also be combinations of words, such as ‘black shoes’, or ‘Callaway iron’. You can usually then export those keyword lists to excel.

Once you have your words, you can enter them into the Google Adwords interface (for Google) or the Yahoo Search marketing tool. (PPC campaigns operate on one network only, Google or Yahoo for example). In these interfaces, you can also decide whether you want your ad to appear when your keywords are entered partially, exclusively or as part of a sentence. (Broad, Exact or Phrase match)

Ad writing and performance checking

You can then start to write your ads. They only have four lines, but you should be as creative as you can; use all the character spaces, and try different text combinations to see how well each ad performs as you will later be able to delete the ones that don’t work, and optimise the others. I believe that about 60% of the internet’s advertising strength lies in its measurability (the other 40% is interactivity, which I will discuss in a future blog entry), and an important part of this job is monitoring the success of your campaigns. If you don’t, you end up being as blind as the people who give millions to Saatchi hoping for good advertising.

So remember to regularly check and optimise the performances of your campaigns. The important elements to focus on are the conversions and the CTR (Click through rate) which show you not only how many people click your ads, but how many buy a product after clicking it. When I got my first conversion for one of our clients, the whole room could feel the emotion… but that soon fades away as you will get loads if you keep optimising your ads.

A good thing to do if your company can afford the time is to go through the ‘Google Adwords accreditation scheme’, which will make you a Google accredited advertiser, and give you good insight of how the whole system works.

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