Everyone wants their website to appear on the first page of search engines so that they can grab the lion's share of the traffic. As we have mentioned many times on this blog, moving up to page one is a long, slow process that takes time, patience and effort. But what happens when you need traffic fast?
That's where Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising comes to the rescue. By paying to advertise in the places your ideal customers are looking you can be sure of a certain level of visibility. It all comes down to cold, hard cash, and being willing and able to spend the going rate for your sector.
Auction Not Lottery
SEO is a bit like PR. You put in the work, you do your best but there are no guarantees that you will get the precise outcome you want. There are so many other variables involved in the process, not least the search engines' algorithms which change regularly and are, at least partially, unknown. Social media is similar - you can never totally predict which posts are going to get massive engagement and go viral and which posts will only attract tumbleweed.
At least with advertising you know where you stand. If you pay for an advert in the paper, you know the advert will appear in the paper. (You don't know if anyone will see it, but at least it's there). If you pay for an online advert, in most cases you won't pay a thing unless someone not only sees it, but actually acknowledges it by doing something (such as clicking on it).
The pricing is based on an auction model. You have to pay just enough to appear before the other people bidding for that space. So, in a highly competitive market (think car insurance) your bid will need to be very high, while in a less crowded space you can buy a click for less than £1.
Where to Advertise
There are two main options for PPC advertising: search engines and social media. They both serve slightly different purposes
1. Search Engines
We are mostly talking about Google here. Other search engines are available, but Google is the King with about 90% of the market for searching. If you advertise on search engines you need to know that people are looking for what you offer. It won't work if nobody knows that the thing you do exists. For example, we have a client who provides highly specific seminars for teachers, but it's not something that teachers actively look for because they don't know that such a thing is on offer. However, if there are people looking for what you are selling, then PPC advertising on Google could well be the answer. And if you want to get traffic to your website fast it's ideal. If you get it right you can set up your adverts and see visits to your website the same day.
it is possible to pay for impressions rather than clicks if that is more suitable for your objectives, and you can also pay per conversion (or per phone call) if you have a clearly defined end result in mind but, overall, the principles are the same.
2. Social Media
We all get a little freaked out when we realise how much Facebook knows about us, but for marketers it is also a huge bonus. If you have a clearly defined ideal customer then social media advertising is like all your dreams coming true! You can refine your audience geographically and demographically, that's fairly obvious, but you can also refine by interests, behaviours, pages liked, website visits or even import your own list of potential customers to target. For example you can target women aged 35 - 55 who like trail running and barefoot running and Runners World Magazine who have previously visited a specific page on your website (which could very well explain the ads I've been seeing on Facebook recently!).
And for our client whose audience doesn't know their courses exist, their Facebook ads have been much more effective than their Google Ads as we have been able to put them in front of the right people.
And there's not just Facebook, you can advertise on Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and even Snapchat as well as placing ads in Messenger.
How to Make the Most of your Budget
The trick here is to use your budget wisely. While it is very exciting to get hundreds of clicks on your ad, remember that you are paying for each one, so you only want to attract the right sort of click. Use highly specific keywords, carefully chosen negative keywords and clear, well crafted adverts so that you're not attracting, and paying for, completely irrelevant visitors.
Check your keywords and adverts regularly and refine them so that you are consistently maximising the benefit of your PPC budget.
Optimise your Results
When you set up your adverts you will be prompted by Google or Facebook to think about your objectives, what you want your adverts to achieve. Is it awareness of your brand, visits to your website, a purchase of a specific item or an enquiry? It pays to be clear about the objectives so that you can optimise the next step to help achieve them.
In particular, if you want enquiries or sales you need to make sure that the page that the ad takes people to after they click (normally called a landing page) is totally focused on that objective. Don't offer lots of options and distract people, just have one message so that visitors do that one thing that you want them to do. Buy your stuff, fill in a form, download something etc. Be totally singleminded about it and don't be tempted to tell them about all the other things you do. You've paid for that click because the person was actively looking for something specific. Give them it.
The Disadvantages of PPC Advertising
PPC advertising is great as a quick fix, but don't neglect your SEO. See advertising as something to fill the gap until your website attracts organic search traffic. Advertising costs every single time someone clicks and when you stop paying your traffic dries up.
SEO, in the guise of great content, is forever. If you write a particularly brilliant blog post that attracts attention, helps people solve their problems, gets shared and has lots of visitors, it can bring you traffic for years for no additional cost after it goes live. Nine out of our ten most popular blog posts this month were all written at least a year ago and half of them are 3 years old. Our What Is The Purpose Of A Blog post was written in June 2016 and has been the top performer all year. It costs us nothing and attracts over 200 visitors every single month!
Give it a Try
In most cases a fairly modest budget can get you instant visitors to your website, and the more carefully you target your adverts the more you get for your money. If you want quick results then it's worth considering, particularly alongside a longer term SEO and content strategy.