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123 Web Design!

Harnessing PPC search engines

You design a killer site, submit to all the major search engines and directories, and you wait...and wait...and wait...

Submitting to search engines/directories is a smart idea, but it seems like an eternity before you see the results of your efforts. Meanwhile, you're anxious to get traffic and make sales, right?

I have just the site promotion technique for you: pay-per-click (PPC) search engines.

PPC programs work like this: you bid on keywords related to your site's content/products/services. The higher you bid, the higher your link appears in the search results. One of the great things about PPC is that you don't pay unless someone actually clicks your link - in other words, you pay only for results. PPC campaigns can be surprisingly affordable, even for sites on a limited budget.

Another benefit of utilizing PPC is that you begin generating traffic almost immediately. There is no 6-8 week waiting period for your site to appear in the index - it's usually more like 2-3 days.

List of good PPC search engines

Let's start with the best, which is GoTo.com. There is a $0.05 bid minimum and a $20.00 minimum monthly spend, but the volume of traffic generated can be significantly greater than traffic from other PPC engines. GoTo Premium Listings (top 1, 2, and 3 spots) appear as search results on America Online, Lycos, Netscape, AltaVista and other large sites.

Here are some other pay-per-click engines you might want to consider:

Sprinks
GoClick
FindWhat.com
Kanoodle.com
Brainfox.com
Bay9

Once your campaign begins, it's important to monitor its progress. Since your rankings are based on bidding, you don't want to be outbid and lose traffic. The other side of the coin is you don't want to pay more than you should for your ranking.

For example, let's say you have the #3 spot for a keyword and you're paying $0.10. The #4 spot is going for $0.09, while the #5 spot costs a mere $0.05. If, for whatever reason, #4 drops out of the listings, you're still occupying the #3 spot BUT you're overpaying by $0.04/click (you could maintain your #3 rank with a $0.06 bid). Not a huge amount, but with hundreds of listings, it's easy to see how it can add up over time.

Now that you have the basics covered, what should you do to ensure an effective campaign?

Strategies for a successful PPC campaign

Before you rush off to open an account, though, there are a few basic things to do beforehand to maximize your campaign's effectiveness.

Step 1: First, calculate how much you can afford to pay for each visitor to your web site. If you have a product that sells for $100.00, 1 out of every 100 visitors buys the product, and you pay $1.00 for each visitor, you'll break even on the campaign ($1.00 x 100 visitors = $100.00 spent/$100.00 sale). If you pay more than $1.00/visitor, you'll lose money and if you pay less than $1.00/visitor, you'll make a profit.

Know what you can afford to spend per visitor (per click) before making your bids. Armed with this knowledge, you'll be better equipped to execute a profitable campaign.

Step 2: Second, create a list of keywords related to your site/product/service. Develop a list of at least a few hundred keywords; preferably 1000 or more. I realize that's a lot, but as a general rule, a list of 10-20 keywords won't net you much traffic.

If you're having trouble brainstorming keywords, many of the PPC engines have tools to help you. GoTo's Search Suggestion Tool generates a list of search terms related to keywords you enter and ranks them in order from most to least popular. Try the GoTo Keyword Wizard at JimTools too.

Step 3: A third step to take before launching a campaign is to produce effective ad copy for the "title" and "description" of your listings. Make no mistake - your description and title ARE ad copy - or they should be if you hope to maximize traffic.

If your listings don't pull as well initially as you hope, don't worry; you can always tweak them until you achieve the desired results.

Step 4: Finally, carefully select the URL where your listing will point; in other words, your landing page. This doesn't have to be your "home" page - oftentimes, it's better if it's NOT your home page. Instead, consider linking to the page that contains the content/product/service related to the keyword for which you're bidding.

Don't make your visitors jump through hoops; give them what they're searching for as soon as they click to your site if possible. For each additional step in the process, you're losing a certain percentage of visitors. Granted, there are legitimate reasons to have visitors navigate a series of pages. Your goal is to eliminate the *unnecessary* clicks.

That should be enough information to get you started on your PPC campaign. Now that you know the basics, what are you waiting for? A PPC campaign could be just the shot in the arm your site needs!

Tutorial written and contributed by Jennifer Johnson, owner of jBanner.com. She specializes in custom banner ad design for small business web sites. Animated banners are under $20. Order yours at her site: http://www.jbanner.com