The seemingly endless debate about the relative effectiveness of search engine optimization (SEO) vs. pay-per-click (PPC) advertising too often is asking the wrong question, or rather asking the question too broadly. The issue isn’t whether SEO or PPC works best for business—it’s whether SEO or PPC is best for where your business is now.
For large businesses which have been involved in online marketing for some time, SEO makes sense. They have the kind of content marketing experience, sophistication and industry reputation to achieve strong organic results, and the resources to push those results even higher.
But for small businesses just getting into the online marketing game, PPC is often the better option. These businesses need the kind of rapid result PPC advertising can deliver. As Adam Stetzer notes in “Avoid SEO Hype: Why Small Businesses Should Focus on Return on Investment,” although SEO has some clear advantages, newcomers to online marketing should go with PPC first:
“Agencies should steer inexperienced customers into PPC first because it is most similar to Yellow Page advertising. Furthermore, 72 percent of marketers that use PPC plan to increase their PPC budgets in 2014, which demonstrates it is generally successful. PPC allows customers to secure new business rapidly. Trust will develop over time, and new products [like SEO] can then be proposed.”
Doing PPC Right
The fact that PPC campaigns tend to deliver results more quickly than SEO doesn’t mean that PPC is easy, or that anyone can do it. Google AdWords is at the ready with lots of support and online help, but getting it right takes time and no small amount of experience. For small businesses just getting started with PPC and AdWords, mistakes aren’t an option.
One way to get it right with AdWords is to avoid some of the more common mistakes, including the following 10:
1. Getting Keywords Wrong
The trick is to target the words and phrases your customers and prospective customers are most likely to type when searching for the products and services you offer. Not properly researching keywords or, worse yet, making educated guesses can be a recipe for disaster.
Let’s say, for example, your small business sells used furniture in Albany, NY. If you target keywords like “furniture” or “buy furniture,” or “furniture albany ny,” lots of people will see your ad—unfortunately, most of them are looking for new, not used furniture. If you also create an ad that doesn’t specify you sell used furniture, you’re going to be paying for a lot of clicks from people who will never buy your products.
To target the right customers, you need to do research using online tools, like The Google AdWords Keyword Tool or WordStream. Start by making a list of your products and services, then create a list of what words you think customers will type when looking for each of those products, and finally use one of these tools which will suggest appropriate variations of those keywords, along with the cost-per-click (CPC) for each one.
2. Overusing Broad Match Terms
Unless you specify otherwise, AdWords will default to “broad match terms.” This means that your ad will be displayed when someone types your words in any order, as well as synonyms and variations of your words. That can be advantageous in situations where those variations match products and services you offer. Typically, however, you’re going to get clicks from people who used an order or a synonym that has nothing to do with your business.
An AdWords specialist will know under what circumstances it makes sense to use broad match, but you probably won’t. Assuming you’re working with a limited budget, it’s better to drive more targeted traffic using exact match keywords or modified broad match.
3. Forgetting Negative Keywords
When you use broad match, you don’t know what variations of your keywords AdWords will insert, and some of them will display your ad to people you don’t want. You can avoid this problem by using negative keywords. Negative keywords target people you don’t want to see your ad.
Let’s go back to the used furniture example. If you use broad match for “used furniture,” AdWords might include variations like “antiques” or “salvage.” Since you don’t sell either antiques or salvage, you can use these as negative keywords, ensuring that people looking for these products will not see your ad and potentially click on it, wasting your money.
4. Forgetting Mobile Searches
Searches on mobile devices are growing every year, and people search differently on their mobile devices. You need to create mobile-specific ads to cater to these searches. For example, because smartphones are smaller than laptops or desktops, people tend to use truncated versions of keyword phrases on these devices, and you need to accommodate this behavior in your mobile ads. You should also consider making the ad content shorter and including a “click-to-call” extension, which generates a call to your business when prospective customers click on it.
5. Limiting Your Campaign to Generic Ads
Doing PPC right means creating a clear path for shoppers, one in which the words they type display an ad which matches that query as closely as possible and, when they click on it, takes them to a landing page which displays the products or services mentioned in the ad. If you sell used furniture and create a generic ad for your business, say one which includes “Harry’s Used Furniture Store/Buy Our Inexpensive Used Furniture/URL,” you’re not creating that clear path for someone who types in “used beds” or “used living room furniture.”
You need to create separate ad groups, each of which relates to one of your products or groups of products. Then you need to create for each ad group a separate ad which more directly relates to what customers are looking for.
6. Not Using Analytics
No matter how careful you are in picking your keywords and designing your ads, you’re not likely to get the most for your money if you aren’t continually improving your campaigns—and the only way to do that is to monitor which keywords and ads are working for you, which need tweaks, and which you need to shelve.
To monitor performance, you need to link your account to Google Analytics. When you do, you’ll see a wealth of data which will help you make any necessary improvements. For example, you might discover that a lot of people are clicking on a given ad (for which you’re paying money), but abandoning your site (“bouncing”) as soon as they get there.
7. Using Too Many Keywords in Ad Groups
If one of your ad groups is for people looking for used dressers, you might think it’s a good idea to select virtually every variation of that search phrase in your ad group. The problem is that, the more keyword variations you include in your group (especially if you don’t take the time to assess the relevance of each keyword to your product), the less likely it is that your ad will match a user’s search query. For example, if in this example you inadvertently pick up “used georgian dressers,” a product you don’t sell, you’re displaying your ad and potentially getting click-throughs you don’t want.
8. Not Using Scheduling
If you don’t want people to see your ad during hours when your store isn’t open, you can tell AdWords not to display it during off hours by using Ad Scheduling. You also might want to limit ad exposure during especially busy times when you won’t be able to handle an influx of calls.
9. Not Using Bid Adjustments
When you set up your campaign, you tell AdWords how much you’re willing to spend. AdWords will limit exposure of your ad to match that budget. Bid adjustments are an opportunity for more nuanced bidding. They allow you to show your ads more or less frequently depending on where, when and how people search. For example, a click might be more valuable to your business if it comes from a mobile device, or if it occurs in a certain location or on a specific date or at a specific time.
10. Not Using Ad Extensions
AdWords ad extensions allow you to supplement your ad with additional information, like your store’s address, your phone number, a store rating or more webpage links. Displaying this additional information tends to improve both click-through rates and website conversions. The really good news about ad extensions is that AdWords offers this option free of charge.
This is just a small sampling of the mistakes AdWords users, especially those who are new to PPC marketing, tend to make. Others include not bidding on competitor keywords (if you’re Harry’s Used Furniture, you can buy the name of a competitor, Bob’s Used Furniture—when someone searches for your competitor, your ad will appear), making spelling errors, displaying ads that link to broken landing pages, and not including locational keywords.
The best way to avoid these and other AdWords mistakes is to work with an experienced digital marketing agency with specialists who know the rules of the road and can best ensure your success. To learn more about the ways our digital marketing services, from PPC to creative design, SEO, content creation, marketing automation and social optimization, will help you drive sales and grow your business, contact us today.