Manufacturing PPC Success: What Is Pay-Per-Click?

PPC (Pay-Per-Click advertising) is an amazing tool for reaching customers. It’s no mystery why it has propelled so much success for Google; it provides value to the user looking for a product or service and it provides value to companies that are trying to reach those users. Despite being a paid advertising channel, it acts as a pull marketing technique that brings customers to you based on their searches. It’s a win-win when executed properly.

Nevertheless, I often meet people who have a bad taste in their mouth regarding PPC. This caution seems to be based on misconceptions about what PPC is, and maybe more importantly, what PPC is not. Here are some thoughts that should be helpful when establishing the role of PPC in a marketing plan on what it is and what it isn't.

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It is: Quick to Start

Unlike a number of other traffic sources, paid search can be a comparatively quick way to substantially increase the amount of targeted, high quality traffic visiting your site. Depending on your industry and target audience, it may take months before SEO or content initiatives begin driving traffic volume and leads at a level that will move the needle for you. In contrast, PPC allows you to build campaigns in relatively short order that can drive as much traffic as you’re willing to pay for. It can be a fantastic way to quickly introduce your products and services to a large new audience.

It is NOT: Quick to Get Right
Though it may be quick to get started, the work of optimizing your paid search campaigns and maximizing your return is anything but quick and easy. Achieving great success requires detailed data analysis and a long term commitment to a test-and-learn mentality. There are steps you can take to get PPC started on the right foot but maximizing success takes devotion and know-how. Don’t expect complete success and huge ROI right out of the gate.

It is: Measurable
One of the most attractive parts of PPC is the level of detail and granularity you’ll get in terms of reporting. You won’t face the black box of “search term not provided” the way you will with organic search. You can track exactly how many times your ad is seen, the number of clicks each keyword is generating, how much you pay per click, your click through rate, average ad position, conversion rate, cost per conversion, and much more. This level of detail almost makes you feel spoiled as a marketer. You have all the tools necessary to calculate the return on your investment.

It is NOT: Without ROI risk
However, all that data leads you to the inevitable conclusion that it isn’t a cheap advertising channel. Paid search is not a new avenue for customer acquisition and many of your competitors have undoubtedly discovered that there is a lot of value to be found in paid search. That makes it competitive.

Because PPC is essentially a live auction for advertising space, cost per click for a keyword is market driven. That means that the cost per click in a given category will rise until it reaches the point that it’s difficult to be successful. Achieving ongoing success requires excellent execution at all points in the process – precise targeting, compelling copy, frictionless conversion and product or service quality levels that drive repeat business.

It is: A Key Strategy Element
Paid search is a great opportunity to make first contact with potential customers who might otherwise have never considered your company. A huge portion of the market begins their search for products and services by going to a search engine. Many of those folks will investigate the companies they find in the sponsored listings of the search results. PPC is too important, effective, and measurable to be ignored as a customer acquisition channel.

It is NOT: A complete customer acquisition strategy
While PPC is a key strategic element of a complete marketing plan, it is merely a piece of the puzzle. Devoting all your energy toward paid search in a vacuum is a plan destined to fail. Paid search, even when executed well, is merely an initial introduction to a potential customer. And because it’s not a particularly inexpensive introduction, you need to have all the other elements of a robust marketing plan to get the most out of that investment.

That means a simple and attractive website with clear calls to action, content and resources that educate the buyer as they research, lead nurturing that keeps users engaged, a social media presence that empowers existing customers to recommend you to prospects, and a buttoned up sales process to close the deal. Paid search is an extremely valuable marketing channel but it cannot by itself build the brand that ultimately leads to delighted long-term customers. So, make sure you have a full marketing strategy planned around and working hand-in-hand with any PPC campaigns.

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