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Small businesses that have effective, search engine optimized websites position themselves ahead of the competition for ranking in the search engines. But, what happens if your website is not ranking within the first five results in Google or even on the first page for your most important keywords? Ranking high in the search engines is not easy and competition on the web continues to grow. Is it possible for a small business to compete with more established, larger websites?
Thankfully, the answer is “YES” and it begins with building an effective Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising strategy. Pay-Per-Click, also commonly referred to simply as PPC is an important method for small businesses to develop brand recognition, a consistent web presence, and a steady flow of new leads and website traffic. Here are six things you should know to get started.
1. What Exactly is Pay-Per-Click Advertising?
PPC advertising is a marketing model where advertisers create ads and pay a pre-arranged fee each time their ad is clicked on. These ads are shown within search engine results or in a variety of ways on different social media platforms.
Pay-Per-Click is a way to pay for visits to your website or landing pages to compliment the organic visits you are already experiencing. The most common types of PPC advertising are through search engines, such as Google AdWords and Bing Ads and social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.
Other terms that are commonly used to refer to pay-per-click advertising include:
- PPC advertising
- Paid search
- PPC marketing
- Paid search marketing
- Search engine marketing – SEM
Search engines, such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing allow advertisers to bid for placement of their advertisements with search engines sponsored links. The sponsored links are typically featured at the top of the search, at the bottom of the search results, or in a sidebar on the right hand side of the organic results.
For many years Google had displayed text ads in the right hand column next to the search results. Things changed significantly in 2016 when Google stopped displaying the right hand column text ads. In the process Google began displaying more ads at the top and bottom of most search results pages.
For example, a search of bicycle accessories will yield the following Google results, including the top four paid search results and the four PPC advertisements for products in the right side bar, but no column of text ads.
Google AdWords Example
Social media platforms, such as Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram also provide platforms to display paid ads to users. Facebook Ads allows advertisers to create ads that are responsive and that display on both desktop and mobile devices.
Facebook Ads can be embedded within news feeds or displayed in the right column of the page on desktop and laptop systems. The ability to add an Instagram account to a business Facebook page enables Instagram ads to be created and displayed directly from the Facebook Ads console.
Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Instagram, and other social platforms also allow for ads. These platforms can be somewhat similar to Facebook conceptually, but there can also be quite a bit of variation in terms of the style and content of ads.
Out of all the social media platforms Facebook has the most robust and well implemented advertising platform. Other advanced features include pay-per-impression and ad retargeting (think of all those Amazon ads that stalk you all over the Internet). Plus Facebook has almost 1.7 billion users worldwide.
2. What Types of Small Businesses Can Benefit from Pay-Per-Click Advertising?
Virtually every small business can benefit from implementing a pay-per-click marketing strategy to build its web presence. The trick is to identify targeted, relevant keywords, understand your target audience and develop a strategy that will drive the right types of leads.
There are a few characteristics of small businesses that can lead to increased PPC results and they are:
- Increased Customer Lifetime Value – Doctors, educational programs, utility providers, and subscription services can typically establish higher PPC budgets because each conversion has the potential to yield a very high lifetime value for each new customer.
- High Profit Margins – If your advertised product has a high profit, your business campaign may choose to pay more per click. Some examples are home renovations, big ticket items, lawsuits, or vehicles.
- Niche Products – Selling a product or service that is difficult for consumers to find locally makes your business a great candidate for PPC advertising campaigns. People often rely on internet searches to locate unusual or rare products.
If any of these business traits sound like your small business, begin your pay-per-click advertising campaign right away.
3. How Does Pay-Per-Click Advertising Work?
There are many fine points to developing an effective ad campaign and every industry requires that different details be addressed. Deciding on whether to advertise on a social media platform or a search engine platform or a combination of both will also determine the success of the campaign.
Understanding an outline of the process will help small businesses to get started; however, to adopt an ongoing marketing campaign that yields results requires additional knowledge and, in many cases, the assistance of a marketing specialist.
The first step to using a paid search marketing strategy is to develop a campaign strategy with a budget. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What is your objective?
- What are your keywords?
- How many advertisements do you want to run?
- What is your budget?
Once you have developed a campaign strategy, it is time to create either a text, image, or video advertisement and publish it to your search engine advertisingaccount. You will be able to specify the following criteria:
- Start and stop dates
- Maximum PPC price
- Audiences by demographic and other filters
- Various other settings
Once the advertisement has been approved and is published, check your dashboard frequently to monitor progress and make any adjustments to the campaign that may be needed.
4. Which Search Engine Advertising Platforms Should I Use?
When small businesses elect to pay for advertising on search engines, typically they seek to take advantage of a user’s need for demand fulfillment. Users who visit search engines already know what they want and are actively looking for your business or someone like your business.
Google Adwords and Bing Ads are the two most popular and commonly used search engine PPC advertising platforms. As paid search become increasingly competitive, the top platforms tend to cost more per click and are certainly not the only options for small businesses. Here are some ad platforms to consider:
Google – Obviously the king of all search engines, research your campaign’s top keywords to price out the PPC prices. Based on your small business niche, you may be able to rank for a reasonable price.
Bing – The second most popular search engine, Bing consistently holds a 33% market share on paid search engine advertising. Bing advertisements are also displayed on Yahoo, through a partnership agreement, so advertising on Bing may cost less than Google in many cases and will display your ads on two search engines.
Yelp – Yelp Ads is a popular way for small businesses to expand their paid search reach to target specific local, region, or national markets. Yelp Ads appear conspicuously on the top of searches as well as on competitor pages. Yelp Ads are especially effective for small businesses because they encourage engagement and direct response through reviews and sharing.
Yahoo – Yahoo Gemini, also known as Yahoo Stream Ads, supplies small businesses with a healthy amount of conversions through their model, referred to as “native advertising.” Advertisements that are displayed on the Yahoo Stream platform are inserted into relevant content within the feed with a “sponsored” box at the end of the ad. Because the content is within the native content, these ads realize a high engagement rate.
5. Which Pay-Per-Click Social Media Advertising Platforms Should I Use?
Facebook and other social media users are seeking demand generation. As users scroll down their newsfeeds, they do not yet know who you are or even what they are looking for, but they are open to discovering a new idea, service, or business. Social media is a great place to introduce your brand to an eager audience.
Although Facebook advertising is the most popular platform for social media PPC campaigns, there are a number of other options available. Social media platforms vary when it comes to audience size, demographic reach, and cost, so a bit of research can go a long way when it comes to selecting the appropriate platform. When developing a pay-per-click advertising plan, consider these options:
- Instagram – If your small business can easily convey powerful messages using imagery, Instagram may be a great choice for you.
- YouTube – Businesses that communicate effectively through video or industries that advertise with tutorials realize tremendous success on YouTube.
- Twitter – Increasing exposure, sharing content, crafting a brand voice, and offering deals are only a few of the advertising tasks that Twitter accomplishes for small businesses in any industry.
- LinkedIn – Reaching relevant professional audiences is the primary focus of LinkedIn. Many business-to-business (B2B) enterprises find success using LinkedIn advertising.
- Pinterest – Featuring both a website as well as a mobile app, females dominate the Pinterest user market. Small businesses that target women typically find success with Pinterest advertising.
- Snapchat – Specific calls to action, business announcements, and exciting press releases are all great ways for small businesses to use Snapchat in their marketing mix.
Each platform has its benefits and by creating a strategy using multiple platforms, the potential for reaching a wide, high converting audience will increase.
6. Paid Search vs. Paid Social?
Learning to leverage the strengths of both search engine and social media pay-per-click will effectively round out any small business’ paid advertising strategy. Understanding the difference and when to use each platform will increase visibility and decrease cost.
Paid Search – Encompassing an immense audience, search engines provide the widest audience available on the internet. Most search engines give priority to well-constructed, relevant ads in order to create an intuitive experience for the user. For this reason, the biggest budget does not always win and small businesses can be competitive with smaller budgets. And with the growing influence of mobile ads, the availability of multiple ad formats increases chances of being seen on search engines from any device.
Paid Social – The granularity of advertising targeting is the biggest advantage of using social media PPC advertisements. The ability to create highly specific target audiences, although smaller in numbers, can position social media ads with higher conversion rates.
The two types of platforms can easily complement each other to neatly wrap a well performing PPC advertising campaign.
Helpful Advertising Resources
Developing a comprehensive pay-per-click advertising strategy can quickly become a science. Relying on a professional who specializes in PPC marketing is a good idea for any small business that is looking for results within a short time frame. If your small business is not ready to outsource paid search marketing, it is important to perform thorough research before diving in. Here are a few of our favorite resources:
WordStream – Managing social media marketing is simplified with alerts, hosted landing pages, and an analytics dashboard.
PPC Hero – A panel of PPC advertising experts routinely share tricks and knowledge in their blog based on years of experience.
MOZ – A leading website analytics authority, MOZ publishes a blog specific to PPC effectiveness based on their ongoing research and data collecting.
AdEspresso – provides a tool set to help simplify Facebook advertising for small and medium businesses. They also provide a wealth of useful, free information their Facebook Ads Academy. Resources include blog posts, Guides, Webinars and eBooks. They also offer a free trial version for their tools.
Launching and enhancing your website is only the first step. Implementing an ongoing marketing strategy that includes Pay-Per-Click advertising is an important part of small business success within the digital landscape. When a small business postpones PPC marketingthey are leaving money on the table for their competitors. If any part of your PPC advertising efforts feel daunting or confusing please feel free to reach out to our team for guidance.
Mike McEvoy has a strong and successful history in the technology business world. With more than 25 years as a technology, marketing and Internet professional, Mike has also been a small business owner since 2002.
The primary focus of Mike and his team is on helping small businesses build a stronger web presence using digital marketing, search engine optimization, pay-per-click advertising, social media and email marketing.