There’s no question that pay per click marketing (PPC) has transformed marketing forever. Google AdWords guru Perry Marshall calls it the most important direct marketing innovation in over a century. And it’s easy to see why: never before has it been possible to advertise to people while they’re looking for what you offer. People who are already in buying mode are far easier to sell to than those you have to motivate from scratch (as with TV, magazine or billboard advertising.)
If you’ve spent any time online, however, you know running a profitable PPC campaign is no walk in the park. It looks easy: plug in some keywords, write some ads, press play and off you go. In 2003, that was actually enough. But in 2010, PPC is arguably the most competitive battlefield in business. A domain inhabited by many but mastered by few.
According to AdGooRoo, the top 3% of PPC advertisers get 50% of the traffic. By the end of 2013, that number will be 2%.
That’s not a typo, and it’s not a coincidence. The truth is, PPC (though deceptively simple) is a sophisticated, multi-layered skill. It can actually be thought of as an entire business process in and of itself. In order to use PPC effectively – to write ads that produce sales and know for a fact what your ROI is – you need to master the following:
- Keyword selection. What motivates Person A to type keyword A into Google is different than what motivates Person B to type Keyword B into Google. Person B could be further along in the buying process than Person A – and both of these searchers need to be spoken to differently. Your business needs to categorize different searchers by strength of intent and readiness to buy.
- Ad copy. Your PPC ads need specific promises of tangible, appealing value and calls to action. Bland corporate slogans wont cut it. Furthermore, each ad must be be hyper-targeted to the searcher who sees it. What persuades Person A to click is often ignored by Person B. That’s why every searcher must see advertisements that seem uniquely tailored to them.
- Landing pages. If Person A and Person B both search for different keywords – and click different ads – why would you send them to the same landing page? If you want to make sales, you don’t. The same “conversations” that start in your ads need to be continued on your landing pages and those landing pages need to close the sale. Otherwise, the money spent getting visitors to your landing page is lost forever.
- Conversion tracking & optimization. Every component of your search marketing system needs to pull its own weight and be held accountable for bottom-line results. Do you track every sale (or lead) back to the keyword, advertisement, landing page, search engine and expenditure that produced it? Do you have not just raw numbers, but a clear understanding of what those numbers mean from a business perspective? If not, you’re wasting money every day this goes unaddressed.
- Continuous testing & improvement. A search marketing system is never as good as it could be. The way to achieve max performance is by continuously testing different elements and “beating the winner” over time. Using multi-variant Taguchi testing, your search marketing system gets smarter and sharper month after month. As Seth Godin says: “You can raise the bar or you can wait for others to raise it, but it’s getting raised regardless.”
Each step is a skill of its own, requiring experience, systems and tested methods to perform correctly. That’s why the top 3% of advertisers get 50% of the traffic: because the other 97% are unwilling (or unable) to keep up.
You get to choose which side you want to be on. Either build PPC campaigns that are excellent from top to bottom – and succeed – or persist with mediocrity and fail.