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There are many ways to market your business on the internet. Some are newer and more popular than others.  In recent years, for example, the emergence of social media has completely revolutionized the way brands interact with their customers online.  Search engine optimization (SEO) continues to remain a favorite marketing method for many business owners and is often considered to be an essential component of any marketing campaign.  Constant algorithm updates made by the major search engines, particularly Google, keep SEO in the media spotlight.

But the media has largely ignored one of the most effective internet marketing methods, one that has been around for a long time: pay-per-click (PPC) advertising.

PPC refers to any form of marketing that calculates the cost to the advertiser based on the quantity and quality of clicks received on the advertiser's ad or ads.  Though there are many different forms of PPC, this article specifically addresses search network PPC, in which ads are displayed on search results pages alongside the “organic” search results themselves.  The most popular PPC platform for search marketing is Google AdWords.

The point of this article is not to prove that PPC is superior to SEO or social media or affiliate marketing or personal networking or whatever flavor of marketing you prefer.  But many people seem to have forgotten that pay-per-click marketing provides the following benefits.

1.  It's very, very fast.

PPC allows you to rapidly put your marketing message in front of targeted, interested prospects.  In a few hours or less, you can create a campaign, give Google your billing info, and watch your ads begin to appear in search results.  That's very, very fast.  Conceivably, if you have a functioning business model, you could turn on a PPC campaign right now and start generating sales before the end of the day.

PPC is not always this simple, of course—nothing ever is.  If you want to build a strong campaign, you should take time to research relevant keywords, set up detailed ad groups, carefully craft ad copy that will attract the most interested prospects, and so on.  These things take time.  But speed is without doubt one of the major advantages of PPC.  You'd have to wait far longer for your full-page ad in the monthly industry journal to start generating results.

2.  It's direct.

PPC cuts to the heart.  Pardon the poetics, but it's true.  Your ads are shown only to those prospects who enter a relevant search term.  If you sell pool cleaning supplies, you can build a PPC campaign that shows your ads only to people who type “pool cleaning supplies” into Google.  People who type in other things, like “dog walking services” and “sauerkraut” and “derivatives trading tips,” won't see your ads.  This means they won't click your ads.  Which means you'll only pay for visits from people who are actually interested in what you're marketing.

Few other marketing platforms offer such specific targeting.  TV, print, billboards, cost-per-impression advertising, and virtually all other methods are far less exact.  This lack of exactness will cost you money.  With a properly structured PPC campaign, you can dramatically reduce and even eliminate waste from your marketing budget.

3.  It's guaranteed to get you visitors.

With a PPC campaign, you're not going to pay money without getting a least some visitors to your website.  If you have a poorly structured campaign or a poorly designed website, these visitors may leave as soon as they arrive, but you're going to get visitors.  You're not going to spend money without getting something measurable in return.

Note that this doesn't necessarily make PPC a good marketing option.  At the end of the day, a marketing channel needs to drive sales, not just visits.  But you're probably going to get far more actionable results from a basic PPC campaign than from a little print ad in your local newspaper.  PPC guarantees visitors.

4.  It's highly measurable.

PPC offers analytical insights that are far more detailed, accurate, and useful than those provided by virtually any other advertising system.  You can see exactly how many people looked at your ads, how many clicked your ads, the average cost of those clicks, the clickthrough rates for specific ads, and so on, all with very little delay.  You're not going to get such exact information from a television network.  Even SEO, which can provide similar analytics when handled properly, falls just shy of the level of detail and accuracy offered by PPC.  And let's not even talk about measuring social media.

These other marketing options are highly valuable in their own ways.  But when it comes to analytical data, PPC is the leader of the pack.

5.  You can refine and improve it over time.

Maybe you're not getting very many clicks on your initial set of PPC ads.  No problem.  Depending on the size of your campaign, you can change or replace all your ads in a matter of minutes.  This flexibility allows you to continuously improve your campaign over time.

Try swapping out a nonperforming print ad after it's been running for a few days.  Or changing an ineffective roadside billboard.  Or reshooting that TV commercial you spent $35,000 on.  It's not going to happen—at least not without significant cost and time.  Compared to most marketing platforms, PPC gives you much more control over your campaign.

6.  It can help you build a better website.

Arguably the most important component of any PPC or SEO campaign is your website itself.  When a visitor lands on your website, is that visitor going to convert into a paying customer?  Unless you're receiving a steady flow of visitors from somewhere, it's almost impossible to know the answer to this question.  Without visitors, there's no way to know whether you've built an effective website.

A PPC campaign can help you with this.  Because PPC campaigns are fast and direct, you can start paying for clicks right away and bringing targeted, interested visitors to your website.  Keep an eye on your analytics and watch what happens when these visitors arrive.  Do they respond to your messaging?  Your graphics?  Your products?  What do you need to change to improve site performance?  Do you need to target a different market altogether?  A PPC campaign can help you answer all these questions and more very quickly.

7.  Costs are relative to value.

Many business owners dislike PPC for one simple reason—it's expensive.  These business owners are not wrong.  PPC can be very, very expensive—unbelievably expensive, even.  I recently saw a keyword in Google AdWords with an average cost per click of $62.  Yes, that's $62 per click, meaning it would cost $62 to get one person to look at your website.  This isn't $62 per lead or $62 per acquisition.  This is $62 per click.  Let that sink in.

But don't let it scare you.  The cost of a PPC campaign is relative to the average value of a customer as defined across the industry.  It's also relative to the amount of competition in that industry.  In the case mentioned above where each click cost $62, the company informed me that their average profit was close to $1,000 per incoming phone call.  That's $1,000 profit, not revenue, and that's for each phone call, not each sale—they'd developed a way of averaging profit across multiple interactions in order to determine the value of each call.  In addition, this company operated in a highly competitive and highly valuable industry.  $62 per click was simply the reality of the marketplace.

At the other end of the spectrum, I've seen PPC campaigns for products that would sell for $15,000 each where the average cost per click was around $0.30.  In this case, the company had a very well structured campaign and there were very few players in the industry.  As a result, the company enjoyed $0.30 clicks leading up to big-ticket sales in the tens of thousands of dollars.

PPC is neither expensive nor inexpensive.  Assuming you're running your campaign properly and your business model is sound, the money you spend on your PPC campaign will almost always correlate with the value the campaign creates.  This is very different from the cost structure of a typical traditional media marketing campaign.  As far as I'm aware, the price of airtime for a TV commercial doesn't change based on the average profit margins in your industry.

Is PPC right for your business?

PPC is not the magical secret sauce of marketing.  There is no magical secret sauce of marketing.  But when applied correctly by a skilled marketer, PPC can be one of the most effective internet marketing options available.

At Blazonco, we create, monitor, and continuously improve PPC campaigns tailored to meet individual business goals.  If you're interested in leveraging this powerful marketing system to grow your business, tell us.  We'd love to help out.