Maximize ROI In An Increasingly Competitive Web World
In the late 90s, only a small portion of the business population really understood online advertising. During that time, businesses were just starting to develop and use their websites as a marketing tool to increase revenues and brand awareness. Online competition was scarce and paying $3.00 per click on Overture was unheard of.
According to a recent survey published by eMarketer, paid search ad spending has grown dramatically during the first five years of this decade, rising from a mere $108.5 million in 2000 to 3.85 billion in 2004. As the competition gets more fierce, companies struggle to stay ahead and look for creative ways to maximize their ROI through website promotion strategies.
For those businesses that are managing their search engine marketing campaigns in-house, the following issues may rise:
1) Larger search engines are getting too expensive to advertise on
2) There is a need for more targeted traffic to websites
3) There is a need for more local traffic to sites
4) Managing bids on a daily basis is too time consuming
5) Fraudulent click charges from competitors reduces ROI
Larger Search Engines Are Too Expensive To Advertise On
Have no fear - second and third-tier search engines are here. Google Adwords and Yahoo Search Marketing may bring you tons of quality traffic but there are several search engines out there that can perform just as good, if not better. To name a few:
The reason is that these are less efficient marketplaces, where not as many companies are bidding on keywords, which naturally drives up prices. For example, while the keyword phrase ?refinance loans? currently costs $12.00 per click on Yahoo, the same phrase costs only $0.30 on Enhance. Over time, prices on these less popular engines are likely to increase; however, in the meantime, the current ?discount? from Google and Yahoo presents an opportunity for the savvy marketer.
If you would like an alternative route to online advertising, you can always hire an Search Engine Optimization (SEO) specialist or outsource it to a Search Engine Marketing (SEM) firm. Although results can take up to six month to appear, with a qualified company, it is well worth the investment.
Marketers who reallocate a portion of their paid search budgets toward Search Engine Optimization efforts will tend to get higher conversion rates, since users prefer natural listings over pay per click advertising.
There is a Need For More Targeted Traffic To Websites
Businesses which are inexperienced in online marketing typically get wide-eyed and caught up in the numbers when setting up their keyword targeted campaigns. For one, they pick general keywords that have a high search volume but are not as targeted in definition. For example, if you run an online shoe store that specializes in women?s designer shoes, select key phrases such as ?womens designer shoes? or specific brand names like ?womens puma shoes? instead of ?shoes? or ?womens shoes?.
If you happen to run an e-commerce site, a few good Pay for Performance advertising sites are Shopping.com (minimum CPC bid starts at .05 cents) and Yahoo! Shopping (ranges from 0.15 - $1.00 CPC bid depending on category). When searchers are looking for specific products, these two sites tend to show up a lot on the first page of some of the major search engines.
Another way of getting targeted traffic to your site is through Contextual Advertising. Contextual ads are sponsored links that appear next to relevant, non-search-engine-generated content, such as news articles. The ads are delivered based on the content of a web page that's being viewed. A contextual ad system scans the text of a Web site for keywords and returns ads to the Web page based on what the user is viewing, through ads placed on the page. For example, if the user is viewing a site about finance, and the site uses contextual advertising, the user might see sponsored ads for finance-related companies, such as investment plans or stock options.
A couple of search engines that provide contextual advertising solutions are:
1) Kanoodle.com ? Calling their contextual ad program ?ContextTarget?, Kanoodle places ads on highly respected content sites like MSNBC.com, MarketWatch, USATODAY.com, NASCAR.com
2) Overture.com - Their ad program is called "Content Match." Your ads will appear on pages of their partner sites such as MSN.com, CNN.com and ESPN.com.
There is a Need For More Local Traffic To Sites
Several search engines have begun to provide local search matches to serve business owners. Last year, Overture launched Local Match, which allows advertisers to specify a list of keywords describing their services or products and then select the area they serve using a map. Overture?s system shows their ads when searches are carried out that contain their keywords and locations that are within the area specified. To learn more visit http://searchmarketing.yahoo.com/local/ls.php?mkt=us.
Similarly, Google added its Local Ad Targeting, designed to pick up the searcher?s location by looking at the user's IP address, and also by looking at the user's search terms. If someone types in "Indian food 07306," the technology concludes the person wants Indian food restaurants in that zipcode. To learn more, visit https://adwords.google.com/select/targeting.html.
Managing Bids On a Daily Basis Is Too Time Consuming
No one said search marketing was easy. The bidding war is on and depending on what industry you are in and how competitive the listings, you may find it difficult to maintain top paid listings. A good solution for this would be to outsource this to an SEM firm or invest in a third party Pay Per Click management software. A few recommendations are:
SEM firms charge anywhere from a 15-25% management fee on your online ad budget, which may be well worth the saved time for companies, not to mention the value-added of professional management and reporting.
Fraudulent Click Charges From Competitors Reduces ROI
If an online ad campaign drives 10,000 clicks to your site and only 50 sales, then either your website needs a lot of work, you are bidding on the wrong keywords, or there is some type of click fraud going on. When it comes to click fraud, it is the advertisers job to track and search for click fraud and present it to the search engines. In order to combat click fraud, engines have to take more action by fighting click fraud, punishing fraudsters and issuing refunds. The best thing to do is just be mindful of any huge spikes in clicks that seem out of the ordinary, and report it to the search engines if you suspect foul play.
In closing, there are numerous ways to increase your bottom line through online advertising. The trick is in testing which ad outlets work best for your business and to track everything in the process to ensure a positive ROI. You must be creative and focused, always looking for new ways to reduce your cost per click.
About the Author: Dali Singh is the Managing Director for Blueliner Marketing, a full service marketing company specializing in Internet Marketing strategies including Search Engine Optimization, Online Advertising and Web Analytics. Visit http://www.bluelinermarketing.com or email her at dali @ bluelinermarketing.com.