When you enter search terms into your browser, Google spits back a page that contains high-ranking results tied to the SEO keywords. The first thing you’ll notice is that at the top of the page, some results are housed in an orange box, and others are in another box running down the right margin.
These are paid ads – pay per click (PPC) ads, to be exact – and they serve as an alternative to the “organic” (non-paid) results that populate the rest of the page.
Search engines make money off PPC, and given their ongoing proximity, it appears that companies profit as well. But this inbound marketing strategy is also fraught with ROI risk.
Is PPC for everyone?
More to the point, is it for you? Much depends on the kind of company you run.
For B2C companies, PPC connects shoppers to an e-commerce site where they may buy directly from sellers. The short, impulse-driven selling cycle of the consumer world makes PPC a popular choice. But B2C companies typically must pay more for the most-used consumer keywords.
But the selling cycle of the B2B world takes longer. Because “searchers may not know what it is they are looking for, and broader keywords will be used, it is much more difficult for B2B buyers to create highly targeted ads,” notes the Yahoo Small Business Advisor.
A B2B pay-per-click might lead to an e-commerce site, or it might go to a landing page. Very seldom do B2B customers make a snap purchase decision. But the keywords associated with B2B are not as highly competitive as B2C, making it a possibly more affordable option.
How it works
The PPC world runs as kind of an open auction – you bid on how much you would pay for each individual click based on a specific keyword.
So, for instance, if you bid 15 cents per click, and you get 100 clicks, you owe Google $1.50. The more clicks, the more you pay – but many marketers believe the investment is well worth the increased traffic to their site.
The more valuable a keyword, of course, the more you may need to bid for the click. And that can add up fast.
When it works
PPC can help with keyword ranking, getting your content to the top of a search engine results page -- which is important, because searchers typically start and end their search with the first page. If you win the bid, your link appear along with ads placed by industry leaders, raising your profile. But that placement comes with a catch:
75 percent of searchers bypass PPC sites and go straight for “organic” results. They know the PPC links are ads, and they’re not ready to buy yet.
Of course, that leaves 25 percent of searchers willing to at least consider your PPC link. How do you attract a finicky B2B audience?
Make the click worthwhile. Especially in a B2B instance, the link should pay off in some manner that builds trust and credibility. An optimized landing page can offer premium or exclusive content, without necessarily going for the “buy now!” approach.
Grab attention with a benefit-oriented title and a call-to-action that emphasizes benefit. (Examine the PPCs of your competitors to ensure you’re not copycatting.)
Stay classy. Screaming headers like FREE! FREE! FREE! reek of desperation. Remember that you are a professional targeting other professionals.
Don’t go it alone
Running PPC ads may give you another avenue for lead generation, but it is no substitute for a holistic inbound marketing strategy that includes an optimized website, outstanding organic content and a strong social media presence.