How to win with PPCby Giovanna Villanueva, 13 May 2010
There’s a lot of great information available about PPC technique. But having great PPC technique is only half the puzzle. In order to make money using PPC, you need good business techniques, too.
If you’re looking to generate income on the internet by building your own business or becoming an affiliate marketer, then let’s look at how to get both aspects working in tandem.
There are many dead bodies scattered across the search marketing highway.
PPC campaigns that look failsafe on paper can often under-perform when implemented. Have you had times when you’ve followed all the rules, implemented great strategies, and still lost money?
We all have.
The good news is this often isn’t due to any lack of PPC skills. Problems arise when we fail to analyze the market opportunity correctly, and/or fail to execute well from end-to-end.
Steps For Success
Identify Market Opportunity
This step is the most crucial.
No matter how good a PPC campaign is, or how well it has been executed, if someone is trying to sell ice to Inuits, they won’t make any money. The ideal opportunity, from a business point of view, has low competition and high profit margins. A poor opportunity has high competition, no market, or low margins, and often a combination of all three. The closer you get to identifying a market with low competition and high margins, the more lucrative your PPC campaign will be.
How do we identify such a market opportunity?
Search marketers have a golden tool in the form of the keyword database. Danny Sullivan likened search to a reverse broadcast network, where people broadcast what they want, by way of the keyword query.
"Search is magical. For years, I’ve described search as a reverse broadcast system.In a broadcast system, advertisers spend lots of money to reach a mass audience, hoping to build desire for a product or service. But most of the audience is not interested in their pitches. Search is the reverse. Each search is an expressed desire, something that someone at a particular time actually wants. Advertisers can tune in to the “desire-cast” that’s going on."
John Battelle labeled Google search the "Database Of Intentions". Intent is contained in every keyword query, telling you if a potential visitor wants to buy mortgages online, or find a map of California, or download torrents.
"The Database of Intentions is simply this: The aggregate results of every search ever entered, every result list ever tendered, and every path taken as a result. It lives in many places, but three or four places in particular hold a massive amount of this data (ie, MSN, Google, and Yahoo). This information represents, in aggregate form, a place holder for the intentions of humankind – a massive database of desires, needs, wants, and likes that can be discovered, subpoenaed, archived, tracked, and exploited to all sorts of ends."
Keyword databases contain a goldmine of intent. We can mine those keyword databases.
The trick lies in detecting commercial intent of visitors, then looking for areas that make good business sense.
Examples of keywords with clear commercial intent include “purchase”, “buy”, “coupons”, descriptions of commercial products and services, and consumer brand names. Not all terms relating to your product or service are equal. Keyword volume only tells you a lot of people search on a term, not whether that term is lucrative. For example, you can’t tell much about visitor intent if the keyword is Paris Hilton, however Paris Hilton watches hints at an intent to purchase, as it directly relates to a product.
Using a keyword research tool, a PPC marketer may find a keyword that signals commercial intent ie, buy LCD monitor online. The visitor's intent is clear. Next, the marketer looks at the level of competition. This is likely high, as this niche is well known, mature and competitive. A keyword is competitive if the number of bidders, as shown in Google Adwords for example, is high.
Can we compete for high competition keywords?
Yes - however the challenge in such a scenario lies in operating on thin margins. A marketer would need to have slightly better margins than her competitors. Deep pockets win these types of competitions, and ultimately, PPC systems are geared towards advertisers with the deepest pockets. If your pockets aren’t too deep, look for niches with less competition. It takes some digging, but that’s half the fun!
Keyword terms that don’t signal a commercial intent can lead to conversion too, of course. Google has recently implemented search funnel tracking to help identify these terms. However, generally speaking, these terms account for low levels of conversion compared to keywords with clear commercial intent.
After a visitor clicks through to your landing page, what do they see? If they get beyond your landing page, what is their experience? Will they go elsewhere at that point? Why? Will they return? Is there anything that will encourage them to do so? What is their experience of the entire transaction?
No doubt you can spot the many problems that can occur beyond the PPC campaign.
Let’s say you’ve identified a golden niche. Visitors have a clear, commercial intent, and the bid competition is low. You now need to look at your competition.
What prices are they offering? What service levels are they offering? The most important question to ask is: can you do better? People will comparison shop. If your offer isn’t compelling, isn’t cheaper, or doesn’t offer more value, people will shop elsewhere.
Make sure your offer is as good as, or preferably superior, to your competition. What can you offer that your prospects want and will pay for, that your competitors cannot? If you’re in a market with little to differentiate one supplier from the next, accept that your opportunity is likely to be short term, unless you can compete on volume. If you can find a point of uniqueness that is difficult, or impossible for your competitors to copy, you’ll likely have a good long term proposition. It doesn’t matter if you can’t find this, as you can always work multiple short term niches over the long term, and/or leverage your position – such as a customer database – into other markets.
PPC In A Nutshell
The final piece of the puzzle is PPC, the means by which you acquire visitors once all else is in place.
Boiled down to the essentials, successful PPC strategies consist of these steps:
Clearly identify your target market
Identify the keyword terms your target market uses
Organize keywords into small, tightly focused groups
Write PPC adverts that have a clear call to action, demonstrate value and differentiate your offer from those of your competition
Use keyword terms in the adverts
Use capital letters in your ad title, where permitted
Build clear, user-friendly landing pages that convey to the visitor they have found the right place
Use a clear call to action
Model your first landing pages design and text after those of your most successful competitors, then test landing pages using split/run testing methodologies and run with the winners
Provide a means for the user to return if they don’t buy immediately – encourage bookmarking, get an email address, give something away of value free in return for personal details
Measure and track everything :)
Identify your target market. Analyze your market and, ideally, look for areas with high margins and low competition. Use keyword databases to research and discover markets. Define the points of difference between you and your competitors. Ensure your end-to-end execution is comparable, or preferably better than your top competitors'. Run tight, focused PPC campaigns, and test performance regularly.
Look for keyword terms that reveal an intent to purchase.
How to kick-start your search for buying keywords
Here’s a simple technique from Academy editor Mark Nunney, to kick-start your search for buying keywords.
Here are the top 10 keywords containing lcd monitor as found on Wordtracker:
The seed keyword for the search was:
1) Build a list of ‘buying modifying’ words:
2) Add those modifiers to lcd monitor like so:
buy lcd monitor
purchase lcd monitor
bargain lcd monitor
bonus lcd monitor
value lcd monitor
benefits lcd monitor
Use this Google spreadsheet to help build similar lists.
3) Repeat the Wordtracker search with the above list as your new seed words (configure Wordtracker to be ‘Broad keywords in any order’) to find a list of possible buying keywords like this: