We talk to a lot of people who are looking for help with their online marketing. A plethora of people have recently come to us for SEO help, and quite a few have said, "I tried doing PPC and I didn't find it profitable, so I'm not interested."
Anyone with the desire and opportunity can learn any aspect of SEM, from organic to social, but running successful search advertising campaigns can be a tricky pursuit. Anyone can do it, but being careful and educated about what you're doing is important to seeing a ROI.
Several campaigns are set up with no thought to targeting or keyword relevance at all. Keyword matching and targeting is really important. Pay attention to what the interface is telling you about how you enter your keywords.
First, choose your keywords wisely. You can't make money bidding on terms that aren't closely related or exactly descriptive of what you sell.
Use any tool at your disposal to gain insight into who your audience is, how they buy, and what they're looking for. A ton of free tools are available to help you research and target your keyword choices and campaign set-ups.
One of my favorites from a previous article is the MSN Labs Demographic Prediction Tool. Use this tool to find out the age and gender demographics of searchers who are most likely to use a keyword for a particular query -- then target your ad copy and Web site and landing page design toward that demographic.
Once you've found out who is using your keywords, find out where they live. Google Insights is great for this. You may be able to target your products or services in a way that people who aren't interested don't even see your paid ads.
If you rent vacation rentals in Miami Beach, you might only want to target areas of the country most likely to search for those terms. Targeting by geographic region saves money, and increases the likelihood of conversion. Insights for Search will tell you the most popular regions, metro areas, and cities where those keywords are typed in.
Be aware of the different ways to match keywords to queries. Match type is really important in your campaign -- don't ignore it.
Google has a good help section to keep you on track, so use it and make sure you aren't bidding on things like "dodge city kansas truck dealers" without using a match type -- because your ad is going to show up for searches like "dodge trucks" and "Kansas city dodge truck dealers" across the United States. Targeting from the previous paragraph will also help you reign in on wild keywords that can have multiple meanings.
Consider what time of year to run your ads. Many product and service purchases are driven by season these days.
If you sell Christmas ornaments, your big season is probably October through January. If you're renting villas in Miami Beach, you're big season is winter -- though you may decide to use paid advertising to drive traffic in the offseason.
Sometimes seasonality is more subtle. Use Google Trends to see when search volumes peak and wane to decide what months are best for lucrative paid advertising.
If volume and exposure are your goals, then running ads during high traffic times is your tactic. If you want to fill villas in the offseason, run special and discount ads during the lower search volume months -- clicks will likely be less expensive at those times.
My first job in search was as an SEO, but I'm a huge fan of targeted, well monitored and researched paid advertising. It's worth the time investment to do it right. It's really easy to see hundreds of dollars just evaporate when campaigns are poorly constructed and researched.
Being successful in any aspect of your business takes just as much time investment, so don't skimp on these steps. And if you aren't sure how to go about it, don't be afraid to ask for help.
Join us for Search Engine Strategies San Jose, August 10-14, 2009, at the McEnery Convention Center.
Meet Your Favorite Search Engine Watch Contributors
Many of SEW's leading expert contributors will be at ClickZ Live, the new online and digital marketing event kicking off in New York (March 31-April 3). Hear from the likes of: Thom Craver, Josh Braaten, Lisa Barone, Simon Heseltine, Josh McCoy, Lisa Raehsler, Greg Jarboe, Dan Cristo, Joseph Kerschbaum, John Gagnon, Eric Enge and more!