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Managing a Pay-Per-Click Search Engine Marketing Campaign

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How do you choose a firm to manage your pay-per-click (PPC) search engine marketing campaign? The CEOs of four well-known search marketing firms offered valuable insights and tips on making the choice.

A special report from the Search Engine Strategies conference in Boston, MA, March 4-6, 2003.

The "Managing PPC Vendors" session took the format of Q&A from audience members and from moderator Detlev Johnson of SuccessWorks Search Marketing Solutions, Inc.

The panelists included Alan Bombria, CEO of BidRank Software; Dave Carlson, CEO of GoToast, Kevin Lee, CEO of Did It and Jed Young, President of PPC Management.

Given the difficulties of manually tracking and adjusting bids on auction-based PPC venues such as Overture, Google and FindWhat, many companies are turning to auto-bid software to manage their campaigns. Additionally, companies such as Did It are offering consulting services to fine-tune advertising strategies in these click networks. Their experience in managing PPC campaigns gives them unique insight into best practices and trends.

The audience members attending the session asked dozens of questions, from the simple ("What does GoToast mean?") to technical ("How can I track without a hidden pixel gif?") Following are some of the highlight topics, with comments from the experts.

Fraud Protection

Dave Carlson, GoToast: "We do see unusual behavior sometimes; we have certainly let the search engines know, and they always want to know. We generally see higher numbers of aberrant patterns in distribution partners."

Kevin Lee from Did It, said "We look for general pattern fluctuations in segments of each campaign. This is done manually by the account managers."

Creative Copywriting

Carlson's advice to attendees was to qualify customers, not just "write for clicks". For example, "Free shipping" will certainly get you clicks; "Free shipping with $100 purchase" will qualify better. Also, isolate specific demographics where appropriate. "If you're selling a $50,000 speedboat, you don't want teens clicking to see it."

Lee agreed. "Copy is an incredibly powerful tool. Use different creative on Google vs. Overture. If you overqualify your audience on Google, you may not meet their minimum click requirement and have your ad disabled."

"Your description is important, but your title is even more important," said Alan Bombria of BidRank software. "Use the word 'Buy' as your first word if you sell something commercially. Use 'Subscribe' if that's what your call to action is."

Tracking Offline Telephone Conversions for ROI

Did It offers a module for phone tracking, said Lee. Another alternative is to know the percentage of orders that normally convert on the phone, then use as a "fudge factor" in evaluation, he said. "It does require some research on the part of the advertisers to set parameters."

Jed Young of PPC Management suggests assigning a unique toll-free number to each search engine, delivered via separate landing pages. And, you should train your customer service reps to always ask how they found you, and which search engine.

Bidding Strategy Secrets

Bombria advises "gap surfing", wherein an advertiser jumps into penny gaps, which can often reverse bid wars. He mentioned that BidRank will be releasing a product for this later in the year.

Daypart bidding adjustments was recommended by Jed Young, to mimic how broadcast advertisers advertise most heavily during those parts of the day which are most lucrative. For instance, most business purchases are made during the day, so an advertiser that sells to a specific region could drop out of the bidding after 6 p.m. and re-enter the race at 7 a.m. "People may even convert at different rates during different times of day," said Young.

Lee concurred. "Daypart strategies can be critical." He made reference to his recent article on the subject that he had published in ClickZ.

Costs

BidRank software licenses range from $89 to $599, depending on the number of keywords and the software package. PPC Management software costs $12 to $100 per month, or a lifetime license can be purchased for $89 to $899. GoToast, which is offered as an ASP service, ranges from $50 and up. Kevin Lee of Did It didn't offer a specific price range for their services, but said that pricing varies by complexity.

Dana Todd is a founding partner of SiteLab International Inc. She obsesses on the flagrant misuse of the apostrophe because of her journalism and advertising background. She is a frequent speaker on Internet marketing topics, including search engine strategies and link-buying.

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