by John Wood

A pay-per-click (PPC) campaign can be a beautiful thing.

For starters, the traffic is targeted. You know your prospect is interested in what you’re promoting because he’s actually searching online for keywords related to it and is, therefore, pre-qualifying himself. And even better, you only have to pay when someone clicks on your ad.

How can you lose, right?

Actually, pretty easily. There are a lot of components and variables to consider when it comes to running a successful PPC campaign. Do a few things wrong and you’ll wake up the morning after morning cursing that the Internet was ever invented.

But all is never lost when it comes to marketing online. There are always tweaks and adjustments you can make that will put your PPC campaign on the road to profitability. I’ve put together 10 questions to help you determine what you may be doing wrong:

    1. Have you done enough research? Research is critical. You can’t just make a list of the seemingly obvious keywords and build your PPC campaign around them. You have to research and find the keyword combinations that strike the right balance between relevance, competition, and price per click.
    2. Are you using “long-tail keywords”?
      Long-tail keywords are those 3- and 4-keyword phrases that are very specific to whatever you’re selling. An example of a long-tail keyword based on the word “boats” would be “used power boats Maine.” Now, obviously, a phrase like this isn’t searched for nearly as much as just the word “boats,” but the traffic you’ll receive is way more targeted (and more likely to buy from you). And, because it’s more targeted, there’s less competition for that keyword … which means you’ll pay less per click.
    3. Is there a connection between your PPC ad and your landing page?If there’s no continuity between your PPC ad and your landing page, there’s a good chance your prospect will quickly click to something else. To avoid this, you have to make sure your prospect instantly knows that the page he just landed on has the information he’s seeking. For instance, if your keyphrase is “rare Civil War gold coins,” you should make sure the phrase “rare Civil War gold coins” is in both your PPC ad and your landing page copy.
    4. Is your ad unique? With all the competition for clicks, it’s very important to make your ad stand out from the pack. What makes your product or service unique? If you don’t know, do a bit of brainstorming. Make sure you weave your product’s unique benefits into your PPC ad and landing page (and any other applicable pages that are part of your PPC campaign).
    5. Are you paying too much per click? If you set your bid per keyphrase too high, you could be paying too much per click. Experiment with lowering your bid per click. It’s important to strike the right balance between price per click and the projected number of clicks each keyword combination is projected to receive.
    6. Should you be targeting geographically? In your provider’s PPC control panel you can select the countries, states, provinces, etc. you want your ad to appear. If it makes sense to have your ad only show up in certain states or countries, specify that in the control panel. For instance, if you don’t ship to Canada, make sure you configure your campaign so your ads don’t show up on any Canadian search engine result pages.
    7. Are your ads going out to Google’s content network? When you create a PPC ad, there are two places that it can appear: 1) search engine results pages; and, 2) the content network. A content network is a group of websites, blogs, and emails that have partnered with Google to display Google Adwords ads. For instance, if you have a website and you sign up to have Google Adsense ads placed on your site, you’re part of Google’s content network. When you sign up for a Google PPC campaign, the program default is to have your PPC ads placed both on the search network and the content network. As a rule of thumb, you generally get more targeted clicks advertising through their search network. That’s because people are actually in the process of looking for the product or service you’re promoting. Whereas, if your ad appears on someone’s web page … although Google matches up the topic of the ad with the content of the page it resides on (the best they can), the person who clicks on your ad might not be looking for your exact product or service. He may be clicking on it simply out of curiosity. So, you may want to make your ad show up in Google’s search network only.
    8. Does it make sense to specify the time of day you want your ads to run? If it makes sense, you may want to limit the hours your PPC ad runs. For instance, if you’re targeting business-to-business users, you may want to limit the hours your ad runs to standard business hours when you’re more likely to receive the most qualified clicks
    9. Are you using negative keywords? Negative keywords are a very important component of a successful keyword strategy. The idea is that you eliminate some keywords from making your PPC ad appear on the search engine results page. Here’s a basic example. Your keyword is “cruise.” You input “Tom” as a negative keyword to prevent your PPC ad from appearing when someone searches for “Tom Cruise.” By filtering out unwanted impressions, you will only reach people who are truly searching for what you’re promoting.
    10. Are you testing and tweaking? This is a critical factor in a successful PPC campaign. You have to test, tweak, and test and tweak some more until you get the most profitable PPC combination.

A PPC campaign can be a great business tool for generating leads, driving traffic to a sales landing page, or strengthening your brand. But like anything worth mastering, it takes time, effort, and know-how to get it right.

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