Are You Making These 5 Common Pay-per-click Mistakes In Your Small Business?

Because of the ability to specifically target your unique prospects based on interest as well as geography, the ability to tightly control your ad spend and to precisely measure results, Pay-Per-Click (PPC) is probably the greatest breakthrough to come along in advertising since the launch of television. And, because of those same benefits, it’s much more affordable for the small to mid-size business owner to leverage for their business (as compared with television and many other advertising alternatives).

That being said, PPC is not as easy as it seems at first glance. Business owners looking to launch their first campaign will quickly discover how easily they can spend hundreds – and even thousands – of dollars in wasted efforts while they learn to navigate the PPC waters.

While entire books have been written on the ins-and-outs of pay-per-click advertising, there are 5 common mistakes that I see business owners making when I’m asked to evaluate their pay-per-click campaign strategies. These mistakes are easy to fix, and doing so will dramatically increase the effectiveness of your pay-per-click campaign!

The 5 most common PPC mistakes are:

1. Using your home page as the landing page. No matter which search engine you use for your campaign – Google, Yahoo!, MSN or any other – you can decide where to direct your new customers when they click on your ad. The most common mistake I see business owners make when they launch their PPC campaign is directing those clicks to their home page. The thinking seems to be that their home page is equivalent to the front door of their business, and they want their new customers to walk through – but that’s where they go wrong. With PPC advertising, your prospect is searching for something highly specific – that’s the “keyword” they’ve entered into the search engine. Having them land at your home page is the equivalent of having them ask you for a specific item in your store, and you telling them – “it’s in here somewhere, it’s up to you to find it.” Obviously you wouldn’t do that in person with your customers – and you don’t want to do it online, either. By designing what’s known as a “landing page” – the place where visitors “land” when they click on your ad – you can present your customer with exactly what they are looking for when they come to your site. Your landing page should be tightly focused to the keywords you are using for your PPC ad, with no other links or distractions to confuse your prospect. This dramatically increases their satisfaction with your site, as well as the likelihood that they will make a purchase from you.

2. Not customizing your landing page to your prospects’ keyword searches. The way an ideal PPC campaign works is something like this: a prospect enters a search term – for my business it might be “e-mail marketing.” They are presented with my PPC ad with “e-mail marketing” in the headline AND the ad copy. My prospect clicks on my ad and is taken to my landing page that is all about e-mail marketing. (I will have bid on both “e-mail marketing” and “email marketing” to capture searchers entering it both ways). The likelihood that my prospect will become a customer is high, because there is no confusion about what the page is about – no wondering if he’s in the right place or if we offer what he is looking for. A common mistake I see business owners making with their PPC campaigns is to try to combine several products or services into one landing page. This leads to frustration when your searcher clicks on your ad and lands on a page that they aren’t sure offers what they are specifically looking for. Make sure your landing pages are customized to the keyword your prospect is searching for – and quickly turn prospects into customers.

3. Using generic ad copy in your PPC ads. The tricky thing with PPC ads is you don’t have much real estate to work with. Google allows just 70 characters; Yahoo allows 190 characters (with spaces) in a text ad. When every single word counts, you can’t afford to use meaningless words like “high quality service,” or “established in 1903.” While these statements may be true about your business, they don’t target the specific searches your prospects are entering to find the products and services they are looking for. A mistake I see clients make in their PPC ads is to include these type of generic statements that don’t set their business apart. When you are writing your ad, you’ll want to include specific keywords that your prospects will likely enter to find what you have to offer. Your headline must be captivating and should include your main keyword. The next line of your ad should contain the single biggest benefit you offer to your customers. What sets your company apart from your competitors? That’s what goes in your PPC ad. The 3rd line of your ad should contain a feature of your product or service or an offer – special discounted pricing or something free work well here. By making your ad specific to the keywords that your prospects will likely enter, you’ll be well on your way not only to increasing clicks, but to turning clicks into cash as well.

4. Not securing high enough placement with your bids. All of the search engines use a slightly different method for determining the position for your ad. Google and Yahoo use a combination of ad relevancy (how relevant your ad is to the keywords you’ve bid on and the landing page you present to your visitors) and bid price. A big mistake I notice my clients making is not targeting their keywords tightly enough and specific enough to their product or service to allow them to bid high enough on those keywords to secure top placement on the search engines. It’s estimated that 85% of all PPC clicks occur on ads that appear in one of the top 3 positions on the page. That means, if you aren’t working hard to find keywords that are specific enough to your niche and not bidding high enough to secure a top spot, you are missing out on a good portion of the clicks that could be yours. Use a keyword tool such as Wordtracker to research keyword possibilities that you may not have considered. Look for a Keyword Effectiveness of 10 or greater – meaning that the keyword has sufficient search queries with the engines to result in significant traffic, without a lot of competitors bidding on the same keyword. When you place your campaign, use these keywords and bid high enough to secure a top spot, ensuring that the people searching for what you have to offer find your website – instead of your competitors.

5. Not testing your ads to determine their effectiveness. While there is a “formula” for crafting an effective PPC ad, slight changes – even changing one word – can have a dramatic impact on your click-through-rate (the percentage of people who click on your ad as compared with the number who see it). A mistake I see business owners making with their campaigns is to choose their keywords and then write only one PPC ad to display. All of the major search engines offer the capability of creating ad variations so that you can test different ad copy to determine what works best. This is known as “split testing” or “A/B” testing, as you are comparing the results of two different ads for the same keywords. Google will alternate the ads for you, and you’ll easily be able to see which ad performs better by looking at your click-through-rate. When you find an ad that outperforms another, that ad becomes your “control” – or the ad to beat. Put the under-performing ad on “hold” and create another version, changing one or two words or possibly just the headline. Then test that ad against your control. This is a continual process – you are always trying to beat your control to improve your number of clicks. Not surprisingly, advertisers who test their ads in this method are more successful with PPC, as they tend to know their customers better and are able to target their prospects with captivating ads that turn into an increasing number of clicks – and customers – for them.

Pay-per-click advertising has enormous benefits for the small to mid-size business owner. Avoiding these 5 common mistakes will help you save money and quickly turn clicks into customers – and increased profits – when you launch your next PPC campaign.

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