So you've built yourself a fancy Web site with a great design and efficient e-commerce functions. Now it is time to get your site a little traffic. One of the easiest ways to get that traffic is to buy it, with search engine marketing (SEM).
If you've ever performed a search on Google or Yahoo! (and others) you are familiar with SEM. SEM is any ad that appears at the top and along the right margin of your search results. Each one of these ads appears on the page because a business with a Web site is willing to pay the search engine for each user that clicks on the ad. Every user that clicks on your ad will be sent to your site. The advantages of SEM are:
- You target your ad only to buyers searching for terms related to your product or service.
- You control how much you want to spend and how fast you want to spend it
- Immediate return on investment (ROI) – users click to your site right away.
- No upfront cost or commitment.
Start with the big guysNo matter how small your business, you can get your ads placed on the biggest search engines, Google, Yahoo!, MSN and Ask.com. Each will walk you through a simple sign-up process, starting with a few keywords that are relevant to your Web site. You can use their keyword suggestion tools (free!) to expand your keyword list.
Business.com for business-to-business marketing or Citysearch for local listings.
Pay only what you wantEnter the max cost per click (CPC) you are willing to pay for clicks to your Web site. You will never be charged more… and often less. Average CPCs hover around $0.50, and minimums are set at $0.01 for Google, but each keyword is different.You can also enter your maximum budget, so the search engine will never charge you more than you have set aside for your SEM campaign. Both of these can be changed anytime by logging into your account. You'll pay on the search-engine site by credit card.
Create a targeted ad messageCreating an ad is easy, too. Simply tell the user what they will find on your Web site. Browse other ads appearing for your keywords to gather examples. Ad copy is typically very short, normally only 70 characters in length.(That last sentence is exactly 70, without the period.) You can have multiple versions of your ad and can change the ads any time, so feel free to experiment with your message.
Keep it profitableTracking SEM activity is easy and one of the reasons it is so popular. Google offers in-house tracking tools to help you. They will provide you with a small HTML string to add to your Web site.When you log into Google you can not only see your ad costs, but also the revenue generated and even the number of pages the users viewed. Most of the engines offer similar services, and these tracking tools are all free.
If you're too busy to do it yourself…Each of the engines has an easy-to-use interfaces to help you manage your campaign as often as you'd like from any computer. But if you're too busy to manage the campaign yourself, there are many, many, agencies that will run your campaign for you for a fee.
Keep up with the search-engine worldThe search marketplace is a moving target.If you're going to be a player, better keep up with the latest tactics.
- Start your SEM program as soon as your Web site is ready. Most of the time, you will start to see traffic to your site on the same day you sign up. Keep your CPC and CTR competitive, and the traffic will keep coming in.
- Where your ad appears on a search-engine page is entirely up to you. There are two simple drivers: Cost-Per-Click (CPC), or the maximum price you are willing to pay for a click, and ad quality, measured by Click-Thru Rate (CTR), or how often a user clicks on your ad. If you are willing to pay more than the next guy, or your CTR is higher than theirs (or a combination of both) then your ad will appear on top.