Dan Skeen interviewed Patrick Norman, co-founder and vice president of Bomgar, and Karen Jensen, director of eBusiness at Printronix, to discuss the implications of the keywords chosen to trigger pay-per-click (PPC) advertising.
The contextual advertising that emerged in 2003 has quickly become a valuable tool for driving highly qualified traffic to a Web site. Its explosive growth has driven online advertising estimates up to the $80 billion (all figures U.S.) mark by 2011, according to analysts at Piper Jaffray.
There are some big numbers involved when it comes to search engine advertising. Just ask Patrick Norman, co-founder of Ridgeland, Mississippi-based remote support solutions provider Bomgar Corp. Pay-per-click advertising was the break-through tactic that spurred the growth of the business when the only source of funding was the CEO’s personal debit card. In 4 years, Bomgar has gained 2,500 customers in 30 countries, and they’re still spending on search engine marketing, these days to the tune of about $90,000 each month. “Not less than 40% of our leads come through SEM [search engine marketing] and we consistently see a 3-to-1 return on the dollars we spend on PPC [pay-per-click] advertising,” Norman says.
But new tools often require new methods and new approaches. Those who approached PPC advertising with old media tactics have been burned the worst. Perhaps the most significant element to test is the keywords you are targeting. If you bid on poorly targeted search phrases without appropriate budget controls, a mob of well-intentioned Web users might click you into bankruptcy. Unlike traditional banner ads, PPC ads only appear on search engine results pages when your targeted terms are searched upon. The effectiveness of the campaign will depend largely on the quality of your keyword research.
Be prepared to deal with a surprising irony within your organization: those who profess to know the most about the industry are often the worst ones to surmise what words customers use to search for your products or services. The problem is that the jargon used by industry insiders and analysts is far removed from the vocabulary of most customers. So while your product manager might suggest “unified messaging solution” as a great search phrase to target, you may get much more traffic from something like “affordable phone system.”
“Approach the marketing process from reverse to reach customers via the key search terms they were already using,” Norman says. “It’s important to get inside their heads – know what they think of when they think of your product.”
Watching your competitors’ search engine marketing activity can be helpful. Make note of the keywords they’ve targeted and investigate the pricing of these opportunities. But because of the dynamic bidding system for PPC advertising, it’s important to have an understanding of what constitutes good value.
“In everybody’s business there are keywords that cost a lot of money, and we stay away from those keywords wherever possible,” Jensen says. Her team learned this lesson early on through an imperfectly targeted campaign that brought lots of traffic but very few leads.
PPC systems like Adwords from Google® work on competitive bidding, so short, highly targeted search phrases such as “business intelligence” can cost you upwards of $15 per click. Consider moving downstream to longer search phrases where bidding is less intense. By combining a broad pool of low-traffic terms, such as “business intelligence software provider” or “business intelligence software comparison,” you’ll derive much better value from your budget.