Online Marketing: Pay-per-Click Search Ads

By Alexander Hiam

People punch in search terms millions of times a day, so a great way to attract prospective customers is to make sure your website pops up when they do an Internet search. A few of the largest search engines are Google, Yahoo!, and Bing, although many others exist. Cover these sites with your advertising, and you’ll reach many millions of potential viewers.

Also consider YouTube, which has grown into the second largest search site (after Google) because of the popularity of its content. Amazon is also a giant (but it won’t release its figures, which doesn’t matter much to advertisers because they pay per click rather than for audience exposure).

To see what comes up when someone searches for a product or business like yours, make a list of the sorts of key terms a prospective customer may use and punch them into any of these search engines. You’ll get pages and pages of listings, some of them commercial in nature.

The commercial listings are usually paid for on a usage basis, meaning that the marketer pays a fee each time someone clicks on his listing. Basically, you never pay for ads unless they’re used.

Pay-per-click advertising (also sometimes referred to as key-term advertising) can form the foundation of your web advertising because it reaches people when they’re actively looking for something — either information or a product or service to buy. The fact that they’re actively searching means they’re likely interested in buying, which means you can turn them into your customers relatively easily.

Here’s how pay-per-click ads generally work:

  1. You write a very short (one-line only) text-based description of your product, service, or special offer.

    This is the foundation of your pay-per-click ad.

  2. You link your ad to key terms you think people will use in searches.

    Do this by following a specific search engine’s instructions for advertisers and entering your bids for specific search terms in the relevant form.

  3. You tell the Internet search engine how much you’ll pay for a click on your ad.

    This is your bid. For example, you may commit to a bid of 50 cents for a click on the search term “marketing advice.” So if someone follows your link from his search to your website, you owe Google 50 cents.

    If your bid is higher than anyone else’s bid, your listing appears before any other commercial listings at the top of the searcher’s screen, which increases the probability of that person clicking on my listing.

  4. You track the results.

    Based on your findings, you may have to adjust the wording of your ad, the selection of key terms, and the amount you bid on them. Keep experimenting day by day until you find a formula that works for you. Then revisit your formula once a week or so to make more minor adjustments as needed.

All Internet search engines these days offer pay-per-click advertising. Start by experimenting with Google AdWords. Google has the biggest share of the search engine market, so you’ll probably reach more prospective customers through Google than any other search engine.

Also, it’s easy to look at monthly and year-to-year trends in searches on Google by using Google Trends. This site can alert you to slow periods (searches for many business-oriented terms fall off sharply in December), allowing you to time your pay-per-click advertising to peak search periods.