Thursday, April 5, 2007

Pay Per Click Campaign Strategy


Clicks used to be free. In case you haven't noticed, ever since the dotcom implosion, the net has rapidly been converting from a free-for-all to a pay per click (PPC) model. In short, if you want to be ranked first for a keyword look-up; you pay the most per click. In order to be ranked second, you pay the second most. Virtually every search engine lists the highest bidders for a keyword at the top of the returned results.

The only partial exception currently is Google, which is about 50% PPC. Google lists algorithm-generated results when a search is performed, but it lists PPC results in the right hand column, adjacent to the algorithm. With their pending IPO, we anticipate a major shift to more PPC results.

Frequently we have consulted for various clients with existing PPC campaigns and we have found most were paying too much for their PPC programs. What is most interesting is that the clients found many different ways to overpay; here are just a few "overpaying techniques" we have found:

Save Time For Yourself: Many PPC advertisers save themselves a heap of time by making all the titles and descriptions the same. This saves you time, but costs you money, as this does not adequately convey the uniqueness of each PPC keyword.

Crummy Title: The first thing your potential visitor reads is the description. Just like the cover of a book, people will judge you by your title. In example, we found some PPC ads that had just, "Online Mortgage Application" when I searched for home loan and various state names. Be more exact: if you are buying the keyword "California Home Loan" make sure your title includes the phrase "California Home Loan".

Crummy Description: If your potential visitor likes your title, they may read further; be sure to give them something worthwhile to read. Here is one we found, "We are in the money saving business." Another description read, even though it was found under "California Home Loan," which was, "We compare and review credit card products and find the one that's right for you." A weak description results in lost revenue.

Landing Page Destination: Another shortcut PPC advertisers use is to send all visitors to the main page of the site, and then expect the visitor to navigate to another page that really has what they want (i.e., Utah home loan, VA home loan). Each click you require your visitor to perform gives them a reason to leave.

Landing Page Content: Quite often we see various keywords purchased, like "Chicago Home Loans," yet when we click on the PPC link, we arrive at a page that talks about Missouri home loans (where the advertiser was based), and about how they serve the "entire" Midwest. This is not very comforting to a visitor when they arrive and the very thing they are seeking is not overtly discussed on your web page.

Assumptive Close: Some PPC advertisers skip all the courtship and dating by getting right down to business via serving up the online application form. There are no rate quotes, no information, just the form. Customers like to be courted before they kiss.

Bidding Too Much: Some mortgage companies that serve only 15-25 states bid the term "Home Loan" even though there are a lot of visitors they will attract that they can't service. As of this writing, the top bid was $7.99 for the keyword "Home Loan."

Not Bidding Enough: Some frugal advertisers feel by bidding the minimum bid (currently 10 cents at Overture, that they are saving money. A "Home Loan" search shows that a ten cent bid would place you at #157. The probability that you will get a customer at #157 is about the same probability that this strategy is working.

Not Understanding How Bids Work: While a full explanation is beyond the scope of this article, please note due to the various programming quirks and rules of PPC search engines that if you had the following bids for positions one to four, $10.09, $9.99, $9.98 and $3.60, the actually charged bids would be, for positions one to four, $10.00, $9.99, $3.61 and $3.60. Many of your competitors know how to play this game and actually bid not only to gain customers, but structure their bids to inflict maximum financial burden on your PPC campaign, while actually being charged a lower fee for their own bids.

Not Monitoring Your Bids: A search for "Florida Home Mortgage" shows the top bidder paying $11.99 at Overture, the number two bidder at $6.05 and the number three bidder at $5.60. A search for "Texas Home Loan" starts off better with the top bid at $10.03, followed by $10.00 and $9.99. Bids four through six are at, $5.53, $4.35 and $4.34, respectively. From the top two bids to bid #four there is an approximately $4.50 gap. Just 10 clicks a day will cost you an extra $16,000 in annual extra PPC fees.

Bidding With Your Ego: If your ego chants "I have to be number one, number one, number one..." Pretty soon you will be number one... the number one spender. In fact, there are many advantages to bidding number three, or five, due to how the results are displayed on some search engines.

Bid Words That Don't Relate To Your Business: Assume you offer FHA or VA home loans. While the terms "FHA home loans" or "VA home loans" make sense, bidding on terms like VA or FHA don't make sense, because you will get everything from veterans looking for hospitals to someone trying to find the phone number for the FHA with just the single terms.

Failing To Look At Stats: Even worse, failing to have traffic statistics on your site so you can monitor the effectiveness of each keyword from click to submitted application.

Underestimating The Time Required To Do It Right: Many mortgage company owners wrongly assume they can create a quality PPC campaign in just a few hours. You can't. Well, you can, but it will be awfully flimsy.

Underestimate The Time Required To Continually Monitor: Once the PPC campaign is implemented, often a secretary or administrative assistant is assigned the task of monitoring and updating bids. We did this in 1999, and it was a disaster. We overspent and underperformed by trying to accomplish this task between other tasks. We have since installed proprietary software to update our bids 24 hours a day.

Use Autoreplenish The First 3-4 Weeks: A rookie mistake is to assume you are perfect in your keyword assessment and the resulting bids you placed. To make life easier for you, you have signed up for auto-replenish so you are automatically billed every time you run low on funds. We provided consulting analysis to one client and found that they spent $14,000 in the first two months on three terms that produced no revenue.

If you are starting a PPC campaign, take the time to properly prepare the keywords and associated bids make financial sense for you. Use titles and descriptions that make sense to your visitors.

If you have a PPC program, be sure to quantify which keywords are revenue generating; and which keywords just cost money. Often you will find the correct bid is more lucrative than the highest bid.

Clicks may cost money now, but if you properly structure your PPC campaign, each click will earn you money...


For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.

Originally published April 2004.

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