This list details some very important points to keep in mind when creating or managing any pay-per-click campaign. Is this all there is to know about pay-per-click advertising? Absolutely not, but for those new to PPC it should serve as good place to start. Additionally, pay-per-click veterans or at least the moderately-seasoned will want to touch upon these points now and then to brush up on their fundamentals.
1) Do your keyword homework.
Use Google's free Keyword Tool or sign up for a WordTracker account to find out which keywords are the most competitive. The more competitive the keyword, the more expensive your clicks will be. While you're finding out which keywords are too expensive you'll come across some that aren't being targeted heavily by advertisers. Take a good look at these - they may be your keys to a successful niche campaign.
2) Don't bunch your ad groups.
You should be striving to separate your ad groups by keyword. Whatever your target, separate your keyword lists into closely related groups containing the same target words and write ads geared specifically to those words. Your ads will show up higher in results based on their quality, and search terms show up bold in results - a click-through rate booster.
3) Drive home your selling point.
What's your offer? Why are you better than the others? Remember that your ads are going to display with your competitors. The difference between a user clicking your ad and clicking a competitor ad is about 100 pixels on the screen - or a millisecond of time. You need to convince them that you are the one they want. You are better. Grab them.
4) Don't send users to your home page.
This is perhaps one of the worst things you can do to your Pay-Per-Click campaign. Internet users are notoriously impatient. Send them to your home page when they were searching for a specific product or service and see how fast they leave. Don't waste your advertising budget - send them to optimized landing pages.
5) Optimize your landing pages.
Your landing pages need to drive something home immediately for your users: "you have landed in the right place." They need to know that, yes, this is what they were looking for, here it is, here is why it is better than the rest and here's the easy thing they need to do to get it. In most cases you'll need to create multiple landing pages based on your different ad groups and keywords, but look at it this way - if your users aren't landing at pages geared exactly to their search phrases they'll leave and take your advertising budget with them.
6) Don't lie in your ads.
People aren't dumb. If you promise something in your ads you had better well deliver. Otherwise you'll not only waste advertising dollars but damage your brand. Be honest, and focus on points that make you stand out from the competition. Grandiose ad text might bring in clicks, but if it isn't the truth it won't bring in conversions.
7) Your domain name counts.
In most cases you can display a domain name that you own as the "display domain" but point the ads to a page on a different domain. Why does this matter? If you own a domain name that contains the keyword text it will show up bold and increase conversions. Enter the optimized domain as the displayed domain, point the ads to your landing pages and you can expect higher CTRs in most cases.
8) Utilize negative keywords.
Google has a new Negative Keyword Tool that will allow you to find negative keywords that you should specify for your ads. Negative keywords are those that you don't want your ads to display for. For example, if you're selling "blue widgets" you don't want to display your ads to those users searching for "free blue widgets." If you don't use negative keywords you are missing out on a chance to get more targeted traffic to your landing pages, and this can really hurt your conversion rates.
9) Test, test, and test some more.
The greatest thing about internet advertising is the ability it grants you to measure your success. It's easy to create A/B split tests with Pay-Per-Click advertising. Change one word, add a comma, include a value proposition. . .just make sure you only change one thing for each split or you won't know which variable it was that made the difference! You'll find out right away that this is a great way to optimize your click-through rates - just don't forget that clicks aren't everything!
10) Don't focus too heavily on CTRs.
Getting tons of clicks isn't always the name of the game. In fact, if you aren't using proper techniques to ensure that you're getting targeted traffic and sending it to well-optimized landing pages you can blow through your advertising budget in no time flat. Remember that the success of any advertisement is getting back more than you put in. It's an investment, not a cost - so do all that you can to better your rate of return!
11) Don't pigeonhole yourself.
We all know that Google AdWords is the most popular Pay-Per-Click service out there. Your competitors know it, your users know it - even your grandma might know it. It would be foolish to ignore Google as a venue for advertising, but don't forget that there are other search engines out there who offer similar services. Yahoo!'s new Panama search system is catching on, and Microsoft's adCenter is nothing to sneeze at either. Both companies are currently offering sweet promotional deals to new Pay-Per-Click advertisers to stay competitive so take advantage and diversify!
About the Author: Mike Tekula handles SEO, SEM, usability and standards-compliance for NewSunGraphics, a Long Island, New York firm offering Search Engine Optimization, Search Engine Marketing, W3C-Compliant web design using full CSS layouts and all things web design/development.