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So just in case you’re new to Internet marketing and its terminology, I’ll start with an explanation of what Pay-Per-Click, or PPC, is all about. Even if you’re already in the know, it’ll help us frame the later discussion if we’re all on the same page.

Pay-Per-Click, is at its most basic, paying for placement. It’s a fee you’ll pay Google or Facebook to make sure people – presumably those who are prospective customers – see your advertisement. The nice thing about PPC, is that it can be very narrow. Unlike traditional advertising efforts – TV, radio, billboards, etc. – that are broader in scope in the hopes of catching the right person’s attention, PPC can be very tightly targeted – even to just one person. The other advantage – which can also be a negative, as I’ll explain later – is that you only pay for the ad when someone clicks on it.

Don’t be confused or misled by the varying terminology some marketing companies use to describe Pay-Per-Click advertising. Whether it’s referred to as cost-per-click, CPC, paid placement, paid search, guaranteed placement, or sponsored listings, the results are the same.

Another element of the PPC process is that you “bid” for the ads. Not like eBay, but you set a price ceiling that you are willing to pay for each click. If another company comes along and bids higher, you will get less exposure as Google gives them primacy. Which is why some search terms cost upwards of $1000 per click.

Facebook PPC ads are rather obvious. I always thought Google’s were as well with the little green (formerly yellowish orange) box at the side of a link that says “Ad.” But there’s a prevailing theory online, spawned by a study a few years back, that as many as 50% of people searching on Google don’t realize it when they click on an ad in search results.

On Facebook, the ads appear on the right sidebar, or in your newsfeed on mobile. Google places them at the top of all search results, which is one of the reasons they’re considered so valuable, even though they’re labeled as sponsored results.

Pay-Per-Click ads also stop posting if you stop paying for them.

So is Pay-Per-Click EVER worth it? The short answer is yes. Sometimes it’s worth it. Sometimes it isn’t. Hence the “ever” in our title. How do you decide if it’s right for you? That’s what I’ll break down for the remainder of this article.

A Tale of Two Platforms

There are two primary places online where PPC is going to matter – Google and Facebook. Search engine and social media. Sure, there are other search engines, and social media platforms, but considering Google and Facebook dominate 80-90% of their industry, with everyone else WAY below that, it makes sense to focus our attention on the places we’ll get the best results.

As we talked about in an earlier post, there are distinct advantages and disadvantages to using Google Ads versus Facebook Ads, and ways you can use the data and success from each one to improve the performance of the other.

There are also different rules and strategies that can be applied to making them work. So while some of what we’ll discuss will be applicable to both platforms PPC campaigns, I’ll make note of when they diverge as well.

On the Plus Side

According to the latest data, 93% of all web experiences start with a search engine and Google processes about 5 billion searches per day (I’m actually watching the numbers as I write this, and at 11:30pm EST, they’re at 5.5 Billion already). That’s a lot of people accessing the web looking for a ton of things, including, hopefully, what you have to offer. Definitely one for the win column of Pay-Per-Click Ads on Google.

While the numbers are always changing – and Mark Zuckerberg begins threatening to raise prices – the average click on a Facebook PPC ad is around .30. That’s a low price for a potentially large click rate. And it gets even better if you dig down into the system. One of our associates found a way to legally game Facebook’s algorithm and ended up with over 2000 clicks for less than a penny apiece.

Regional businesses rank well – if you are a florist in Sarasota, FL, you don’t need to advertise everywhere, or across a wide swath of customers (especially if you’re already got a great content blog in place). You just need to target ads in the Sarasota-Bradenton area. Maybe Tampa Bay, if you’re feeling ambitious. But the point is, because they’re regional, they’ll likely be more affordable to bid on for PPC.

The riches are in the niches. PPC Ad campaigns that are designed with a clear goal or a niche objective tend to be highly successful. The more specific your search strings are targeted, the better chance you have of getting good leads for a low cost.

If you’re bidding on PPC ads in non-competitive markets, you also have a higher chance for success. You can use PPC to succeed in more competitive areas, but it will cost you. Again, the more specific you are about who your target customer is and what they are looking for, the better PPC will work – along with all your other online marketing efforts.

If you’ve already figured out and built one or more laser-focused Lead Magnets with specific landing pages (which Facebook already requires), you can point your PPC Ads there, and easily use the verbiage you’ve already written or some variation of it for the copy.

Because of the ability to tightly target with both Facebook and Google Ads, you can organize PPC campaigns that target your potential customers at all stages of your Sales Funnel.

In the Negative Column

Although some people do still click on Ads, most people (up to 94% according to some analysts) skip right to the organic results.

It can get expensive – especially if you haven’t done the strategic work.

No matter how cheap clicks are, if they don’t become customers, then they’re money wasted. Like any marketing effort, you’re going to have to sift some of the wheat from the chaff, but your goal should be to get as much wheat and as little chaff as possible. Especially if you’re shelling out big bucks for clicks.

While you only have to pay when someone clicks on your ad,
you always have to pay when someone clicks on your ad.

Whenever someone clicks on your ad, you still have to pay Google, regardless if a sale was made or not. Including if, for whatever reason, the page they are redirected to has the dreaded 404 error. Not only will you pay for the click, but Google and Facebook  may, justifiably, ding you for a less than ideal quality web experience.

Google and Facebook don’t care what your conversion rate is – that’s your business. But you better know it, because it can quickly bottom out your bottom line. More on that in a moment.

Choose your words carefully. Thankfully in 2016, Google AdWords increased the number of characters you can use in an ad to 30-30-80. That’s Headline 1: 30 characters, Headline 2: 30 characters and Description: 80 characters. Then you get essentially 15 characters each for a link and phone number.

But even with the expanded description and subheading, you still have to work to make the digital real estate count, especially if you have a long company name, or want to squeeze in a call to action.

It’s a Numbers Game – Literally

The single most important thing you need to do before you embark on a Pay-Per-Click campaign is have knowledge of your metrics.

Just like any other marketing effort, you MUST have a way to measure its effectiveness. With PPC, you should also know the metrics of your business. I talk a lot about the necessity of doing your strategic work to determine your idea customer and what their pain is. But the other important aspect of strategic work is the ability to measure your efforts and knowing the how effective your business efforts have been in the past – and this takes center stage BEFORE you begin doing PPC advertising.

You’ll need to know and track a few things right off the bat:

  • What is your average customer worth — for one sale and/or for a lifetime?
  • What is the cost of moving someone from complete stranger to buying customer – and to a lifelong evangelist?
  • How long is your sales funnel process – and can someone be inserted into it late?
  • How well does your website convert sales?
  • What’s your goal with PPC? Growing a recent launch? Name recognition? Online presence to supplement your brick and mortar?
  • How much can you afford to pay for each customer?
  • How much can you afford to pay for each click, whether it becomes a customer or not?

Obviously, some of those items overlap a bit, but you need to know the numbers before you start, and you need a way to track the results as the campaign goes. Infusionsoft or another CRM is the key to maintaining these metrics before, during and even after the campaign. Otherwise, you could spend a lot of money for a little value. Or worse, you could be leaving a LOT of money on the table because there is a larger market that you’re just unaware of and not reaching because you’ve limited your total budget and cost per click drains it too quickly.

You should also consider, not only the value of a sale to a customer, but the value of transforming them into a constant source of referrals. This can be done with positive feedback on Yelp or Google of course, but I’m talking about their finding so much value in your company and what you provide that they’re always sending you new customers.

Conversion rate is the single most important metric for determining the value of a click.

Why is that? Because a minor uptick in conversion, either on your website or in the follow-up process can increase the value of a click by making it cheaper. In fact, considering the average small business’ conversion rate, improving that process (which again, your strategic work will help with) can double or even triple the value of each click. And if you’re targeting that click effectively, the effects can be exponential.

Another way to maximize your conversion efforts is to not limit yourself to just one campaign. Now, I’m not talking about muddling your brand by sending multiple divergent stories, products and goals that mostly serve to confuse your prospective audience, but testing and retesting the wording of the messages you’re sending. Start with your strategic work, and stay consistent, but try out other ways of phrasing things to see if one of them works better for PPC.

One study even found that using a quote from a customer as your headline or in your description can increase click through rates 5-10%.

And by the way, when applied properly, a Facebook Audience Insights Lookalike audience can lead to a lower PPC cost than Google AdWords, with a significantly higher conversion rate.

Not a Stand-Alone Strategy

Expert marketers agree that for almost every business, the best use of PPC advertising is as a supplement to other online marketing efforts.

That means you don’t abandon your content blog, your incoming, interlinking and outbound links, your lead magnet and landing pages or your managing and facilitating customer feedback. You put them all together, working in tandem to build your businesses. And if you’re smart, you use Infusionsoft to automate and coordinate as much as possible, so you have more time to focus on your customer.

Rising Tide Lifts All Marketing Boats

Some people will tell you that the only way to guarantee your place on page one of Google for your search terms is use Pay-Per-Click advertising and outbid your competitors – even the huge multi-national ones – for the highest sponsored ranking. And that’s true – MOSTLY.

The problem with this approach is it only deals with single word search terms, or at best two to three word phrases. As we’ve shown in the past, the best way to get ranked highly in organic search results is to answer the questions your prospective customers are asking. Which leaves behind one and two word phrases and launches us into long tail results.

Most people don’t search for, for example, “dog trainers” in their area. What they do search for is “how to stop my dog peeing on the carpet” or “how to get my dog to stop barking at night.” Especially since the advent of Siri and Alexa and ‘Ok, Google,’ people are searching more and more often by the use of a question.

Which, if you’ve done the strategic work, you know how to answer.

Of course, you will write a content blog post that answers that question. But guess what else? You now have not a word or small phrase, but a question that your customers are asking – and you can purchase Pay-Per-Click ads for that question. Your organic reach will increase. Your PPC ads will be more effective and almost certainly cheaper. And because the content is relevant, clicks on both the ad and the organic result – which might even end up right after each other on the same page – will elevate your search engine rankings even after you stop the PPC campaign.

All for just a little work to discover who your ideal customer is.

Perhaps more than any other form of advertising, traditional or online, Pay-Per-Click Ads offer the most control and transparency – if you know where to look. And if you know what to look for, and how your business works best, PPC can be a valuable asset in the growth of your small business.