Pay-per-click (PPC) is one of those terms that you hear connected to keywords so often you might think they were the conjoined twins of SEO. They’re not, really. Keywords and PPC do go hand in hand, but it is possible to have keywords without PPC. It’s not always advisable, however.

Hundreds of PPC services are available, but they are not all created equal. Some PPC services work with actual search rankings, whereas others are more about text advertisements. Then there are the category-specific PPC programs, such as those for keywords, products, and services.

The main goal of a PPC program is to drive traffic to your site, but ideally you want more out of PPC results than just visits. What’s most important is traffic that reaches some conversion goal that you’ve set for your web site. To achieve these goal conversions, you may have to experiment with differ- ent techniques, keywords, and even PPC services.

PPC programs have numerous advantages over traditional search engine optimization:

  • No changes to a current site design are You don’t have

to change any code or add any other elements to your site. All you have to do is bid on and pay for the keywords you’d like to target.

  • PPC implementation is quick and easy. After signing up for a PPC program, it might only take a few minutes to start getting targeted traffic to your web site. With SEO campaigns that don’t include PPC, it could take months for you to build the traffic levels that PPC can build in hours (assuming your PPC campaign is well targeted).
  • PPCimplementation is also quick and easy, and it doesn’t require any specialized knowledge. Your PPC campaigns will be much better tar- geted, however, if you understand keywords and how they

As with any SEO strategy, there are limitations. Bidding for keywords can be fierce, with each com- petitor bidding higher and higher to reach and maintain the top search results position. Many organi- zations have a person or team that’s responsible for monitoring the company’s position in search results and amending bids accordingly. Monitoring positions is crucial to maintaining good placement, however, because you do have to fight for your ranking, and PPC programs can become prohibitively expensive. The competitiveness of the keywords or phrases and the aggressiveness of the competition determine how much you’ll ultimately end up spending to rank well.

Before you even begin to use a PPC program, you should consider some basics. A very important point to keep in mind is that just because you’re paying for placement or advertising space associ- ated with your keywords, you’re not necessarily going to get the best results with all of the keywords or phrases that you choose. With PPC services you must test, test, and test some more. Begin small, with a minimum number of keywords, to see how the search engine you’ve selected performs in terms of the amount of traffic it delivers and how well that traffic converts into paying customers.

An essential part of your testing is having a method in place that allows you to track your return on investment. For example, if your goal is to bring new subscribers to your newsletter, you’ll want to track conversions, perhaps by directing the visitors funneled to your site by your PPC link to a sub- scription page set up just for them. You can then monitor how many clicks actually result in a goal conversion (in this case a new subscription). This helps you to quickly track your return on invest- ment and to determine how much you’re paying for each new subscriber.

Before investing in a PPC service, you may want to review a few different services to determine which is the best one for you. When doing your preliminary research, take the time to ask the following questions:

  • How many searches are conducted each month through the search engine for which you’re considering a PPC program?
  • Does the search engine have major partners or affiliates that could contribute to the volume of traffic you’re likely to receive through the PPC program?
  • How many searches are generated each month by those partners and affiliates?
  • What exactly are the terms of service for search partners or affiliates?
  • How does the search engine or PPC program prevent fraudulent activity?
  • How difficult is it to file a report about fraudulent activity and how quickly is the issue addressed (and by whom)?
  • What recourse do you have if fraudulent activity is discovered?
  • Do you have control over where your listing does appear? For example, can you choose not to have your listing appear in search results for other countries where your site is not relevant? Or can you choose to have your listing withheld from affiliate searches?

When you’re looking at different PPC programs, look for those that have strict guidelines about how sites appear in listings, how partners and affiliates calculate visits, and how fraud is handled. These are important issues, because in each case, you could be stuck paying for clicks that didn’t actually happen. Be sure to monitor any service that you decide to use to ensure that your PPC advertisements are both working properly and that they seem to be targeted well.

It often takes a lot of testing, monitoring, and redirection to find the PPC program that works well for you. Don’t be discouraged or surprised if you find that you must try several different programs or many different keywords before you find the right combination. But through a system of trial and error and diligent effort, you’ll find that PPC programs can help build your site traffic and goal conversions faster than you could without the program.