A recent Traffic Generation Cafe post prompted me to try and come up with a case for Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising.
Although I have to admit that the suggestion to avoid buying traffic in 5 Traffic Generation Strategies I Stay Away From is sound advice for most blogs, it’s not always the case.
Having spent a huge portion of the last decade working on PPC campaigns, I am now frustrated to see how difficult it is for me to put all my knowledge to good use due to bid inflation. As a matter of fact, So much dumb money is being wasted on PPC spending that this tactic is scorned by scores of SEO and blogging veterans and abandoned by many of its early and smartest adopters.
However, after reviewing why PPC has become so expensive, I found its best value in keyword testing.
Making PPC Viable
PPC remains a tool that can be useful to determine keywords that perform well.
It is particularly helpful in differentiating the opportunity presented by SEO and social media campaigns focused on short, broad phrases versus long tail terms. Keyword research by itself typically only yields information on searches and impressions.
PPC reports provided by the vendors offer more detailed impression data than keyword research. The reporting also provides results on the terms that actually generate clicks, and information on user behavior and conversion rates following the clicks upon specific terms.
This can be terrifically helpful in defining whether keyword optimization efforts should be focused upon a category term or upon a subgroup within a category.
Google Keyword Tool vs PPC Campaign Results
Research around keywords for a new site that we are developing, Shopping Baskets Plus, provides a good example of how PPC can eliminate keyword opportunities.
Utilizing Google’s keyword tool shows that “shopping baskets” receive 3.5 times at many searches as “plastic shopping baskets”. Thus, initially we thought we should optimize for the term shopping baskets.
However, conducting PPC testing on these two terms provided evidence that “plastic shopping baskets” produces more clicks, as well as visitors that view more webpages on the site.
While the results are not definitive as the numbers are small, based on this research, we are focusing our efforts on optimizing on the three-word term “plastic shopping baskets” instead of just upon “shopping baskets”.
PPC is also useful for narrowing down large lists of keywords and determining the best candidates for optimization efforts. The reporting tools make it easy to segment out the keyword terms that are producing clicks and offer the best opportunities for driving traffic to your blog.
A Word on Match Type
The capability to adjust the match type of keyword terms on a PPC campaign also provides useful information.
Comparing the number of impressions and clicks a keyword term receives depending on whether it is set to broad, phrase or exact match can define the potential of long tail versus broad terms.
However, be cautious about utilizing broad match. Broad match is useful early on for keyword phrase discovery, but on an ongoing basis is practically an open invitation to get stuck paying for traffic from searches on marginally relevant terms.
For ongoing campaigns, I typically either use phrase match exclusively, or a combination of phrase match and exact match. If using both phrase and exact match, bid higher for the exact match term by at least a penny, otherwise the phrase match will sometimes be served even for exact match queries.
As an example, the term “shopping baskets” set to broad match generates traffic from visitors searching for “shopping carts” – a product we don’t sell. Setting the match type to “phrase” delivers desirable visitors that are searching for terms like “shopping basket with handles”.
Exact match only delivers visitors imputing “shopping baskets” into the search box.
In many cases, it can be difficult for a blog or website publisher to justify the cost and effort of a PPC campaign.
But don’t write off PPC entirely. It still can be a productive tactic when utilized strategically.
In particular, the quick learning about keyword optimization for a new product or service with high margins can provide a positive ROI.
A Note From Ana
I am definitely not a PPC expert of any kind. The only thing I DO know about PPC is the fact that you’d better know what you are doing before diving into it.
Randy had a valid point when he approached me about writing a guest post on this topic, and I thought it was only fair to give you a chance to see the other side of the coin.
Bottom line for me: I agree with Randy on the validity of PPC as a keyword research tool, SPECIFICALLY for narrow niche blogs that are designed with one goal in mind – to make money.
Since Traffic Generation Cafe is not one of those blogs, I choose to remain in blissful ignorance regarding this tactic and keep my money while at it. 🙂
A Note From Alex Whalley
(to spruce things up, I decided to ask for a second (or is it third?) opinion – from a keyword research King, Alex Whalley)
I am with Ana on this one and have never actually delved into the Paid Traffic strategies, but as an avid abuser of keyword research tools and services, I can definitely see the validity of using the information to further define your own organic traffic campaign.
The thing about Keyword Research is that, as Randy pointed out – you are only really getting the big picture, and unless you really understand the niche you are approaching, or you are just lucky when choosing which keywords to optimize for, you are going to waste a lot of time and energy getting ranked for phrases that either don’t convert or are simply not as relevant to your target audience as you initially assumed.
I would also add that, like Ana I have no intention of utilising PPC on my own blog since the niche is too broad (and the competition too insane). I would however consider it on any one of my product specific niche sites.
Build | Rank | Profit. Alex Whalley’s Niche Site Marketing Blog.
QUESTION FOR YOU: Do you see the validity of PPC for the specific task of keyword research or is it a dying breed in your book? Are you still successful with PPC and do you intend to continue using it?