You’ve probably heard our broken record speech about how cautious we are in recommending a pay-per-click (PPC) advertising spend. The reality is that there are still thousands and thousands of small businesses overspending on online paid advertising, without much or any tracking in place to determine whether that spend makes any sense.

So PPC is just a straight up waste of your cash, right? Not so fast. Like most online investments, there are so good reasons to consider PPC if you are being strategic and keeping a close eye on your return.

1. Fill in Where Organic Rankings Are Lacking

Waiting GameThere are a couple things to consider here. If you’ve just launched a new site, you’re going to need to play the waiting game as your initial search engine marketing helps to build organic traction for your site. What do you do to get traffic sooner? PPC can get you on page 1 right away, though always remember that as soon as you stop paying, your exposure goes poof.

Another more intricate way to use PPC here is to team it up with a keyword analysis. Chances are good that you rank well for some of the products/services you offer, but not necessarily every one. That could be for a bunch of factors, including competition for that keyword. If for instance your business offers liposuction, but you just can’t achieve a good organic ranking for related terms, a targeted PPC campaign may make sense.

2. Promote a Special Offer

Organic rankings can have tremendous long-term value. Your investments in providing great content and making a great site experience will get you in front of “perennial” customers for what you offer. But if you are planning a special sale or event, it can be tougher to get the word out through organic results alone. Some of our clients see strong visitation to a “Specials” or “Offers” page, but if a promotion or campaign is going to be more of a one-off thing for you, consider paid promotion for a fixed time period.

Offers, specials and discounts can help to smooth out demand for your product or service during “softer” times of the year. Sticking with the liposuction example, even if you have great rankings, you’ll likely get better click through and conversion if you promote a limited-time special, and PPC can be a great way to make that happen. Keep in mind that you really want to watch your budget here, because you are both reducing revenue and increasing your marketing expenses. Do the math to make sure your margins remain healthy, or you could very easily face the situation of offering a service or selling a product at a loss.

3. Showcase Something Visual

Those text ads they sneakily place right before the organic results in your favorite search engine aren’t the only place where pay-per-click ad spend happens. You’ve certainly seen many graphic/visual ads as you’ve made your way across the web as well. These “display ads” can grab attention, and at least the static graphic ones are pretty straightforward to create (the animations you sometimes see are a bit more complex). And if they don’t grab attention and don’t get clicks, no harm no foul, right?

PPC AdsWell, sorta. You still need to be strategic before setting up a bunch of display ads for everything your business has to offer. Display ads are overwhelmingly ignored and blocked by many web users, so to do it right you really need something that is going to appeal to the people viewing your ad. This is where good graphic design and, at root, having a really visually oriented product or service make a huge difference.

4. Protect Your Brand

Protect Your BrandYour brand name is a keyword, just like any other keyword out there. And that means that, with exceptions specified in Google’s Adwords policy, your competitors can run ads that display when customers search specifically for your name.

In our experience, this isn’t an enormous threat to most businesses, but it’s definitely something to keep an eye on. If a competitor is running an ad that could confuse people searching for you or your products, it may be worth playing “defense” by running PPC on your own brand name. In most cases, these ads should be fairly affordable, since your “quality score” (the score Google assigns for how relevant your ad is to a particular keyword) for your own name will be a lot higher than for your competitors, who will have to pay more to rank highly in PPC results.

5. Bonus: Build Your Social Followers

This whole blog we’ve been focusing on paid results in the search engines and internet ad exchanges, but of course you also have a number of opportunities to engage in paid advertising in other places as well. Social media PPC is one of the more common additional areas to consider (along with retargeting, but you already know how much we like that paid platform).

Social media advertising can certainly bring in new immediate revenue, but one of its better applications is in reaching more people who would be interested in your business (in essence, building your fan base). For instance, you can optimize campaigns on Facebook to maximize the number of new fans, rather than just trying to get Facebook users immediately to your site for a sale.

Summing Up

Are any of these PPC options a slam dunk for your business? Not necessarily. But they do showcase a few scenarios where PPC is worth a harder look. If you’ve seen limited success with PPC in the past but want to try an online investment beyond your search marketing efforts, it may be worth considering a more targeted campaign in one of these contexts.

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