ppcOh, pay-per-click. You and your enticing promises to snare gobs of traffic in your giant net and dump a huge payload right on a website’s doorstep…and all for the low, low cost of an entire marketing budget and then some.

We kid, we kid! (Mostly.) When done correctly, PPC costs can be totally manageable without sacrificing results. Finding the right balance of effective plus affordable is a tricky prospect that’s best left up to the experts, though, leaving a lot of folks wondering if PPC is really worth it.

Strategic PPC Planning

As online marketers, obviously we’re never going to say that PPC is worthless, although it’s definitely not all unicorns and rainbows. We’ve talked before about our negative experiences with PPC when working directly with PPC reps whose main priority was to increase spend rather than increase results.

But as soon as we formulated our own PPC strategies for clients, we saw better outcomes marching right alongside lower costs. We make sure to monitor our clients’ campaigns very closely and shut ‘er down if the ROI isn’t justifying the spend. So yes, PPC can be a solid investment—as long as you adopt the right approach.

Who Benefits from PPC?

There are a few times you want to call PPC in off the bench and put it in play:

  • If you’re a new business, or if your business has a new website, PPC can be pretty awesome at boosting initial traffic and getting you in front of Google searchers.
  • PPC can perfectly complement other SEM campaigns, even if it doesn’t work so hot as the star of the show. It’s kind of like how Swiss cheese, corned beef, sauerkraut, rye bread and Thousand Island dressing are all only okay when taken as single ingredients, but combined, they miraculously transform into the glorious Reuben. PPC works way better when mixed in together with other stuff.
  • If you’re running a particular promotion or special, slapping up some short-term PPC ads can create awareness just for that. We have one client who’s so in tune with the normal rhythms of his business that he knows exactly when to supplement his client load with a little extra PPC to bring new traffic through the door right when business typically slows down. Then, when the slow season is over, the PPC ads are put back on the shelf.
  • PPC can work great as a filler for gaps we notice in organic rankings. Clients in particularly competitive markets can benefit from the added visibility that a PPC ad can deliver, or you may want to run PPC ads for one or two keywords that you just cannot seem to gain traction on organically.
  • PPC can also help to reinforce a brand or marketing message. It might seem like an unnecessary expense to run PPC ads when you are already ranking first for a term, but there is some research suggesting that having a PPC ad coupled with an organic search result reinforces your business in the eye of a searcher and makes them a bit more likely to click than if you just have one or the other.

Don’t Be a Quick Draw

As we always advise with PPC, remember to keep your expectations in check. Yes, there are some very real potential benefits that are possible with PPC. And yes, PPC can be a powerful tool in your SEM arsenal. But you should never ever consider PPC as the be-all, end-all of your online marketing efforts.

PPC only works while you’re running the ad. The second you stop paying, your first-page presence goes up in a poof of smoke. There are zero residual effects from PPC.

We like to equate a pay-per-click ad with a billboard by the freeway. Will people notice it? Yep, lots. And some will even be the right people. Will anyone pull over to the side of the road, write down your name and number, and recommend you to all their friends and family based on that billboard? Nope. And what’s more, they’ll forget you ever existed once your ad comes down and a different one takes its place.

In the short-term though, that billboard looks mighty nice, and could send some new customers your way. And we are totally on board with that plan. Just remember to proceed with caution, and keep your expectations grounded in the reality of what PPC can and can’t do for your business.

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