Pay-per-click (PPC) Advertising - The Basics

Pay-per-click advertising is the most surefire way to bring in new customers. On the Internet, as with all business, it takes money to make money. You can write a lot of keyword-targeted content with the hope that people will find your site in search engines. If you don't have a high search engine ranking, you should look into buying pay-per-click space in a search engine that guarantees a front page listing for a certain term.

Pay-per-click isn't just for start-ups, however. PPC is used by small, medium, and corporate powerhouses. If people are looking to buy a product via a web search—as opposed to just looking for information—they'll be more willing to click on an advertiser's link. Even if the web surfer is searching for information only, a PPC link can draw them in if it specifically corresponds to the search term.

How pay-per-click works is pretty simple. A website owner decides on a set number of keywords. Say the site sells sports equipment. A PPC keyword would be, you guessed it, "sports equipment," or "baseball equipment," "tennis rackets," and so on. Every time a web surfer types in those keywords, the site is listed in the top of the search results—normally in a different "Sponsored Results" section. It is a way to ensure high visibility.

For each click out from the search engine, the site owner pays the search engine a small fee, as low as 3 cents a click. If you have a PPC campaign with dozens of keywords on dozens of search engines, the pennies can add up. The trade-off is that PPC clicks have been proven to lead to greater sales and greater brand recognition.

The main issue at stake is that there are a vast number of sites that sell sports equipment and so there will be many sites competing for such a popular keyword. Site owners will need to bid on a particular term. For a very popular term, the amount paid per click will be higher than the low ebb of two or three cents.

There are also a number of different payment models. Imagine getting a million clicks that led to zero sales—you'll be paying out more than you earn. In this case, you can set a number of clicks—so, for example, you could choose 3000 clicks for the month. Once that limit is reached, the link disappears from sponsored search results.

The trick to pay-per-click advertising is finding good popular search terms. This may take a bit of experimentation. If a keyword or phrase isn't working, switch to another. The most popular sites for PPC campaigns are, no surprise, Google, and Overture, which place PPC links on Yahoo, MSN, and other search engines.

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