Should your small business invest in PPC?

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Even when the best SEO practices are applied to your website, large enterprises often rank higher in organic search results than small businesses. This can make it challenging for your small business to stand out in a crowded marketplace. This is especially important because Forrester found that 74% of business buyers conduct more than half of their research online before making an offline purchase. This makes it critical for you to attract ideal prospects as they do their online research. That’s why pay-per-click (PPC) is a great form of digital advertising for small businesses to consider. In fact, it could even give your company a competitive advantage since a recent survey found that only 45% of small businesses currently invest in PPC advertising. Should your company be one of them?

What is PPC?

PPC stands for pay-per-click advertising. It’s a type of digital marketing where advertisers pay a fee each time someone clicks on their ad. This is a way to buy visits to your website in lieu of relying solely on your company’s organic search rankings.

This form of search engine advertising, or paid search, is one of the most popular forms of PPC. It involves business owners bidding on keywords that are related to their industry or audience interests. These bids allow ad placement in a search engine’s sponsored links at or near the top of search engine results page (SERP) ahead of the actual search results. This increases the odds that those searching for your product or service will actually visit your company’s website and consider your solution.  Brands who bid more rank higher in search results but you’re only charged when someone clicks on your ad and goes to your website. That’s why it’s called pay-per-click (PPC).

PPC vs Paid Search – what’s the difference?

You may be wondering if the terms PPC and Paid Search are interchangeable. Actually PPC is one type of paid search. Others include cost per mille (CPM) and cost per action (CPA). CPM is where the advertiser is charged per thousand times their ad is displayed. CPA is where the advertiser pays per action such as form completed or download performed. In this article, paid search will refer only to PPC.

Growth of Paid channels/Digital advertising

Over the years marketing has evolved. Since the advent of the internet, technology has had a dramatic impact on marketing methods. Digital advertising started in the early 2000s. After the dot-com bubble burst, marketing tactics shifted. There was more emphasis on inbound marketing through the sharing of information. Next came the introduction of social media sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. At this point internet users started sharing more personal data online. This data made it possible to track human behavioural patterns and trends.  The use of this data in marketing continues to grow.

Today’s buyers complete product research in seconds allowing them to easily compare competitors and access reviews. This all contributes to their buying decisions.  The need to gain the attention of prospective customers during their preliminary online research has led to the rise in paid and digital advertising, making it the most popular advertising channel for businesses today. In fact, in 2017 digital ad spending exceeded that of TV ads and are expected to make up 50 percent of all ad spend by 2020.Global ad spending trends

So, what does that mean for your marketing? As a small business, should you invest in Paid Search?

Running Paid Search has benefits:

  • Fast results – PPC is easy to set up and provides results almost instantly. If you have a website, all you need to do is set up an Google Ads account, for example, set your ads and run them to start increasing your traffic. This is a simplified explanation to demonstrate how easy it is. We’ll discuss this some more later.
  • Helps you reach your ideal audience – You control when and where your ads appear based on a number of factors such as keywords, location, website and device as well as time and date. This allows you to segment your market and get your ads in front of your best prospects.
  • Less dependency on SEO -- Since Paid results are occupying more and more space online, SEO and Organic traffic can seem to be less viable than PPC. For example, on many Google search results pages today there are as many as four Paid results before the Organic results are displayed. Social Media platforms like Facebook also have more and more sponsored content. Using paid search helps you stay near the top of search results and gives you a competitive advantage. This is especially true with Google Algorithms changing frequently.
  • Measureable results --The highly trackable results and performance of PPC makes it attractive when compared with ‘traditional advertising’ where it can be difficult to track the return on investment. A PPC campaign allows you to measure things such as costs, profits, views, clicks and visits. Plus you always know exactly how much you’ve spent and if you are generating a profit or loss. The many reports available provide the necessary information to easily calculate your ROI too!
  • Increases brand recognition – Using PPC advertising also increases your visibility and brand awareness. Even when people don’t click on your ad they see it because it’s above the organic search results. This has the potential to promote business growth just by exposing more potential customers to your ads.
  • Budget Friendly – The fact that you only pay for clicks helps contain the cost of PPC advertising. This means that there’s a low barrier of entry. Plus, you’re able to set a maximum amount you’re willing to pay for each click as well as a daily limit.

There are challenges too

However there are some challenges that small businesses face when using Paid Search:

For many small businesses who have a limited marketing budget, investing into Paid search can represent an important investment. You want to be sure you don’t overbid on keywords and use up your budget faster than anticipated. This could mean that you aren’t getting the most for your marketing dollars. You don’t want to exhaust your funds too quickly. It could end up being a costly learning experience.

Many small businesses do not have the expertise to run such campaigns. It’s not complicated but there are a lot of details to understand if you want optimum results, so getting assistance from someone with experience may be a worthwhile investment.

Should you invest in Paid Search?

Every business situation is different depending on industry, size of the businesses, and more, but here are a few common elements all companies should consider when deciding whether or not to invest into Paid Search:

Do your keyword research.  For many platforms, like Google Ads and Bing, keywords are everything. This makes your keyword research that much more important. Identify keywords in your field and decide which ones you are going to target.

Explore different channels. Will you receive the best results advertising through a search platform, on Social Media, by using Native Advertising or with a combination thereof?Digital Advertising Platforms

When it comes to search platforms, Google Ads is the most well-known PPC platform but there are other platforms out there that might be a better fit based on your business or industry and may provide a better ROI. Some options include Bing, Yahoo Search Ads and Google Ads which are all direct competitors. Also, each search platform has various products – for example, Google offers Google Display Network, Google Shopping, YouTube Ads and App Downloads. All of these campaigns can be set up with Google Ads.

Most Social Media platforms now allow advertisers to run paid social ads by targeting specific audiences. These include Facebook Ads, Twitter Ads and LinkedIn Ads. Of course here you need to select the social media platform where your audience spends their time.

There are a lot of platforms that exist for Native advertising, a form of advertising that doesn’t look like advertising to those reading it. A few examples of such platforms are Outbrain, Facebook Audience Network and AdSense Native Ads. Each Native advertising platform has a different network of sites to advertise on, so research those sites to understand if they would be a good fit your product or service.

Get help from experts. Getting an agency or a contractor to run your Paid Search campaigns can be an expensive investment for your business. And, with so many self-proclaimed PPC specialists, it can be difficult to select an agency or contractor. However, having someone run ads for you can be valuable, especially when you’re new to PPC and just getting started.  Doing so helps ensure you are choosing a strategy and channel that’s right for your business. Plus, you’ll be set up on your chosen platform correctly and with proper tracking. When selecting who to work with, look for agencies or contactors who are Google Ads certified and ask about how they’ve helped other businesses previously. If you’re on a small budget, a contactor can often be a cheaper option than an agency.

Test and evaluate ROI. One of the great benefits of PPC is that it is easy to calculate ROI. So rather than investing heavily into PPC, do it in small increments to mitigate risk. Test a specific channel or campaign for a couple of months with a limited budget and evaluate ROI at the end of two months. If the ROI is positive, make this channel or campaign an ongoing strategy. Otherwise, test a new channel or campaign. Continuing to do so will help you find the best fit for your business.

Digital advertising such as PPC can be an excellent way to help your business stand out in a crowded marketplace, especially when prospects are doing their initial online research. It has many benefits and can be a cost efficient method of advertising for small businesses. Remember to do your research before you get started to ensure you receive the best results and return on your investment.