Using PPC to Drive Traffic to Your Small Business Website

It’s no secret that I am not a fan of pay per click (PPC) as a long-term strategy for most small businesses. PPC ads are expensive and have a low rate for return for the investment. Nonetheless, if approached appropriately and if you have the funds, PPC can be used effectively to increase traffic, especially if your website is new or has low visibility or traffic. Eventually you will want to transition to a more cost effective long-term strategy¬¨‚Ćto drive traffic to your website.

There are several reasons why PPC is problematic for most small businesses. Cost is the main factor. PPC is expensive. I worked with one large printer company that invested $2 million in PPC in order to make $3 million in sales. While they were certainly making a clear profit directly from their PPC efforts, the investment was quite large for the return. They found that anything less than $750K would and they would not even break even. Most small businesses don’t have budgets that large, and for the amount of the investment I believe they could use techniques other than PPC and have a much higher return.

PPC is also very fickle. Prices changes constantly, based on competition and other factors. Of course, traffic from PPC ads stops the moment you stop paying for them. There is not long-term benefit from PPC ads—you must continue to buy ad spots in order to receive the traffic. If you are not targeting your audience appropriately, PPC does not work very well, which for most small businesses, means paying an expert third party with experience in PPC to help you out (an additional cost).

So where can PPC help small businesses? Websites that have little or no traffic can benefit by using PPC to drive traffic to their websites in the short-term while they develop a long-term strategy. The more funds you have available, the better this approach can work for you. Though, it is in no way a replacement for other traffic building and conversion efforts. Small businesses must develop their SEO and keyword research, and optimize their landing pages in order to ensure PPC works effectively and so you can transition into most cost effective strategies later on.

Keyword research is imperative. To make PPC work effectively, you must do the appropriate keyword research. Fortunately, the keyword research you perform for PPC will be equally valuable in your SEO efforts. Targeting the correct long-tail keywords for your PPC ads will also make it possible for you to target those same keywords in your content, effectively permitting your webpages to show in organic search results as well as PPC ads. Keep in mind, PPC does not in any way influence your organic search engine rankings. They are completely separate.

Have a strategy for transitioning away from PPC, or at least minimizing the need for it. The best strategy is a content marketing and SEO strategy. You might also augment it with a social media strategy. Social media requires constant status updates to keep traffic coming in, whereas SEO and content marketing continue to pay dividends over time. As you build your SEO, you should start to see organic traffic increase and you can then begin to lower your PPC ad buys.

Create effective landing pages and A/B test them. Your landing pages should be focused on converting traffic into customers. What good is a million visitors if none of them are buying your products or services? Make sure you design great landing pages and then test them. You should never stop testing landing pages as there is almost always room for improvement. There are a variety of free and paid services (Google is a great one to start with) that make it easy for you to test your landing pages. I also recommend checking out Unbounce.com.

I recommend that small businesses approach PPC carefully to avoid blowing your marketing budget on an ineffective tool. If you choose to use PPC, have a strategy to ensure that you do not end up wasting your money. Keyword research is critical. Start small with your PPC ads, measuring the efficacy of your approach before investing more and more money. Create a strategy to transition away from PPC, or at least minimize the need for large ad buys, by developing an effective content marketing plan and SEO approach. Always test your PPC ads and your landing pages to make sure they convert. If you have a lot of traffic through PPC and low conversion, chances are you are not targeting your keywords correctly or your landing pages are ineffective. Following this approach should make it possible for you to get traffic using PPC and then transition into a more cost effective long-term strategy.