How To Choose The Best Online Traffic Source For Your Business - Part 2

How To Choose The Best Online Traffic Source For Your Business – Part 2

In the last article, part 1 of this “how to chose the best online traffic source for your business” series, I discussed several important aspects to choosing your advertising medium with regards to paid versus “free” advertising and how to view return on investment.  In this article, I will examine the major options for advertising more specifically.

Search Pay Per Click (PPC): Google Adwords and Bing

With this business model, competing businesses bid on one or more keywords that are typed into search engines to have ads displayed at the top of the search results.  The higher the bid, the higher up in the search results the ad appears.

I have always thought that “pay per click” is a little bit of a misnomer because if you look at the actual bidding algorithm, you might as well be paying per impression – if you have a higher click through rate then you can bid lower than your competition and get the top spot.  This is one thing that many people who venture into PPC advertising fail to consider, and their results will suffer for it because they do not understand you need to start with a high bid to get a higher click through rate to get a lower PPC cost long term.

Google Adwords is by far the largest search engine PPC platform.  It also allows you to bid on ads placed on third-party websites that have content matching your keyword phrases.  This “content network” is generally considered a lower quality advertising venue and clicks tend to be cheaper; however, it can generate a higher return on investment due to the lower cost if you know how to run a campaign.  The Bing ad network is a smaller network that is cheaper; however, this makes it a great place for people new to PPC to learn how to craft ads.  As they optimize their campaign and need more volume, they can move up to the higher volumes available on Google.

The great advantage of this type of advertising is it is the most targeted.  You can reach people who are looking for exactly what you are selling.  Some searching for “Plumbers Virginia Beach” have a plumbing problem and need help.  As a result, cost per click is going to be higher than just about any other form of online advertising; however, given the fact you are not going to be wasting a lot of money putting an ad in front of people not even looking for your service, the ROI should still be much higher than possible with most methods of conventional advertising.  If you are selling something specific that people are looking for at any given point in time, your business should be able to take advantage of search advertising.

The biggest disadvantage of Google PPC is competition.  Anyone can put up an ad.  While there are some tricks to gain marginal advantages in terms of bidding strategy and honing your ad’s quality score, for the most part, the business that does the best in terms of converting a visitor into a well-paying customer will be able to bid more and thus get the most benefits of this traffic.  Thus having a great conversion funnel with a system for remarketing to customers is of paramount importance if you want to make money with Google PPC advertising.

If you do not have a good conversion funnel and have competitors who do, then you might bleed through a lot of money.  In fact, this is what happens to most people who run ads on Google for the first time.  As alluded to in my last article, this is not necessarily a bad thing if you are able to test your site and make an adjustment and bring up the conversion rate on your website.  You just have to understand that you will likely generate these losses when you cut your teeth running these ads.

The other potential problem with search advertising is you have a limited ceiling on your traffic.  Only so many people are going to type in “pet groomers in Chicago” etc. every month.  Even if you have the number one spot, and make money on the ad, you might want considerably higher volume.  You can expand to other search networks like Bing and maybe even the Google content network.  You can also try a greater variety of keywords.  However, if you really want just a massive amount of targeted traffic for your offer, these might still not be sufficient.

Video Search PPC: Youtube

This is probably the most overlooked form of advertising because it takes a lot more work to do right.  Youtube is actually the second biggest search engine in the world as a video is becoming a preferred way of getting internet content.  After all, most people would probably rather watch and entertaining how-to video rather than reading a lot of text.

These work like Google PPC ads.  You bid on keywords, which are associated then with certain videos.  Before the video plays, a video ad is shown.  You pay for the people who watch a minimum number of seconds on the video or click on it.

Given video is a very powerful way of communicating your message, video ads are a great way to advertise.  They are also a lot more work since more goes into the creation of a good video.  However, for that reason, it is also a lot less competitive than Google Adwords.  If you have the time and expertise to create videos, a stab at video ads would be a great way to increase targeted marketing efforts.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Search engine optimization is the art of hacking the search engine results to get your website to the top of search engines.  It is considered “free” traffic because you do not have to pay for a click; however, as I also mentioned in the last article, it requires a lot of time and money to compete, so it is really anything but free.

The great thing about SEO is that you actually get better targeting theoretically than with paid search because organic search engine results are actually more trusted than paid ads.  They are also not blocked by ad blockers.  Someone with a top position in the search engine rankings might get clicked on 50% of the time, while the top ad on the page which actually is in a higher position might be doing well to get a 2% click through rate.

Because you are not paying per click and you can get a lot of extra volume from “long tail keywords,” if you manage to get ranked your return on investment can be a lot higher with SEO.  Because hacking the search engine rankings require a good bit of expertise, it also tends to be less directly competitive than Google PPC where anyone can jump in and start bidding; however, it still can be rather competitive as usually there will be several firms hiring SEO consultants to compete for rankings.  For keywords with high customer values such as “plastic surgery,” businesses could be paying as much as $8,000 per month to beat out the competition knowing that a few nose jobs more than justifies the cost.

This leads us to the big negative of SEO – the uncertainty of results when you are spending substantial fixed costs every month to get results.  You are not guaranteed any traffic for your spending as with pay per click. Google’s algorithm changes constantly and is not publicly disclosed.  People can look at a large portfolio of websites, and experts usually mastermind in groups comparing notes to reverse engineer the changes; however, these still only represent the best guesses at the moment.

No one can guarantee that you will be on page one, although many will do that just to get your business.  In fact, I know at least one person who guarantees that he will get people to page one knowing that in many cases he will fail; however, because these businesses usually see increased traffic anyway despite not being on the first page due to long tail traffic, they usually will not cancel.  While these tactics might work, I think it is much better, to be frank with potential customers about expectations.

For these reasons, SEO consultants have justifiably gotten a poor reputation with local businesses, and they need to exercise some caution when hiring someone.  A lot of firms will also employ “black hat” tactics that generate a quick ranking but can destroy a website’s rankings long term because Google does not like such obvious attempts to hack a ranking.  The best SEO is indistinguishable from a site that does not intentionally try to game the rankings system, and such methods take time.

This brings up the second big disadvantage of SEO – when done right, it takes times.  Depending on the niche, it might take three to six months to rank a new website in a niche.  For really competitive niches you could be looking at over a year of work to get a good ranking.  So SEO is a long term strategy that can generate higher returns on your investment; it just takes patience.  There are some techniques that can be used to generate some quick results using secondary properties (such as Youtube and Tumblr) which can rank within days to weeks for people who need results quickly.

The best long-term strategy is to use multiple properties to dominate the first page with three to five listings, giving a user the impression that your business is “the authority” in the market according to Google.  A quick ranking can be obtained with a video or Tumblr blog to test how SEO is working for the business, and then the other properties such as the website can be ranked over time after proving the value of SEO for the top and bottom line.

Social Media Marketing: Facebook and Twitter

This has become my favorite source of traffic over the past couple years.  The reason why is you can turn on tons of traffic very quickly.  You are not limited by a certain number of keyword searches per month.  You are only limited to the 1.4 billion users in Facebook’s database who fit your demographic criteria.  You can literally then determine the speed at which that audience is reached.

The targeting is a little less specific in that people are not necessarily searching for your product at the moment they see the ad.  However, you can target people who have “interests” in stuff you are trying to sell.  For example, a person who “likes” a number of different video game pages would be a great candidate for an ad to a brand new game.

Facebook is the largest social media marketing platform and the most specific in terms of what you can target.  I am still shocked at the amount of stuff people put out there on themselves on Facebook.  You can target by age, interests, career, language, location, and a variety of other parameters.

Facebook has even bought third party databases and merged them with user profiles!  This is why they “require” people to give their real names.  You can literally target people based on income or online purchasing activities from information pulled from these databases.  You can reach other social networks such as Instagram and partner apps from the same platform as well.

Another great feature of Facebook is that if you craft the proper ad, it can be “shared” across the network pretty easily.  This can dramatically magnify your traffic reach.  You can use viral contests where people can get a chance to win by sharing your offer to improve your results.  This share feature can also be used quite effectively in customer loyalty programs; share the ad to get a certain number of loyalty points towards a certain discount.

Facebook works best for businesses who are selling to people who might not know they need your services yet.  After all, these people will probably not be searching for something they do not know about.  It also works great for businesses that need a lot of traffic quickly.

Twitter is another social network that people are using increasingly for advertising.  Its targeting is not as good as Facebook; however, it is not nearly as restrictive in the ads you can put up.  Facebook literally is changing its terms of services all the time, which many advertisers have gotten fed up with.  In fact, Facebook’s fickleness is the biggest risk of relying on that platform as they can close accounts for random reasons, and you might be difficult to get in touch with a real person to figure out what went wrong.  I will say that based on recent experience, they have gotten better in this regard than they were three years ago.

Media Buys

One final form of advertising I want to mention is media buys.  For people who need even more traffic than provided by the platforms above, media buys can be an effective way to advertise.  Essentially this involves paying for impressions on a variety of different websites.   Essentially this is more similar to traditional magazine advertisements where you look at the demographics of the online publication to determine where to display ads.  One big advantage is that you get real time tracking of your results so you can quickly tweak your campaigns to get them profitable.

You can purchase media buys through ad networks (Google’s Content Network could be considered one of these) or just directly approach any site that you find interesting.  However, media buys represent an advanced technique that should only be attempted on campaigns that you have validated on some of the traditional networks that are mentioned above.  You have to become an expert in tracking and split testing your ads to get these to work since a lot of sites probably will not convert the way you expect them to.

 

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