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BusinessColumnistsJamie Herzlich

Small Business: Optimizing pay-per-click ads

In the world of paid search marketing, every

In the world of paid search marketing, every click that's not generating a lead or sale is burning a hole in your budget. Make sure they pay off, experts advise. Credit: iStock

In the world of paid search marketing, every click that's not generating a lead or sale is burning a hole in your budget.

With pay-per-click, or PPC, advertising, you're charged each time your ad is clicked, whether or not that click leads to a sale.

The typical small business spends $1,200 a month on PPC advertising, yet wastes about 25 percent of that on avoidable errors, according to new research by WordStream, a search marketing software and services provider.

Small business owners don't pay enough attention to maintaining and optimizing their PPC campaigns, says Larry Kim, founder and chief technology officer of Boston-based WordStream.

More than half (53 percent) only evaluate and update their ads once per quarter, according to WordStream, which reviewed the PPC activities of 500 small and medium-sized business clients' accounts and found many of them weren't maximizing the value of their Google AdWords campaigns.

Make sure your ad is as targeted as possible, says Kim. "Be picky."

Keywords are key: The amount you pay per click depends on various factors, including keywords that you bid on, explains Seth Meyerowitz, CEO of UBE Inc., a Bellmore-based online marketing firm.

Do an analysis to find the most useful keywords -- search terms people are using that relate to your subject, adds Peter Kent of Denver-based Peter Kent Consulting and author of "Search Engine Optimization for Dummies" (For Dummies; $29.99). But don't go too wide, he advises. For instance, if you sell abacuses, don't bother bidding on the keyword calculator. The more closely related the terms are to what you sell, the more likely you are to convert searchers to visitors and turn clicks into sales.

Create targeted ads that include specific products you offer, including SKU or model numbers, suggests Meyerowitz, who also lectures across the country on online marketing techniques and technology.

Create separate keywords and campaigns for different types of products, so you can allot advertising budgets accordingly, he says. Many businesses set up a single PPC campaign, but if you offer products with differing sales volume and profit margins, you should set up separate campaigns.

For example, a restaurant supply company might sell $5,000 to $10,000 appliances such as fridges and stoves, as well as microwaves and blenders. Separate the high-priced items from the lower-priced in different PPC campaigns. This way, you can budget, for example, $500 a day for the large items and $100 a day for the small, says Meyerowitz.

Don't forget the negatives: Fine-tune your campaign by adding negative keywords -- words that will exclude your ad from showing up on searches containing that word, suggests Kim, noting the study found one in five small biz AdWords accounts don't contain a single negative keyword.

"We just went through and looked at all our negative keywords," says Elizabeth Hyer, director of marketing at Nicolock Paving Stones, a Lindenhurst manufacturer of paving stones and retaining walls. The company updates its PPC ads to keep them fresh, says Hyer, who works with UBE. "People get bored of seeing the same ad."

Nicolock has found success with PPC advertising, she says. "It's a key ingredient to our marketing mix."

But you need to track results, says Kent. "Most small-business owners just set up the campaign and then cross their fingers."

Taking aim: 49.5 percent

Amount of small businesses -- less than half -- that leverage the tracking capabilities in Google Adwords to understand how many customers they're acquiring based on their campaigns.
Source: WordStream

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