Pay-per-click search engine campaigns are becoming sophisticated to the point that they frequently require a full-time resource to manage them. In the small-business world, that’s a problem considering most small businesses don’t have the funds to hire somebody full time to do that work.
However, expanding your online marketing beyond Google is necessary.
“I don’t think I’d go back to one search engine,” said Ray Hewitt, owner of Dayspring Pen Shop.
Hewitt manages campaigns on Google, MSN, Yahoo! and Business.com, and he’s not alone in terms of maintaining a mix of pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns. Jeff Pearl, manager of search engine marketing (SEM) for eMergent Marketing, says virtually all online businesses that do PPC campaigns run them on multiple search engines.
“If you could only do two, Google and Yahoo! are your best investment,” Pearl said.
Why? Simply put, it’s about market share. According to Media Metrix, Google commanded 43.7 percent of all searches in July 2006, while Yahoo! garnered 28.8 percent.
Other resources show a larger market dominance for Google. An April 2007 report from Hitwise showed Google’s market share was closer to 70 percent.
Pearl’s third pick was MSN. He recommended dividing a PPC budget so Google gets about half, while Yahoo! gets 30 percent and MSN gets 20 percent.
Hewitt suggests 50 percent go to Google and 15 percent to 20 percent of a merchant’s PPC budget could go to any other search engine. However, the South Carolina-based business owner said the business of managing multiple campaigns has become so sophisticated, he’s considered outsourcing it to companies that specialize in campaign management. “It’s getting more and more complex, and to be honest — at times — it takes the joy out of business.”
Most of the major PPC players, like Google, have web-based management systems through which bidding and budgets can be manipulated. However, there is software in the marketplace that will help business owners manage their campaigns. For example, Hewitt says he uses BidRank, which is software that helps campaigners manage keywords across search engines.
“In the end, it was just as easy to manage it myself,” he said.
However, Hewitt says the real work is in choosing good keywords, trying new keywords and creating relevant landing pages — work that PPC-management software will not do.
The experts at eMergent Marketing recommended a pair of tools, both of which come with free trials, to help come up with targeted keywords for PPC campaigns — WordTracker and Keyword Discovery. The WordTracker offers reports listing the top 10,000 search terms, while the Keyword Discovery “compiles keyword search statistics from over 180 search engines,” according to its website.
However, Overture.com, which is now part of Yahoo! Search Marketing, has offered a similar service for free for years.
Nevertheless, ecommerce business owners realize the days of managing multiple campaigns themselves are numbered.
“If there was a solution out there or somebody who was really cost effective, I’d seriously consider it,” Hewitt said. “(PPC management) is getting to the point where you’d better leave it to the experts.”
Karl Ribas, of All Web Promotion, says there are a couple of benefits to outsourcing PPC campaign management: Time management and professional assistance.
“Campaigns should be monitored multiple times throughout the day,” Ribas said. “If a merchant is going to be successful online, he or she will be responsible for many hours each week managing bid changes, writing and adding new advertising copy, reconfiguring daily, weekly and monthly budget figures and reviewing and acting on analytics data.”
Ribas’ bottom line: There’s a ton to do and little time to do it, particularly if the merchant is a sole proprietor or part of a small partnership.
However, that effort is worth it, Ribas says. “The most obvious benefit to advertising with multiple search engines is the sheer amount of additional exposure a company will receive. Each major search engine has its own advertising network consisting of smaller search engines and website partners. With only a few buys, one can literally have their brand or message exposed to hundreds of millions of Internet users daily, rather than being limited to the reach of just one search engine and its network.”
Should the business owner decide to outsource the management portion of the effort, it would most likely cost a flat fee per month plus a percentage of what the client spends on advertising. This model would be similar to what businesses would spend with an advertising firm to manage a conventional print or television campaign.
But don’t think your business needs to be large before an SEM company could help manage your PPC campaign.
“We’re better positioned to handle larger clients, but we have consultants at every level,” Pearl said.