When advertising on the World Wide Web, there’s a direct correlation between a good return on investment (ROI) and visibility on a Web page. Flashy Internet ads are fine, but a business that wants to attract people to its corporate Web site may want to look into the popular marketing technique known as “pay-per-click advertising.”
Linking Ads with Keywords
When Internet users want to find something, whether it be the Web site of a local plumber or what “Hannah Montana” star Miley Cyrus is up to this week, they enter certain keywords (i.e., “master plumber” or “Miley Cyrus photographs”) into their browsers. The search engine then returns a list of Web pages, with the best potential matches appearing near the top of the heap.
Through agreements with the search engine companies, businesses or individuals can pay a set amount to have an advertisement show up on a user’s screen when specific keywords are entered into the search engine. These Internet ads can take the form of a banner at the top of the screen or a list of companies providing a service related to the keyword at the side of the display.
The company only pays the search engine company each time that someone clicks on the ad, hence the name “pay-per-click.” Some of the more well-known pay-per-click ad services include:
- Google AdWords (http://adwords.google.com/select/Login)
- Yahoo! Sponsored Search (http://sem.smallbusiness.yahoo.com/searchenginemarketing/index.php?&abr=2022403519)
- AOL Search Advertising (http://www.aolmedianetworks.com/index.php?id=1973)
Benefits of Pay-Per-Click Ads
Because the Internet is filled with millions of corporate Web sites and Web blogs, a business only gets one brief chance to make a good first impression. According to a BBC News report filed in 2002, the attention span of some Web surfers has been reduced to nine seconds, the same as a goldfish (BBC News, “Turning into digital goldfish.” http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/1834682.stm).
Businesses that want to maintain an online presence can have electronic “bait” ready to hook these Web-surfing goldfish in the form of pay-per-click advertising. When someone is ready to purchase a product or service, these Internet ads help drive potential buyers to a Web site.
Companies that have a strict marketing budget also can set a limit on how much they wish to spend each month on pay-per-click advertising. With a predetermined monthly budget, the company can determine how effective these Internet ads truly are by checking their ROI.
Social Networking and Pay-Per-Click Advertising
Over the last few years, social networking Web sites have grown in popularity, with MySpace.com boasting a membership of approximately 120 million users. In October, Josh Quittner of Time magazine reported that the site launched MyAds, a pay-per-click ad service that lets advertisers specifically target the MySpace demographics they want to reach. (Time.com, “MySpace to Businesses: Kiss My Ads” http://www.time.com/time/business/article/0,8599,1849458,00.html)
With competitive click-through rates and the ability to, as MySpace says, “HyperTarget” a certain segment of the population, MySpace may be a wise online advertising choice for small- to medium-sized companies.
The Downside of Pay-Per-Click Advertising
Internet ads are not immune to abuse and corruption, however. In 2006, Charles C. Mann of Wired magazine pointed out the growing problem of “click fraud” on the Net (Wired.com,”How Click Fraud Could Swallow the Internet” http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/14.01/fraud.html”). If one business places a pay-per-click ad, for instance, competitors can click that listing repeatedly and eat away at the company’s advertising budget.
The Key(words) to Success
When using pay-per-click ads to promote a business, it’s important to choose relevant keywords in order to drive good traffic to a Web site. Wasted clicks mean wasted money, an inflated advertising budget and a poor ROI.
Wired.com,”How Click Fraud Could Swallow the Internet,” Charles C. Mann, January 2006
Time.com, “MySpace to Businesses: Kiss My Ads”, Josh Quittner, October 13, 2008
BBC News, “Turning into digital goldfish.”
CNNMoney.com, “MySpace’s DIY ad service,” October 13, 2008