Competition is always a good thing, but these days it’s no longer purely about who has the better product or service. It’s often almost entirely about who knows how to build their company brand the best, and the winner is usually the organization that throws the most money at marketing.
How, then, can small- to medium-sized enterprises such as building contractors (and other service-based companies) possibly compete for even a small percentage of the market share? The answer, my friends, is pay-per-click (PPC) advertising.
Importance of Brand Value
The old adage about when a tree falls in the forest has a remarkable analogy when it comes to branding. Your brand value is literally only as good as the level of brand awareness you manage to achieve. The most incredible brand is worthless if no-one knows about it, so without traffic, without visitors to your website and customers to take notice of your brand personality and promise, you could be the next Apple and it would offer no benefit.
Why You Need PPC
PPC ads work to boost your brand by driving traffic to your website. Not just any traffic, either, but users who specifically search for the key terms you’re bidding on. Ok, you say—that’s what Google does free of charge, right? Wrong! Certainly, Google and the other search engines provide results to users based on the keywords they search for, but they focus is on the needs of the searcher, not the searchee.
The SEM Advantage
Frankly, Google couldn’t care less if your site never comes up in search. That’s because it’s only interested in serving up results from companies that are fully compliant with its algorithm, and which regularly update their websites, blogs and social media according to its criteria. If that isn’t you, you’re dead in the water. No, wait—that’s why paid search exists. Enter pay-per-click mareting, also known as search engine marketing (SEM) and, most frequently, Google AdWords.
The reasons paid search options work so well for smaller companies are:
It’s cost effective
With PPC you pay either a cost per click (CPC) for each user who click through on your ad, or a cost-per-thousand-impressions (CPM) for users that view your ad. The big thing is: you only pay for the ads that work! This is a far cry from traditional advertising methods, which have marketers paying big bucks to reach high numbers of people—most of whom won’t even notice the ad. CPC, in particular, assumes that if a user clicks through on your ad intentionally it’s a much “warmer” lead than someone who just happens to walk or drive past it. So regardless of the price per click, the fact that you’re only paying for the spots that deliver results is a lot more palatable than traditional alternatives.
It gives you a fast-track option
One of the most frustrating things about search engine indexing is the time and effort it takes before your site is likely to appear on Google’s organic search result pages. On average, it takes between three and six weeks just to get indexed, and then if you want to appear anywhere in the first 100-odd pages you need to expend an extraordinary amount of time and energy building up the content on your site. By choosing paid search, however, you circumvent the entire process because appearing the first page of Google is a given. The only variable is the number of times you appear there each day, which is subject to the daily budget you set. This makes it ideal for short-term, campaign- and issue-based traffic.
PPC is targetable
Geo-targeting makes it possible to set the parameters for who your ad should be shown to, and the keywords it relates to.
Thanks to sophisticated analytics tools, the feedback generated by PPC ads can provide you with a wealth of data to use in future marketing efforts. You’re able to know which keywords are working, what paid ads deliver results and where your visitors are coming from, whether they convert into leads or not. All for a fraction of the cost of other, less targetable marketing methods.
The use of PPC advertising also offers benefits specifically for brand building:
Firstly, it’s the fastest way to get your website on the front page of Google. Second, it brings you immediate traffic, with statistics showing the clicks start within 30 minutes of setting up your ad. And last but not least, bidding on branded terms boosts your quality score, which helps to influence your rankings in organic search too.
There are obviously also drawbacks to PPC, such as the cost of unproductive click-throughs that can mount up fairly fast. It takes time and effort to understand the process and tweak your bidding and ads until you get just the right mix, and then–because nothing in the digital world stands still–you have to do it all over again a few days later.