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Using PPC To Maximize Your Search Engine Positioning ROI

The quest for higher search engine positioning on the natural search engines is generally the quest to increase revenue from a product or service. It is not the rankings themselves that hold any special value; it is the visitors that they bring and the resulting increase in business. It is for this reason that the PPC engines and namely the secondary ones are a great tool in developing a campaign strategy for the natural engines that will produce the highest return on investment.

While tools such as the Overture Search Term Suggestion Tool and WordTracker are great tools for helping to determine which phrases are most searched, they cannot provide you with which phrases will produce the highest return on investment and let's be honest, search engine positioning is not about traffic it's about money. While traffic can often mean money, knowing which search phrases are going to lead to the highest conversion rates will give you a great advantage going into your SEO campaign.

While testing phrases on the PPC engines will result in an increased timeframe for your search engine positioning campaign, this step can result in much higher conversions from the traffic you are going to get. For example, if you were a business owner who was promoting a brand new acne treatment and you were to simply look for the phrases with the highest numbers of searches to target in the promotions for your site, you would undoubtedly settle on the single keyword "acne" as your primary targeted phrase. Will this produce the highest ROI? Unlikely and lets take a look at why:

Keyword phrase: acne
Searches: 2,470/day estimated on WordTracker
Inbound links of #1 site: 2,642 on MSN
Number of pages of #1 site: 34,100
Approximate cost to optimize site assuming it is new with 50+ pages: $7,000 - $10,000 with guarantee.
Now, let's a take a look at a less competitive phrase such as "acne treatment":

Keyword phrase: acne treatment
Searches: 516/day estimated on WordTracker
Inbound links of #1 site: 216 on MSN
Number of pages of #1 site: 153
Approximate cost to optimize site assuming it is new with 20+ pages: $3,000 - $5,000 with guarantee.

Armed with this information you would then want to test these two phrases on the PPC engines. Engines such as Google and Overture provide great reporting tools that will enable a website owner to actually track which phrases are converting for them, however at $8.85/click on Overture to be #1 for "acne" or $2.90 to be #1 for "acne treatment", that option may be just a bit out of your price range. And so we have the secondary engines.

Pay-per-click engines such as Enhance Interactive (formerly Ah-ha) make a great testing ground for those choosing their keyword phrases. Ranking #1 for "acne" on Enhance can be had for $0.15/click and "acne treatment" is only $0.23 to be #1. Setting aside the money that could potentially be made from the PPC engines themselves, with bids this low this engine and others like it make great testing grounds for keyword selection.

To test your keyword phrases simply bid to be #1 or at least in the top three for a potential primary target phrase. Keep the site ranking for a couple weeks monitoring your traffic and the sales of your product/service. After a couple weeks remove the phrase from your list and switch it to an alternative phrase. Again, monitor this success of this phrase for a couple weeks. After you have tested all of your potential primary phrases you will be in a position to assess which one will produce the highest return on investment.

Selecting which phrase will produce the highest ROI based on these numbers can be a bit more involved, weighing a number of factors such as the cost in either time or money (or both) to optimize for the various phrases, the sales-per-click ratio, etc. Basically what you want to do is consider your budget vs. how much can you make per click and thus, how many sales you can expect per day based on the keyword phrase you have chosen to target. If a promotion can pay for itself over a 3 to 6 month period of time, thus producing a surplus after it is paid off, it can be considered a successful promotion.

It should be noted that this step is not an exact science. The number of sales you will get per day will be dependant on exactly what position you attain on the natural engines (your content is also important obviously, however you will have used your existing content on the PPC engines so for the most part you will be comparing apples-to-apples). There will be some guestimation but you will get a good idea of how many sales you would make if you ranked in the same position for all of the possible phrases.

While I have not tested the above noted phrases on the PPC engines and applied them to the natural engines I would feel confident in predicting the ROI would be higher for "acne treatment" based on two factors:

  1. The competition is lower and thus the number of sales required to produce a return on investment is about half that of the phrase "acne".
  2. The phrase is far more targeted. People searching for "acne" may be writing papers on the subject or just looking for information whereas people searching for "acne treatment" are far more likely to be looking for a solution to an acne problem.

While I have my instinct on the subject, were I to advise a client on the best possible strategy I would have to recommend testing these phrase on the PPC engines. It may extend the promotion for a bit but in the end the decision on which keyword phrase makes the best target will be based far more on statistics and facts than a simple guestimate.

Additional Considerations:

While this article's purpose is to explain how PPC engines can be used to help increase the ROI of a search engine positioning campaign, your use of the PPC engines should not stop there. While you are testing out phrases you should be making sales as well. If the revenue generated from the PPC promotion is higher that it's cost then stick with it. PPC engines are a great testing ground however they're also a great source of leads and revenue if used correctly.

There are many PPC engines out there. We've researched a number of them and posted the ones that have produced the highest ROI for our clients on our PPC Engines page. These are the engines that we have found are worth sticking with once any testing phase is complete. In the case of the primary engines (Google and Overture) you will have to use your discretion based on the cost-per-click to determine whether they are worth testing or advertising on.

If you have any questions about these ten steps or your website in general please feel free to contact us for additional information or sign up for our free search engine positioning review.

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