The question of whether pay-per-click (PPC) or non-pay-per-click (N-PPC) advertising offers the better return on your online investment is one that search-engine marketers continue to debate. The truth of the matter is: what works for one online marketing campaign may not work for another. There is no definite answer; however, there are definitely guidelines that can send you in the right direction. Both PPC and N-PPC models have their advantages; the key to a successful online advertising campaign is determining which model will work best for you based on the particular business challenges you face (i.e. steady lead generation, awareness, a launch, seasonal marketing, etc.).
Flexibility vs. Support
Flexibility and manageability are major benefits to PPC models. But if you aren’t careful, the cost can get out of control. If you have the time and willingness to monitor keyword progress, PPC models allow you more control over your spend than any other model. Self-service PPC campaigns allow you to go online at any time, select keywords, spending limits, and then pay by credit card. Because advertisers pay per click, instead of paying a flat fee for a set duration, this format offers more flexibility in its use. Keywords can be adjusted more frequently than with N-PPC models and spending limits better controlled based on which keywords generate more traffic. Companies new to the online advertising world can also test out different keywords to determine which are most popular for their market, and then invest more heavily in those specific terms.
PPC’s greatest strengths are also some of its greatest drawbacks. Out of control spending, ill informed keyword targeting, and increasing competition for keywords that drive up prices are all concerns that need to be thought through. Most of these come down to whether or not you have the time and expertise to manage the wild and woolly nature of this model. The self-serve advertising nature of PPC with the general search engines, although quick and flexible, doesn’t provide advertisers the same customer service benefits of N-PPC models. Advertisers looking for guidance on how to set up their online advertising account – what keywords to use, what response to expect, what package fits their needs and budget – would be best served with a N-PPC model that can offer a representative to walk you through the process. Or, advertisers can look for a vertical search engine that can offer PPC and also offer a more personal service to help deliver the most from the PPC campaign
‘Tis the Season for PPC
PPC advertising, the primary model offered by major search engines such as Google (known as AdWords), can be ideal for companies looking for a ‘blitz’ advertising push. Seasonal promotions typically see quick return for engaging in PPC keyword campaigns during peak buying periods. A company that manufactures winterization equipment for boats, for instance, might want to boost PPC keyword spend once the fall draws near, the marine engine parts manufacturer may decide to stop their PPC spend within the New England region during the winter chill. Seasonal campaigns are typically crowded, however, which will force the price for your keywords up, so this is something you will want to take into consideration.
Quick-response campaigns are also a natural fit for keyword PPC advertising. For example, a product or service might see demand explode in reaction to an unforeseen event. Recent heat waves across the country spurred demand for air conditioning equipment, parts and labor. In hours and days, these suppliers could target the summer hot spots with a blitz keyword PPC campaign. And then, once the summer breezes came in and milder weather prevailed, the online campaign could blow away with the heat. These quick-response opportunities may only last days or hours, so effective campaigns require you to move quickly – far too quickly for any other type of advertising.
Everyone Gets Their Time at the Top
For companies that want a share of the ‘top position’ on a site, without paying the premiums that come with online bidding wars, N-PPC models are the best bet. With these models, advertisers pay one flat package rate for a set period (either monthly or annually). Some specialized vertical search engines add to this model by rotating all advertisers through the top positions of a site, guaranteeing they appear top-of-page for a period of time. Every advertiser gets their time on top, without fear of being out-bid. The flat rate fee often costs significantly less than what an advertiser would most likely pay to appear in the top position in the PPC model, making it a great option for companies without a large budget for online marketing.
N-PPC models are often, and appropriately, used by companies looking for ongoing search engine visibility with minimal upkeep. Since the cost is not tied to the number of hits an ad receives, the flat-rate fee eliminates any budget-related guess work and ensures the advertisement is upfront throughout the entire online campaign. And once the flat rate package is selected and the campaign is up and running, advertisers can focus their energy on leveraging the leads that come in.
Meet your Needs
So the question of ‘PPC or non-PPC’ is really a question of what your company’s individual needs are. Do you want an ongoing campaign or just need to advertise for a short period of time? Do you have the budget and time to bid for top keywords or would a N-PPC system work better? With the guidelines above, you can answer the questions that will help you select the advertising model that makes the most sense for your particular situation.
Julie Mason is the General Manager for Kellysearch.com, the comprehensive online buyers’ guide and vertical search engine, with more than two million company listings from over 155 countries world wide.