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Pay Per Click (ppc) search engines - tips and free credits.

In recent years, search engine companies have rapidly moved away free listings only to paid inclusion models. One of the most popular models is PPC - Pay Per Click.

Pay Per Click can be very rewarding, but it can also be horribly expensive; so you will need to do your math first in order to justify it. Read more about minimizing ppc costs.

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Check out our list of search companies giving away free click credits below!

Pay Per Click usually requires you to bid on key words or phrases of your choice. The highest bid gets the top ranking on the search results and then you pay the bid amount every time someone clicks on your link. 

Some programs such as Yahoo! Sitematch charge a flat rate per click, so as with free listing engines, you'll still need to ensure that you have carried out the necessary search engine optimization processes in order to gain good rankings. Also, you can spend thousands on clicks, but if the page that visitors land on isn't up to scratch, your money will be wasted - those clicks simply won't convert. Learn more about creating effective landing pages.

Be cautious of PPC bidding wars

The problems start when some advertisers, either through overly aggressive marketing strategies, ignorance or "auction fever", engage in a bidding war. As an example I've seen the number 1 advertiser on a popular PPC engine was prepared to pay $15 per click on the term "web hosting"! The no.2 advertiser was paying $8.00 per click. While the number 1 merchant wouldn't have paid more than $8.01 per click (just above the second merchant), they had created a situation where nobody would be likely to challenge their position. 

Even at $7 per click, this was extremely overpriced in my opinion given the margins and churn rate in the hosting industry. Bidding wars don't really benefit anyone and the web hosting industry is where the results of this kind of insanity are quite apparent.

If you do intend to trial PPC for your business, you should start off by calculating your current visitors/sales ratio. If it works out that one person from one hundred visiting your site makes a purchase, then bidding 5 cents per click will cost you an estimated $5.00 per sale. If your profit margin is $10 per sale, then it's viable. If it's $3, then it's just not worth it. These figures are only a "guesstimate", but you get the idea. Bear in mind that you don't *have* to be the number one listing in order to gain traffic - even at position 5 you can still gain appreciative targeted traffic, dependent upon the industry.

Keyword targeting

You may find it more economical to bid on keywords and phrases that aren't as popular or more targeted. In comparison to the example mentioned previously, a search on "linux web hosting" showed that the top bidder only pays US$3.50 for each click; a difference of over $8.50 on the term "web hosting". Using this strategy will cut down your advertising costs and may produce better conversion rates due to better targeting. Customers who know exactly what they want to purchase will be more specific in their search criteria.

Choosing a PPC search engine

There are literally hundreds of Pay Per Click search engines in operation now; but very few of them will actually deliver you traffic, regardless of their promises. This is a market that has been cornered by a handful of companies. 

PPC companies gain their coverage by offering webmasters search boxes/feeds under a revenue share arrangement, i.e where the webmaster will be paid for each search carried out via their site, or for each click a search generates. The better pay per click engines have thousands of good quality affiliate sites in their networks. 

As Pay Per Click can be a time consuming affair when setting up an account, it's important not to waste effort in opening accounts and uploading keywords to a company that will never deliver you any visitors.

Things to look for in a PPC company

  • Tools. Do they offer keyword suggestion tools and extensive reporting? 

  • Fraud. What kind of anti-click fraud strategies and tools do they provide or use? Will they investigate a fraud claim and compensate you if it turns out to be valid?

  • Coverage. Who uses their data feeds?

  • Cost. Are there any hidden setup fees or minimum balances? What is the minimum bid?

  • Support. Test out their email support - asking a few questions before signing up. 

Companies offering free Pay Per Click credits

If you're just starting out in the world of Pay Per Click (PPC), it can be pretty confusing. The following is a listing of companies who offer free credits for clicks and may be useful to you while carrying out trial campaigns. Most of these engines are smaller networks, known as "second tier"; but you may find they work for you and at the very least, you'll get some decent practice in with minimum outlay.

Yahoo Search Marketing The PPC industry heavyweight. Yahoo search marketing listings reach 80% of active U.S. Internet users in one buy. Listing with Overture will gain you coverage on Yahoo!, MSN, AltaVista, plus many others. Get a $25 in free clicks credit when you open an account.

Ask Sponsored Listings is currently offering free account set up and assistance plus $50 free ppc credit towards your campaign.

Run your ad on Bidvertiser and start receiving traffic in less than 10 minutes. Bidvertiser is offering new advertisers get $20.00 in free clicks

Search123. Fund with $50 and gets $20 in click credits free. An excellent 2nd tier engine we've had success with. Thousands of content based distribution partners.

Enhance Interactive (formerly ah-ha.com) Currently generates 1.5 billion searches per month via second-tier search engines and many thousands of partner sites. Minimum bid is only 3 centers. Open an account with Enhance and you'll receive a $25 account PPC credit.

FindWhat.com .$5.00 click credit initial sign up bonus offer. Over a billion searches per month. Be listed on portals with search engines such as CNET’s Search.com, Excite, Webcrawler, NBCi, MetaCrawler, Dogpile, Go2Net and Microsoft Internet Explorer Autosearch.

What keywords and phrases to use?

When you start out in Per Pay Click, it can be a bit of a hit and miss affair, that's why I suggest starting out with a company that will throw in some free credits as a starter. Even if you do have a good idea as to what keywords and phrases bring people to your site, it may not be clear which terms tend to convert to sales. If you aren't really too sure what terms to use, the following resources may be of some assistance:

Word Tracker:

WordTracker is a very popular premium service, but you can get a free trial. Word Tracker is the favorite tool of many SEM and SEO professionals. 

WordTracker compiles a database of terms that people search for. You enter some keywords, and Word Tracker will tell you how often people search for them, and also tell you how many competing sites use those keywords. 

Good KeyWords - Free software

Good Keywords is free Windows software tool from Softnik Technologies for finding the ideal set of keywords for targeting your web pages and is useful for PPC campaigns. Use Good Keywords to find suitable keywords sets, create your meta tags, brainstorm product ideas, etc.

The applications also contains a link popularity and site popularity tool - Download Good Keywords.

In summary, the world of PPC can be very profitable as long as you keep a cool head and not succumb to the bidding wars. If you are in an industry where bidding is expensive, don't bother with bidding low as your listing will probably be buried pages deep. 

Try looking at using some of the second tier companies such as I listed above. Don't forget that while free traffic from search engines is becoming somewhat of an endangered species, it pays to ensure that you've used solid search engine optimization strategies to make the most of what's still available.

Engaging the services of an SEM company

Running a successful PPC campaign can be very time consuming. As with search engine optimization, many companies have sprung up that can advise you on PPC strategies and totally handle your campaigns. 

In this scenario, you usual take out a contract with an SEM (Search Engine Marketing) firm  that can be for anywhere from a few months to a few years. It's a big investment and one you don't want to guess on. 

Alternatively, you can learn from industry experts - PPC-Coach.com. They not only offer articles, but video tutorials and step by step guides. You'll also gain access to keyword tools and a private forum where you can ask the experts questions.

Related learning resources

PPC fraud - detection and prevention strategies

Minimizing the cost of pay-per-click advertising

Michael Bloch
Taming the Beast
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