Monthly Archives : September 2003

Tips for pay-per-click bidding

As you may know, Overture was recently bought by Yahoo! Due to the publicity generated by the deal, now is a good time to review some tips for bidding in pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns on Overture and Google AdWords.

How does a pay-per-click search engine work?

With a PPC search engine, you bid a certain amount for your chosen keyphrase. Whenever someone searches for that keyphrase, and clicks on your website’s link under it in the search result, you pay the bid amount (or less, depending on your competition). Generally, the higher you bid, the higher your placement is in the search results.


Overture was the biggest PPC search engine before Google AdWords came along. Now they are both fighting for the top spot, leaving the rest of the pack in their wake. Overture works on a strict auction model: the higher you bid, the higher your position is. Overture’s results are included in the sponsored results at the top of Yahoo!, MSN, Lycos, HotBot, and others. They claim to reach over 80% of all Internet users.

Google AdWords

Google’s AdWords program started in February 2002, and quickly became Overture’s only serious competitor. Google’s system is different from Overture’s in that the bidding is only one part of the ranking equation. The other part is the click-through rate (how often people click on your ad). Google AdWords are found on AOL, Netscape, Ask Jeeves, Teoma, Earthlink, and, of course, Google. Google states that their AdWords appear 200 million times a day. I figure that they also reach about 70% of all Internet users.

Other PPC search engines:

There are hundreds of PPC search engines out there, but you really only need to advertise with the top two. If you want to see some lists, you can go to

Pay-per-click tips

Here are some tips for running a PPC campaign:

  1. The #1 rank is not always the best. In fact, you can usually get a better return on investment (ROI) by being the second or third result in a search. The reason is that people will often click on the first result without thinking. They then realize that the site does not offer what they want, and they will come back and think (and read the description) before clicking on the second or third results. I mention only the second and third results because usually, only the top three results get published (Yahoo, MSN, and many more). Often the second and third results are much less expensive than the number one spot.
  2. Bid on as many relevant, highly specific, low cost keyphrases as you can afford. A keyphrase with only one or two keywords will usually cost much more than one with three or four words. Longer keyphrases also tend to be more targeted (for example, shiny blue widgets, instead of just plain old widgets). Thus, with longer keyphrases, you get lower costs and a higher return on investment. If you bid on enough of these targeted keyphrases, you can usually generate enough traffic to match what you would receive for a single-word keyphrase. To summarize, bidding on shiny blue widgets, pre-owned utility widgets, and zebra-stripped widgets, will cumulatively generate the same amount traffic as just bidding on widgets, but with a higher ROI because they cost less per click.
  3. Include your keyphrases in your title and descriptions. Think hard about your description because generally, the best description gets the most traffic (not always the highest ranking result).
  4. Use objective, not subjective language in your descriptions. Subjective descriptions will state how great the website is. Objective descriptions are ones that list the benefits of a website, or mention what the surfer can expect to find. Try to point out what is unique about your website.
  5. Create highly relevant landing pages for your PPC campaign. These landing pages (where the PPC link goes) are what will convert a surfer into a buyer. You have already paid for the surfer to see this page, so use your resources to make it into a good conversion page. Also, keep separate, track of buyers that arrive via your PPC campaign, and buyers that arrive via other means. That way, you can track your ROI, and figure out how much you should spend on the PPC engines.

Other helpful resources:

Shawn Campbell

Shawn Campbell is the co-founder and Chief Search Engine Optimizer at Red Carpet Web Promotion, Inc.