From the Winter 2008 issue of our newsletter, Let's Grow. For a FREE subscription, CLICK HERE

Paid Search:

A Practical Guide to Improving Results

Are you running a paid search campaign (also known as pay-per-click advertising) on “set it and forget it” mode? If so, you might as well just shut it off and save your money. A successful paid search campaign requires attention to many details. Here are some of the most important:

Brainstorm Many Keywords. “I already rank high for flower seeds,” a client recently told me, so why would I want to try paid search?” Perhaps there’s no need to bid on flower seeds, but what about terms like flower catalog, heirloom flowers, cut flowers, annual flower seeds – not to mention individual varieties.

To help expand your keyword list, use the free tools found on Google or Yahoo or subscribe to the paid online service

Edit Tightly. Pay-per-click advertising is usually limited to a 25-character headline plus two lines of 35 characters each. Use them wisely. Pack in specifics and benefits. Why say We offer high quality decorative planters for your home and garden if you can say Colorful contemporary ceramic planters, free same-day shipping.

Test Copy. Create several versions of each ad. Google AdWords lets you test one against the other. While testing your copy, disable the Google feature that serves only the best-performing ad. Change just one element at a time: the headline, description or URL. Changing even a single word can make an astonishing difference in results.

Link to the Right URL. Don’t automatically link every ad to your home page. If users can’t find what they’re looking for right away, they’ll move on to the competition quickly. When you advertise a specific product, link directly to the product page.

Use Match Types. Pay-per-click advertising programs offer three different matching choices. With Exact Match, your ad appears when people search for your exact keyword phrase with the words in the same order, and no other words in between.

With Phrase Match, your ad is served when people search on a phrase containing your search term, with the words in the same order, but other words may appear in between.For instance, outdoor furniture is a Phrase Match for outdoor teak furniture.

With Broad Match, the words in your search phrase may appear in any order, and with other words in between. For instance, furniture teak outdoor is a Broad Match for outdoor furniture.

Consider Negative Match. You can specify that your ad not be shown if users search for your keywords in combination with other specific words. For instance, if you’re bidding on dahlia, you might include a negative match for black to eliminate people looking for The Black Dahlia murder mystery.

Don’t Aim For the Top. What counts most in paid search is not the greatest number of click-throughs, but qualified traffic that turns into sales. The #1 spot nearly always gets the most click-throughs, often at a high cost per click. When people go further down list, they tend to read more closely and get more selective about which ads they click on. So as counterintuitive as it may seem, the #3 or #4 spot often brings more qualified visitors at a much lower cost per click than #1, yielding higher profits.


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