Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising is not just the marketing flavor of the week. It promises to be a very profitable way to get prospects to Web sites for a long time to come. It is direct marketing at its purest. To succeed with PPC, you need to apply all the rules for media, offers, copy, and testing.

Here are 10 tips for maximizing PPC effectiveness.

1. Choose relevant keywords. Don't pick keywords solely based on their popularity. Make sure your product or service would be of interest to someone searching for that term.

2. Cast a wide net. Include misspellings, "fat finger" typos, and plurals to capture additional traffic.

3. Combine multiple words to create phrases. Attach modifier words (Best Widgets, Cheap Widgets, Fast Widgets, Widgets Online, etc.) and cities or states (Los Angeles Widgets, Widgets in California) to your primary keywords. Also use natural language phrases such as "where to download the latest widgets." These terms will not likely drive high volumes in clicks, but they are more likely to convert to a sale. Even using your product's name can work: Sea Eagle, a manufacturer of inflatable boats, has been successful with this technique.

4. Develop a bid strategy to match your business objectives. Determine what your end goal is for your search campaign:

  • Maximizing profitability. If your campaign must pay for itself, then you need to manage your biding to maximize ROI. Resist the urge to demand the No. 1 position placement for all terms. Let ROI determine placement. In many cases, a 3rd or 4th position will yield a much stronger return without a significant drop in volume.

  • Maximizing exposure. In many cases, the goal is simply to get as many relevant clicks to a site as possible in order to gain exposure for a product. You should still be cautious about forcing a No. 1 position. Some terms will require a huge cost per click (CPC) for the No. 1 position, but positions 2-4 are a relative bargain. While you don't want to get caught up in bidding wars on nonessential terms, it is important to stay in the top 4 positions. Doing so gets your ad into syndication with all of the partner search engines, and that will dramatically increase impressions.

  • Capturing buyers at various stages. Following a pure ROI approach may maximize profitability in the short term, but recent studies have revealed that an integrated approach is more effective in the long run. The integrated approach captures buyers at various stages of the purchase cycle. The more general terms that might not provide an immediate positive ROI have been shown to influence searches on the higher ROI terms, resulting in a net increase in total ROI.

5. Write relevant copy. Make sure that your copy closely ties with the search term. Preferably include the search term in the copy at least once. And don't deceive—that will get you more clicks, but not more business.

6. Include an offer in the copy. "Free," "Save $XX," or "XX% Savings" will usually lift response. You can also mention a gift or bonus.

7. Continually test new copy. This is especially critical for Google AdWords. Here, your click-through rate plays a role in your ranking relative to your competitors. You should always have at least two versions of copy running to try to beat your control. Once you have a clear winner (wait for at least 30-40 clicks in each cell), cut the loser and add a new one based on your learnings. Test various expressions of the offer. Try leading with the offer in the first line, then try the offer at the end. Test featuring different benefits, etc.

8. Deliver a relevant and unique landing page. You have only a split second to convince prospects that they are in the right place. So, don't make them search for the product they are looking for. (Hint: They already told you what they are looking for in the search term.) Whenever possible, send the customer to a deeper, more specific page dealing with the term they just searched. For example, on the term "Men's Tennis Shoes," link the customer to the page about Men's Tennis Shoes, not your general shoes page.

9. Continue the sales process. You're not finished when prospects get to your landing page. You have to lead them all the way to your registration page or shopping cart. You do that with landing page copy that expands on the promise of the search engine listing and motivates prospects to take the next step.

10. Relevancy! Relevancy! Relevancy! In case you missed the common theme throughout: Relevancy is the most important element of PPC search engine marketing. If you ignore relevancy, you will likely be frustrated with low click-through rates and an unprofitable campaign.

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Some of these tips are easy to understand in concept, but not so easy to put into practice. So one last way to make sure you take full advantage of all PPC search campaigns offer is to engage a resource that does this for a living. It's often better to spend the money but get it right the first time.

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Jay Bower ( is president of the Crossbow Group (, headquartered in Westport, Connecticut.