Ever since the first businesses sprang up along the streets of ancient civilizations, their owners have looked for new and competitive ways to spread their message. The walls of Pompeii, for example, are littered with 2000-year-old graffiti advertising the inns and restaurants of the city. Today’s marketers are armed with a dizzying array of tools to reach more customers than ever before, aided by the vast commercial appeal of the Internet.
One of the most powerful business strategies in use today is pay-per-click advertising. A PPC campaign can bring an ample return on your investment when managed well but is a quick way to lose time and money if handled poorly. These are five free, useful Web services to help optimize and plan your latest PPC advertisements.
Google Analytics is an essential tool for any webmaster, tracking how, when and where users navigate a website. Using Analytics, businesses are able to see which sources of traffic result in conversions, which keywords bring in visitors and toward which pages those visitors gravitate. It also locates potential problems with SEO such as broken links and high bounce rates. Analytics is added to a site through a simple snippet of code and can be customized to deliver reports through email.
Google Keyword Tool
When hunting for new PPC campaigns, the Google Keyword Tool is the place to start. Although not always entirely accurate, the Keyword Tool is part of the AdWords program and provides basic information on any possible query. An approximate number of global and local monthly searches detail the keywords’ popularity, along with competition rates among advertisers.
Better yet, the specific search is followed by a list of related terms with their respective popularity and competitive levels. This is a fast way to see the landscape of a particular niche and find promising new avenues for PPC campaigns.
Bing Ads Intelligence
The largest competitor to Google is Bing, a Microsoft-owned search engine that started small but is consuming an increasingly large share of search traffic. Businesses with an eye to the future have spread to both engines, but the two companies use different algorithms to return different results. Bing Ads Intelligence functions similarly to the Google Keyword Tool, installed as an Excel add-in and used within that program.
Google’s wealth of search data is a goldmine for marketers, and the company is willing to share some of its analyses. Google Trends is a listing of the current popularity of search terms, including trending topics and regional variations in search volume. Most of the top-ranked terms on any given day correlate to news items, but digging deeper often turns up surprising changes before they become common knowledge.
Google Trends is also a powerful troubleshooting feature when advertisements are no longer performing strongly. If a search term has lost popularity, it may be time to swap it out for one that is improving.
The three major advertising platforms, Google, Bing and Facebook, have all created user-friendly programs to manage PPC campaigns from a Web browser. Google AdWords is the largest of the three and hosts an extensive variety of options down to the most minute adjustments. Bing makes it possible to import AdWords campaigns, preview ads in the search engine and watch performance fluctuations. Facebook, meanwhile, is oriented toward choosing demographics and making it easier to share and assess data.