Q and A: Pay Per Click Search Engine Marketing

Curious about pay per click search engine marketing?

Here are some of the most common questions that I regularly answer on the topic:

What is Pay-Per-Click Advertising?

Pay per click (PPC) is an web-based advertising model where advertisers only pay when a user actually clicks on an ad to visit the advertiser’s site.

Advertisers bid on keywords and keyword phrases and when a search engine user types searches for a term matching one of the advertiser’s keywords, their ad may be displayed under the ‘sponsored listings’. In the screenshot below, sponsored listings returned for the phrase ‘Flip video camcorder’ are outlined in red.

The cost to advertise on PPC search engines varies according to the amount of competition for a specific keyword phrase.

Google AdWords, Yahoo! Search Marketing, and Microsoft adCenter are the largest providers of pay-per-click advertising opportunities.

Does Pay Per Click Advertising Really Work?

Q. I noticed that you are currently advertising your web site on Yahoo! Search Marketing. I am thinking about using Yahoo! Search Marketing to advertise my company, and I was wondering how Yahoo! Search Marketing has produced for you. Are you generating leads, sales and traffic from Yahoo! Search Marketing and other PPC search engines?

A. I think pay-per-click search engine advertising has been an absolute gift to Internet marketers! :-)

What could be easier than to list specific keywords and phrases that your potential customers are searching for anyway, and be able to pay as little as a few cents per click to have them visit YOUR site?

I’ve been using Yahoo! Search Marketing as a traffic generation tool since 1998 — STILL do — and yes, a HUGE portion of my traffic, leads, and sales originate from my Yahoo! pay-per-click advertising campaigns.

I particularly appreciate Yahoo! Search Marketing (as opposed to Google Adwords) because it appeals to a slightly more mature demographic which fits most of my niche markets well.

But as for PPC marketing in general, I use a variety of different search engines to drive targeted traffic to my various sites and at different costs.

I think that the greatest benefit of using PPC marketing to drive traffic to your site is both speed of delivery and the fact that you can worry less about search engine optimization or other ways of driving free traffic to your sites — which ultimately means spending less time working on your marketing strategies and more time for you!

Should I Bid the Top Spot?

Q. Would it be a good idea to for me to pay top dollar to be at the top?

A. Being in the #1 spot on a pay-per-click search engine doesn’t guarantee sales. It just means that you are likely to receive more traffic than advertisers farther down the list.

To determine whether it’s worth spending big bucks to be near the top you have to know and understand conversion rates, ie. How many clicks does it take to produce ‘x’ number of sales? What is your return on investment?

For example, if you make two sales per hundred visitors, then your conversion rate is around 2%. If your revenue per sale is $10, then paying 20 cents per click would completely negate your earnings.

REVENUE     – 2 X $10.00 (revenue/sale) = $20.00 EXPENSES    – 100 (clicks) X .20     = $20.00 NET         – $0.00

However, if your cost per click remains the same, but either your conversion rate or revenue per sale increases, then it might be worth paying 20 cents per click (in this case).

You need to work with your variables and test, test, test your campaigns.

Decide what percentage return you want on your investment, then work the numbers to make that happen.

How Many Keywords Do I Need in a PPC campaign?

Q. You mention that most of your traffic is from pay per click search engines.

How many keywords is necessary to become successful? How many do you have for sage-hearts.com? (I already use Yahoo! Search Marketing and I would think that the fierce competition would demand that I have thousands of targeted keywords.)

A. When it comes to keywords and pay-per-click advertising, I’ve found that it’s definitely a case of ‘the more the merrier’.

For sage-hearts.com, I advertise about 2500 different keywords and phrases at Yahoo! Search Marketing. I also advertise that site on several other PPCSE’s. In addition to wide exposure, having many keywords allows you to ‘dollar cost average’ your bids.

For example, if you pay 30 cents for 1 keyword, and 5 cents for another, and both receive about the same number of hits, your average cost has just gone down to 17.5 cents per visitor.

The trick is to bid on highly targeted keyword phrases (long tail keywords) at relatively low cost.

The best way to dollar cost average is to run numerous campaigns across different pay per click search engine accounts. The following 3 PPCSE’s are the most popular and will therefore drive the most traffic.

For PPC account deals and discounts, read FREE Pay Per Click Search Engine Traffic.

Where Do I Find Merchant Keyword Lists?

In a comment on How to Use the Buying Cycle to Choose PPC Campaign Keywords, Carolyn asked “Does every merchant give you a list of keywords you can use? I’ve never noticed these on linkshare or on cj. Can you tell us where they list these?”

Different networks and merchants handle their keyword rules differently. For example, on Commission Junction you’d click on the Advertiser Detail link, find the Keyword Link under Get Links and then click on Get HTML as shown in the next 2 screenshots.




How Do I Do Effective Keyword Research?

Q. Do you have any suggestions for doing effective keyword research?

A. Keyword research is critical both to determine profitable markets and to create web pages that get listed in the search engines and then found by visitors.

There are several articles that pertain to keyword (and market) research in the Find Your Niche section of NPT and I recommend that you first read Niche Market and Keyword Research.

For keyword research, I use both the Google AdWords Keyword Suggestion Tool and WordTracker.

I particularly like WordTracker as it provides me with daily search estimates and lets me ‘drill down’ to the longest of the long tail keywords… just 2 of the many features that the service offers.

Here is an example of the keyword phrase ‘dog training’ dug to the first depth using Wordtracker’s Keyword Universe tool:

Wordtracker: Dog Training Keywords
Click the image to see the full size image.

Click the image to see the full size.

Notice the little shovels? You click on those to go deeper and into each keyword phrase. For example, ‘dog training equipment’ produced the following keyword phrases (Count & Predict included_:

  • dog training equipment 31 38
  • dog training equipment in texas 6 7
  • police dog training equipment 4 5
  • Dog Training Equipment Dog Fence And Ring 2 2
  • guard dog training equipment 2 2

‘Searches’ is the number of times the keyword has appeared in the Wordtracker database over the last 90 days. ‘Predict’ is Wordtracker’s prediction of the number of times the exact keyword will be searched for in a 24 hour period across all search engines.

With the Keyword Researcher, you can evaluate the number of results that appear when you search for the exact search term and check the ‘Google KEI’ — the keyword effectiveness index for Google.. ‘Google 24 hr Predict’ is Wordtracker’s estimate of the number of times the exact keyword will be searched for on Google.

The real trick is to go as deep as you can go, while still getting a fair number of searches without TOO much competition.

Wordtracker offers a free trial of their service at WordTracker or, you can read my Wordtracker review.


  1. says

    Great information on PPC for intermediate to beginners. Good advice on the long-tail keywords, but do you usually opt for broad or exact phrases? I’m assuming exact to save money, but does that limit the clicks by much? Also, do you only go for search, or also contextual?

    • says


      As you guessed, I almost always opt for exact phrases and rarely opt to use the contextual network. Fewer clicks, but way more targetted.


  2. says

    Sure PPC works but if you can effect the same without having to pay for it with improved SEO is that not a better way to go about it? I may be biased of course but there are techniques that will offer up the same kinds of responses without having to outlay the PPC charges each time.

  3. Ernest Contreras says

    KT You took the words right out of my mouth,I could not of said it better I always felt that the more the merrier,was the way to go but ,grouping must be done to ,in other words see who is carring the weight ( whos performing )thank you for putting it the clearer.

  4. says

    The more keywords the merrier is a good philosophy. But those keywords need to be segmented into narrow, close-knit groups and sub groups for maximum performance/relevancy.

    KT Ken

  5. says

    Thats great information on PPC. I learned few new things about PPC with your article. In my brief experience with PPC however, I have seen that tracking the performance of each keyword is your lifeblood in PPC. For example, if you have 20 keywords in your campaign that all get clicks, but you make 90% of your conversions with 5 of those keywords, the other 15 are really costing you money….I learned to optimize my campaigns the hard way :(

  6. Christine says

    I understand PPC pretty well – but sometimes it is still hard to sell like you said. So my question is how to you get to the top of google so we don’t have to pay for the traffic?

  7. Jon says

    Yea – PPC marketing is great for targeted traffic, but i can HURT if your sales letter fails to convert…

    • Ernest Contreras says

      PPC works good yes it does have it’s days ,yet the best part is you can stop whenever you see it is costing plenty and not converting, but if you have mucho campaigns going this can take time tweating , agree ?

  8. Chitika says

    the ppc I use displays ads for SE visitors only. If a visitor searches for a phrase for example `red hot chilly peppers` and go to your site from google the ad will contain the phrase: have you searched for red hot chilly peppers in google?
    the ppc is in my name link, just follow it if Rosalind approves this comment

  9. Ernest Contreras says

    I have used adwords and have recieved favorable results, and to my surprise
    very quickly, I also found useing the more keywords the better,I do not do alot of adword advertising now because I enjoy the competitive part and with my present job I do not get the time to tweak them,but I will be back I owe alot to your handbook, and newsletter to learn, Thanks !

  10. says

    Most of my revenue comes thru organic search. PPC is one tuff nut to crack. I’ve tried it numerous times but I only break even or lose money. Where can I find good honest PPC information for the average Joe?


  11. says

    I use the combination of various PPC programmes on my sites. Adsense not always gives you 100% relevant ads and I prefer soltions where ads are displayed for the exact search phrase.

    • Ernest Contreras says

      you say a combination of programs,you mean info from them all?
      also useing only exact phrases? can you say more ? or is this private
      information I am just curious,

  12. says

    First of all i would like to mention that i was not knowing much more about the PPC programme ,i never thought about the whole strategy behind the search engine marketing & i got all of theses details from your post!thanks for it!

  13. tracey says

    Ros please help me understand one thing about PPC that really confuses me and does not seem to get answered anywhere…

    …it is in picking long tail keywords…and the digging deep comment…so for example you have a site on say making fruit pies…you find a long tail keyword (using methods you have stated)that seems related ie: ‘is a cherry a berry or is it a fruit’ and lets say it has low cost and little competition but IS it the person who clicks on that likely to care about fruit pies (which it the basis of the site remember) or read you content/answer and then just leave the site.

    My question if it is not clear sorry is.. a lot of words can be connected to your subject but how do you know when you are going to wide with your long tail keywords and the visitors you want to attract? ie: fruit in this case does not mean the person clicking cares one bit about fruit pies just because they asked a fruit question..

    Please clear this up it confuses me the long tail aspect I of course understand you can have ‘fruit’ as a keyword but as you say it would be the most common used and expensive and I get that :)

  14. says

    I have used PPC in the past and found that there can be a very rapid response to the advertising. In fact, the ads go up in a matter of minutes. Consideration of keyword usage is very important, as well!

  15. Marie says

    Thanks for sharing this valuable information. I learned more great ideas about Pay Per Click Search Engine Marketing.

  16. says

    Pay per click is normally a span and people try to intentionally click on their own ads or their competitor’s ads. But what is more important is finding the right keyword and topping for the same in search engines.

  17. says

    Hi Rosalind, a few questions I’ve been curious about:

    1) Doesn’t Google Adwords keyword tool give you the same info regarding number of searches as wordtracker? What’s wordtracker’s advantage that you don’t get with Google?

    2) For your PPC campaigns, do you direct to your front page, or to specific landing pages?

    3) Is it worthwhile to spend money on “topic” keywords (say, “christian dating”) that don’t relate to any specific product you’re marketing, or should you focus PPC campaigns on actual products people are looking for?


  18. says

    Great information. I hate not getting sales off of clicks but hope my ability to generate income improves through PPC. Right now natural search is my best profit maker.

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