A Guide to the New Pay-Per-Search Scene

Until now, planning a pay-per-search campaign has been a fairly straightforward process: You compile your list of keywords, match them with the appropriate search term descriptions and URLs, submit them to the site, and boost or lower your bids as you see fit.

But the situation is changing as the competition continues to blaze between pay-for-placement search engine Overture.com and Google’s AdWords Select program. Revisions to submission policies are multiplying, and it’s becoming increasingly harder for media buyers to keep track of the rules, an impediment that can make campaign planning pretty tricky.

First Google introduced its new program, which includes the standard pay-per-search features in addition to several auxiliary offerings; then Overture modified its policy to include new regulations that have left many advertisers bewildered. For those of you who find yourselves in such a state, here’s a summary of what’s changed — and a few tips on how to comply without compromising your client’s campaigns.

A Few Changes

Probably the most visible modification is Overture’s newly implemented submission rule. It requires advertisers’ keywords, descriptions, and URLs to be extremely relevant to their sites, and, more specifically, to the corresponding landing pages. Overture may have already contacted you about revising the keyword list or ad descriptions that have served your clients so well in previous campaigns. Enforcing this regulation with such fervor is, of course, a benefit to advertisers in the long run. It cuts down on misguided clicks that might result from a misleading keyword or description and diminishes the aggravation that consumers experience when a click doesn’t take them to a relevant site page. (That aggravation, after all, can incite them to abandon the site in lieu of a more accommodating competitor.) The real conflict occurs when Overture’s editorial team rejects a submission that you believe is relevant to your client’s site.

When an Overture editor reviews the relevance of a pending search term, he will visit your site to locate the term and gauge its importance to your business. This action has to be carried out for each and every challenged keyword. It can be a lengthy and trying process and can sometimes result in mistaken rejections — especially if your client’s site is particularly intricate or multilayered. If you do receive a notice that your search terms, descriptions, or URLs have been rejected, don’t be afraid to challenge the publisher and battle for the right to bid on the terms that you’re entitled to. Feel free to help by pointing out the relevance of your submission, if it isn’t blatantly obvious. Don’t forget that every rejected term is another conduit for your client’s competitor to snatch away business, which, in turn, puts strain on the ad budget relied upon by you and your agency.

Overture has also begun rejecting keywords that receive fewer than 25 searches per month. Again, this rule was implemented with the advertiser’s best interests in mind. The objective with pay per search is to drive traffic, and the absence of a significant number of searches can’t possibly help you to achieve this goal. Knowing which search terms are popular, however, can help you better serve your client. If you keep an eye on the traffic to each search term, it can help you determine which products or services interest consumers most. You can then promote these popular products and services above all others, in every aspect of your ad campaign.

The information that pay-for-placement search engines make available to media buyers can help you determine where and how your client’s products should be promoted. With so many factors involved in determining what a consumer will purchase on an e-commerce site, even the retailer himself may not know which products have the potential to generate the most sales. Once this is determined, the advertiser may reconsider what he chooses to highlight, making it easier for the consumer to get what she really wants. Consider this free research that can benefit both your and your client.

Pay per search remains one of the most effective methods of augmenting an advertiser’s site traffic, particularly now that there’s a little healthy competition to encourage an improvement in service offerings. For those of you who have tested Overture and are ready to give Google’s program a try, here are a couple of guidelines to keep in mind.

Google may even be more difficult than Overture when it comes to requiring ads and keywords to be relevant. Google will actually disable your search terms if it doesn’t receive a click-through rate of at least 0.5 percent. If this occurs, simply revise your ad or keyword list and resubmit it through the site’s self-service online submission tool.

Another difference is that Google allows you to control your costs by setting a daily spending budget. Say goodbye to those tedious hours of revising your bids to stretch your client’s ad budget until the end of the month!

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