Lee: The quality of the click is all in the data. High quality versus low quality is based on historical data. Marketers always have something they want the customer to do -- some action such as fill out a form, visit a page, add an item to the shopping cart, or make a phone call. So you look at the behavior of the clicks and the differences and you start targeting by search engine, by geography, by time of day, or whatever depending upon the variables that generate the post-click behavior you want. Collecting that data and targeting your marketing plan to use it is the holy grail of pay-per-click advertising. It allows you to target your campaign and continue refining it so it becomes more and more efficient.
bMighty: How has the economy affected pay-per-click marketing?
Lee: It's really interesting. It affects advertisers differently according to their corporate culture and corporate philosophy. Some are pulling back on their overall marketing spend -- including search advertising -- but others see search as harvesting demand, grabbing customers when they're at their most interested, and for them right now is a great time to expand.
bMighty: Your book addresses the truth about pay-per-click advertising, but let's bust some of the myths about it. What are the common misperceptions?
Lee: The biggest one is what you mentioned earlier: That all clicks are created equal. They're not. That's easily the most common misconception. And related to that is the idea that search advertising is buying traffic for your site. That's a mistake, you don't want traffic, you want customers and sales -- traffic is a means to an end.
Another misnomer is that you can set it and forget it. You simply can't just set up a search campaign and then leave it alone. It's dynamic. Essentially it's a real-time auction for clicks and because all clicks aren't created equal, you need to be active in managing your campaigns by raising and lowering bids.
Another idea that's off base is that you want to send all your traffic to the home page. Sometimes the home page or index pages makes sense, but depending upon the search, you may have a better chance of eliciting that post-click behavior by targeting links deeper into your site.
Another one is that you don't need to buy paid search, because you have good organic search rankings. That may be true, but don't assume it. Buy the keyword one week and then compare the results for paid versus organize. That analysis will help you understand the difference and see opportunities for marginal or incremental improvement.
bMighty: When should you outsource your pay-per-click marketing?
Lee: Generally, working with a specialized search agency doesn't start to make sense until you're spending $10,000 per month or more. And when you do engage an external resource, make sure they're smarter than you. There's a lot of agencies out there that have added SEO [search engine optimization] to their portfolio of services because they know there's a demand and they just hand it over to their youngest employee who happens to have a Facebook page -- that's not expertise. If your internal team is Web savvy, it may be worth keeping in house and when it reaches a certain point you can look into investing in bid management technologies.
bMighty: What's the reality of how much time you need to invest in managing pay-per-click marketing for your business?
Lee: There's not a silver bullet. The success of search marketing depends on the business and the market. If you're the only cosmetic dentist in Boise Idaho who does search marketing, maybe you can set it and forget it, but most businesses don't have a lock on the category and geographic location. If your competitors are using search marketing, they're trying to outmaneuver you in the bid landscape and you'll need to consider a dedicated resource to keep up as your campaigns escalate in size and complexity.
bMighty: How do they measure the results?
Lee: Any search metrics you use, must be tied to the KPI [key performance indicators] of the business or it's useless. There's different ways of doing it of course .For instance with phone calls, you can do it informally by asking where the customer heard about you or formally by using different phone numbers for different campaigns. Just as all clicks aren't created equal, all leads aren't created equal and the more ways you build into gauge the value of your leads, the more efficient your process will be and the more value you'll recognize.
bMighty: What do most people not know or overlook?
Lee: Search visitors are right at the end of the buying cycle, they're as close to buying as they're going to be. If you're not doing a good job of search marketing, your competitors are going to grab them and not just your potential customers but even your existing customers.
See more bMighty Q&A's With Business Leaders
Benjamin Tomkins is editor of bMighty.com.
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