“PPC for Your Small Business” – A Review

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As a PPC expert at Portent Interactive, Elizabeth Marsten has seen her fair share of small business owners looking to start SEM for the first time.  Often, these clients are enthusiastic about branching into online marketing but are constrained by unforgiving budgets.  For these people, there’s only once chance to do PPC right before advertising money runs dry.  This is something that Marsten understands well, and luckily for all of us, she’s written PPC for Your Small Business to help.

PPC for Your Small Business is a two-part eBook guide with a simple how-to approach to starting PPC for a small business.  From the start, PPC for Your Small Business explicitly defines its audience as “small businesses, sole proprietorships, crafters, technicians, consultants, contractors, anyone with a small PPC budget ($1000 per month or less),” and Marsten’s approach is tailored to their needs.  Partially this is seen in the advice she gives, such as recommending that advertisers start an account with 5-10 “seed keywords” rather than intensive lists that could easily rack up more money than there is to spend.  To accent this, she takes on a down-to-earth, conversation tone that is short, realistic, and focused.  If something’s not working, she says, drop it and try something else: here are a few options that may help.  I was especially impressed with how she cautions that PPC might not be for every business or every business owner.  It’s a risky move to tell new clients that the world of PPC is fickle, ever-changing, and high-maintenance, but Marsten lays this out clearly right from the start.  And it works too – with that warning on the table, the book is able to continue without the need to bloat the prose with hard-to-keep promises and reassurances.  PPC is difficult, Marsten is saying, but that’s okay.  Give it a try; I think you can handle it.

The first eBook in the series, subtitled Get Started Off Right, walks through the basic process of introducing readers to PPC management.  This, of course, means a basic tour of Google AdWords and all its components, but Marsten also includes some essential offline thinking that goes into setting up PPC.  What is my budget?  Which items do I sell the most?  Who is my audience, and how should I write the best ads for them?  These questions are touched upon in her text, but what is most helpful are the worksheets Marsten places in the margins.  They give the eBook a hands-on, relaxed feel, while also helping to focus the reader.  But for those just looking for a 1-2-3, step-by-step approach, she also includes several charts with concrete explanations, such as how to choose a match type for a keyword based on its estimated traffic.  Of course, these are all qualified as general best practices: Marsten does stress that only the reader knows what’s truly best for his or her business.

In her second eBook, Conquer paid search without spending a fortune, Marsten digs into PPC management a little deepr.  This time she focuses on more specific examples, such as a list of ads showing different advertising approaches, and an outline of helpful AdWords tools and features.  But to me, what’s most valuable about this eBook is its tailored answers to questions a small business owner is sure to have.  For example, “Getting More out of Your Budget” explains how to use position preference, ad delivery rate, ad scheduling, and other tactics in order to avoid any overspending, no matter how small.  These tactics are not hard to do, and better yet, they seem very intuitive for someone who’s used to finding shortcuts for stretching their advertising dollars.

There are, however, a few complaints that I have with PPC for Your Small Business.  First, I like that it’s short; however, that’s what I don’t like as well.  Especially in the second eBook, there are some topics that are glossed over.  For example, Marsten never really touches on how to measure success if you are not a lead-based business, and there is no mention of using PPC for branding and reach-expansion.  Similarly, some of the basic tenants of PPC aren’t explained as clearly as they need to be in the first eBook such as what, exactly, the display/content networks are, and why they must be approached differently than the search network.  Finally, I was disappointed that she only focused on Google.  Granted, if you can only spend a little bit of dough on PPC, then Google is the best place to start; yet I have worked with small clients that have seen lower CPLs and/or better CTRs from Bing, or from third-tier engines like Business.com.  Including a list of alternatives to Google could really round out this guide.

So my final verdict?  PPC for Your Small Business is a good place to start for someone who knows what PPC is but isn’t convinced it’s for their business; for clients who will be working alongside a PPC firm to get their account going; and for people who have an entrepreneurial outlook to PPC advertising.  The eBooks are concise enough to bring forth confidence and to put you in the right direction, but they must be paired with other sources of PPC information, such as blogs, books, or management for total success.  So overall, a good read for small business owners looking to break into the online world…especially if money’s tight.

PPC for Your Small Business: Get Started Off Right and PPC for Your Small Business II: Conquer paid search without spending a fortune are available at http://www.portentinteractive.com/ppc-ebook/.  Each eBook is $23 on its own, or $37 for the set.

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  • Jefflaw

    I love your content and have been a long time reader. I haven’t read the book but if you’re a small business owner with less than $1,000 I doubt you’re interested in ‘branding’. You’re looking for leads or commerce. I also believe that Google offers one of the easiest interfaces to use and that while Bing or Business.com may be a viable alternative you need to account for the fact that geotargeting and other capabilities are far more user friendly not to mention the 70%+ market share. Display and content networks are also a more advanced topic and running placement reports on individual sites is again a more advanced topic than your average small business owner is going to dive into. They are looking for a set it and forget it approach where they can define some ‘money keywords’ and then have that traffic flow into a phone call, website visit, lead form, etc. Your critiques are valid but put in context I’m sure her book is tailored towards simplicity not advanced tactics.

    • Anonymous

      You’re right, this book is explicitly marketed towards getting an account up and running, not for explaining every opportunity a PPCer could ever pursue. I think that she does a good job sticking to this focus throughout, and the book demystifies PPC in a nice way because of that. However, one of the most attractive parts of “PPC For Your Small Business” is that it’s realistic, and often reminds readers that PPC doesn’t always work as you think it will. That’s why I expected her to put some mention of alternative search engines to work with – at least a list that the reader could further research. MSN, at the very least, is worth a look for smaller businesses: not only is its audience somewhat different than Google’s, but MSN/Yahoo! have been making a noticeable push towards local results, which is often very relevant for small businesses. But you’re right, that doesn’t sink the book, and I would still recommend it for small business owners just getting started with PPC.

    • Anonymous

      In the UK & Ireland Google share is 90%!

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  • Anonymous

    Jessica, thanks for the review. I haven’t read the book either, yet, but it is on my list. Your comments on Elizabeth’s limitations does not shock me, but I am glad PPC Hero recongnizes there are alternatives to the big three, (PPC Hero: Don’t Forget About the Smaller Search Engines by Michael Blatt. Small business can be eaten up on Google, especially if they have little experience doing PPC. Let’s hope the third part of the series looks at the “other sources.”

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for reading ScouterRob! And yes, I’d like to see her continue this series as well.

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