Officially announced in March, Google’s Pay-Per-Action (PPA) BETA test has now been running for 8 months. In that time, advertisers and publishers alike have grown accustomed to the new system and are developing a sense for what works and what doesn’t. The only problem is that no one’s talking about it! There was considerable buzz upon launch, but the blogosphere has since mostly kept quiet.

Because of this lack of data, discussion and general “group think” brainstorming, many advertisers (including myself) have had to figure this system out on their own. However, with the help of the PPA themed posts like this one, information from Google’s help center and the support of my AdWords representatives, I’ve been able to find a modicum of success with PPA. Through my Pay-Per-Action trials and tribulations over the last few months, I’ve amassed a collection of information that I would like to share with you.

  1. Plan Your Work: …and work your plan. Make sure you understand each piece of information requested of you and have it prepared when you go to set-up your PPA campaign(s). One step is to describe your product or service for potential publishers. You are requested to enter your company/product name, a description, informational URL, logo image (optional) and up to 50 descriptive keywords. This information is important because this is how publishers will choose to place your ads. Another area of importance is the “Action” set-up. This is where you describe the required action (sign-up, sale, etc.) and set a price. In my experience, I’ve learned that the price is really the pivotal point of your PPA success. Set it too high, you’ll pay for it (literally and figuratively!). Set it too low, publishers won’t pick up your ads. To determine a starting cost-per-action, run reports on your traditional CPC ads for a cost per conversion. Use this to begin your PPA efforts and raise or lower depending on your performance!
  2. Relevancy: Despite the differences between PPA and CPC advertising models, many of the basic rules stay the same. Case in point: Relevancy. Whether you’re paying for the click or the conversion, you must always ensure that your ad text matches your landing page. Additionally, your ads and landing pages need to match the “product” information you’ve entered for the AdSense publishers. Maintaining relevancy not only ensures that visitors to your site will be more likely to convert, but it will help with Quality Score (yes, it even works for PPA).
  3. Growing Pains: Even though PPA has been available for the better part of 2007, the truth is it is still a growing advertising medium. AdSense publishers are still acclimating to the new PPA system. Google is still tweaking their infrastructure as they continue to receive feedback from advertisers. What I’m trying to get at is, Pay-Per-Action is in a BETA test and should be handled as such. Not everything is perfect, and you may have to work a little bit harder to see positive results.
  4. The Happy Middle: An intriguing thought given to me by my AdWords representative was that publishers and advertisers are in a constant power struggle over the PPA system. Publishers are struggling to find the best products to place on their sites that also offer the highest payout. Advertisers are still trying to discover the best ads and fine tune the cost-per-action they’ve set to gain a better ROI. This brings me back to my point from #3: PPA requires extra effort to see positive results. The silver lining to all of this? It’s free! There is zero risk in trying PPA. If you generate a ton of clicks, but can’t convert a single visitor, you aren’t out a single dime.
  5. Site Exclusion: Currently, there is no Placement Performance Reporting available for PPA campaigns. When I bring this up with my AdWords representative, I’m told that “reporting for sites is not available, and they haven’t heard about it being in the pipeline.” If you are completely confident that certain sites on Google’s Content Network do not work for you, it is possible to add them as excluded sites for PPA. However, please refer to my point in #4. There is zero risk in trying PPA. The clicks are free. You only pay when visitors perform the desired action on your site. As long as you’ve set a sustainable cost-per-action, you’re golden. The one caveat being if you determine that certain sales or sign-ups are fraudulent. In that case, by all means exclude the sites that brought in that traffic!

As I said in my introduction, I have found a modicum of success with using Pay-Per-Action. I think that there is potential for success on both the advertiser and publisher sides of the table. Hopefully, as more advertisers either begin to use the PPA system or start to obtain positive results, the SEM blogosphere will begin a more lively discussion on the topic.

I would love to learn the successes (and failures) of other advertisers using PPA. Leave a comment and let me know your story!