Low Cost PPC Traffic Driving (without using Google and MSN)
November 22, 2010
I recently took on a few traffic-driving projects with, what appeared to be, lofty goals. The objective of these campaigns was to drive qualified traffic to a specific landing page. We had high click goals and a small timeframe to accomplish this feat. Even still, when assessing the project, it didn’t seem as though it would be out of reach. The real challenge was doing so at the CPC goal the client demanded, which was below 20 cents a click. To summarize, what we needed was lots of traffic, in a short amount of time, with a small budget. Before committing to the project, we did some cost analysis on keywords surrounding the individual campaigns. We used the Google Keyword Tool and were looking at estimated average CPC as well as traffic. Our initial intent was to use Google and MSN so we wanted to make sure there were enough clicks available at our CPC to meet the client’s goals. Based on this analysis, we felt the client’s goals were within reach and took on the project. This is where things got interesting.
Although the Google Keyword Tool is generally great, in the case of estimating low dollar bids, I found it to be far from accurate. First, I’ll walk you though how we initially gauged our possibilities. Using the advanced options on the tool, I added a filter to only show keywords that are near our goal CPC of 0.20 (see image below):
Once you have your results, you’ll probably have to hit the columns button and add “estimated Avg. CPC” to your columns to see where Google estimates your keyword click cost. In the example shown in the image, we turned up about 30 results with total local click volume over a million on all keywords. It looked like a good start so we grabbed the relevant keywords and threw them into an AdWords campaign to get started. We used the same keyword list in MSN and continued using the tool to build a list of several hundred keywords to be used in each AdWords and Microsoft AdCenter. Every keyword should have been near our CPC goal based on these results. The reality after a day of running live, is that none of the keywords were competitive at our bid. We weren’t getting clicks but most importantly we weren’t getting impressions. The Keyword Tool had lied to us and now we were committed. Although we can’t blame the Keyword Tool for MSN, we weren’t competitive there either, leaving our original strategy in peril. Simply put, we needed to explore some additional options in order to meet our client’s goals. What we decided was to use a number of third tier advertising platforms in hopes that we could find some traction. Boy did it pay off.
We wound up using a collection of three smaller platforms and a mixed strategy of text and image ads. Each engine still took some work and individualization to get the performance we were looking for, but in the end we reached goal on every account. The engines we used were:
o Fox Network MyAds
We were able to drive a high number of targeted clicks in a short amount of time and also had the fringe benefit of branding presence through the use of image ads. I’ll run through the advantages and strategies for each of these campaigns individually but if you’re interested in some general info on smaller search engines, check out Amy’s post on comparing third tier engines from July of this year.
We didn’t use MyAds on all of our campaigns but when we did use it, it produced good click totals at a fair CPC. Between all three platforms, it was the most expensive but we were still able to deliver clicks within our budget goals. We used image ads for our MyAds campaign and although we did see lower CTR on the account, they were able to provide enough impressions to still produce viable click totals. The main downfall is that every campaign needs it’s own ad. If you want to run 4 ads, you have to setup 4 campaigns. On the flip side, it makes it really easy to compare the success of your ads and you can easily switch on and off campaigns and reallocate budget to your ads that are finding more success. Targeting for MyAds is handled on a campaign basis and is split between channels (similar to categories), demographics (age, education, relationship status, gender), and interests (many to choose from). While they don’t show the exact site your ad shows on, they do list the category and stats for each impression so you can block your underperformers. In our case, we were looking for traffic and not conversions so we didn’t block any sites.
In our traffic driving campaigns, 7Search was our workhorse. The main advantage to using 7search is that is shows your competition. You can see exactly what the next person is bidding and make adjustments accordingly. This was especially important for these traffic-driving campaigns because we could bid, to the penny, exactly what we needed to stay in line with our CPC goals. 7Search also has a great keyword tool that allows you to quickly build campaigns. You can view the tool below:
As you can see from the picture, not only can you see the monthly search volume, but you can also see the real time bids for each keyword. Notice that many of them are at or below five cents. When importing a batch of keywords you have to name one starting bid for all of them but it is extremely easy to go back through and adjust your bids accordingly. Once the account was setup, we would just check in on it every day and adjust bids as necessary. 7Search allowed us to run in first position and at a CPC far below our goal. The main downfall is that you only have one primary ad per campaign. You can customize ads on a keyword basis, which is fine but can be time consuming.
AdBrite was also a great performer for these campaigns. In particular, we saw a lot of success using image ads. The sizes we ran were leaderboard, medium rectangle, and wide skyscraper (728×90, 300×250, and 160×600 respectively). While the impression counts were down on our image ads, when compared to our text ads, the CTR was much higher and in the end we were able to produce a nice even click split between text and image ads but our image ads actually ran at least 35% lower in terms of CPC (text ads were still well within our goal). When building your campaign you set general targeting options, which doesn’t provide as much control as keyword specific bidding but there are enough options that you should be able to get as focused as you want (categories, keywords, gender, location, age, preferred sites). AdBrite might not be the best option for everyone but it can certainly drive some traffic at a low cost.
Using these three platforms allowed us to do exactly what our client wanted us to do. We drove a fair amount of traffic (a couple hundred thousand clicks) in a short amount of time (2-3 weeks), with a low CPC goal (our goal was 17 cents a click but we came in lower on all campaigns). Once the campaigns really got moving, it was easy for us to slow or speed things up based on performance. If one engine was performing at a pace that would get us to goal at a lower CPC, we would move more budget into that area. With that said, we had the other platforms on standby, knowing if it came down to the wire we could drive some quick clicks to reach our goal. When all is said and done, I think most of us would prefer to use MSN and Google but just because you aren’t competitive in those areas doesn’t mean you’re out of luck. Give these platforms a chance and see what they can do for you.
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