When creating a commercial website there is an idea that is central to core sensibilities of the business model. That is, usually, at root, how does this site make money? In many cases, when creating a site, a business was preexisting, while other times a business model is based on what new marketing models can offer - web traffic. Neither case is a bad model in and of itself, and likewise, neither approach guarantees success. More to the point though, nothing can guarantee success, but there are ways to get a leg up on competition and to better position a website for success. First there are keywords. In the web world, and as I've said before, this is the cornerstone of the search game. Fine and dandy. But what happens with keywords? They can't just be stuffed into content and layered transparently in an attempt to game search engines. They can't just be placed anywhere any longer. In PPC you can bid on them, but even Yahoo has tried to deny random bidding strategies by implementing a minimum CPC for a site to advertise for certain keywords based on relevence. Google has been doing so for some time.
As far as the stringent restrictions applied by search engines go: I think we can all live with that. Anyone reading this post has certainly used Google or one of its competitors within the last few days, and most likely some searching was done for a personal reason. Now personally, I've been searching for movie reviews, today's MLB All Star game line up, personal products I wish to compare, and even local restaurant reviews. I go to these search engines because of the whole idea that I will be able to receive what I am searching for in a quick and efficient manner. If I did not receive what I wanted out of this search, I would refine my search - if this tactic often failed me, I would discontinue using the search engine that repeatedly failed me. That is, after all, the service they provide in order to get advertisers in front of my, your... our eyes. Too often this idea just does not bleed through to PPC advertisers. At the current state of the PPC game, this is almost appalling. I know that the entry fee is easy and that's part of the allure - anyone can enter the gate - but why would they want to enter? Traffic is enticing - it's glamorous... they are looking at YOUR creation, YOUR idea. Don't let ego seduce you into bad marketing. The first thing to do with PPC is to identify keywords and group them. If some of these groups don't have a place to go - a proper landing page - then these words should not be used. This is a good excercise to identify opportunities for other web pages, expanded content, or maybe even as a way to trim the fat. Any keyword should always have a place if money is going to be bid on it. This idea concerning relevence is not simply for the benefits of paying less as far as advertisers are concerned. If your site sells shoes there are probably multiple layers to the site... if not this should probably be remedied. For example, if your site is about shoes and you bid on the keyword "shoes" then the home page may be the optimal page to send people (whether this keyword actually results in ROI is a totally different question). Now if you also have ad groups for specific brands, you should have a page set up for those specific brands. If you are dumping that traffic at the home page, you are not only going to have many bounces and back-hits from the page, but those who do stay on your site will have to click multiple places and learn your navigation in order to find what they initially thought they were getting to. It's a bit of false advertising akin to saying 80% off, but with ultra-fine print underneath saying "some items," or worse, "Puma shoes for sale," when in fact not a single pair is visible in the store. If you don't see them, do you ask for them? If you do ask, are you pleased you had to do so? No one likes to be mislead. No one likes to click and navigate more than is necessary. So make the consumer's job easy. Make it easy to buy what is advertised, or don't advertise it. If you are bidding on a product type, make sure there is a page devoted to that product so you can send them directly there. At very least, the product should be visible on the page and should be found above the fold (within the default visible area of a clicked result). These product-type-specific searches will be fewer in number than the generic "shoes" - to be expected, but the page will display what was initially searched for, which will help conversion rates. If someone is looking for an exact product, they are typically further along in the sales cycle, exhibit being an educated consumer, and are generally more likely to act (take action, fill out a form, BUY!) if they see what they want.... of course price, selection, service, quality, etc. all play a factor (perhaps another post). If there are ever related or tangential keywords for which you would like to advertise, hold off until you can offer what it is you are about to advertise. Your PPC budget will thank you, as will your shoppers.