Staying Sane Survival Tips for Small Business Owners

Your lunchtime thoughts are comprised of brilliant marketing strategies and anxiety over bill payments. You’re the CEO, human resources director, janitor, and administrative assistant all wrapped up into one. You open the doors at dawn and lockup when it’s time to wrap up for the day.

Welcome to the world of small business ownership. Lovely, isn’t it?

Of course, the rewards of small business ownership are quite high. Your focus determines your reality and your success, you never have to answer to an angry boss, and (for most owners) you get to work in an industry of your choice. There’s an obvious trade-off with the long hours, multiple responsibilities, and occasional panic attacks of “how am I going to get this done?”

Not to worry. You’re not alone. In fact, almost all small business owners face the same issues you do. And many have survived and lived on to tell the tale (in small business seminars, in fact!), so don’t get discouraged. Here are several easy tips to get your business head out of the clouds.

Become an expert at time management: If you went to college, chances are you learned how to balance midterm studying, paper writing, socializing, and plain old partying into a somewhat successful formula. Dust off those time management skills, because they’ll get your small business running in an efficient fashion. A great way to do this is to use the tools that come with modern office software. Any sort of email program that features a calendar, such as Outlook, will allow you to track appointments, follow-up emails/phone calls, and important dates. It will also allow you to create daily to-do lists while maintaining an organized list of your contacts. You can also use spreadsheet software, such as Excel, to keep track of the progress of multiple tasks, calculate and crunch numbers, and store tables upon tables of information. Get this software, load it on to your office computer or laptop and use it religiously. It will organize your life and allow you to attend to the important things for your business.

Contracts are good things: Here’s a hint – if you’re not an expert at something, don’t do it yourself. Your budgets are stretched and your time and sanity are running low. How about a hired hand? From virtual administrative assistants to business planners to copywriters, hiring out help on a contract basis can free you from the logistics of running a business and allow you to stay focused on what your business really does. Obviously, hiring a professional costs money, but it also means a separate set of eyes specializing in something that you’re not the most adept at. The process could even pay for itself. If the quality of work these contract professionals bring in generate revenue by allowing you to work harder at what you do best.

Seize every opportunity: When you’re a small business, you’ve got to get creative with your marketing. Fortunately, every single moment and action presents itself as a time to sell your business. Writing an email? Then attach your business description to your signature and casually mention your business. Going to the library? Bring some flyers and tack them on the bulletin board. Going to get office supplies? Ask the supply store manager how you can place your business cards on the counter. Every scenario grants you the opportunity to reach another person. And even if its just one person, that someone can tell a friend, who may tell two friends, and so on. Word-of-mouth and grass-roots marketing can be a powerful tool, and it’s cheap – so use it!

Keep your chin up: It might be a cliché, but it’s true – the best way to have run a successful business is to stay positive. Keeping a positive mindset affects you, the ones you work with, and your customers. No one likes to work when they’re down in the dumps. But if you’re chipper, motivated, and ready to go, you’ll inspire yourself and the ones around you. It may sound trite, but it’s the truth. Maintain a positive attitude and work hard and the results will present themselves!

While running a small business is consuming and exhausting, don’t forget that you also need to stay mentally and physically healthy. These tricks will help you run your business more efficiently, but it doesn’t excuse you from running yourself into the ground. Remember to find an outlet for the physical and emotional stress that come with running a small business. You’ll feel refreshed and energized and ready to work hard and efficiently – and that means more business and more profits!

Persistence: A Key Ingredient in the Recipe for a Successful Small Business

It has been said that success is rarely easy or quick and that it is only the product of consistent effort which is repetitively applied. This is definitely the case for the small-business owner when trying to become successful in the cutthroat world of marketing. Any successful business depends upon marketing your product or services to the general public and convincing them to spend their hard earned money or time. It is only through persistence and never giving up on your dreams can success be achieved. Within this article, you will find several ideas of how you can maintain perseverance and understand that persistence is indeed a key ingredient in the recipe for a successful small business.

Finish What You Start

Oftentimes people get off to a flying start in their business endeavor, but as time goes by they get side-tracked never finishing what they started. The history of small business is full of great starters but not-so-great finishers. There has never been a great book left half-written, nor a successful business left half-built. The key to finishing what you started is perseverance and commitment. Remember that many people with less talent, less ability and less experience can achieve greater things than those with greater gifts if they commit to the end of what they begin to do.

Don’t Fear It, Face It

Fear is a terrible thing and when applied to running a small business can end in disastrous results. Most people are afraid of rejection or the thought of failure. Fear of rejection will cause people to accept lives of conformity and mediocrity, while fear of failure will lead people to pass up on life changing opportunities. The small business owner will oftentimes have to take chances and risks in order to survive. It is the ones that face their fears of rejection and failure that survive. Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones once said, “The men who try to do something and fail are indefinitely better than those who try to do nothing and succeed.”

Decide to Be Decisive

Everyday we make choices. Most of the time we are not even aware that we are making them. In the world of business, indecisiveness can be fatal. To pursue opportunities for your small business and maximize potential, you have to become decisive. Becoming pro-active in making decisions in the direction of your business and staying the course will be for more successful than waiting for choices to happen and then dealing with the consequences.

Never, Never Give Up

This is the definition of persistence. As one Japanese proverb teaches us, the eventual winners are those who “fall down seven times, gets up eight.” We aren’t losers until we give up. This is definitely true for the small business owner.

Persistence is indeed a key ingredient in the recipe for a successful business. You must stick to your game plan and finish what you start. You must be decisive in what you chose and never fear rejection or failure. And above all, you must never, never give up. One final thought from J.D. Rockefeller, “I do not think there is any quality so essential of any kind as the quality of perseverance. It overcomes almost everything, even nature.”

Why Online Presence Is Essential For Small Business Success

If you are any kind of small business or home operated business, online presence is essential. Majority of web site visitors are from the English speaking population due to the high levels of internet penetration in that category, online presence for all small enterprises cannot be overemphasized. The research data in the US about online connectivity reveals the following facts which may help to understand the importance of the web presence for businesses especially the small enterprise.

70 % of the US households have web connectivity.

In 2004 worldwide online population was 801 million worldwide.

Of these 36% used English as the language. Of this U.S. alone accounts for close to 200 million.

The next major group was European languages with 38 % and major single language next to English was Chinese accounting for 14%.

Home web users were generally affluent, literate, and belonged to the younger age profile. This means the web presence for any business is necessary if you want to succeed in promoting your products and services to a population who can afford them and also willing to buy them online.

The household that did not own a computer or who were were not connected to the web, generally felt it is not useful or needed and cost too much.

What this means for a small business owner is that they are better off promoting their products to people who were online.

You small business success is undoubtedly linked to your online presence

How to Choose the Best Small Business VoIP Solution

Telecommunication cost is always an obstacle for small business owners, especially if you need to call domestic or international long distance. The long distance cost factor alone, depending on the type of business you’re in, can make the difference in the success of any small business.

The telecommunication market today is one of the most competitive. Rates for both local, domestic long distance or DLL (long distance in the same country) and international long distance (ILD) are going down every day. The new player in small business phone systems, VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol), adds a whole new dimension when it comes to choosing a phone system for your small business or home based business.

There’s so much hype today about VoIP, or Voice over IP, or Voice over Broadband, whatever you want to call it. Everyone’s saying that VoIP is the “future of communication” and that VoIP will replace regular analog phone calls. Is all this true? If it is, how do you, as an entrepreneur, decide how to choose and invest in what’s best for you? Firstly, if you have no idea what VoIP is really about, here’s where you can get educate yourself: http://www.mybusinessvoip.com/start

There are two things you need to consider:

1) Level of investment
2) Cost vs. Quality

To go full out into using VoIP, you’ll need to invest in IP phones, and possibly even in IP PBX. Otherwise, you should go for IP phone adapters, which allow you to maintain whatever system you already have, but also gives you the option of converting some of those phone lines to VoIP. Most entrepreneurs are reluctant to go 100% into VoIP, and yet they still want the benefits that come from it. That’s why IP phone adapters are so popular today. In fact, here’s a list of the most popular providers for comparison: http://www.mybusinessvoip.com/compare

When is comes to quality vs. cost, the direction is pretty clear. Before choosing the proper VoIP phone system for your business, you need to figure out exactly what your business needs. If your business relies heavily on the phone for prospecting customers, providing customer support, or giving out important information through the phone, then you should definitely opt for better quality.

If you use the phone for short communication with your business partners or agents, or any other reason which is NOT your main business function, it would be better to save a little and go with the low cost option. The difference in quality is not very apparent in most cases.

If you are just starting your small business, VoIP phone cards also provide some sort of temporary solution until you can get enough financing to develop a better system. Phone cards usually let you dial international and national long distance at a lower cost because they use either VoIP as the back end provider or through a special promotion or arrangement between telecommunications companies.

Today, you can even get “virtual phone cards” which allow you to make phone calls by dialing a toll-free number in a long list of countries. This is especially useful if you spend more time travelling and doing business overseas than you are at home.

Regardless of which VoIP phone system you choose for your small business, make sure you are getting the most out of the money you spend for these long distance or international plans. Forget the bells and whistles. The purpose of having a good phone system is, and always should be, to communicate and express yourself.

How To Find Customers For Your eBay Consignment Business

Selling goods for others, consignment selling, is the fastest-growing business segment on eBay.
Over 80,000 sellers have registered for eBay’s trading assistant program.

The largest, most trusted resource online for auction information Worldwide Brands, Inc

If you can find people who are willing to give you something to sell without your paying for it unless it sells, then you have created an unstoppable money machine. With this business you get the inventory in your hand before you sell it, but your inventory is free.

Think about this a moment: What is the biggest problem eBay sellers face? It’s finding goods to sell on eBay that they can buy at a low enough cost to make a profit. What could be better than the consignment business? There is no investment in merchandise. If an item sells, you make a profit with little or no investment—or risk. If it doesn’t sell, you simply call the consignor up and ask them to come and pick up their goods. So, simply put, if you can find enough good merchandise to sell, this is a win-win business. The consignor ends up getting more for their merchandise than they could get from a garage sale or by selling it in a local auction, and you make a commission with little or no risk to you beyond the eBay listing fees. Assuming you know how to sell on eBay, and you can handle the administrative and bookkeeping side of this business, you really can’t lose as long as you find a steady supply of people with merchandise to sell.
Let’s explore the ways to do this.

Marketing Your Business:

Marketing your business or, put another way, selling your service is the key to success in the eBay consignment opportunity. This includes all forms of advertising, networking, and public relations. Marketing is a continuous process. If you stop marketing, you will stop growing. How you plan to market your services is the most important part of your business plan. The money you spend on marketing will most likely be the largest single category of expense you have after rent and labor.You should spend your marketing dollars very carefully. Make sure you test every advertisement for effectiveness before running it again. Always start small. Most advertising venues such as newspapers, magazines, and radio will give you large discounts for signing up for a program instead of doing just one or two ads. This is highly negotiable, however. My standard answer to an advertising salesperson is “I will buy three spots (or ads) and test them. If they work, I will sign up for a larger program. If I go ahead with the larger program, I want you to credit my first three ads with the program discount.” Because advertising is very competitive, the sales rep will agree to this most of the time. If he doesn’t, then talk to his competitor first before making a decision.

Advertising :

Advertising is probably the easiest way to build a clientele. Advertising takes many forms and has a wide variety of costs, depending on the reach and frequency of the advertising you do. The great thing about advertising is that you can start small, reinvest your earnings, and grow with very little financial risk. Avoid the temptation to jump in and commit to a large program. Test your ads first in small papers and journals, before spending large sums to advertise in larger publications.

Print Advertising:

Starting out, local advertising is probably your best source of merchandise. I stress the word “local.” This is a relevant term. If you live in a small town (under 100,000 population), you can take out a classified ad for very little money (usually under $15). If you live in New York City or Los Angeles, a classified ad in the major newspapers can cost over $50. If I lived in New York City and were starting out on a small budget, I would forgo the New York Times and place an ad in one of the neighborhood journals, such as the West Side Journal. On the other hand, in a small town I could afford to advertise in the largest newspaper.
There are also plenty of small publications such as the Ad Server, Little Nickel, and so on. These are very inexpensive to advertise in.

If you take your business to a higher level with employees and/or a storefront, then you will be able to afford advertising in the major newspapers.

Here is an example of a classified ad that I have used with success:

Make money selling your valuable goods on eBay. We do all the work for you. We photograph the items, list and launch the auctions, collect the money and ship the goods. We sell art, antiques, collectibles, computers, small electronics and good quality clothing, jewelry and accessories. Call 206-555-7777

Here are some shorter ads that also work:

1/ I will sell your items on eBay. Low fees. Call Skip at 306-555-5555

2/ Professional eBay Seller will get Top Dollar for your valuable goods Low fees, quick payment 703-555-5555

3/ eBay Seller works for you. Get Top Dollar for your antiques and collectibles. 212-444-4444

Radio Advertising:

Local radio stations can also be very inexpensive and effective. Small local radio stations sell 30-second spots very cheaply. For example, I once purchased 25 spots for $300. One half of the spots ran in prime time. I received over 70 calls from the spots. About 20 of those resulted in acquiring merchandise to sell on eBay. Those sales netted over $6,000. What is more important, a few of the people I dealt with are still in touch with me and bring me merchandise on a regular basis.

Bulletin Boards and Posters :

Another source of advertising is local bulletin boards in supermarkets, book stores, Laundromats, senior centers, neighborhood kiosks, and so on. Yes, people actually read these. Just create a 5×7 card with the same text as the classified ads.  Post as many as you can and check them on a regular basis. You can also put those little tabs with phone numbers on the bottom that people can tear off.

Cold Calling :

Lots of people sell things at garage sales that they could sell for much more money on eBay. There are hundreds of eBay power sellers who cruise garage sales, tag sales, and estate sales buying up good used items they can sell on eBay for three or four times the cost. If you want to sell on consignment, however, getting to the sale when it opens is too late.Instead, try this: On Wednesday or Thursday, get a list of sales from your local paper. Go to the house and knock on the door and explain what you do and offer to look at what they are selling to see if you could get more money for them on eBay. If you are too shy to do this, you could also just prepare a short note or a flyer explaining what you do and either drop it off on their door or send it in the mail timed to arrive a couple of days before the sale.Another source of cold-calling is dropping into small antiques and collectible stores.

Today a lot of dealers are already selling on eBay themselves, but I know a few dealers who want to sell more on eBay but just don’t have the time. There are other, old-fashioned dealers who have never tried eBay and probably never will. These people are very approachable. eBay and the soft economy of the past few years have been cutting into their sales, and many small antique dealers are struggling. Your efforts can really help some of these small-town dealers stay in business.You can do this with any business, but the advantage of antiques and collectibles is that they are usually higher priced than most used goods.

Another technique I use is to visit estate sales and garage sales at the end of the day just before they close. Sometimes people have things that wouldn’t sell, because either there is no local market or they priced them too high for a garage sale. Often you can sell these items at a higher price on eBay.

Networking :

You should volunteer to speak before community groups such as the Lions Club, Rotary, the senior center, chamber meetings, and so on. Give a talk about “How to sell on eBay.” This will help get your name out in the community. Your talk should not be a sales pitch for your services, but you can mention what you do at the end of your talk and most groups will let you hand out business cards or flyers.

Join your local Chamber of Commerce, where you can meet bankers, attorneys, and local business owners. The best way to meet and develop a relationship with these folks is to volunteer for some of the committees, such as the speaker committee or dinner committee, or else for events the chamber sponsors. This will bring you in close contact with other members and people will look upon you as someone who really cares rather than someone who joined the chamber just for the business contacts.

As a chamber member, you will also be allowed to advertise in the chamber newsletter or magazine and will have a directory of all the members that you can use for direct mail.

As you will be dealing with business people you will want to look business-like.  This doesn’t mean you have to wear a suit. The corporate casual look is very acceptable. Nice slacks, a blouse or shirt and perhaps a blazer if you are speaking to a group, or meeting a business owner, will work fine.

Creating a Presentation Book:

Prepare and carry a presentation book (or a “pitch book” as it’s called by salespeople). Buy a three-ring notebook and plastic sleeves that hold an 8″ × 10″ sheet of paper.

Prepare inserts as follows:

* Facts about eBay
* Facts about you (feedback status, power seller status, years of eBay experience, and so on)
* A screen shot of your feedback page with comments
* Examples of common items selling on eBay
* Some screen shots of successful auctions you have completed
* Your fee schedule
* A list of local references

You should also carry extra copies of your fee schedule, your flyer or card, and a consignment contract to leave at the end of the meeting.Practice giving your presentation until you can give a concise “pitch” in about ten minutes. You will be reading upside down (people seldom sit side by side in a business meeting), so you will need to memorize what you want to say about each page.Your presentation should be concise, informative, and to the point. When you get to the end of your presentation, don’t forget to ask for the business. Do not say something lame such as “Well, what do you think?” Instead say something along the lines of, “Mr. Jones, do you have any merchandise that you would like me to try selling for you?” Or you might say, “Mrs. Brown, would you like to give me a couple of items to test-market for you before making a final decision?”

If you take one thing away from this article, it should be that consignors will not beat a path to your door. It is not enough to announce to the world that you are in business. You have to proactively go out and look for consignors. I would try all of the techniques listed here. Over time, you will learn which ones work best for you and your particular market.

Web Site Promotion: Give Your Online Promotion An Instant Boost

Promoting a web site the right way means using a multi-layered system. If you are expecting big sales from a one or two method web site promotion plan, you are in for a rude awakening…

Most useful promotion methods take some time to really kick-in. For a sudden surge of traffic to your web site, think about adding some well-placed targeted advertising into the mix.

Any web site, including yours, will require continuous testing. From the headlines to your sales letter, and right down to the price you are charging, you have to apply three very important ideas:

1) Test
2) Test again
3) Repeat

To get your testing into gear, it helps to start a Pay Per Click ad campaign or buy some targeted ezine ads. Within a week, you can have some serious targeted traffic so you can get an idea of what’s working and what’s not.

Google AdWords is a good place to learn the Pay Per Click game. If you can get the hang of AdWords, you can get some good traffic fast. You are going to pay for each visitor you get, but your other free and low-cost promotion methods will help to balance your spending. Adwords advertisers get to use built-in ad click and sales/lead conversion tools at no extra cost. This makes it easier to put the testing formula above into action.

If you want to speed up the AdWords learning curve, which can be very frustrating and expensive, you really should check out this helpful resource… http://adwords.kljonline.com This best- selling resource will save you tons of money otherwise wasted on trial and error when you don’t know what you are doing, besides saving you months of learning time.

Another way to get fast traffic to your web site is to buy top sponsor or solo ads in related email and online newsletters. There are services available that will place an ad for you in many different quality ezines at once. The ad is seen by your target customers, so you get quality traffic as long as your ad copy pulls. Quality traffic is more likely to translate into leads and sales than poor quality traffic.

Buying Pay Per Click and ezine advertising can help you make up for a slow start with your web site promotions. Your free and low-cost promotion methods will give great results over time. A good mix of free promotion traffic and paid advertising traffic will give your product or service the online exposure it deserves!

The Click Fraud Problem & how to eliminate it.

Click fraud has become a major problem for online marketers. If you participate on Google adwords campaigns or Overture, you must already pay a lot for your campaigns.


What is click fraud?


Click fraud is the deliberate clicks to PPC search engine ads for completely other reasons than expressing interest for buying the related products or services.

Overture defines click fraud as clicks arising for reasons other than the good-faith intention of an Internet user to visit a web site to purchase goods or services or to obtain information.

Google defines click fraud, or invalid clicks, as any method used to artificially and/or maliciously generate clicks or page impressions.

In simple words, Click fraud means that someone is cheating you and that you pay too much for your pay per click campaigns.


Who is doing that?

Three main groups click on pay per click ads, without real interest in the offered goods:

People who joined Google AdSense or other per click affiliate programs click on the ads on their own web site to make a little income. Often, these people cooperate with other webmasters to click on each other’s ads.

Some unethical companies click on the pay per click ads of competitors to drive up their advertising costs.


Companies (often in India, Russia and China) hire people who are paid to click on ads.
Google and other search networks provide refunds to advertisers when click fraud has been discovered.

Google and Overture employ “fraud squads,” or teams of people dedicated to fighting click schemes. But at least two marketing executives say such countermeasures are missing fraudulent clicks that are responsible for between 5 percent and 20 percent of advertising fees paid to all search networks.

This is a huge problem. There is no “pay per click” Company denying that click fraud exists. Web analytics companies estimates that the 50% of all click activity is fraudulent.

This means that your pay per click marketing activities are half effective as they could be because of click fraud.

Overture spokeswoman Jennifer Stephens refutes that estimate, saying that the numbers likely represent acts of fraud that are ultimately caught. She added that Overture filters most fraudulent clicks with the best antifraud system in the industry, which combines technology and human analysis.

Most advertisers are aware of the click-fraud issue but have not delved into it because of the technical complexities involved. Others are concerned that they could jeopardize their relationships with the powerful search networks if they complain too loudly.

One of the best ways to eliminate click fraud is using anti click fraud services such as ppctrax (www.ppctrax.com). They provide services like the below:

IP address capture.
IP address geographic Location.
User Agent (browser, bot etc.)
See exactly what keywords are generating your clicks
Date and Time stamp
System detects sudden click spikes from one or more IP addresses
Real-time email alerts at 80% and 100% of your account’s transaction utilization
IP address history – alert you to prior offenders

Website Buying Guide Checklist

Can you really get a website even without knowing anything about code, and without paying a fortune? Find out.

The days when websites were primarily distinguished by their code are long gone. Nowadays, the web is a true publishing medium that favors well thought-out ideas. You can get a professional-looking website online in minutes with many website building services and software. But what should you look for? What are the features you really need and which are just clutter?

Content Editing

Some website authoring software packages only allow you to entire plain, unformatted text. Some of them allow you to entire HTML tags. Others provide a WYSIWYG (“what you see is what you get”) interface with options for font, links, and image insertion much like a word processor’s. Some will allow you to use more than one, or even all of these options so you have a choice on how you want to format your text.

Template Designs

Every website builder ever invented came with at least one or two templates for creating the graphical look of a website, so you don’t have to design the look of the site yourself. But some packages have very large libraries of templates, some have only a few. Some will let you mix and match elements of the design templates, while others will lock you in to one setup.

Ecommerce Functions

Many ready-to-go websites created by website builder software feature built-in shopping carts. Some even come with credit card processing. This is of course necessary if you’re going to be selling stuff direct online. But if you’re not going to be selling anything, ecommerce functionalities may just complicate the administration of the site and pad the price for the software or service.

Blogging Functions

Blogs are “web logs,” but blogging software involves more than just a simple online journal. Blogging technology allows you to send your new posts directly to subscribers via RSS, without them having to visit your site or receive an email from you. Still, unless you plan on updating your site regularly (at least once a month), your website’s blog will just gather cobwebs.

Email

Some hosted web authoring systems provide email accounts at no additional charge, while others do charge separately. Some web builder systems even come with modules for creating email newsletters.

Support

It is very likely that you will encounter a technical difficulty at some point while owning your website. Make sure you know in advance of paying whether the company provides only paid support, and if any included support is over email, a web ticketing system, or the telephone.

Photo and Image Management

For many, if not most, people who want personal websites, displaying pictures online is a primary motivation, if not the only motivation. If you want to display pictures on your website, make sure to choose a website builder system that makes it easy to upload and publish images.

Renting vs. Owning

You can buy website authoring software upfront for a flat fee, or you can “rent;” i.e., pay a company every month to use a hosted service. The choice is up to you, but remember that the hosted service will likely charge you much more in the end: averaging around $20/month, hosted the typical hosted website builder will cost you $240/year–far more than most desktop software.

In short, you don’t need to know how a website is coded to make one, any more than a book author needs to know about printing ink. Don’t burden yourself with learning how to do web design. Having fun with your website starts with choosing a website builder software that will make it fun.

Tips for Successful Pay-Per-Click Campaigns

Pay per click (PPC) is by far one of the easiest and quickest methods of driving targeted, consistent traffic to your website. While this may seem like a daunting method of advertising for some, it’s actually quite easy and can end up becoming that one marketing method that you can’t live without.

What I’d like to do today is provide some tips and techniques that I personally use when creating and monitoring PPC ad’s. Hopefully these tips will help you in your future marketing endeavors.


Experimenting With Different Search Engines

There are many PPC search engines, with some being better than others. The top two are Google and Yahoo, which was previously known as Overture. It’s a good idea to start your PPC campaigns with a small budget, spreading it out over a few different search engines to experiment and see where your target market may be lurking.

Generally speaking, I’ve found Google Adwords is better for more technically orientated products or services, including software, hardware, web design etc. Yahoo, on the other hand, is better for general consumer products, including insurance, toys, music etc.

What I wrote in the previous paragraph is very general, and you should analyze your campaigns carefully to see where they are performing their best. We’ll discuss this in detail a little later in the article.


Selecting the Right Keywords

The keyword selection process is probably the most important of all when it comes to creating your PPC ad’s. You’ll need to select keywords that are specific to your product or service offering, but you need to be careful not to select keywords that are extremely popular, as this may deplete your PPC funds sooner than expected.

The keyword selection process begins by asking yourself just one question:

“If I was searching for a product just like mine, which words or phrases would I search for?”

Using your answer(s) to this question as your base, you can then use a thesaurus and common sense to start building your keyword list with plurals, synonyms, similar words, etc.

To see which keywords your competitors are using, simply try searching for them. If you see a PPC ad along the side for your competitor, then note that keyword down and add it to your list.

Another way of coming up with great keywords is to use the overture search suggestion tool: http://inventory.overture.com/d/searchinventory/suggestion/

Type in a set of keywords and it will list similar keywords, including the number of times that keyword has been searched for on Overture (Yahoo) in the last month!

There’s often a fine line between selecting keywords that are either too specific or keywords that are too general. Try to keep away from these, as they can often result in wasted PCP funds.

A typical example of this would be an ad that I created recently for our latest product, TrackPoint, which — not coincidently — is an internet marketing return on investment (ROI) tracking tool. Although the product is heavily geared towards internet marketing, using such a broad term would have made it virtually impossible to compete with the other advertisers.

The term “internet marketing” is searched for 825,674 times per month on Overture alone. Combined with the huge number of different advertisers that target this keyword, the top bid for “internet marketing” on Google AdWords is $13.84 per click! With an average of 240 clicks per day, a single day of advertising alone would cost $505!

Now, unless you have an extremely high conversion rate of visitors to sales, or you’re selling a high priced item that usually has a high customer acquisition cost, I suggest targeting more specific keywords. Not only will this decrease your overall competition with other advertisers, but it will also increase the chances of turning your newly found web site visitors into customers.

Back to my earlier example, I chose to be specific with my keywords. One keyword was “ROI tracking”, which is searched for 1,828 times per month on Overture and has a much cheaper top bid. This keyword is also more targeted to the product I was marketing, meaning that a large percentage of people clicking on my ad should turn into customers.

It’s also helpful to note that taking the top bid is not always necessary, and anywhere in the top 5-10 can generate great leads. This really does come down to budget and analysis.


Attracting People to Your Ad

Now that we’ve selected our keywords, we need to get those searching to click on our ad, which in turn will result in them clicking through to our web site and potentially purchasing our product.

One of the simplest ways to get peoples attention is to use their search keywords in the title of your PPC ad. This has been proven to increase click-thru rates on ad’s by over 50%.

Why? Simple. If the potential customer is searching for “ROI Tracking” and the title of a PCP ad begins with “ROI Tracking”, then their attention will be grabbed instantly. He or she doesn’t need to know much else, other than that the PPC ad is catered specifically for him or her.

One thing to keep in mind is that you can sometimes create a more relevant title by combining your different keywords into one PPC ad. For example, I could have easily used something like “ROI Tracking PHP Script” as the title of my ad, which effectively would have decreased my click-thru rate, but definitely caters my ad more to a specific audience. Once again, this comes down to analysis and adjustment.

Another important technique to attract attention to your ad is to differentiate yourself from your competitors. In our particular case, the majority of our competition offer hosted solutions, whereby they manage the software on their servers in return for monthly or per traffic fees.

Our product caters to a different audience, those that want more control over their software, as well as those not wanting to pay monthly fees. So, in this example, I would make the title of my ad “Pay no monthly or per traffic fees”.

Next — and this is where experimentation is extremely important — we need to create a description for our PPC ad that will attract the potential customer and let them know that our product is exactly what they are searching for. To do this, I start my ad’s description with “Track PPC, campaigns & search”.

Finally, it’s good practice to add a “Call to action” at the bottom of your ad. If you’re not familiar with this term, its usually an instruction to tell the person to do something, such as “Click here to view a demo”, “Download Now”, etc.

Marketing experts seem to agree that the average human needs to be prompted to click on an ad or take action, so we’ll add this line to the end of our PPC ad’s description:

“Track PPC, campaigns & search. Try demo!”


Reducing Click-Thru’s

Sometimes it’s important to reduce the number of clicks your PPC ad is receiving. This could be because you are attracting people who are only after free products/services, or even the wrong target market.

The two quickest ways to reduce click-thru’s are to make the description of your ad more targeted and to add the price of the product to the ad.

Making the description more targeted (as I’ve discussed above) can reduce your overall click-thru rate, but potentially increase the likelihood of a click resulting in a purchase.

In my earlier example, by adding the words “PHP script” to the description, we are effectively filtering out those looking for a hosted solution, downloadable software or even those with a server that isn’t capable of running PHP scripts.

We also increase the targeting of our ad because we now know that the majority of those clicking on the ad are looking for a PHP script, which is exactly what our product is.

Secondly, by adding the price of the product you are selling to the end of the ad, you instantly eliminate those looking for free products, and target those willing to purchase your product or service.


Tracking Your Clicks and Conversions

The fundamental core of a successful advertising campaign — whether it be a PPC ad, banner ad or even newspaper ad — is knowing whether or not your ad’s are actually converting into sales or not.

If your ads aren’t making you money then you’re more that likely better off saving your advertising dollars and adjusting your ad’s or using your marketing budget elsewhere in your company.

Both Google and Overture have built in tracking and conversion tools that you can use to get a holistic view of your current PPC ad campaigns. You can even use external tools which let you add conversion code to your website to tell you exactly which of your ad’s are converting into sales and which aren’t. This is often referred to as knowing your ROI or Return on Investment.

We need to know exactly how much money we are making per dollar spent on every PPC ad. If the ROI is positive and we are making more money than we are spending, then the ad is working and we can use this knowledge to further improve our other ad’s or increase ad spending for that particular ad/set of keywords.

If, however, our ad’s are costing us more than they are returning, then we can reduce our spend, change our approach, or remove these ad’s altogether. It’s a rather simple formula, but frustratingly ignored by many advertisers.

You must track your ads if you want to succeed with any form of Internet advertising. You should also constantly monitor and adjust your ads according to how they are performing, your return on investment, etc.

SEO Advertisting & Pay Per Click PPC

Advertising can be an easy way to break into the internet but there are many downsides to it. Unless you are running a community based site, have a site offering very unique content, a valuable service or product the traffic usually only comes as long as your paying for it. Of course ad campaigns can also be very expensive to run and maintain so you need to be sure your squeezing everything you can out of it. You should only proceed with a ad campaign if you are positive your site is the best it can be, otherwise you may just be pouring money away. There are thousands of companies on the internet who offer to provide you with ad campaigns, many of which never deliver, do not let any of these points put you off advertising.

If you want quality traffic with affordable prices you are recommended to stick with the major search engines and their partners. Google Adwords, Overture and MSN are all well respected companies which will deliver you the best traffic. All of the forementioned websites use pay per click systems which can be perfect as they drive traffic with keywords you specify directly at your site, these advertisers are all interlinked with the main search engines so you should expect to get the most widespread sections of the population from them. Because they have the traffic numbers to support ad campaigns there can sometimes be bidding wars on popular keywords, I advise you to stay away from popular keywords and do your research. Overture provides a free Keyword Selector Tool which can help you find out how much traffic similiar keywords recieve each month, these are usually a lot cheaper and still provide the same high quality traffic.

As I mentioned before advertising wont necessarily mean a good flow of traffic after you stop paying, other routes of advertising can mean you get listed in a search engines immediately for a set fee. Yahoo offers the ability to pay for a index within their search engine or directory, although your site still needs to abide by the same rules as other sites it gives you the opportunity to get indexed immediately within the search engine, a more subtle way of advertising power. Alternatively you can find quality sites that are related to yours on Sitepoint.com and WebHostingTalk.com who may be willing to put a one way link up for a nominal fee.

You may find websites on the internet offering “banner exchanges”, “free traffic” and other such promises, I wouldent look at them twice unless you want to lose out. The traffic they send you is of the worst quality, many of these websites operate bots, own networks of link farms and even pay people to visit your site. This of course means that no one being referred from these sites are actually interested in your content or services, in worst case scenarios you may even end up being banned from search engines due to these malicious sites. Even if they are reputable companies it is hard to judge whether they will work for you, many of the smaller search engine companies simply do not get the traffic to give you value for money.