As always I recommend the natural way of getting traffic from the search engines (SEO), but there are those times when a good PPC campaign (SEM) can really help your business, and drum up some sales. Don't make the mistake of working with a pay per click company that will just "pay per click" your money and run.
With so much talk (and frustration) about PPC fraud going on its hard to want to get into pay per click programs in fear of just throwing money away. I want to share my list of trusted PPC websites that I trust and use or have used at some point in my search engine marketing campaigns. As with every good thing out there ... there is still a little bad, and you will never be 100% free of PPC fraud, but these guys do a pretty dang good job trying to combat it!
- Google Adwords - By far Google is the biggest in terms of volume and traffic you will get out of any PPC Search Engine. Google usually does a pretty good job at anything they touch so its no surprise that they are #1 on my list of trusted PPC sites. They have more tools to help you in place then any other service I have used. Also I think they are more on top of click-fraud then any other PPC search engine out there. Another feature I love about them is that you do not have to spend an arm and a leg just to get the account set up. You can start with as little as 5 bucks if you please. There have been times when I first started using AdWords and was not as aware how to keep an eye on PPC fraud, and Google has credited my account money (in some cases big money) that was because of click fraud that was going on.
- Yahoo Search Marketing - For you old timers, this PPC powerhouse used to be known as Overture - (and even further back GoTo.com). In some cases I think it's gone downhill since Yahoo! took it over, but it still is #2 on my list for several reasons. If you are not working with a search engine marketer, PPC expert or with a search engine optimization firm that helps you with your PPC campaign as well then Yahoo Fast Track is for you! They also have very good local PPC tools and programs as well. Almost every time I have had someone at Yahoo set up PPC campaign for a client they have hit the nail on the head. There has been a few times though that I have wondered what the heck they were doing, but luckily I have not seen that lately. Use this link when signing up, and save $50 on Yahoo! Search Marketing
- MIVA - formerly known as FindWhat, MIVA packs a powerful punch of traffic at an affordable price. MIVA is one of the more powerful tier two PPC search engines where you can still find a ton of very affordable big (and very targeted) keywords. MIVA has tools that allows you to track conversion rates and real time analysis as to what is working and ways to improve.
- Microsoft AdCenter - When talking search engine anything its usually Google, Yahoo and MSN, but in this case AdCenter had to come in a not so distant 4th. I think by far they have the best opportunity to become the best PPC Search Engine out there. They have features and tools that surpass Google, Yahoo and anyone else you can think of. BUT ... As with most Microsoft products there is bugs, and lots of them. The referrals work on 1/4 of the time, the system inside is unfriendly and hard to use (and I have heard this from a lot of other users as well). One of the biggest set backs of Microsoft AdCenter is the bottom line - Traffic. Not much of it. That says it all. You will not get a lot of traffic out of it. Its sad to say, but even some top keywords I have #1 and #2 spots naturally on MSN - that according to wordtracker and Overure get a lot of searches still bring me very little clicks. It really is sad because just a few years back MSN alone was making me over $1000/day in ad revenue (people clicking on my sponsored ads). What happened?
- GoClick - I have found this PPC engine one of the best anytime I want volumes of traffic to sites and from places that are not really targeted. In some cases this PPC Engine can almost seem like it supports spam and spammy sites, but hey I guess they are in it to make money right? They have some bidding tools that are pretty cool to use and can help you get mass amounts of words with very little effort. One major caution though is to pay attention to all of the words they include. I did this wrong one time and was wondering why I was getting traffic and so many clicks from ... well questionable sites. Still at 1 cents per click you can go from for the volume of traffic this PPC Search Engine will give you!
- SearchFeed - Another great PPC search engine that will give you strictly just volume. They say it's pretty targeted traffic, but I am not totally sure of the 100% of the time. They do have some pretty cool Local search features that I see can be very useful (especially in the near future-and future of local search). SearchFeed is very affordable still and can be a good alternative for the (tight) budgeting marketer.
- BidVertiser - This one is very simple - you place the ads on only the sites that you want, and you only pay for the clicks you receive. The main reason I like it is because I feel it can help with natural rankings as well. You have a link to your site that is on a very targeted (if you chose) site so the traffic and conversion should be much higher than a "traditional" PPC engine.
- Search123 - These guys are on my list simply because they are one of the oldest PPC search engines and have stood the test of the times in my opinion. If you can make it as long as they have with out 5 name changes you must be doing something right. Another great feature is how easy Search123 is to use. Very user friendly interface that even the most beginner of search engine marketing will be able to grasp.
- AOL - AOL for a long time has been doing things wrong, but they have a huge customer base, and are still one of the top "Tier 1" search engines like it or not! They just have been re-inventing themselves, and finding ways to make money and bring better traffic and results to the people that use them. They could be doing something right with the recent "rebirth".
- ASK - These guys are on my list because of the volume they get. They are probably #4 on the list of most traffic from a search engine. Also, they have been doing a ton of press lately - TV, radio - everything and everywhere so they are on peoples mind and it could give you a fresh new look on PPC advertising and a decent amount of traffic.
No matter what PPC search engine you chose, start with, (or even if you do them all) the most important thing I can share with you is still implementing a very intense keyword research and analysis plan (as you would in a SEO Campaign). I would never recommend anyone that wants very quality traffic to just bid on anything and everything they can. You will lose 100% of the time doing that.
Researching out ad writing is a must as well. If you have a chance go to some of the links I provided and do a search for your main keyword and look at the sponsored results. Which ones compel you to click on them? Which ones drive you away and are annoying? Take good notes and remember these things when you are implementing your SEM PPC campaign.