Staying in the game with PPC management

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The level playing field that was once search marketing has morphed into "He-with-the-most-money-and-resources-wins." In other words, large companies have finally woken up to what's been working for smaller companies since the early 2000s. Pay-per-click advertising offers quantifiable metrics and results, right out of the gate. As a result, the big boys jumped into paid search with a certain fervor (and budget) smaller advertisers simply didn't have.

Recent reports show that search continues to grow. Many large national advertisers are for the first time dedicating budgets to PPC. Jefferies & Co. estimates that by 2010, search will account for half of all ad dollars spent online. Microsoft's Mich Mathews predicted at the 2007 AAAA Media Conference that Microsoft would follow its consumers and shift the bulk of its estimated $1 billion in media spending online by 2010. And SEMPO's 2006 "State of Search Marketing" survey confirms that search engine marketing continues to poach budgets from other marketing channels, especially offline programs.

The result? Like all good things, affordable PPC advertising too, has come to an end for many smaller advertisers.

As search campaigns take on more complexity and expense, many smaller advertisers are finding they lack the time, money and resources needed to sustain the ROI of previous years. Because big advertisers with more resources and deeper pockets continue pouring money into search, smaller companies are finding it hard to maintain their search engine exposure without big increases in PPC spending their margins can't tolerate. However, some are finding ways to beat the system without busting their budget. Here is the story of one little fish still swimming with the big boys.

Nik Froehlich, a freelance PPC manager with a diverse roster of clients, founded ClickBrand, in 2004 to assist small businesses with their Web presence and online customer acquisition efforts. In addition to PPC management, it also provides his clients help with analytics, search engine optimization, and site design.

Like a lot of "little guys" Froehlich's business was spending the bulk of the week analyzing performance data for all of his clients to try to maintain and improve results. Instead of calling back the prospective clients who were contacting him weekly, Froehlich was spending most of his time poring over Excel spreadsheets and manually updating bid and keyword changes to each account.

Froehlich considered hiring and training more staff so he could devote more time to his clients, but wasn't crazy about the additional overhead and loss of control that would bring.

Froehlich began Beta testing SEM-in-a-Box by Adapt Technologies to manage the PPC campaign for one of his clients. He provided historical account data and performance reports, and selected his target CPA goal based on his client's average shopping cart values. The software compared his campaign's performance against his CPA goal to provide all the campaign optimization recommendations. This was the same method Froehlich used when he manually reviewed the data on a weekly basis.

Following SEM-in-a-Box's daily optimization recommendations on improving ads, selecting and deleting keywords, and in turn automatically updating bids, Froehlich was able to maintain his client's search engine exposure in spite of more competitors & higher costs. He also improved the CPA without sacrificing sales volume. Finally, he also improved his own efficiency, since the most tedious and time-consuming parts of his job - analyzing & manually updating bids for his client - were now automated.

Froehlich can now compete more effectively for his clients in an increasingly competitive PPC world, using self-service tools to level the playing field in spite of deep-pocketed companies encroaching on his clients' keywords.

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