Taking Your PPC Campaigns Beyond the Majors

One of the great things about the world of search is its complexity. For example, in the pay-per-click (PPC) marketing world, it’s a common assumption that you buy your ads on Google first, then Yahoo and possibly Microsoft adCenter. The working assumption is that Google has the biggest volume, so that’s where you should focus your initial efforts. When you have that going, you work on Yahoo!, and then Microsoft. There is some wisdom in this notion, but today, I will show you why you might want to broaden your horizons.

Case Study: ArthroCare ENT

This case study involves a company called ArthroCare ENT, and the Web site it runs is called TonsilFacts.com. The site is an educational site that provides factual information about tonsil diseases, adenoid diseases, childhood sleep disorders, and tonsillectomy surgical options. Parents use the site to learn about their options, and then to search for a qualified ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist to see if their child is a suitable candidate for ArthroCare ENT’s advanced Coblation Tonsillectomy procedure.

AthroCare ENT’s agency, Zoomedia, hired search firm EXL Media in October 2006, to put together a search marketing campaign to increase the market awareness of the tonsillectomies, when they can help patients, and how AthroCare ENT’s procedures can help patients. Here were the campaign objectives:

  1. Expand patient awareness of tonsillectomy options
  2. Develop ads that are appropriate for a highly-regulated industry
  3. Help patients find physicians to meet their tonsillectomy needs
  4. Increase campaign ROI via defined conversion metrics

One of the key constraints was that the campaign could not do a direct call-to-action because regulations in the industry require that actual recommendations for surgeries can only come from qualified physicians. However, a successful campaign would educate the potential patient (or the patient’s parent) about their options and help them find a qualified physician.

So what did EXL Media do? It set up campaigns with Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft. But it also put one together with LookSmart, including a classic PPC campaign and banner advertising. EXL Media’s Wendy Hummer and I spoke about this campaign last week. One of the things she emphasized about the relationship with LookSmart was how aggressive they were at helping her setup, launch, and then optimize the campaign. This resulted in a more customized and better-optimized campaign.

One of her major findings was that she could not afford to bid on many of the highest volume keywords on Google. For example, she could not afford to bid on terms such as “tonsils,” “adenoids,” “ADHD,” and “sleep apnea.” This was really unfortunate, because these are the terms with the highest potential to bring substantial relevant traffic to the Tonsilfacts.com Web site.

The problem was that the competition for placement on those words was too high. PPC search systems are driven by a competitive market, so when the competition is high, the price-per-click goes up. With Google, the prices were simply too high for ArthroCare ENT to compete. Of course, there were many other keywords that Wendy was able to purchase with Google that also provided relevant traffic.

With LookSmart, however, she was able to purchase those high-volume keywords. So while LookSmart’s total search market share is quite a bit lower than Google’s, the ability to purchase the high-volume keywords compensated for that quite effectively. In addition, the resultant lower pricing also allowed EXL Media to get ArthroCare ENT positioned higher in the search results than it could with the other search engines.

Campaign Results

So what were the detailed results? I thought you would never ask. Here is how the campaigns performed:

  1. LookSmart provided 2,455 clicks at a CPC of $0.14
  2. Google provided 2,502 clicks at a CPC of $0.62
  3. Yahoo! provided 790 clicks at a CPC of $0.23
  4. Microsoft provided 1,115 clicks at a CPC of $0.29

This is a pretty significant finding. LookSmart delivered 98 percent of the clicks that Google did for 22 percent of the cost. Correspondingly, the ROI on the LookSmart campaign was much, much higher. All in all, a big win for ArthroCare ENT and EXL Media. The campaign continues to go forward and is a key part of the media mix for the foreseeable future.

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