Hate traffic jams? You're not alone. But one place where the sight of heavy traffic is not disheartening is on your company Web site. Apart from the marketing you do to promote it, there are two ways to generate hits on your site: pay-per-click (PPC) advertising and search engine optimization (SEO).
PPC is currently one of the hottest forms of advertising, and will generate $14 billion in sales this year.
“One of the first things we talk about with clients is the power of search engines such as Google, Yahoo, or MSN,” says Chris Bowler, vice president at Agency.com, an advertising firm in Chicago. “Through PPC advertising, you can buy keywords in search engines so that when consumers search for contractors, your company will show up among the top results,” he says.
The cost is based on the popularity of the keywords you've bought, and you pay only when someone clicks on your link in a search result. “The more in-demand the keywords, the higher the cost,” Bowler says. “But the more specific the keywords, the less costly they'll be because they're less in-demand.”
LINKING UP A common mistake in PPC advertising, says Thomas Wong, CEO of Intesync, an Internet marketing agency in Union City, Calif., is paying too much for search terms. “Every time somebody clicks on your link, you pay a few cents to a few dollars,” he says. “You don't have to be the No. 1 result. You can be number 2 or 3.”
David Sonner, president of Illinois Energy Windows & Siding in Lombard, Ill., tried PPC advertising but was disappointed. “One of the main words — windows — is so common that it's difficult to get in the upper echelon of searches,” he says. That struggle led Sonner to drop his PPC efforts. “It hasn't worked very well,” he says, “and we have other tested methods to generate leads.”
SEARCH ENGINE FRIENDLY Alure Home Improvements in East Meadow, N.Y., is focusing on SEO — or making its site more search engine friendly — to grow Web traffic. “We have a great Web site as far as its look and content, but I don't feel we have enough traffic,” says Seth Selesnow, director of marketing. “We've hired someone to customize our site content and keywords so people will be more likely to find our site.”
One tactic in SEO is building your site so that each page is dedicated to a specific topic. That increases the chances that homeowners will land there. “Think about topics consumers would be interested in, and create a page for each,” Bowler says. “If you provide energy-efficient windows, that topic should be on one page. Each brand you offer should have its own page. It's like creating a brochure where each page focuses on a different aspect of your business.”
Selesnow says he expects to have his SEO project completed in a few months for about $5,000. “The Web is being used more and more to find companies,” he says, “and we want to make sure we're easy to find.” —G.M. Filisko is a freelance writer based in Chicago.