Peak SBC, LLC  



by: Cary Christian

As most of you know, we do a lot of testing here at the SBC, and we've run across something we think you ought to know about. Before we get to the guts of it though, let's review a few things.

The use of Pay-Per-Click (PPC) search engines has grown tremendously in importance for small businesses. They allow you to compete against anyone, even corporate giants, for a top search engine position for any keyword you choose. If you want it badly enough and can afford it, it's yours.

We believe all of you should be using PPC engines to generate traffic. They represent a terrific way to get highly targeted, pre-qualified traffic. But which PPC search engines should you use?

The largest is, of course, Overture. If you bid into a top 3 listing, known as a "premium" listing, for a keyword, your listing will be served out to a tremendous number of "normal" search engines, including most of the "big" ones, and this can mean lots of additional traffic for you.

The downside to Overture is that it is getting quite expensive to buy top positions in many common keywords. So expensive, in fact, that we're beginning to wonder if a lot of these businesses know how to calculate return on investment!

Then you have FindWhat. No, it's not as big as Overture and your top listings won't be served out to as many other large search engines, but they have many excellent partnerships in place and you will get plenty of excellent traffic. In fact, we have seen even better results using FindWhat than Overture. In our opinion, FindWhat is a strong second behind Overture in terms of potential reach but first in terms of value. Sprinks, Kanoodle, Ah-ha, 7Search and several others round out the group generally considered to be the top tier among PPC engines.

Then we get to the rest. There are literally hundreds of small engines that have popped up and are really struggling to attract advertisers . . . and searchers, for that matter.

These smaller engines will offer you tremendous amounts of bonus advertising to get your business, often matching whatever you decide to invest. However, there is a very good reason for this.

These engines have very little search traffic and not enough quality listings to make them very useful to people who are searching. That's why they want your listing so badly. If they can't get you to advertise, they can't improve their offerings to searchers. So they'll give you lots of free advertising to get your business.

You might be able to use some of these deals to your advantage and actually get some decent traffic from these engines. It is certainly an inexpensive proposition to find out.

But here's the problem: many of these engines are purchasing guaranteed hits to increase the number of people searching! Think about that for a minute.

You're using a PPC engine to get targeted, pre-qualified traffic to your site. The hits produced by purchasing guaranteed hits are neither.

Most of these hits will come from paid to read email companies. For example, CompDough sends out PTR emails to its members and each email will contain one or more search links. The member clicks the link and is taken to the search engine where they are told they need to make a valid search and remain on the site for 30 seconds to get paid.

Well, unless you are very lucky, the PTR email member who visits your site is there only to get paid. He or she is not online actively searching for something they need or want and they generally could care less which category they click on. Therefore, they are not targeted and pre-qualification becomes meaningless. You're paying for garbage hits you could get for free using a traffic exchange.

When you sign up for one of these PPC engines you're not going to see a notice on the site that the engine is purchasing guaranteed hits. I assure you they don't want you to know and it can be very difficult to find out.

Some of the really new engines are purchasing guaranteed hits directly. The problem is, you're probably not going to know about it unless you participate in PTR email programs.

If you believe you can avoid this problem by avoiding the really small ones, we have bad news for you. You really have to look at the relationships between these smaller engines and some of their larger counterparts.

Remember I said earlier that if you get a premium position for a keyword on Overture that you'll get exposure from most of the major "normal" search engines? This is because Overture has entered into agreements to supply search results for these engines.

Similarly, the smaller engines we're discussing enter into agreements with some of their larger counterparts to increase their hits.

For example, company Z is a very small PPC engine and it enters into an agreement with company A, a larger PPC engine, whereby A will supply hits to people searching on Z. Z also purchases guaranteed hits to beef up their hit statistics. The result?

If you're advertising on A, you're likely to end up getting some of the guaranteed hits traffic from Z. So even if A never purchases guaranteed hits, you'll still get some of this garbage traffic because of the relationship A has with Z.

These relationships are not secret. Take a look at the page

This is a listing of the major partners of some of the larger PPC engines. This listing is not exhaustive but it does help identify a middle tier group of search engines that should be safe for your advertising needs.

If you're looking at any of the smaller engines, we highly recommend you do some research to find out who their partners are. Email their support group and ask if they purchase guaranteed hits if you have to.

Always remember, partnerships are good. They only become a problem when the partnership causes you to pay for guaranteed hits when you think you're buying targeted PPC traffic.

Copyright (c) 2002

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