If you've ever done any research on how to promote your site online, you've no doubt read about pay-per-click search engines and how they can really boost your sales. If you're not familiar with them, let me explain: A pay-per-click search engine allows you to bid on keywords that relate to the contents of your site. If you're the highest bidder on a given keyword, your site will appear at the top of the "results" page when someone types that keyword into a search engine.

Many of you may have also heard of Google AdWords--which isn't exactly a pay-per-click search engine, but it is an advertising model that's proven extremely powerful. Google is quite simply the largest advertising network on the Internet, so if you use Google's pay-per-click service, your ads can be seen by huge numbers of people all over the world.

Just what is Google AdWords? You've probably seen Google AdWords advertisements on countless sites on the net, particularly on Google itself. They're the little rectangular ads that often appear to the right of the "organic" (free) search results.

AdWords members create their own ads and bid on the keywords they want to trigger the appearance of their ads on Google and its member sites. Each ad consists of a headline--up to 25 characters, including spaces--and a product description--up to 70 characters, including spaces.

Once you submit it, your ad is posted within minutes and may be featured as one of the "sponsored sites" listed to the right of the organic free listings whenever one of your targeted keywords is plugged into the Google search engine. Unlike pure pay-per-click engines such as Overture, Google's AdWords' ranking system isn't based solely on the amount of money you bid on the keyword. Instead, Google's ranking formula looks something like this:

CPC (cost per click) x CTR (click-through rate) = Ranking

By factoring the click-through rate into the equation, Google is trying to ensure that the top positions are filled by ads that are actually pulling traffic and producing meaningful results. Google doesn't want the companies with the largest advertising budgets to buy up all the good spots and leave their competitors--who might offer quality products and services--in the dust. Google simply wants to deliver good search results to searchers.

Why use Google AdWords?

AdWords ads are everywhere. The Google Network reaches more than 80 percent of regular internet users, so a well-written ad with a great keyword list has the potential to reach a huge number of people. Your ad will not only get great exposure on Google's search page--which gets 81.9 million unique users a month, or 2.73 million a day--it will also appear in the following high-traffic places:

  • The Google network: Google actually supplies the search results for a number of different search engines. AdWords ads are featured on all the Google Network search sites, including AOL, Netscape, The New York Times, CompuServe, EarthLink, AT&T, AskJeeves, Shopping.com, USNews.com, About.com, Lycos, Forbes.com, ABC.com, Economist.com, InfoSpace, FoxSports.com, Allrecipes.com, Lowestfare.com, Viacom and MacWorld.com.
  • Google AdSense member sites: AdSense is Google's affiliate program. Member sites add a field to their home page or other site pages, and Google serves a rotating selection of content-specific AdWords ads to be displayed in the field. Whenever a visitor to the site clicks on one of the ads, the AdSense site gets a percentage of the profit. (That's another reason why Google factors the click-through rate into its ranking equation--it wants to make sure its AdSense members are making a decent profit, so they stay with the program.)
  • "Gmail": As you may know, Google recently launched its own e-mail service, Gmail. As a way to generate extra revenue, Google features AdWords ads within the body of Gmail messages, using software to target the ads to the content of the e-mail message. This ensures that AdWords ads are being seen by an even larger number of people.

If you've decided you want to try using Google AdWords to get the word out about your site, know this: Because Google factors an ad's click-through rate into its ranking equation, the best way to optimize your listing without paying more money is to make sure your ad compels as many people as possible to click on it. Here are seven of the best ways to ensure your ad has a high click-through rate:

1. Compile a comprehensive keyword list. The keywords you bid on are the triggers that prompt your ad to appear on Google and its member sites. If your site has a high ranking for a particular keyword, your ad will appear when someone types that phrase into a Google-powered search engine. Your ad will also be placed on AdSense member sites that feature the same keyword in their text and/or coding. The more relevant keywords you have, the better--they'll help ensure that your ad gets seen by as many people as possible.

By using a tool like WordTracker, you can make sure your keyword list includes all the possible words and phrases people might use when searching for information related to what you're selling. Add relevant modifiers to generate more specific phrases. Instead of just advertising bikes for sale, for example, describe the kind of bikes you offer. If you sell used mountain bikes at low prices, then include this information in your keyword phrase, for example, "cheap used mountain bikes." The more specific you are, the more targeted your customers will be, and the more likely they'll be to click on your ad to see what your site has to offer.

2. Test different headlines and product descriptions to determine which ones drive the most traffic to your site and result in sales. It's important that you test different versions of your headlines and your product descriptions. Test them together and separately. This is one step you don't want to rush! The more testing you do, the better your ads will become. Also, be sure to include your main keyword phrase or a close variation of it in your ad's headline.

3. Use Google's "keyword matching" options to increase the targeting efficiency of your keywords. Google features four different "keyword matching" options to allow you to customize how your keywords are matched to words your potential customers are entering in their searches:

Broad match. This is the default setting. It matches your ads to every mention of your keyword phrase, whether the words appear in order or with other words in between them.

Example: cheap used mountain bikes

Will match: Mountain Motors used lawnmowers motor bikes fixed cheap

Phrase match. This option matches the exact keyword phrase, but other words can appear before or after the targeted phrase.

Example: "cheap used mountain bikes"

Will match: cycling equipment cheap used mountain bikes touring cycles kids' bikes

Exact match. This option matches the exact phrase ONLY -- no words can come before or after the targeted phrase.

Example: [cheap used mountain bikes]

Will match: cheap used mountain bikes (and nothing else!)

Negative match. This option specifies terms that should be excluded, ensuring that people looking only for your keyword term and nothing else will get to see your ad.

Example: -cheap -used -mountain -bikes

Will match: children's touring bicycles (or anything that doesn't have those four words included in the search engine entry)

The more specific your keywords are, the better. You want your ads to attract people who may be interested in your product or service, but you also want to stop them from being seen by people who probably won't buy what you have to offer.

4. Target your ads by location. Google allows you to target your ad toward specific countries, regions and languages. This is especially helpful if you sell a product that's only usable within a given region or regions, such as tax software or bear repellent.

Once you determine where the majority of your customers live, target your ads to those regions only. You can really boost your click-through rate by making sure your ads are seen only by people who are likely to become your customers.

5. Direct your link to the page that most directly relates to the content of your ad. This isn't always going to be your home page! If your ad is about cheap used mountain bikes, then it should lead visitors to the page that shows cheap used mountain bikes. It shouldn't lead them to a general home page or a catalogue page that shows a number of different items for sale.

6. Create separate ads to focus on the different products you sell. If you sell a variety of products or services, it's a good idea to create a separate ad for each different item. This allows you to use more specialized keyword terms for each ad, and ensures you can direct your advertising to a highly targeted customer base.

7. Be sure you continue to monitor and manage your ad campaign! Google tracks all click-through activity related to your ads and shows how much the bid rate was for any given click. By analyzing Google's reporting data, you can figure out which keywords yield the best results and focus on them to better optimize your ad performance.

Of course, Google AdWords isn't the only worthwhile pay-per-click search engine service out there. There are other pay-per-click search engines you should definitely check out, such as Overture, FindWhat and GoClick. However, be warned: Unlike Google AdWords, these search engines are considered "pure" pay-per-click search engines because their ranking is based solely on the amount of money people bid on their keywords.


Internet marketing expert Corey Rudl has gained popularity because what he teaches is not theoretical approaches to online marketing but real examples of what works when it comes to having a successful business on the Internet. He's also the author of the bestselling how-to guide, Insider Secrets to Marketing Your Business on the Internet. For more information on his new advertising technology, go to www.marketingtips.com/hoverad