The original cost-per-click (CPC) search engines did their listings strictly by what you were willing to pay per click. (I actually used Goto.com for CPC listings, before it become Overture Services, before it became Yahoo! Search Marketing. Nothing like Internet time to make one feel old).
Yes. This was once a thing. A big thing.
Google’s algorithm, however, takes the quality of the ad and the site into account. This is partly because you will come back if you have positive experiences on the site and partly because it maximizes profits. For the same reason that you would look at gross revenue per mail piece/phone contact/email/carrier pigeon instead of just response rate in isolation, Google looks at gross revenue per ad shown as the backbone of its infrastructure.
Thus, it is in your interest to maximize your click-through rate (except in one very special case I’ll discuss on Friday); you can pass your better bidding brethren by beating them on quality. Hence the focus on things like negative keywords and phrase matching yesterday: you want to get your clicks on as few ads as possible. An average quality score from Google is a 5. If you are at a 10, your cost per click goes down by 50%; if you are at a 1, it goes up by 400%.
Targeting smarter also helps you get clicks from the people from whom you want to get clicks, instead of those who didn’t understand what they were getting into from your ad.
So here are a few techniques to help get to the next level of pay-per-click success:
Check in on your keywords regularly. This should be at least weekly; daily would be better. It doesn’t have to be for long, but Google will keep giving you helpful tips on additional strategies and keywords to try. You can also see what is performing and what isn’t, retooling ad copy for underperforming ads and learning which landing pages aren’t converting as well.
Set up conversion tracking. In the beginning, Internet advertising was sold in CPM – cost per thousand impressions and the earth was without form, and void. Then came CPC – cost per click – where you pay for an action, rather than a view. The ultimate is going to be cost per conversion, where you only pay when you get a donor (or other person you are desiring), and you can set your goals accordingly. Companies won’t want to do this because they have to rely on you to convert, rather than themselves, but it is semi-inevitable.
You can have this advantage right now if you set up conversion tracking. You will be able to see how many people convert and, if they give donations, how much you get from the campaign. Seeing how much you get from a campaign ahead of time, then bidding, is like playing poker with all of the cards face up – it’s remarkable how much better it makes you.
Unbounce your page. Not every page converts well. With conversion tracking set up, you can tell if your page is repulsing potential constituents. Testing with Google solutions or a solution like Optimizely can help you convert more people and lower your CPC costs as your quality score goes up.
Set up dynamic keyword targeting. A person is more likely to click an ad that has the exact words that they put into the search engine in it. The trick is that people put all sorts of things into search engines. With dynamic keyword targeting, it doesn’t matter if they put “rainforest deforestation,” “rain forest deforestation,” “tropical forest deforestation,” “destruction of the rainforest,” “tropic rainforest deforestation,” etc., into the search bar, you can add those specific words into your ad.
Geotarget your ads. This is especially true if you are a nonprofit with a limited geographic reach. If you are an early childhood intervention provider in Dallas, you likely don’t want Seattle searchers. However, this applies even to national and international nonprofits. If you have chapters, or state-specific content, you can direct those specific searchers to the area more relevant for them. This works especially well for things like walks and other events, where people will likely only come from a certain distance around to the event.
Go for broke. If you do get a Google Grant, try to use every cent. Not only will it get you more traffic, more constituents, and more donors, but it will also allow you to apply for more money. Your first steps to worldwide nonprofit domination await.
I hope these are helpful. Please leave any tips you’ve found useful in the comments section below.