I often chuckle a little when I hear some “gurus” spouting off that PPC is dead.
It's normally coming from people who meet the following criteria.
- They've got an agenda to push. For example, they are selling a product on how to advertise on Facebook.
- They've had accounts shut down for going against the terms of service to a small or large degree.
- They are idiots.
I mean come on, it doesn't take a genius to see that this kind of talk is just ridiculous. Bring it on I say, because it's going to mean less competition and consequently lower costs for the rest of us.
All you need to do is take a look at who they are talking about. It's Google. Where does 98% of the $20,000,000,000+ (yes… 20 billion dollars plus) annual revenue come from? That's right. . . AdWords.
Yet many are saying that PPC is on its way out? That's just crazy.
A lot of people are up in arms because Google has recently shut down a whole bunch of AdWords accounts. Do you think that Google would shut down accounts (and lose lots of money in the process) if it didn't have a good reason?
The thing is, they haven't changed the rules for AdWords at all. They've just started enforcing them with greater effort.
When you're at war, it's inevitable that there will be some friendly fire causalities and I know of some people who were not doing anything wrong and they had their accounts closed. That's unfair.
However, for the most part, they are shutting down repeat offenders who are deliberately playing outside of the rules, using shady methods promoting scammy affiliate offers. It's as simple as that.
It's not that much different from getting all indignant about being kicked out of college for cheating on your exams, and then saying, “Hey you can't do that . . . I'm a paying customer!”
I'm very pleased they have taken the approach they have. It's helping to ensure that people continue to see PPC ads as highly relevant and doesn't undermine the entire traffic source. Heck, for many searches I now look at the ads before the organic because I know that for commercial queries I'm finding the key, savvy companies within the industry. The people who I want to do business with.
All that Google has done is cut off the loopholes that people have been exploiting for far too long.
We've been doing PPC on affiliate offers since 2005 and haven't had an account shut down yet. It's all about treating this like a business, not a trick. Sure you may not have those short lived, big months. However, you'll be building a business that is sustainable, and provides a consistent cashflow base that you can eventually sell for multiples.
Here are my top 7 tips for using PPC for affiliate marketers to build a strong business that won't get shut down by Google or others.
1) Focus on the user
This is a bit of a airy fairy sort of a thing to say I know. However, it's fundamentally important. This is not all about numbers. It's about the user, and you need to focus squarely on them. You can bet your bottom dollar that this is one of Google's core principles and is what drives a lot of their decision making. You should be getting your PPC marketing in alignment with this.
You'll end up seeing better results anyway because you are giving them what they want, all the while making Google happy.
So put yourself in the prospect's shoes. Are you being open and transparent? How do you feel about the product you're promoting? Would you feel comfortable recommending this to your friends? Or do deep down you know that this is a bit of a scam? Don't ignore your gut.
strong>2) Build authority sites as a platform
In 2005-2007 we used to focus more on building simple bridge pages, or doing straight up direct linking. We had some good success at times, however, the offers constantly went away and we ended up getting on a cycle where we weren't actually building anything that would last. It was all opportunistic.
Not too long after that we decided to focus on more of a diesel engine approach. So we started building affiliate sites that we could market by both SEO and PPC. So we would have our main site focused on ranking well in the search engines, and then we had individual landing pages that catered exactly to the users incoming queries from PPC.
Because we'd spent a lot of time building this site, getting it to rank and then working the PPC angles, we were able to get quite a bit of traffic. As a result, we could invest a lot of time into building an email list with close to 1 years worth of autoresponders promoting many different products all relevant to the specific niche. So we ended up making money from the customer for more than just the one transaction.
We could then pick off CPA offers that would work within that niche and promote those. When they went away, it was OK, because we could then plug in a new one. However, we just focused on a couple of larger niches and would only promote things that fitted within that larger vertical.
One of them was in the home improvement niche. This has tons of sub-niches we could plug-in and there were even some private CPA deals we could set-up where we'd have form submissions for contractor services via XML, all branded within our site and domain.
As you can see, by using this strategy, work we do is leveraged across several different areas. Most importantly, Google gave us great quality score because we had a big trusted site that we linked into. Even though it was an affiliate site, it didn't look like that to Google.
3) Build highly relevant campaigns
I always say that affiliate marketing is a tough business, and if you want to learn about generating traffic and getting good ROI, you should talk to an affiliate marketer. We often have the slimmest margins to work with, so end up being the most creative.
Often times, we simply can't outbid other PPC competitors because they have more money to play with. However, because Quality Score is such a big part of how the search engines calculate ad rank, if we can get better Quality Score, then we can compete.
The biggest trick to getting amazing Quality Score is to break your campaigns down into tiny ad groups where the keyword perfectly matches the ad, and the ad perfectly matches the landing page. This makes it super easy for the Quality Score brains to see the strong relevancy and the corresponding positive user experience.
If you want to see a good case study of this, check out the new video on SpeedPPC. It shows how we were able to improve a campaign's Quality Score by 56.5% by using this technique in 2 minutes.
4) Don't violate their policies
I know it sounds simple, but I can't stress this to you enough. Read and understand the rules of the game. If you understand them, you can choose to break them or not. However, if you want to build a sustainable business, I suggest you play within the rules. You'll sleep better at night.
5) Follow Quality Score best practice
As annoying as it is, get to know the things you can do to improve your Quality Score. It can be really frustrating in the same way that SEO can be very frustrating. You know that doing things a particular way is supposed to help, but doesn't all the time.
Remember that click through rate is still a big factor in maintaining a good Quality Score, so refine your copywriting skills as much as you can.
Here is a good article series about improving your Quality Score.
6) Don't promote shady affiliate offers
As I mentioned earlier, you're best to stay away from scammy affiliate offers. Particularly ones that promote rebill offers (weight loss, teeth whitening etc.) and other make money from Google type offers. These are the kinds of offers that make the most money unfortunately so they won't go away, but they'll probably mostly be gone from AdWords.
This has been one of the major reasons for account closures.
7) Be careful whose account you access
Here is one that you might not be aware of. Google can be like the CIA. A friend of mine logged into an account of a mentoring student of his to see what was going on with her PPC. She had been repeatedly promoting casino offers that are not allowed through AdWords.
Not long after, she got her account shut down. Unfortunately so did he. Even though he wasn't doing anything wrong, they simply matched the IP address and figured it was the same user with multiple accounts. There was no recourse for him.
So be careful whose account you log into on your machine. Most of the time when they ban you, they do it for life!