Stop Depending on PPC

How diversifying your traffic stream makes you a better online marketer

Pay per click advertising (aka cost per click, paid search, and sometimes search marketing) is a great source of targeted traffic. You can start with a no-name site, with little marketing experience in that vertical, and start making money with your pay per click (PPC) skills. You can buy clicks, turn them into actions, and get paid in the process. As long as you sell your actions for more money than you pay for clicks, you’re a happy marketer.

It’s hard to argue with the model. No retail store can boast the same effectiveness with their advertising. How many stores can hang a shingle and get consumers to come to their store for less than a dollar per visit? That’s why PPC is a great form of advertising.

The Problem with PPC

Pay per click advertising is very effective, but it has an intrinsic weakness. You can get so comfortable buying clicks, you forget about the big danger of depending on PPC. Pay per click advertising doesn’t always work. If a stock trader depends on one industry, his strategy is shot if that industry stagnates. So also the online marketer suffers if PPC stops working. This happened with one of my former clients. He was so dependent on PPC traffic, when his ads stopped running, his targeted prospects stopped visiting their website.

The client was bathroom supplier who specialized in custom showers and targeted contractors. The product was good and his PPC advertising was solid. But early last year, his sales hit a snag. When the economy slowed down, consumers stopped remodeling their bathrooms. Contractors were shopping (clicking on his ads) but they weren’t buying products anymore. As a result, we burned through thousands of dollars in advertising without the corresponding sales. Actions were up on the site, but sales were down. My client was too comfortable paying for clicks with his sales. When sales stopped coming in, his business model broke down.

Diversify Your Traffic Stream

Question: How do you NOT depend on PPC?
Answer: Diversify Your traffic sources.

Google Analytics
Traffic Sources in Google Analytics

The easiest way to not depend on PPC is to find alternative forms of targeted traffic. A great online business explores different areas that will provide targeted visitors who are interested in your products and services. Other forms of targeted traffic are opt-in email newsletters, social networking, and natural search rankings. There is a cost associated  with each form of traffic, but it can be much cheaper in the long-run than paying for every click.

To see where your traffic is coming from, you’ll need to review your web analytics. Google Analytics has a helpful tab in their left-navigation labeled “Traffic Sources”. Click on “Traffic Sources” and drill down to “All Traffic Sources”. From there you can see where visitors are coming from. If you’re buying 90% of your traffic from Google, your business model is a disaster waiting to happen. You need to diversify away from PPC or you may end up like the above supplier.

Had this manufacturer been focused on building links and improving his natural rankings, the results would not have been as drastic. Sales would have been down, but he could have afforded not to advertise while free SEO traffic took over. As it was, traffic almost died completely on the site. The few sales he had further deteriorated. My client learned the hard way: without traffic an online business is dead.