It's a major issue for any small to medium-sized business trying to sell a product online: how to advertise effectively, to the right people, without blowing the budget.
Whatever your product, whether you're selling Church supplies or want to promote a ministry, attracting the right people is key to any successful advertising campaign.
Generally speaking, advertising online can range from purchasing banner space on an affiliate website, creating a promotional e-mail to send to a list of potential customers, investing in a cost-per-click campaign or trying your luck through the many social media channels.
Advertising online can be one of the hardest disciplines to fully master, especially in recent times as internet users become more discerning and, in some cases, hostile to most forms of advertising. Take a look at your own junk e-mail folders and you'll see just how much advertising you choose to ignore on a daily basis. To put it simply, we don't have time for online advertising.
It's an important factor to consider. It means that, even if your online advert (whatever form it takes) has a high impression rate (is seen by a high number of users), it by no means guarantees that anyone will actually pay it any attention. It certainly doesn't guarantee any click-throughs to your product website.
Here's where Google Adwords comes in. Adwords ads are nothing new - you'll recognise them as the additional listings that appear on the right-hand-side of Google Search pages (they sometimes appear at the top of the results inside a yellow/pink box).
Setting up and using your own Google Adwords account is easy - you'll need to register and supply payment details before you get started - and it presents a cheap and effective way of reaching a targeted audience. The idea is simple - create an advert and a list of keywords. Your advert will appear on Google every time a user searches using one of your keywords. If the user then clicks on your advert, you pay a pre-determined cost, assigned to that keyword in your list. This cost is set by you when you create the keywords list. If the market your product sits within is highly saturated with similar products, then the competition for ad placement space will be high. In other words, many people will be using the same keywords as you, and there's only so much space on Google Search pages to go around.
As a rule, if the cost you assign your keyword is higher than the cost set by your competition, your advert will appear above theirs. In more niche markets, costs per click can be a little as a few pence, providing the keyword used is sufficiently under-valued by competitors.
The difference between this (cost-per-click) and other advertising methods is that you are reaching people who are actively searching, perhaps not for your exact product, but for related-interest items - it's not an exact science but it is less random than placing a banner on a website and hoping someone pops by wanting your product.
It also presents you with the opportunity to really study your potential audience, which is a practice I strongly suggest however you wish to advertise. You'll need to produce a list of keywords that are truly representative of your audience. Don't just list general search terms. For example, if your product is a CD of gospel tracks, you might create a keywords list consisting of the terms 'gospel music', 'gospel music CD', 'Christian music', which is fine. But if you want your advert to be seen by a much more targeted audience, be more creative. Create a keywords list consisting of every artist on the record, every track on the record, every album title of every artist on the record. List related artists. Even include the lyrics to a few of the more famous songs on the CD... believe me, people search for lyrics all the time! Remember, you can create as many keywords as you like, generating as many views of your advert on Google as you like - you only pay for the clicks.
In short, you never know exactly what people are going to search for, but if they are likely to have an interest in your product, it’s your goal to have your advert appear on their Google Search pages.
So know your audience - if you understand who they are, you'll soon understand what they’re searching for on Google. Cost-per-click will remain a key method in online advertising for the foreseeable future, and Google are by no means the only and last adopters. Facebook's similar cost-per-click system, depending on your product, may even be a better suit - in my next article I will compare the two.