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Pay-Per-Clicks . . .
One Way to Boost Traffic to Your Web Site

by Robin Nobles

One of the ways to boost traffic to your Web site is by purchasing keywords from one of the pay-per-click search engines or directories.

But with literally hundreds of choices, how do you pick the pay-per-click engine with the best visibility that has the potential of giving you a higher return on your investment?

And, just as important, what are some strategies for working with the pay-per-click engines, and how do they operate?

How do Pay-Per-Click Engines Operate?

With pay-per-click engines, you bid on keywords that describe your business, your products, or your target audience. Then, you’re charged your bid price every time someone clicks on your ad, which is displayed when a searcher types in the keyword you’ve chosen into the search box at an engine. Whoever is willing to pay the most for the keyword or keyword phrase will be at the top of the rankings.

There are many benefits to working with pay engines, which we’ll cover in this article.

Important Pay-Per-Click Engines and Directories


Overture is certainly the pay-per-click engine that most people recognize. It’s also one of the most expensive and competitive.

However, the visibility of Overture is impressive, to say the least. It provides the top two or three results to “big boy” search engines and directories like Yahoo!, Lycos, HotBot, and MSN Search. In fact, Overture claims to reach 80% of all Internet users.

Overture listings are generally found at the top of the regular search results in an area called “Sponsored” results or sites.

Overture’s pay-per-clicks operate under one premise: whoever has the deepest pockets and is willing to pay the most gets on top.

The minimum bid is $.10, and there’s a minimum charge of $20 per month. A $50 initial deposit is non-refundable and will be applied to click throughs or to the minimum monthly spend. When your account is depleted, they’ll contact you to see if you want to add additional funds to your budget.

Google AdWords

Google AdWords have fast become extremely important in the pay-per-click arena, with results being shown at search engines like Google, AOL Search, Ask Jeeves, and Teoma.

Google AdWords operates differently than Overture in a number of ways. Your click-through rate and cost per click together determine where your ads are shown, so better ads rise to the top. That means no one can lock you out of the top position.

Google AdWords are shown on the right-hand side of regular search results in a pink shaded area called “Sponsored Links.”

Because your click through rate has an influence on the placement of your AdWords ad, your ad’s title and description must be captivating and designed to pull in traffic.

With Google AdWords, there’s a $5 activation fee, and the minimum bid amount is $.05. You decide on the maximum cost per click that you’re willing to pay and set your daily budget. You don’t have to spend a certain amount per month, and you only pay for clicks you actually receive.


Another popular pay-per-click engine that is generally much less expensive than Overture is FindWhat.

With FindWhat, whoever bids the most gets on top. The minimum bid is $.05, and they require a $25 minimum amount to open an account.

FindWhat provides results to 200 different partners, including many of the big meta engines like Dogpile.

Lycos InSite AdBuyer

A fairly new pay-per-click program that’s displayed on both Lycos and HotBot is Lycos InSite AdBuyer.

Again, it operates similarly to the way that Overture and FindWhat operate, with the top results being those who bid the most for their target keywords.

The minimum bid is $.05 with a $50 minimum to open an account.


LookSmart is a pay-per-click directory where you pay a flat $.l5 per click through. It claims to reach 77% of the Internet users through the partners that display LookSmart results.

Some of those partners include MSN Search,, Netscape, and AltaVista.

With LookSmart, you don’t bid for listings. Everyone pays a flat $.15 per click through, and your ranking is determined by how relevant your site is to the search term, according to LookSmart’s ranking criteria. To get started with a LookSmart listing, the initial investment is $29.

Other Pay-Per-Click Engines

This comprehensive site lists over 500 different pay-per-click search engines and offers individual reviews on many of them.

Advantages to Working with the Pay Engines

The pay engines offer many advantages to Web site owners, including:

1. If you have a brand new site with little or no visibility and no link popularity, the pay engines are certainly a way to get started fast while you wait for your standard search engine marketing efforts to kick in and take effect.

2. Pay-per-click engines are ideal for holiday promotions, special sales, or to jump start slow engine traffic.

3. With the pay engines, you have instant visibility in whichever search engines display those results.

4. You choose your rankings, depending on how deep your pocket book is.

5. If some of your keywords aren't performing, you can choose other ones.

6. You only pay for clicks to your site, so you can target your traffic by the keywords you choose.

7. With regular optimization efforts, it's sometimes difficult to achieve top rankings if you're in a highly competitive field. With the pay engines, you pay for your rankings, and VOILA! You're there!

8. Purchasing keywords is certainly easier and less time consuming than optimizing your pages.

9. With regular engines, when algorithms (or ranking criteria) change, you can find yourself booted out of your top spot. With the pay engines, as long as you're willing to hand out the cash, you'll be on top.

10.You can target your audience based on the keywords you choose. Most Web sites have multiple target audiences, so pay-per-click keywords are a way to reach each of those target audiences.

11.Pay-per-click is generally less expensive than traditional advertising media.

12.With pay-per-click engines, you don't have to worry about design strategies that could mean death to a Web site otherwise. Is your entire site one huge Flash movie? No problem, if you go through the pay engines.

Tips for Boosting Your Chances for Success with the Pay Engines

When working with the pay engines, it takes practice to achieve a level of success. So, start out slowly, and keep a tight rein on your budget. As you become better at crafting titles and descriptions and choosing highly targeted keywords, you’ll gradually be able to increase your budget, if you choose.

Here are some additional tips:

1. It's not always best to be #1. Many compulsive "clickers" automatically click on the #1 result when they have no real interest in buying your products or services.

2. Be sure to include your keyword phrase in the title and description you create at the pay engines. Take special care in creating a description for your site, since within the top three slots, the best description gets the most traffic, as a general rule.

3.Your keywords must be relevant to the content of your pages. Overture is particularly careful about this.

4. Choose very targeted keywords so that you don't pay for needless click throughs. Don’t ever choose a general keyword, because your costs will skyrocket but the traffic won’t convert to sales.

5. Spend time researching your keyword choices at Overture's Search Term Suggestion Tool

or my favorite, WordTracker:

6. Generally, you'll have more success if you purchase 10- 20 keywords as opposed to just a few.

7. Choose a broad range of keywords and bid prices and test the waters. Watch your keywords carefully. Non-productive keywords should be eliminated and new, more productive keywords should be purchased instead.

8. For Overture, consider purchasing a "Premium Listing," which means that you hold the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd ranking for your keyword phrase. Why? Because engines like AltaVista and Lycos show the first listings only.

9. Set up a separate "tracking" page to send your pay engine traffic. In order to show whether or not the cost is worth it, you need to be able to track your click throughs and sales. Don't send pay engine traffic to your home page.

10.Write your title and description using “objective” language rather than “subjective.” In other words, don’t say that your product or service is the best or #1 (subjective). Rather, list some of the benefits of your service that make it unique (objective).

In Conclusion

You’ll find many benefits to purchasing keywords through pay-per-click engines, but you need to learn some basic guidelines before you get started. By doing so, you’ll hopefully find more successful when working with the pay engines.

Robin Nobles is the Co-Director of Training of Search Engine Workshops with John Alexander. They teach 2-day beginner, 3-day advanced, and 5-day all-inclusive "hands on" search engine marketing workshops in locations across the globe. She also teaches online search engine marketing courses through, and she’s a member of Wordtracker’s official question support team. Robin has two books on the market: Maximize Web Site Traffic and Web Site Analysis and Reporting.

Copyright 2005 Robin Nobles. All rights reserved.

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