ArtWorldChicago: Smart Use of Paid Search Results

Paying for search-results placement has been around for a while, but you may have yet to try this incredibly measurable way of driving traffic to your Web site., which later renamed itself Overture, came up with the concept in the mid 1990s, but since then many search engines, including Google, now allow you to pay for placement in their search results. You only pay for the placement if someone actually clicks on your link, not if they just see it and do nothing--therefore, you're really paying for performance. By spending as little as $2 or $3 per day, anyone can participate, and placements can be live in minutes.
To get a better understanding of paid search, we turned to Dan Blystone, who has created several Associates Web sites. He told us about one of his latest creations, For residents of the Windy City and for art fans in general, this Web site is a great source of information. Dan provides a free space for local artists to highlight their work, and he's included a good amount of pertinent content, including gallery lists, classifieds, and links to artists' sites. Without a resource like this, Chicago's art fans would have a hard time tracking down local artists.
Of course, even with a content-rich site, Dan had the same trouble that many of you face every day--how to get your audience to find you! Enter the power of paid search results. Dan told us they're by far his favorite means of attracting his target audience, and that he makes heavy use of both Google and Overture, among others. Some specific tips from Dan:
  • Pay for extremely specific terms. For instance, he avoids words like "art," since many people will bid for it--winning it would be expensive and the term is not as targeted as he would like. Instead, he bids for "chicago art" or "chicago gallery," which do a much better job of reaching his core audience.
  • Works best for content-rich sites. The practice of paying for search results is recommended more for people with content-rich and content-specific sites. For example, if you have a site that specializes in "vintage railroad facts," you'll have a ton of opportunities to target your desired audience, and it won't be very expensive. However, if your site is just a list of online auction sites, you'll probably have more competition for your key search words.
  • Get ready to test everything. The benefit of these services is that they give you a lot of data. They show you how many people searched for your keyword, and how many clicks you've received. You can then watch your server logs to see the increase in traffic and compare it to your daily sales and visits.
Dan also suggested that you "make sure that you have content that will keep your visitors coming back." No matter how many visitors you attract with paid search listings, you need to be sure they're given a reason to return. When we visited, we noticed he had Marshall Field's Associates links at the bottom of his pages and we thought that links to art books, for example, might do better. He then reminded us that Marshall Field's was a Chicago company; again, he's doing a great job of thinking about his target visitor and providing relevant content.
Remember, anyone can use paid search results, and in some ways, smaller and more focused Web sites have the advantage here over bigger sites, as the small ones are often much more focused on their target customers.

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