Reaching New Customers Online
Overall, 63 percent of American adults use the Internet, and that number continues to increase. More than half of Internet users between the ages of 18 and 29 have searched for exercise or fitness information, reports the Pew Internet and American Life Project. Verizon's SuperPages.com has 900,000 visits per month to fitness/gym/sports-related categories.
Many local businesses are finding PPC to be an effective and economical way to reach local shoppers and receive the visibility that large businesses can afford. A variety of search engines and Internet Yellow Pages now offer a pay-per-click option, including Verizon SuperPages.com's online yellow pages, Google, Overture, CitySearch and FindWhat.
PPC offers you the advantages of creating an online ad campaign quickly and easily, competing effectively with national businesses, paying only for reaching the consumers who request information about your services, and controlling costs by deciding how much you want to pay and how long your promotion will last. Campaigns can be up and running quickly for post-holiday promotions, new exercise classes, etc. PPC can attract visitors to a website who may never have known that it existed.
Pay-per-click offers national chains the benefit of being able to tailor advertising campaigns to meet both national and local needs. These facility operators can promote national brand messaging and drive business to a website. At the same time, they can run local campaigns to promote seasonal specials on a city-by-city or state-by-state basis.
How PPC works
When you sign up with a search engine for pay-per-click, using Verizon SuperPages.com as an example, you can do the following:
* Create an attention-getting description of your business. Your ad will include links to your business profile, website, telephone number, email address and streetmap. Some search engines will even help you create a website.
* Select the categories, such as "gym" or "fitness center," that best describe your business.
* Choose the geographic area you want to target -- city, metro, state or national. Some search engines, like Superpages.com, designate space near the top of each page for PPC advertisers that are local businesses.
* Calculate the value of a single new customer and determine how much you are willing to pay for a qualified lead. For example, your bid may vary from a minimum of 20 cents up to several dollars per click.
* Decide on a monthly maximum budget that you can adjust as often as you like. Verizon has a $15 monthly minimum click charge. If you bid $1 per click and received 20 clicks in one month, $20 is what you would pay. The more you bid, the higher your listing will appear in the results.
* Select full-service assistance for $20 per month, or manage your program independently online at no charge.
Choosing a supplier
Most search engines typically provide broad and varied search results to a keyword search, returning hundreds of listings, including many that may be far removed from what the searcher had in mind. As the trend for localized searches catches on, some sites are coupling their service with a local search option.
Greg Sterling, local search market analyst with The Kelsey Group, Princeton, N.J.,recently commented that Google and Yahoo need to strip out many of the complexities of search marketing for it to appeal to a broader range of businesses. On the other hand, Internet yellow pages, not browsers, are designed to conduct directed searches and put advertisers in front of buyers.
If you decide to investigate pay-per-click programs, be sure to find one that will give you the best return on investment and meet your objectives. Here are some good questions to ask a sales rep:
* Does the site attract my potential customers? How many people visit? Are these people who are ready to make a purchase?
* What determines the placement of my ad? Do searchers check dozens of listings before getting to mine, or is there a section reserved for local business ads?
* What are the options for making my ad easy to find? Are there predefined keyword categories that make sense for my business and the consumer?
* What are the fees, and how am I charged? Do I pay every time a visitor clicks on a different one of my links, or only once per visitor?
* Can I change my information quickly and easily?
* What type of support is provided? Is a full-service option available if I want it?
* Does the provider have both pay-for-performance and fixed-fee options? Can I choose between the dynamic nature of pay-per-click to bid on more favorable positions that coincide with the cyclical nature of my business, or pay a fixed fee to position my ad in the same place year 'round? Can I do both?
Recent surveys and traffic data confirm that search engines have become an essential and popular way for people to find
Pay-per-click advertising offers small and large fitness centers the opportunity to give consumers access to a wide variety of information, while fitness centers control costs and pay only for viewers who are truly interested in what they have to offer. With a pay-per-click ad campaign, you can target customers and showcase membership packages, or try a special promotion during a traditionally slow time of year.
Get the Help You Need
Whether you're Internet-savvy or tech-challenged, using pay-per-click advertising is simple and effective. Bianca Noble, product manager for Verizon SuperPages.com, recommends these step-by-step tips to get started, no matter what type of search engine you do business with:
Decide whether you prefer a self-service or a full-service option
If you don't have the time or experience to manage your own campaigns, look for a search engine that provides expert advice and management services for a reasonable fee. This can include assistance with setting up the account; consultation on promotional text, categories, locations, bid amounts and overall budget; access to online results; and ongoing assistance for changes to ads, bids and campaigns. For example, Verizon charges a monthly full-service fee of $20, with a $15 minimum click spend, so even small businesses on tight budgets can afford this option. Advertisers can also sign up for self-service pay-per-click, and select their categories, update information and measure their online performance -- for a $15 monthly minimum spend that includes the cost of their clicks.
Identify your target audience and consider your geographic reach
This is a great opportunity for local and regional businesses to expand their customer base and compete with national chains, even with a limited advertising budget. You can select a city or choose a metro, state or national listing -- or decide to go for several. SuperPages.com search results for a given category and location feature three national and three local PPC results on each page. Some search engines don't target by geography or save specific space for local listings. Look for those that do.
Choose one or more categories
If you're going with a non-yellow-pages search engine, you'll need to select several key words that will bring up your business for the consumer, and possibly various spellings. If you're advertising on an Internet yellow page, you can simply designate "gym," "fitness center," "swim center," "yoga classes" or another classification.
Keep information timely, fresh and useful
Remember that you can change your promotional text easily and, with selected programs, at no additional cost.Take advantage of the flexibility by trying out promotions in one location, or experimenting with taglines about a new class or service.
Decide how much to bid for your clicks
First consider how many click-throughs it might take to gain a customer, and what your return would be. Set a maximum amount you are willing to pay for each click. Look for a provider that offers a way to set a monthly maximum, so you don't exceed your budget.
Keep track of the value you receive
Ask new customers where they heard about you, and promote special offers only online. Read the online reports that tell you the number of clicks you receive for each campaign. The beauty of pay-per-click advertising is the flexibility it allows you in stopping, starting and changing your ad campaigns. It's a low-risk advertising medium, since you are paying based on the leads generated.
Complement your other advertising with PPC
Both in print and online, fitness-related headings are some of the most popular yellow pages categories. Some companies now make it possible for you to reach consumers wherever and whenever they are looking for your services -- online, in print and via wireless telephone access.
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