Reaching New Customers Online | Athletic Business

Reaching New Customers Online

Using the pay-per-click service on Internet sites can help you create marketing campaigns, and drive viewers to your website or business.

Increasing numbers of Internet users search for fitness information online. A new advertising option, called pay-per-click (PPC), can help you attract their attention.

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 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'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 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, 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?

Power ads

Recent surveys and traffic data confirm that search engines have become an essential and popular way for people to find information online, and yellow pages content still sets the standard. However, the average visitor to has a household income of $79,700, and is more likely to purchase products and services found online than the average Internet user.

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.
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