'I Think We Need to See Other Traffic Sources...'

Although search marketing isn't as complex as a real relationship (at least in my experience), there are some similarities as well as fortunate differences. Most if not all online marketers have gone for that hot, sexy traffic source that everyone else lusts after: Google/Yahoo. It's only natural to go to them as the first networks from which to buy.

Yet we all know that if you're going to be with the popular one, you've got to take care of them well enough to get good placement, so to speak. What do you do when they become too expensive and you aren't getting back what you had hoped for (ROI)?

When you are dealing with search engine marketing for a small to medium-sized business, the options for an affordable online presence can seem pricey and daunting. Many marketers and advertisers believe the Google/Yahoo route is the only option, however expensive it may be. Well, unlike a real relationship, the beauty of search engine marketing (SEM) is that you are allowed to "fool around" with some other sources when you want to see what else is out there, even if things are going well. Diversifying your traffic from Google/Yahoo results allows you to monetize alternate traffic sources at a lower CPC, ultimately delivering a potentially higher ROI than the "popular" ones.

Search engine marketers in this situation have the opportunity to work with tier-two (or "alternative") PPC (pay per click) providers. Think of them as the girl in the coffee shop -- not high maintenance, fair and easy to get along with. Many tier-two networks are made up of smaller and niche websites which do not receive Yahoo and Google ads, so they bring an audience unsaturated by your competitors. That allows for a greater return on your investment.

These PPC ad networks find success in numbers by aggregating traffic from across their network of search and content publishers, serving paid links when a user searches for a relevant term. Because these tier-two networks are serving ads to smaller search clients, the cost per click is far lower, thereby allowing you to pay less while ranking higher in search results. As a rule of thumb, you should always try to maintain a top three status in the keyword you bid on since search publishers pull only the top three paid results alongside the organic results of each search.

Beyond the proprietary fraud prevention which tier-two networks offer, advertisers should work with the PPC provider to identify and turn off ads from poorly performing channels, further enhancing the quality of the traffic and enabling far better ROI on each click through. These types of customer-driven enhancements at tier-two networks have also led to better click fraud protection measures.

As search engine marketers become more frustrated with the high maintenance and demands of the glam networks, they will be forced to play the field and see where else they can achieve their search marketing goals. Fortunately, the full mix of tier-one and tier-two networks can be hard at work for the SEM, achieving a successful open relationship.

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