Beyond Adwords – 4 other search services you should know about.

While there’s no arguing with the fact that Google’s Adwords program is the dominant player in the PPC industry, it’s by no means the only option when it comes to paying for website traffic.

In fact, the size of the Google Adwords program creates a number of challenges for “small-time” webmasters. The service’s immense popularity has resulted in extreme competition, driving up keyword bid prices and lowering ad placements for sites running on smaller budgets.

If you’ve been struggling to gain traction on this highly competitive network, take a look at the following PPC alternatives for generating paid traffic.

Alternative #1 – Facebook Paid Ads

Advertising on Facebook’s Paid Ads platform (whose “Sponsored Stories” typically appear in user profile sidebars) can be a mixed bag.

On the one hand, Facebook’s Paid Ads program provides much better targeting features than Google Adwords, enabling merchants to target users according to a number of different criteria, including age, gender, hobbies, geographic areas and more.

However, user engagement on the site is notoriously low. While some marketers speculate that the limited number of characters granted to advertisers account for these limitations, a much more likely explanation for the universally low clickthrough rates seen on the site is ad burnout.

Because Facebook users have been trained to gloss over advertisement sections on the site, your message must be truly captivating in order to draw clicks. Take a look at my article 3 Steps To Combat Image Fatigue In Facebook for more information on this.

If you do decide to pursue advertising opportunities on this site, remember that it’s nearly all about the image you position alongside your ad text. To stand out from the blur of other features on the site, select the most eye-catching graphic possible – even if it isn’t entirely related to your ad text.

For more information on this, take a look at my article called 3 Types of Image Ads That Work. In addition, choose your targeting options carefully to ensure that your promotions are seen only by the audience members to whom they’re most relevant.

Alternative #2 – LinkedIn DirectAds

Overall, LinkedIn’s DirectAds platform functions more like Facebook’s Paid Ads than Google’s Adwords, in that this PPC alternative also allows you to target the specific users who will see your advertisements within the LinkedIn website, based on their stated criteria.

Unfortunately, LinkedIn’s advertising program isn’t for the faint of heart – or the small of budget. Clicks through DirectAds promotions cost a minimum of $2/click, and although advertisers can set minimum daily budgets of $10/day, language contained in the site’s Terms of Service allows LinkedIn to exceed set limits by as much as 20%, depending on ad performance. Left unchecked, these overages could easily total thousands of dollars a month.

Given these financial ramifications, use caution when enrolling in the LinkedIn DirectAds program. Take the time to analyze LinkedIn’s core demographics to determine whether the site’s users are a good match for your ads.

In addition, because the DirectAds program provides very little information on how or when your promotions are displayed, you may also find it necessary to invest in a third-party bid measurement program to maintain a positive ROI in relation to the site’s high bid prices.

Alternative #3 – Kontera

In general, Kontera is best known for its in-text advertisements, which appear as linked content within Internet articles, blog posts and more. But besides these contextual link ads, the company also offers social media promotion services, editorial advertisements and mobile solutions, though few objective reviews are available on the efficacy of these newer service offerings.

When considering this PPC alternative, be aware that many users seriously dislike the way in-text Kontera ads display on their favorite websites. In fact, a Google search for the company’s brand name turns up as many results asking, “How do I get rid of Kontera ads?” as it does news articles praising the company’s traffic-generation services.

In addition, reviews of Kontera’s in-text ad service by industry figures aren’t that promising when it comes to ad relevancy. Consider the following ad placement that prominent Internet marketing blogger Chris Guthrie received while testing Kontera on one of his sites:

As an advertiser, it’s imperative that you know your promotions are being displayed to the best possible candidates. But for now, my verdict is to stay away from Kontera. Despite the site’s wide reach and generally low click charges, the quality of its placements simply isn’t high enough to justify its savings over other PPC alternatives.

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