Paid placement is the quickest way to put your local campaign website in the top positions of most major search engine searches — but only for the terms (keywords) that you are willing to “bid” for. The way PPC works is that you pay each time someone searches and then clicks through to your website using a search term that you bid on. For example, if you buy the keyword phrase “TinyTown Mayor,” your ad would display on the results page when somebody searches for “TinyTown Mayor.” If managed properly, paid placement campaigns can deliver very cost effective and targeted traffic.

By far, the largest PPC program is Google Adwords.

google-result.jpgGoogle controls more than half of the web searches on any given day. The Google AdWords program displays paid listings that appear above and to the right-hand side of its regular search results. Besides the Google search engine, Google AdWord advertisers also appear on affiliates like America Online, About.com, Ask Jeeves, Earthlink, Netscape, Compuserve, AT&T Worldnet and NYTimes.com.

Google AdWords is simple to set up and the most flexible of the major pay per click services. It has no monthly minimums, and your click-through costs are billed monthly to a credit card.

Google AdWord tips

• Limit your targeting to the area you want to reach. You can limit by zip code, cities or even congressional district (in the US).
• In the Edit Campaign Settings, keep the “show ads on Google and the content network” option unchecked. This will keep your ads only on the search engines.
• Use every term or phrase three times. Once as is, once surrounded by quotations – “John Jones” – and once surrounded by brackets – [John Jones]. Using quotations and brackets will give you the highest clickthrough rates (CTR) and in turn, Google will give you higher placement for those terms.
• Use negative terms to keep away unwanted traffic. If you are running for Mayor of Tiny town, you might not want to pay for searches for “Tinytown school elections” if you are not running for school board. Consider putting the word “school” as a negative term in your ad group.
• For accurate ad comparisons between multiple ads, go to the Edit Campaign Settings and turn off “Automatically optimize ad serving for my ads”.
• The popularity of your ad will give you an advantage in ranking. Your ad can even rise above someone paying more for a specific keyword. Conversely, if your ad isn’t very successful, it may drop in the rankings, even though your cost per click remains the same.
• When you begin, set your maximum bid to minimum required, and set your daily budget to whatever Google recommends (assuming you can afford it, of course!). Note that if you set the daily budget limit lower than Google recommends, your ads may not be displayed on all searches.
• When you set a bid amount, Google will show you the expected average position of your ads. Your ad ranking (position) will vary depending on the click-through rate, but you will want to bid high enough to keep your ads within the top 5 positions.

In 2010, Google launched the Political Campaign Toolkit. This basically Adwords geared toward political candidates. It allows campaigns to target voters everywhere  – on Google, YouTube, and across the thousands of websites in Google’s Display Network. Users enter a few basic pieces of information about the candidate, select which issues the candidate is running on, and the Starter Kit automatically builds an AdWords account so you can start connecting with voters online in less than an hour.

For the latest online strategies, check out Running for Office as an Online Candidate. Our exclusive e-book that is packed with tips and strategies to develop and promote a local campaign website.

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