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Most Effective Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising options for Australian businesses

Posted 4 February 2011 by Sean Fishlock (Datalink)

Back in 2009 I blogged a comparison between Pay Per Click services from an Australian perspective.  Given the changes to the market in the last 12 months I thought I'd do an update.

Its amazing how times have changed, back then I was still very much endeared to Google's Adwords product and was an Adwords Qualified Individual, but increased in costs and competition have made me question its true value.  

In the past year, however more players have emerged (particularly in the social networking space) that are equally equipped to service the need of Australian Internet marketers.

I'm going to have a brief look at:

  • Google Adwords
  • Yahoo Sponsored Search 
  • Facebook Ads
  • Linkedin Ads
  • Sensis Bidsmart

Google Adwords

Adwords is a great service, but its popularity has peaked and many people don't realise that there are other options. Google continually offers coupons to many first time advertisers which effectively drives the competition and costs up for other advertisers.  The high competition drives advertising costs beyond, in my opinion, what they are worth in some circumstances which ultimately drives advertisers away from their preferred keywords to those with unfulfilled demand.

Probably Adwords biggest advantage is the size of its network and the searches that it pulls.  You can't argue with almost 80% of Australian Internet using Google as their preferred search engine.  Combined with the power of Google Maps it has the most sophisticated geographical targeting and placement targeting available.  For power users, Google Adwords can be a most powerful online advertising tool.

I do, however have several big annoyances with Adwords.  Due to cashflow considerations,some customers change their preference between prepay and post pay.  In Adwords this involves recreating all of their campaigns.  Users tend to find Adwords difficult to pick up at first.  I also find that the content networks (with the exception of placement targeted content) also tend to significantly under deliver in comparison to search. 

  • Search Engine Dominance of Google
  • Powerful geographical targeting
  • Placement targeting
  • Exposure to Adsense content network
  • Great keyword suggestion tools
  • Google Analytics integration and conversion tracking
  • Adwords Editor offline tool
  • Great campaign management tools
  • Very powerful reporting
  • Certification program
  • Support for managing multiple accounts
  • Conversion tracking
  • Cost per click is high
  • Competition is high
  • Never know how much you will bid
  • Very basic demographic profiling - language mainly
  • Limited title and ad text length
  • Payment options are restrictive
  • Complex interface and concepts
  • Confusing and mystical "quality score" algorithm
  • Text (search) only or Image (content) only options

Facebook Ads

Many Australian businesses don't actually realise Facebook's advantages as an advertising platform and dismiss it as a social media website.  

However for some businesses, Facebook can be a most powerful Internet advertising tool.  The key advantages of Facebook over other advertising networks its powerful demographic profiling and large user base (some 25% of Australians or 4.3 million people).  While its geographical profiling is basic.  For advertisers in niche markets (for example a sports club that targets 20-25 year olds in Melbourne), it can be perfect.  What I do find though is that it is limited by Facebook's privacy controls, so that there are profiling options tha tyou wish it did have, but it can't.  Especially when users can provide interactive social feedback to the ads.  There is nothing better than seeing multiple Facebook users give your ad the thumbs up and recommend it to their friends.  Like Adwords it offers basic cost per click (CPC)and cost per impression (CPM) options and generally these costs tend to be lower on average than Facebook, but there is less overall exposure for your ads.

Personally, I find Facebook's biggest flaw to be its limited interface.  The lack of transparency in reporting also disturbs me.  Early on I was finding big discrepancies between the number of clicks that Facebook said it was delivering and the number of referrals from Facebook which were appearing in site statistics.  It can be much easier to accidentally overspend on Facebook as it only has a daily spend limit and is mostly postpay.

  • Fantastic Demographic Profiling
  • Simple interface
  • Interactive social media
  • Easy ad creating
  • Images in ads
  • Support for multiple campaigns
  • Good cost per click
  • Very basic demographic profiling
  • Basic geographical targeting
  • Limited title and ad text length
  • Can't edit ads once created
  • Dubious reporting
  • Can't run multiple accounts in same interface

Linkedin Ads

Linkedin launched a new ads platform late last year and it is a tantalising prospect for Australian businesses.
Linkedin takes Facebook platform and leverages its primarily business demographic for very powerful targeting.
While this is incredibly promising, the reality is that the costs per click have started relatively high and often eclipse that of Facebook and Adwords.
As a result, only serious advertisers will create campaigns.
  • Excellent effectiveness
  • Brilliant demographic targeting down to business role 
  • High cost per click
  • Minimum spends

Yahoo Search Marketing

I must admit, I don't use Yahoo Search Marketing a lot even though it is Google's main search marketing competitor.  However I have used it enough to be able to see the advantages and disadvantages.  The main advantage of Yahoo is its exposure to Australian search networks. Yahoo Search Marketing is a little trickier to initially set up and get used to than Adwords, however its main advantages over Adwords is its transparency in bidding for clicks and a good conversion rate, however I can't get over some of its limitations.

  • Good bidding control
  • Excellent cost per click
  • Exposure to Australian content networks
  • Good Conversion tracking
  • Terrible geographic targeting
  • Complicated interface
  • Not enough on offer for power users
  • Minimum spends

Sensis Bidsmart

Bidsmart provides advertising on Sensis networks.  The self managed service isvery similar to Adwords but much more basic.  While this network is much smaller than Google, it does have a major advantage in that it claims to have 100% Australian focus.  The cost per click overall is much lower.  The interface for managing keywords is limited, but you can have longer more detailed text in your ads (one of my biggest bugbears with the other services).

What I have found in reality is that Sensis is a bulk reseller of cheap pay per click networks - in particular an ultra-cheap pay per click engine which has a notoriously low conversion rate and possibly high susceptibility to click fraud.

  • Excellent cost per click
  • Billing in Australian Dollars
  • Simple interface
  • Longer titles and ad text
  • Sometimes Poor conversion
  • Mediocre Keyword options
  • Less exposure
  • Basic geographical targeting
  • Can't run multiple accounts in same interface


As businesses and their marketing models differ I choose advertising networks based on each individual business and situation.  By analysing a business model, you can determine which ones are applicable.  In combination they can provide wider exposure, but managing them and monitoring their key performance indicators can be difficult.  All of these networks have pretty strict editorial requirements which mean you have to get creative to get the best results.  Click fraud is another very real concern with these networks that your money may be sometimes wasted.  I've even had a competitor tell me that they clicked on my ads once a day just to annoy me.  While some networks take action against it, you have to wonder whether if they are completely foolproof. Overall though, there are massive benefits to being in the game. However as a long term investment, I am a big believer in organic search and search engine optimisation (SEO) over cost per click.  Some clients ignore SEO entirely in search for pay per click gold, but this is fraught with danger - especially considering increasing click fraud.

Many of my clients choose to pay me to manage their campaigns on their behalf.  I charge a nominal monthly fee and provide a monthly report which includes not just managing their campaigns, but often other initiatives to drives customers to contact them and sales including optimisation for organic search.  Some managers onsell these networks and won't give you transparency so that they can take a cut off the advertising costs and many will only focus on pay per click.  Several times I have had to identify and advocate on behalf of customers in cases of click fraud.  Many feel that they would like control as they know their businesses better than anyone.  I work with customers on my online advertising projects to achieve the best balance and maximum transparency.  We teach each other along the way and get better long term results that way.

But I'm interested to hear from others about their experiences with online advertising networks.


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