Many years ago (in Internet time), the early adaptors to Google’s keyword-based search advertising discovered how shockingly effective (and inexpensive) it was. Some advertisers reported their return was an order of magnitude or even twice that conventional print and the early Internet banner advertising.
Then competition increased.
Today, you can quite easily blow your brains out (well, not literally, of course) with careless online advertising, especially if you are in a competitive niche where keyword competition can be brutal. The good news: You can turn the money-losing tap off quickly. The bad news: If you don’t turn it off, you will lose lots of money, very quickly!
Nevertheless, there is a way to handle this problem, and it involves discipline and testing, testing and more testing.
Your initial goal: Discover a benchmark advertisement that generates profitable (converting) leads and results. You can study similar non-competing businesses in other markets (this is where association relationships really are helpful) and call their marketing reps for a brain-picking session, or call on expert pay-per-click agencies to help you guide you in the process.
You need a few hundred impressions at least, and probably 1,000 or so, to begin to evaluate things. As well, you’ll need to track the advertising through the inquiry and conversion process. This can take some time. (And it is certainly much easier to test advertising if you are a residential contractor with plenty of volume and a relatively quick conversion/selling cycle, compared to AEC businesses with high-ticket, low volume and long sales-cycle services.)
Once you have your benchmark, you continue to test variations, always looking for improvements.
If you are working in the higher-ticket ICI marketplace, the testing guidelines are somewhat different. In this context, you’ll probably be looking to gather leads and contact data, but empirical measurement will be much harder to assess. Frankly, in this context, you should ask yourself why you are doing ANY paid advertising — and look at other relationship building initiatives including engagement with current clients, associations and the like. You might in this context assess the value of your advertising in relationship to the contacts and opportunities you achieve within your community, rather than the lead conversion rate.