Search Engine Marketing (SEM, paid search) often gets the "expensive" tag because you're normally paying-per-click. Crap, that does sound expensive doesn't it! BUT, there really isn't such a thing as free marketing. Marketing either costs time, money or both. So if you want to promote your business, you're going to need budget any way you slice it. That being said, since marketing costs money, you should always track results and return on investment. All marketing channels work in slightly different ways, and have their own distinct advantages. PPC for one, is not as expensive as you might think. Here's why.
First off, if you're going to spend money on marketing, it would behove you to track and measure results. With todays analytics, it's relatively easy to learn what your return on investment is for your marketing spend. PPC is often very easy to gauge ROI. If you set your campaigns up properly, you can even see your cost-per-lead or sale in most paid search dashboards, such as AdWords. If you're spending a thousand dollars a month to make two thousand a month in sales, it's not an expensive channel right? Tracking can give you the data to have confidence in your marketing investments. It takes money to make money!
Most all platforms such as Google AdWords, Bing adCenter, Facebook etc. all have budgeting options that enable you to stay within your budget. For example, you can set a daily limit to your ad spend to ensure you don't go over budget. On the flip side, they also notify you if you're not hitting your budget. This is nice as if you're not spending all of your budget you could be missing out on additional conversions.
There are several ways advertisers can save money by keeping their campaigns active long term. Google actually rewards you for having long term active account history. This basically means you will pay lower CPC's than your competitors who are just creating their campaigns from scratch. I've worked with clients who have kept their campaigns running for over 4 years and their CPC's were often an entire dollar or more lower than new advertisers bidding on the same keywords. Talk about customer loyalty incentives! Another way to save is the simple fact that the longer your campaigns run, the more data you build. The more data in your campaign the more you can make smarter optimizations. Over time, you can learn which keywords perform better, adjust bids accordingly, pause underperforming keywords, create tighter ad groups etc. These ongoing optimizations will enable you to squeeze more traffic and conversions out of your budget.
Remarketing is another paid search option where you can "follow" previous website visitors who did not convert around the web via display ads. You've probably noticed in the past after visiting a website, seeing that brands banners across the web. The power of remarketing is segmenting those visitors into tight groups that didn't initially convert on your website, and offering them incentives to come back to your site. For example, if a visitor added a blue widget to their shopping cart, but didn't check out, you could remarket to them offering a discount on blue widgets or further promoting the value proposition of those blue widgets. This enables you to increase the conversion rate from previous clicks or website visitors. Another bonus of remarketing is typically you're only charged for clicks and not impressions. Many big time, popular websites show remarketing ads and it's a great and cheap branding play to have placement on these sites.
Facebook Advertising in quickly increasing in popularity, and for good reason. Currently, you will pay a fraction of the price you would for the same reach on traditional paid search sites like Google AdWords. They have robust targeting enabling you to easily get in front of your target persona. They have flexible budgeting options. You can literally create a campaign at a dollar a day. Good luck finding other paid search channels that offer that kind of reach for such little money! It's important to track everything so you can make data driven decisions and feel confident you're investing your marketing dollars wisely. A well built paid search campaign can generate targeted leads and sales with an attractive ROI.