You don’t necessarily need to pay hundreds or thousands for the latest software to help you with this SEA program. Although, may I suggest that you take a look at WordTracker and if you have budget for it, go ahead and get it. It’s what some of the great search marketing folks use to help keep track of what keywords are and aren’t working. But, if you want, you can see what the bids are for various keywords right through Google AdWords. I particularly like their user interface just because of that. You can type in numerous keywords that you want pricing for and it will pull up results complete with impressions, page rank (which I’ve been told is completely arbitrary), clickthrough rate (CTR), cost per click, and cost per day. You can also have your SEA program targeted towards more specific locales and narrowed down to a particular city. Once you’ve targeted San Jose, CA as your intended market, if a user from that city searches for that specific keyword, your ad will appear — the system looks at the user’s IP address and tags it to show your ad.
Google AdWords will also allow you to place banners throughout their network — not limited to only Google, but on AOL, AskJeeves, etc. — and all must adhere to strict restrictions. If you don’t know much about the rules and how to do something, don’t fear because their system also includes a very helpful learning center where you can learn all about the tricks of the trade.
A fancy other tool to take advantage of is Yahoo! Search Marketing’s keyword suggestion tool. Simply enter in your own keyword and it’ll tell you the traffic recorded on a specific month (that Yahoo provides unfortunately) and what the recorded search traffic was. It will also give you other suggestions as well that you could use. The more traffic recorded, the higher the bid and results in you spending more money to get on the top of the listing. You don’t necessarily need to be in the top two positions, as that will lead people to go ahead and try and make you overspend your marketing budget just to defend that position — think of it as playing “King of the Mountain” where there’s always someone trying to topple your reign over the hill.