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(eM+C)—With the U.S. credit rating downgrade and the ensuing global market fluctuation, it’s a murky time for money. While this uncertainty will reverberate through some companies’ online marketing budgets, there are strategic actions you can take to maintain a valuable and efficient search engine marketing program—all while spending less. Here are five tips for extending your online advertising dollars in a fickle financial climate:

1. Be a stat junky. Make sure you’re taking advantage of arguably the biggest advantage that online advertising provides: everything is measurable. Your online advertising return on investment either makes sense for your company or doesn’t; now is probably the time to make that call. For some products or services, SEM numbers just don’t add up no matter how much the campaigns have been optimized.

2. Testing 1,2,3 … and 4,5,6. The beauty of online advertising is that everything is testable. Calls to action, landing pages, placements, whether you use an exclamation point or not…You name it, it can be tested and retested. The old saying “measure twice, cut once” isn’t welcome in the online advertising world. Cut and measure your ads as many times as you like. The more you test, the more efficient and successful your campaigns will be.

3. Bargain bin some of your traffic. Google, Bing and Yahoo are great for top-tier traffic. However, they’re also the most expensive ad networks. Now might be the opportune time to explore remnant or long-tail advertising networks to extend your budget. These networks can deliver more clicks for considerably less money, often without a significant decrease in quality.

4. Get stuck in the right traffic. If you opt to try less expensive traffic generators, make sure you’re still getting enough bang for your buck. Make sure the online ad network that you use vets traffic through independent, third-party traffic cleansers. That way you can rest assured knowing you’re getting real clicks from real people. Most advertisers wholeheartedly agree those types of clicks are preferable to traffic from bots, I-frames and adult sites.

5. Deals to be had. Remnant advertising prices went down about 50 percent during the 2008 economic turmoil. It’s worth checking to see if there are bargains that reward companies for advertising under more stringent budgets. In fact, down periods in the economy might very well be the best time to advertise online. You could pay less to get traffic, there’s less competition and for retail products consumers are more likely to shop online.

Robert McDaniel is vice president of products for PV Media Group, a digital marketing holding company.