What Is PPC? The ultimate introduction to PPC marketing

What Is PPC? The ultimate introduction to PPC marketing

Pay Per Click (known as PPC for short) can be an incredibly powerful marketing tool – capable of delivering $2 for every $1 spent (Google Economic Impact Report). Honestly, what other marketing medium, online or otherwise, could possibly deliver the same return? Yet the power of PPC, can also prove to be a pitfall for those who lack solid founding knowledge. Here we walk you through the realm of PPC step-by-step – minimalizing the jargon and the head spinning industry terms, for crystal clear clarity as to how you can capitalise on all that PPC promises.


PPC in a nutshell

In the simplest sense, PPC is a way to purchase website visitors. With PPC, you pay each time a website visitor clicks on one of your adverts. When you’re dealing with search engine PPC, your adverts will appear when

A. The searcher has input a keyword/phrase relevant to your business.

B. Your ‘bid’ for that keyword is higher than other companies also vying for the spot

If the searcher likes the look of your ad, and goes on to click the link, you’ll then pay a pre-agreed fee.

What Is Google AdWords?

Google AdWords is the platform used for appearing in Google search results. Amongst its many (many) features are: The Keyword planner tool, Display Planner and Ad Preview and Diagnosis.

Google is the daddy when it comes to PPC – holding a 64% market share as compared to Bing’s 21.6% (Search Engine Journal) and Yahoo!’s 11.8% (Search Engine Journal).

The welcome screen for Google AdWords


The Keyword research tool



A Quick Note on Yahoo! And Bing

Despite Google being the most popular choice of PPC platform, you shouldn’t write off Yahoo! and Bing just yet – not least because of Window 10’s introduction of assistant Cortana – which features a voice search powered by Bing.

There are also demographics to be considered, with Bing being used mostly by those over the age of 45. This is far too expansive a topic to cover and explain here, but if this describes your target market, you really should read this article – Are Bing and Yahoo Worth Considering for Organic Search Traffic?



Why do you need PPC?

Whilst organic marketing methods (such as blogging, SEO and social media) may build up a steady stream of traffic over time, often businesses want instant results. PPC delivers website visitors, fast. What’s more, its ROI fairs incredibly well as compared to other digital marketing options.

Beyond cost efficiency, PPC is also ideal for merging with your other digital marketing efforts (such as driving visitors to your email sign up page – which then leads on to a powerful email marketing campaign).

Finally, there is one seriously powerful strategy that PPC allows for – and that’s ‘re-marketing’. We’ll move onto this topic a little later in the article, for now, let’s see how PPC works ‘under the hood’.


How does PPC work?

Diving into bids

The amount that you’re willing to bid is known as the cost-per-click (CPC). You set out a maximum amount that you’re willing to spend and Google will undertake the leg work on your behalf to achieve as many clicks, within your pre-defined budget.

The necessary bid levels vary greatly from business to business, and are based upon the competitiveness of the industry at hand. Take the employment sector, for example, the average bid for this industry comes in at $4.20, whilst dating and personals demand a comparatively measly $0.18 per click (Word Stream).

What’s more, beyond outbidding others, you also need to achieve a good ‘quality score’ – this is how relevant and useful your advert is deemed to be, for those searching your keyword. For example – a searcher is looking for “Louis Vuitton handbag”, your advert reads “Buy a genuine Louis Vuitton handbag”. This then leads the searcher to your homepage (which is filled with many brand name products). Your advert would consequently gain only a low-quality score, this is despite the fact you may stock the largest number of Louis Vuitton handbags in the world.

Read more about industry cost per click benchmarks

As an alternative to bidding per click, you can choose a different, although less popular method – with your costs based on cost-per-impression (CPM). An impression is where your ad has been displayed in front of a searcher – you’re then charged as soon as this happens (the searcher in question may or may not click on your advert).


Google Shopping


Google shopping is where products are displayed directly in the search results. The science behind these can be relatively complex for the newbie (and involve the setting up of a data feed, which is effectively drawn from an excel sheet that you provide).

Despite the headache of getting Google Shopping set up, it can pay serious dividends – and is a medium that now accounts for 43% of all retailer search ad clicks (Search Engine Land).


Read Google’s guide to Google Shopping


Make money with PPC – Critical steps toward a killer PPC strategy

To secure success from PPC (and moreover, get the most ‘bang-for-your-buck’) you need to put plenty of time into crafting a PPC strategy and commit to analysing performance at least once a month. Here’s what to do, step by step…

1. Set your budget


The very first step is to set your budget – how much can your reasonably afford? During the initial stages, you may want to commit to a smaller budget until you get the hang of it, and are clearly securing a positive return on investment.

2. Undertake PPC Keyword Research

Register for Google AdWords, then visit the Keyword Planner – begin by clicking on “Get search volume data and trends” and enter words that describe your product or service.

The screen you arrive at will look like this. Here we see how many searches are undertaken per month, how much competition there is and what the suggested bid is. Should this seem suitable, you’d add this to your plan.


    3. Research long tail keys words – Simple so far, right? Well before you launch your campaign, consider the competition. If it’s high, you’ll be paying a price tag to match. Long tail keywords are ideal for this problem – and are made from three to four words that link very specifically to your product or service. Not only do they benefit from lower competition, but they also involve searchers who discover exactly what they need, when they need it. The upshot of which is that they’re ready to convert. Explore what long tail keywords may be relevant by clicking on the “Ad group ideas” and taking to a pen and paper for jotting down ideas worth researching via the keyword tool

    4. Add negative keywords – Negative keywords are essential for ensuring that your adverts aren’t shown to the wrong people (resulting in wasted money). For example, if you sell genuine Louis Vuitton handbags, you wouldn’t want your results to show up when someone searches for “Fake Louis Vuitton handbag”.

   5. Get to know your AdWords dash

Here we see how your PPC AdWords campaign dash will look. Notice the Max CPC (your top bid); the number of clicks each ad has gained; the click through rate and the average cost per click. The final column shows you exactly how much has been spent per ad.



Source: WordStream

6. Set up your Ad Groups


Notice in the image above the various Ad groups? An Ad group contains groups of your keywords. They’re vital for your campaign as Google can gain information for which keywords your ads should respond to; what your advert will say and where the visitor is forwarded to when they click on your ad.

Source: Kissmetrics

    7. Decide where your visitors will arrive


You may presume that you can only drive visitors to your website – however you also have the option of forwarding them to your social pages or a landing page.

Landing pages are singular website pages designed to encourage one action, and one action alone – this could be an email sign up, a content download or a purchase, to name but a few. Here are a few examples of various landing pages:

A landing page built for gaining contact details from the visitor

Source: Unbounce

A landing page built for nurturing a purchase from the visitor

Source: Buy LP Design

A landing page built for encouraging the visitor to download content in exchange for their email

Source: DesignRazzi

An overview of the critical elements of a landing page

Source: IndieGameGirl

Landing page quality is important for demonstrating relevance and gaining ad appearances. Elements that Google consider in relation to this include:

  • A single campaign pointing to a single landing page
  • A clickable phone number (for those using mobiles)
  • Alt-text on images (read about this here)
  • Meta data (read about this here)
  • A fast load speed of your page
  • Succinct copy
  • A compelling headline

PPC best practises can change every month – and will certainly alter from year to year. This applies to your landing pages, your website and the campaign itself. You can read about the most up-to-date PPC best practise in this blog: What are the PPC Best Practices For 2016?

    8. Managing Your PPC Campaigns


PPC campaign management is critical to continually refining your strategy. You should always aim to improve your ROI – month in, month out. Here are the key steps to take:

  • Experiment with PPC keywords – Keywords shouldn’t be set in stone, not least because consumers can change the terms that they search for. Trialling new keywords that are relevant to your product or service, and then analysing their performance against other keywords, will help you drive down your cost-per-click, and increase your ROI.
  • Keep an eye on expensive PPC keywords – Whilst you may need to pay a significant amount per click (depending on your industry) it’s important to understand value. If your ads are costing you £3 per click, and you’re making a sale every 30 clicks of £500, then you’re achieving value – a positive ROI. A cost of £90, for a sale of £500 (presuming that your margin is healthy, this is good news – you’re making money!).
  • Create Split Ad Groups – Creating split groups is where you write adverts with different copy, calls to action and links; with two groups or more you can see which does better, and potentially work out why.
  • Continually work on your landing pages/website pages – You should test various approaches with the following elements of your landing page/website page:
    • Content
    • Calls-to-action
    • Imagery
    • Layout

9. Set up your remarketing strategy


Have you ever browsed on a website such as Amazon, only to move on elsewhere and be reminded about the item you were considering buying? Or have you undertaken a search, and then browsed another unrelated site, only to then see an advert that relates to what you were earlier researching? This is re-marketing in action.

Here, we see Google themselves making use of re-marketing. As I’ve been writing this article, discovering sources of information for AdWords, an advert for AdWords has popped up whilst I catch up on the latest celeb news – and they’re making excellent use of capturing my attention with a free deal.

This strategy makes use of the “Display Network”, which is considered a further marketing medium. This channel provides the option of image based adverts.

Google Guide: Create your first display remarketing campaign


So, that’s PPC in a very brief nutshell! We say brief as PPC marketing is simply such an expansive topic – even with 2000 words, we wouldn’t be able to cover every inch of the subject. Mastering PPC is a challenge – and an ongoing journey of education and learning. It demands time, patience and, above all else, a loop of trialling, testing, analysing and re-deploying. Make no mistake, PPC isn’t for the faint hearted, however for those who put in the time (or who choose the right agency) that impressive ROI we mentioned at the beginning of this blog could be all yours for the taking.

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