Pay per click advertising, or PPC, is one of the most well known digital marketing strategies. It’s a type of search marketing, which means that it utilizes the power of search engines like Google and Bing to find users who are already interested in your products.
With PPC marketing, you can target users who are in-market for your products or services, so it’s one of the most effective ways to reach your potential customers and grow your business online.
And, unlike traditional marketing methods such as billboards, print ads, or direct mail, with PPC you can measure results in real time and understand the exact impact of your advertising.
Whether you’re totally new to PPC marketing, you know a little about search engines and you’re ready to dive in, or you’re already running PPC ads and looking for ways to improve your current campaigns and ad groups, our comprehensive guide will tell you everything you need to know about using PPC marketing through Google to reach new customers, generate leads, and drive online sales for your business.
What is PPC Advertising?
PPC stands for Pay Per Click, which is an advertising model that allows businesses to use search engines (mostly Google) to create highly targeted ads to reach users who are already in-market for their products.
Pay per click means that the advertiser (i.e. the business that is running the ads), will only pay when a user actually clicks on one of their ads.
There are a few different types of pay per click ads:
Paid Search Ads
You’ve probably noticed these ads before. They appear at the top of search engine results pages, above even the organic results. Paid search ads are run through platforms owned by search engines, like Google Ads (also known as Google Adwords), or Bing Ads.
Display ads, also known as banner ads, are visual PPC ads that appear on a variety of websites across the internet.
Display campaigns can be purchased directly through publishers, but the most common way to create these campaigns is through Google Ads. Google Ads utilizes the Google Display Network, which has inventory across 90% of websites on the internet.
Unlike search ads (which are text ads), the ad placement is on an actual web page, but they still use the power of search engines for targeting.
Google Shopping ads are a sponsored links that appear in Google shopping results. These PPC ads are generated from a data feed that you provide to Google, and they allow users to see your product listings directly in the search page results.
What is CPC?
CPC, or Cost per Click, is the amount that you actually pay when a user clicks on your ad.
What’s the difference between Display and Paid Search?
The main difference between these channels is the format.
Search ads are text-only, and appear only in search results, whereas display uses images or video and can appear on any website across the Display Network, as well as in apps.
Another key difference between search advertisings and ads on the display network is the approach to targeting.
Paid search targets users based only on search queries, and they will appear in the search engine results page for those terms.
Display ads can also target users who are searching for particular keywords, but it also has other targeting options, such as audience interests and behaviour.
With display, you can also use contextual targeting, meaning that the ads will appear on websites that are relevant to the content of the ads, for example an advertisement for a hotel on a booking website, or a movie on a film review site.
What’s the difference between organic and paid search?
With organic search, businesses earn their spot in the search results by optimizing their website and creating quality content. Paid search results are advertisements that a business pays to show up for specific keywords.
PPC ads can be effective for any type of business – but they are especially useful for businesses that are selling products or services online. That’s because PPC ads allow you to target users who are already interested in what you’re selling.
How do Pay Per Click (PPC) Ads Work?
PPC ads are purchased through an advertising platform, like Google Ads.
In Google Ads, businesses can bid on keywords that they think users will search for when they are looking for their products or services. For example, a florist may bid on keywords such as “flower delivery”, “order roses online”, or “mother’s day bouquets.”
When several advertisers bid on the same keywords, Google uses a ranking system to give each advertiser an Ad Rank, which determines where it appears.
This is the maximum amount you are willing to pay when someone clicks on your ad. For example, if you set a max bid of $1.50, you’ll never pay more for this when someone clicks on one of your ads. This can be set for a whole ad group, or just for a specific keyword, so you can bid more for keywords that are highly relevant.
Keywords with a higher search volume will have more competition, therefore the bid will be higher. However, the highest bid doesn’t always secure the top spot!
Ad rank = Maximum Bid x Quality Score.
Quality score is based on factors like the relevance of your ad to the search query and how often people click on your ads, as well as how user-friendly your landing page is, and your overall conversion rate. Quality Score also influences ad rank, so a better Quality Score may mean you can bid less for the same ad than a competitor!
What are the main benefits of Pay Per Click Ad Campaigns?
With PPC advertising, you can target specific search queries which are highly relevant to your business. Your ads are shown only to those who are searching for the keywords you choose, so it’s a great way to reach users who are already in-market for your products or services.
When you run a PPC campaign, you select your bid amount (the maximum amount you are willing to pay for each click). Set up different ad groups to target a group of relevant keywords, and optimize your keywords and ad groups with different match types.
We’ll explain how that works in more detail below, but the main benefit is that you have more control over the cost of your advertising.
The advertiser pays only when a user clicks on the ad and goes to the landing page, so you don’t have to pay for those who don’t convert. This makes PPC one of the most cost-effective online advertising strategies.
Increase Brand Awareness
If you’re a new business that just wants to get your name out there, Google Ads is a very effective way to let consumers know about your brand.
Display advertisements are low-cost and can appear on specific sites that are relevant to your industry, or target users who are interested in your offering.
Drive Traffic to Your Landing Pages
PPC campaigns are great for driving traffic to specific landing pages. Unlike SEO (search engine optimization) or other organic marketing methods, PPC has almost instant results.
Maximize traffic by choosing keywords and landing pages that match each stage of the customer journey. For example, broader keywords are more effective for campaigns that aren’t specifically focused on sales, and should link to web pages with information related to the search query (e.g. the top 10 brands, customer reviews, which product should I buy), whereas keywords or phrases with purchase intent (e.g. order online, where to buy, near me, etc), should direct to landing pages that are conversion-focused.
With Google Ads, it’s easy to track the performance of your campaigns. You can compare cost per click across campaigns and ad groups to see which search queries, keywords, and ad copy versions are most effective.
With Google Analytics, you can evaluate the performance of your landing pages and make improvements to increase your Quality Score, which will in turn lower the amount you have to bid to reach the top spot.
You can also use Google Analytics to track leads and purchases to determine your exact ROAS (Return On Ad Spend – the amount of revenue you receive for every dollar you spend on advertising).
How Do I Choose the Right Keywords?
With online marketing, it can be difficult for smaller businesses to compete with bigger brands. High volume keywords will always be in demand, so if you don’t have a large budget, it may be best to avoid the more common search queries, and focus on ones that highlight your value proposition.
Tools like Google Search Console can help you to find the most relevant keywords for your products and services. Long-tail keywords (those with lower search volume) can often be very effective, so don’t discount them entirely!
Consider your Unique Selling Point and use it to your advantage here – if you’re a local business that primarily serves local customers, add your town or city to your targeting. If you have a broader customer base, think about regional differences or colloquial phrases, and adjust your ad copy accordingly.
Another way to stretch your budget further and get the most bang for your buck is choosing the right keyword match type for your ad group.
What Are Keyword Match Types?
Google Ads offers different match types which help you to control where your ads will appear. You can choose broader settings to reach more users, or more narrow settings for very specific targeting. The most common keyword match types are:
Broad match targets the widest audience. It includes searches for your exact keyword or phrase, as well as similar variations and related searches. For example, if your ad group has a broad match setting, and you bid on the keyword “sneakers”, your ads may also show to users who search for “men’s sneakers”, “women’s sneakers”, or even “running shoes.”
This is a slightly narrower strategy that uses a specific order of words. Ads will also show when other words appear before or after your key phrase. For example, if your phrase match is “Italian restaurant”, it will show if the search is “Italian restaurant open now” but not “Pizza place open now.”
Exact match is the most restrictive match type – your ad will only show if the search is exactly the same as the keywords you have specified. Exact match does account for common misspellings, and a different order of words, but it doesn’t apply to related searches.
Exact match is great for those with niche products or services. For example, if your company repairs classic cars, you could use exact match to target keywords like “Corvette repair” or “classic car detailing”, and your ads won’t appear to users searching for broader terms like “auto repair.”
Choosing the right match type is important, and it’s often a process of trial and error. Going too broad may mean that you are targeting a lot of people who are unlikely to convert, but using only exact matches could mean that your audience is quite limited.
Negative keywords are just as important as target keywords! Negative keywords can be used to exclude common queries that you often get. For example, if you own a weightlifting gym, you could exclude terms like “HIIT classes”, so that you’re not wasting your budget on services that you don’t offer.
Negative keywords are used just like the other match types – broad match, phrase match, or exact match, however, they do not match to close variants or misspellings, so if you want to include those, you will have to add them manually in Google Ads!
One of the great things about Google Ads is that there are a number of ad extensions you can use to improve your CTR and conversions.
Ad extensions are additional elements that appear with your ad, such as your phone number, address, or links to specific pages on your website.
Some of the most popular ad extensions are:
Sitelink Extensions – these are additional links to different pages on your website that appear below your ad copy. They are a great way to direct users to specific products, services, or landing pages.
Call Extensions – if you want people to be able to call you directly from your ad, you can add a call extension. This is a great way to increase leads and conversions from your PPC campaign.
Location Extensions – these extensions show your business address and phone number below your ad, making it easy for people in your area to find you. If you’re running a local business or are targeting a specific geographic area, location extensions are a must.
PPC is a great way to supplement your other marketing efforts and can be a cost-effective way to generate leads or sales.
However, it’s important to remember that it’s not a magic bullet. Like any marketing channel, it takes time, effort, and ongoing optimization to make the most out of your Google Ads campaigns.
What are some things to keep in mind when creating PPC campaigns in Google Ads?
Your campaign goal sets the scene for your entire PPC strategy. Think about what you are trying to achieve with your ads.
Are you looking to build awareness of your brand, drive more traffic to specific landing pages, generate leads, or get conversions? Once you know what your goal is, you can start to think about the other elements of your campaign.
Your audience defines who will see your ads. With display and shopping ads, you can target by location, demographics, interests, and even previous interactions, for example those who have visited your website or viewed your products.
When defining your audience, think about where they are in the marketing funnel, and use this to guide your messaging. Use broader targeting and messaging for those at the beginning of the purchase journey, and for those further along and closer to purchase, use specific products with a clear CTA.
The product/service being advertised
The type of product or service you are advertising will also have an impact on your audience, as well as your targeting options and messaging. For example, if you are selling a physical product, then shipping options and delivery times will be important considerations. There’s no point in targeting people that are not within your service area!
Your budget is one of the most important elements of your PPC campaign. Once you have an idea of your audience, the type of product or service, and your goals, you can start to think about how much you are willing to spend.
Think about your cost per acquisition (CPA), and what is a realistic CPA for your product or service. If you are selling physical goods, then your shipping costs will need to be considered too.
PPC can be a great way to drive traffic and generate leads, but it’s important to know what you’re doing before you dive in. Be sure to do your research and set a realistic budget, so that you can measure your success and adjust your campaigns accordingly.
Compelling ad copy can make a huge difference to the performance of your search campaigns. It can be a challenge to make such short copy effective, but taking the time to write well-constructed ads will pay off in the long run.
First, include your main keywords in your copy, and the linked URL if possible. This increases relevancy, which search engines use to rank your ads, and signals to the user that this is what they are looking for.
Research other brands; look at the search engine results page for common keywords and phrases, and think about how the top ads are constructed.
Customer-focused ads are more likely to convert, so use words and phrases that speak directly to the user and explain how your product will solve their problem.
Include a CTA (call to action). PPC ads should encourage people to take the next step, whether that’s as straightforward as “Buy now”, or something more gentle, such as “Read more.”
Choosing the right landing page for your ads is crucial with search marketing. Not only does the landing page affect the Quality Score (and therefore ad rank) given by the search engine, but it’s the next step towards conversion in the user journey.
Consider where you want to direct your potential customers – for low-cost or frequently purchased products, you could link straight to the product page, but for products with longer lead times, a page with frequently asked questions may be more useful.
For service-based businesses, a booking or contact page might be most relevant, whereas those looking to generate leads might find a form page to be the most effective.
Scheduling and adjusting your budget can help you to get the most out of your paid advertising campaigns. For example, a restaurant may only want to advertise during business hours.
You can also adjust your bid when clicks are worth more. For time-sensitive keywords, like “24h locksmith near me”, bidding more at night could drive a lot more business. Similarly, if your business is closed on Sundays, decreasing your bids for this time can help you save some budget.
Ad groups can help you to separate and keep track of different ads, e.g. if your business is having a sale, you can use ad groups with different versions of the ad (each with its own schedule) to count down the days left.
Are pay per click ads worth it?
The answer to this question depends on your business goals. If you’re looking to generate leads or increase sales, then PPC with Google Ads can be a worthwhile investment. Consider your total ad spend, ROAS, and how much you’re willing to pay for each conversion before you begin, and set your limits accordingly.
Often, PPC campaigns are best used in conjunction with other digital marketing channels.
For example, the your landing page has a huge impact on quality score. So look into search engine optimization (SEO) and conversion rate optimization (CRO) and your PPC ads are also likely to be more successful, too!
However, if you’re just starting out and trying to build brand awareness, you may want to consider other marketing channels first.
How much do PPC ad campaigns cost?
The beauty of Google Ads is that it can be used with any budget level.
There is no minimum spend required to run a campaign, but there are some recommended budgets based on total ad spend, ROAS, and how much you’re willing to pay for each conversion.
For small businesses with a limited budget, it’s important to focus on a few key goals and not try to do too much at once.
Start by setting a daily budget and choose your targeting options wisely. Then, track your results over time and adjust accordingly, increasing your budget as you see results and ROI.
Don’t be afraid to experiment to see what works best for your business. The best way to do this is through A/B testing.
Read more about that, and how to get the most out of a lower budget level, in our article, How To Run A Cost-Effective PPC Campaign.
How to get the most out of your pay per click (PPC) campaigns
PPC campaigns can be a great way to supplement your marketing. If you’re already doing SEO, for example, and generating organic traffic to your website, adding paid search can help you to reach an even wider audience.
When done correctly, PPC campaigns can be a cost-effective way to generate leads, sales, and brand awareness for your business.
Whether it’s your first time running paid advertising through Google, or you’re looking for ways to optimize the performance of your current ad group, here our top tips to help you get the most out of your Google Ads campaigns:
Choose the right search queries
Your target keywords will have a big impact on the success of your PPC campaign.
Think about what terms are most likely to be used by potential customers, and include negative keywords to bring down the cost and improve your conversion rate. Make sure to set up your ad group to match each stage of the customer journey.
Monitor your campaigns
Google Ads is a dynamic platform, which means that things can change quickly. That’s why it’s important to monitor your campaigns regularly, and make changes as needed.
Check in on your campaign at least once a week to see how it’s performing, and if there’s a sudden change in performance, try to figure out why it happened. It could be any number of things, from too broad or narrow search queries, more competition, landing page issues. Adjust your budget and bids accordingly if you’re not happy with the results.
Look for insights, not just results
Getting conversions is great, but the secret to long term success isn’t in the numbers. From each of your campaigns, look for insights that can help you to improve your strategy.
For example, if you notice that mobile users are not converting, check that your website is optimized for mobile, or restrict your ads to desktop search. Or if you realize that long-tail keywords don’t convert very often, but when they do, the cost is minimal, look for ways to incorporate more of these into your campaigns.
Utilize a mix of marketing methods
A balance of paid ads and organic marketing is the best way to steadily grow your business. Other forms of online advertising will have different targeting options, creative, and reach different audiences, and remember, your landing page also affects your Quality Score, so it’s important to keep SEO and other factors in mind, and not to focus solely on paid traffic!
Frequently Asked Questions about PPC
What’s the difference between Paid Search and Organic?
PPC is a form of paid advertising, where you pay the search engine for each click on your ad. Organic search is the unpaid, natural result that appears in the search engine results page (SERP).
What is a good click-through rate (CTR)?
A “good” CTR depends on your industry and business goals, and the same goes for cost per click! The average CTR for all industries is between 1-2% for search, and the average CPC is $3-4, but this can vary significantly, as competition can drive up the price for common search terms!
What’s a good PPC conversion rate?
A good PPC conversion rate will vary depending on your industry and search engine platform (e.g. Google Ads vs Bing Ads), but the average is between 2-3%. There are lots of ways to improve your conversion rate through making changes to your ads and your landing pages.
Find out more about Conversion Rate Optimization on our blog: [LINK]
What is CPA?
CPA, or Cost per Acquisition, is the amount that you pay for each conversion. A conversion can be a sale, a lead, or any other desired action.
You set your own CPA goals when you create a campaign, and the aim is to get as many conversions as possible while still making a profit.
Will a PPC campaign work for my business?
Like anything in marketing, our opinions on PPC are not one-size-fits-all. When determining whether using a PPC campaign is right for your business, it all depends on your goals and offerings.
What are the cons of PPC advertising?
Limited Ad Types
Whilst Google does offer visual ad formats on the display network, search ads are text-based, which aren’t as visually appealing, so you have to be creative with your copy! It can be difficult to fit all the information you need into a small headline, but once you find the winning formula, it’ll be worth it.
PPC can be expensive if you’re not careful with your budget. Make sure you’re bidding on the right keywords and getting a good return on investment (ROI) for your spend, or you could quickly blow through your budget without seeing any results.
PPC Isn’t Suited to Every Marketing Goal
Some channels (like Facebook Ads) are better for brand building, a major selling point of PPC is that you know ads are targeting users who are searching for information about your product, so they’re more likely to be ready to purchase.
PPC is more complex than other forms of marketing, so it can take some time to learn the ropes. However, once you get the hang of things, it’s a great way to drive traffic to your website.
While PPC advertising has its downsides, the pros definitely outweigh the cons. With a little creativity and strategic thinking, you can use PPC to effectively promote your business and reach your marketing goals.
PPC visitors are 50% more likely to purchase something than organic visitors, but an effective strategy can be difficult and time-consuming.
There’s a lot of work that goes into a successful digital marketing strategy, but when it’s done right, the possibilities are endless.
As web designers and digital marketing specialists, we know everything that’s involved in running a successful campaign. So, if you’re ready to get started with PPC ads, we can help!
Still have more questions about PPC advertising? Check out our other blog posts for more detail. Or, if you’re ready to get started with your own PPC marketing, contact us today and we’ll help you get set up.