What is Pay per Click (PPC)?
This refers specifically to advertising on search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo. Pay per click is considered a short-term fix to ranking on Google, because it will appear above other search results. The specific cost will be determined by the different search engine metrics, but you’re only charged if your ad is clicked on. Pay per click management needs to be closely monitored in order to determine the most efficient ways of spending your budget. It is also known as PPC (pay per click), pay per click advertising/PPC advertising), PPC campaign, PPC marketing/pay per click marketing, PPC ad, and other names as well.
Search engine marketing, ( not to be confused with search engine optimization )is one of the most popular forms of PPC. It allows advertisers to bid for ad placement in a search engine’s sponsored links when someone searches on a keyword that is related to their business offering. For example, if we bid on the keyword “PPC software,” our ad might show up in the very top spot on search engine results pages.
Every time our ad is clicked, sending a visitor to our website, we have to pay the search engine a small fee. When PPC advertising is optimized, the fee is trivial, because the visit is worth more than what you pay for it. In other words, if we pay $1 for a click, but the click results in a $100 sale, then we’ve made a profit!
A lot goes into building a successful PPC marketing campaign: from researching and selecting the right keywords, to organizing those keywords into well-organized campaigns and ad groups, to setting up high landing page quality that is optimized for conversions. Search engines reward advertisers who can create relevant, intelligently targeted PPC campaigns by charging them less for ad clicks. If your ads and landing pages are useful and satisfying to users, Google or Bing will charge you less per click, leading to higher profits for your business. So if you want to start using PPC, it’s important to find a good guide to PPC and optimize your cost per click.
What is google ads?
Google Ads is the most popular PPC advertising system in the world, it is also known as a paid search. The Ads platform enables businesses to create ads that appear on Google’s search engine results page and other Google properties.
Google Ads operates on a pay-per-click model, in which users bid on keywords and pay for each click on their advertisements. Every time a search is initiated, Google digs into the pool of Ads advertisers and chooses a set of winners to appear in the valuable ad space on its search results page. These are chosen based on a combination of factors, including the quality and relevance of their keywords and ad campaigns, as well as the size of their keyword bids.
More specifically, who gets to appear on the page is based on an advertiser’s Ad Rank, a metric calculated by multiplying two factors -CPC Bid (the highest amount an advertiser is willing to pay) and Quality Score (a value that takes into account your click-through rate, relevance, and landing page quality). This system allows winning advertisers to reach potential customers at a cost that fits their budget.
Alternative search engine : bing ads
Bing ads is similar in both ad structure and purpose to Google Ads. Like Google ads, Bing ads are auction-based and rely on keywords.
If you run ads on Bing, you create bids based on specific keywords. If a bid is successful, your ad appears for that keyword when users search for it. Then, since ads are also based on a PPC model, you pay a fee each time a visitor clicks on an ad and is brought to your site.
This means that you never have to pay for your ad to simply appear — only for clicks. However, you still pay for clicks even visitors click on the ad by mistake or don’t end up buying anything from you. For this reason, it’s important to reduce unwanted clicks on your campaign.
Of course, there are other PPC platforms that can be utilized, such as Microsoft advertising.
Types of PPC campaigns
Search Network – This is the most common targeting option and it consists of google.com and Google’s Search Partners such as aol.com, amazon.com, and others. The Search Network is primarily keyword based advertising. Essentially, searchers type in queries for which ads are shown.
Display Network – This type of network consists of millions of sites that will show Google texts, images, and video ads. These ads are shown within the site’s content but don’t utilize traditional keyword based targeting, instead targeting audiences and demographics. For example, a user may visit a blog that discusses the history of coffee tables. Even though the user isn’t necessarily in a “buying mode”, the content is relevant to coffee tables. The user may or may not click the ad, but they are now ultimately aware of the brand.
Search Network with Display Opt-In – This targeting option is a combination of both of the previously mentioned networks. In the new Google Ads experience this replaced Search Network with Display Select. Now you can create a regular Search Network campaign and opt-in to the Display Network. The only downside is that Google determines when and where ads may perform best, taking control away from the advertiser. The preferred option is to break out campaigns by network, but Search with Display Opt-In is worth testing out to see if it’s a good fit for your company.
Shopping: Product Listing Ads (PLAs) – PLAs are shown on both Google and Microsoft. After submitting a product feed to Google Merchant Center, shopping campaigns can be created in Google Ads. Advertisers can create product groups to which they can bid on various feed attributes. These attributes can include but are not limited to:
- Item ID
- Product Type
- Custom Attributes
Shopping campaigns do not contain keywords! Both search engines match user queries to the product they deem most relevant. Thus, it is important to ensure all products have accurate information as well as clear titles and descriptions.
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ppc targeting strategies
Ads can be shown across all devices, including but not limited to:
- Desktops or Laptops
- Mobile Devices
Desktops/laptops and tablets are considered similar enough by the search engines that the same bid is applied to these platforms. Mobile devices however have a bid modifier. For example, if the bid is $1.00 and the mobile bid modifier is set to -50%, the bid on mobile devices becomes $0.50. A bid modifier of 150% would set the mobile bid at $1.50. Sometimes the bid is unreasonable, but mobile targeting should definitely be considered at the very least.
PPC targeting is extremely granular, going down to the zip code level. Advertisers have many options to ensure that their ads show only in desired locations. For example, advertisers could target a specific state only, or even by a zip code/postal code grouping.
Bid modifiers can be setup by location. For example, advertisers targeting all 50 states can set separate modifiers by location, and selectively targeting some states more than others, and the advertiser could even ignore some states altogether! Location targeting affords the advertiser a lot of decision making power.
Search campaigns are one of the most powerful strategies for PPC marketing, allowing you to reach users when they are actively searching for information.
By showing an ad on a search engine results page (SERP), you’re in a position to answer both the user’s query AND influence them to make a purchase.
If your keywords match search queries then your ad will show, if not then it won’t. There are additional factors of course such as negative keywords, keyword match types and keyword bids that you should consider.
Dynamic Search Ads
The second type of targeting for Search is called Dynamic Search Ads, or DSA. DSA campaigns are relatively new to the PPC playground and are a shift away from keyword targeting.
Instead of providing the platforms with a list of keywords, you provide them with your website and the engines will match to search queries that are related to your campaigns and ad groups. This gives you less control over when your ads show up, but is a good choice if you’re new and considering trying different options.
Other considerations when doing PPC
Advertisers also have the ability to run ads only at desired times. For example, an eCommerce campaign might choose to run ads 24/7, while a brick and mortar store might only show ads during business hours. Ad scheduling allows easy management of when and for how long ads will show.
Just like device and location, bid modifiers can be set for both days and hours. For example, weekends may drive more revenue so bids could be 20% higher on Saturdays and Sundays. Or, poor quality traffic comes in from midnight to 4 AM so the modifier might be set to something like -80%.
Each individual campaign should be allocated a daily budget. Budgets should be created in accordance with account goals. Your actual daily spend may vary depending on your needs.
There are two options for which ads are delivered: standard and accelerated. The standard delivery method distributes ads evenly throughout the day. This option is good for advertisers who may have budget restrictions and want to ensure their ads show throughout the day. Depending on the budget the amount of times ads will show will be variable for all times. Accelerated delivery method shows ads until the budget is depleted. This option is best for advertisers who may not have budget restrictions and want to ensure their ads show for every query regardless of other circumstances.
There are two options for how your ads will be delivered by Google:
Optimize – Delivery is based upon ads expected to produce higher click volume.
Rotate indefinitely – Ads are delivered more evenly into the ad auction, but they are not optimized toward any kind of goal such as clicks or conversions.
How to develop a PPC strategy
Conducting PPC marketing through Google Ads is particularly valuable because, as the most popular search engine, Google gets massive amounts of traffic and therefore delivers the most impressions and clicks to your ads. Additionally, with multiple channels such as google shopping, it makes the the most out of the digital marketing world. How often your PPC ads appear depends on which keywords and match types you select. While a number of factors determine how successful your PPC advertising campaign will be, you can achieve a lot by focusing on:
- Keyword Relevance – Crafting relevant PPC keyword lists, relevant keywords, long tail keyword and proper ad text.
- Landing Page Quality – Creating optimized landing pages with persuasive, relevant content and a clear call-to-action, tailored to specific search queries.
- Quality Score – Quality Score is Google’s rating of the quality and relevance of your keywords, landing pages, and PPC campaigns. Advertisers with better Quality Scores get more ad clicks at lower costs.
- Creative – Enticing ad copy is vital; and if you’re advertising on the display network, you can use a tool to create designer-quality ads that will demand clicks.
Your goals should align with the basic sales funnel: awareness, consideration, and purchase. As an advertiser, you should closely examine the sales funnel for your business and customize your PPC ads accordingly.
Below will be an example of some basic steps that you should follow, split into three main categories: Planning, Execution and Optimization.
1. Define Goals and Budget
Paid search strategies can have a variety of goals, such as boosting growth, generating profit, or even driving conversions for channels other than search. How do you know which goals are the right ones?
First, ensure that PPC goals align with the overall PPC campaign. For example, if your overall aim is to increase website traffic, the goal of the PPC strategy should be to achieve a high click-through rate to the site. Once that goal is completed, the activities that will help you achieve that goal will become obvious.
Second, ensure your PPC ad goals are not actively working against your organic marketing activities. Check your organic sector for keywords you want to include in your paid search budget. Determine how much is captured from organic efforts, and what will capture the paid traffic. Make sure you check this before adding keywords that already bring a large amount of organic traffic to your site!
Next, define key performance indicators (KPIs). This will allow you to regularly monitor your success in the terms that you want, such as number of sales and conversions you aim to generate through your PPC campaign.
Now consider budget. Identify how many search terms you plan to bid on and how many clicks you can realistically expect per month. The number of clicks depends on multiple factors, including the quality of your ad copy, the aggressiveness of competitor bidding, and the percentage of people who click paid ads.
Finally, identify a breakeven point between where your paid marketing efforts start producing a positive return on investment (ROI). This means calculating at what point you expect to sell enough to cover your initial investment. If your campaign fails to break even in the expected time, you may need to reconsider.
2. Analyze competitive landscape
Analyzing the competitive landscape teaches you who your main paid search competitors are, what they’re doing that makes them successful, and how aggressive your campaign should be to compete.
If you’re not sure who your competitors are, third-party tools like Alexa’s Audience Overlap Tool can be used to identify competition for your audience. The Competitor Keyword Matrix will show both organic and paid keywords from up to ten of these competitors. Then you can examine these keywords and how well they’re performing for the competition.
Google Ads also has specific features to help you outrank competitors. If you use the Target Outranking share feature, Google Ads automatically raises your bids to help you beat a competitor to the top spot. However, you can target only one domain to beat at a time.
3. Research keywords
All searches start with words typed into a search box. That makes user-centric keyword research the basis of any successful PPC marketing strategy.
You should already have lists of competitor keywords from the previous step. However, you should also brainstorm broad keyword terms around product features. You can then use third-party tools to build out this term with related keywords.
If your site has a search function, you can categorize searches by type. This is a list of what people search for once they are on your site; it’s worth considering these terms in PPC ads if you have content or can create content that fills the search intent.
Lastly, view your site’s Google Search Console, and identify existing organic keywords with a high click-through rate (CTR). These may also be effective in paid search campaigns, which will improve your Google Ads Quality Score.
4. Define your account structure
Now you’re ready to start executing. To set up your Google account, you’ll need to define your Campaigns and Ad Groups. Most accounts will have a few broad campaigns, and a set of a few Ad Groups within those campaigns. Set your budget at the campaign-level, and then determine your keywords at that level.
To define your Campaigns, start by looking through terms you’ve identified from your keywords research and by identifying the action you want users to take when they click to your site from those terms, such as creating a campaign for jackets if you sell men’s clothing, and the goal of it is to get searchers looking for men’s jackets to come to your site and make a purchase.
To define your ad groups, look at the keywords that will fit within your campaign to determine how you can further segment the terms. Remember that you want keywords with similar search intent in the same ad group.
5. Write Effective Ad Text
Within your different ad groups, you’ll define your text ads. Effective ad copy is crucial for PPC campaigns: It can increase Quality Score, reduce cost per acquisition, and increase click-through rates. Searchers will base their decision to click on your ad almost entirely on what you write, so it’s worth investing effort in this step.
Familiarize yourself with the search engine’s basic policies around ad text. Then, you can focus on writing compelling, click-worthy copies. Here are some best practices:
- Use the target keyword at least once in both the ad headline and body text.
- Include action terms such as “sign up” at the start of the ad copy so the user knows what to expect when they click. Match these to your PPC strategy goals.
- Include a price or a statistic in the ad copy. Customers are drawn to ads that make concrete promises; just make sure you live up to these promises on the landing page.
- Lead with the benefits.
- Don’t forget about the display URL. Searchers look to URL copy to guide their navigation, so make sure the display URL is user-friendly and descriptive about where they will land.
- Check competitor ad copies and differentiate. Even if you both bid on the same keyword, try to create more compelling, action-led copies.
Test, optimize, and retest ad copy to see what works best; even a small change can affect PPC ROI.
6. Build PPC landing pages optimized for conversion
Your ads should take searchers to specific landing pages. The closer the match between landing page content and search intent, the higher the conversion rate. If you just send all searchers to a generic page like a home page—they’ll feel frustrated and bounce. This will negatively affect Quality Score, meaning the ads will have a lower chance of showing up in searches.
Most importantly, keep the messaging and keywords consistent between the ad text and the landing page. Reiterate search terms and your brand’s unique selling point from the ad in the landing page header and body text.
Each landing page should have just one call to action (CTA) based on your key metric from the planning stage. If your objective is to get people to subscribe to a free trial, make that is the only CTA on the page.
Keep the design simple and user-friendly. Elements that slow page loading should be kept to a minimum, forms should only contain essential fields, and testimonials or reviews should add verifiable proof. Your only objective at this point is to get the visitor to accomplish the goal of your campaign, so steer clear of any distractions.
7. Identify Negative Keywords
You can’t just set your paid search strategy to autopilot once you’re done with the execution stage; a successful Google Ads strategy has constant tweaking built into it. That’s what we call the Optimization Phase.
Start by identifying ineffectual keywords and look for keywords that show high impressions but low CTR. Consider tagging each as a negative keyword. By cutting out negative keywords you can focus your budget on higher performing keywords and have a better chance of increasing CTR, which will help boost Quality Score.
Now is also a good time to restrict any campaigns you have running on broad match. Broad matching is a great way to start a campaign, but running broad matches for too long can waste money. Focus on the terms that are showing a high conversion rate, and restrict them to phrase match or even exact match types. Make sure to allow campaigns to generate a reasonable amount of data before you start tweaking them!
8. Increase ROI
Return on investment for paid search is determined by the goals of your paid search campaign, like cost per click or cost per conversion. Optimizing paid search ROI means paying less and getting the same or even better results.
Over the short and medium term, ROI can be improved by distributing your budget better. You can do this by abandoning low-performing keywords, and reallocating budget to high-performing ad groups.
A long-term goal should be increasing your Quality Score. This could be improving the landing page experience, writing more compelling ad text, or writing ads that more closely match the intent of the user. Higher quality scores mean the money you spend on ads will go farther, which will help optimize ROI.
Be aware that you should benchmark ROI differently depending on context. For example, a campaign targeting buyer-intent keywords will have better ROI than a top-of-funnel campaign. The key is to look for ROI lift as you optimize rather than applying a general benchmark to various campaigns.
9. Measure and Report
Measurement and reporting should be a basic part of PCC strategy. If you don’t plan measurement activities, reporting will fall by the wayside.
How you report on ad performance depends on the goal of your PPC strategy. That said, you can find most of the information you need in Google Ads reports. Some of the basic reports are as follows:
- Auction Insights: Compares you to competitors. Use this to plan tactical activities.
- Search Terms: Shows you which terms are getting clicks. Use this to spot negative keywords and identify keywords for exact match.
- Campaign Performance: Shows a bird’s-eye view of performance over time.
- Ad Performance: Explains how each of your ads is performing. Use this to identify themes around ad copy and calls to action.
If you report paid search results monthly, include increases and decreases month over month, as well as context around those changes. For example, if conversions rose due to seasonality, that should go in the report. Finish up with the projected impact on long-term goals, and determine what activities you’ll do next month to improve current results.
Managing Your PPC Campaigns
Once you’ve created your new campaigns, you’ll need to manage them regularly to make sure they continue to be effective. In fact, regular account activity is one of the best predictors of account success. You should be continuously analyzing the performance of your account and making the following adjustments to optimize your campaigns:
- Add PPC Keywords: Expand the reach of your PPC campaigns by adding keywords that are relevant to your product or service.
- Add Negative Keywords: Add non-converting terms as negative keywords to improve campaign relevancy and reduce wasted spend.
- Split Ad Groups: Improve click-through rate (CTR) and Quality Score by splitting up your ad groups into smaller, more relevant ad groups, which help you create more targeted ad placement and landing pages for the customers you want to target.
- Review Costly PPC Keywords: Review expensive, under-performing keywords and remove if necessary.
- Refine Landing Pages: Modify the content and call to action (CTAs) of your landing pages to align with individual search queries in order to boost conversion rates. Don’t send all your traffic to the same page, instead set up specific landing pages for each PPC ad.
You’ll learn more about all of these elements of PPC campaign management if you take courses like PPC 101 that can be found online.
Does PPC work? Why or why not?
1. PPC works with small budgets. A lot of new marketers think that their job is to spend money to get attention. However, this is actually not the case, and instead a marketing budget should be carefully managed in order to maximize the benefit and minimize the cost. PPC can be extremely effective for small budgets.
Targeting: You can use PPC to target visitors at all stages of the buying funnel. You can start by focusing on the key words people type in when they are ready to buy. The lower down the funnel you go, the higher conversion rate you should expect. When you add geography, time and language, you have a surefire way to pinpoint your most qualified customer.
Matching. Avoid broad matches or you’ll be paying for unqualified clicks that will result in a high cost per PPC ad. Start with a modified broad match to increase relevance and focus on your target audience. Since PPC is an auction format, price is driven by demand/value.
Remember that there is no direct correlation between budget and results! You always want to ensure quality over quantity especially for PPC platforms.
2. Test lots of messages: Don’t only stick to text ads, consider image ads, call extensions, or alternate campaigns. PPC is a great way to test content and combinations of words and marketing. Design tests to measure if you’re increasing the number of potential customers, relevance of keywords to ad copy to landing pages.
Make sure your PPC ads match what is on the landing page, and likewise with sitelink extensions, and other ad extensions. We’ve found rearranging headlines or changing the description can increase click-through rates by 8 percent or more.
3. Test lots of markets. If an ad is working in a certain market, you should test the same copy in another market but, remember, there are subtle nuances in each language. Make sure to avoid using a broad match, and instead find trusted individuals who know the native language to provide feedback on relevant keywords.
4. Tests quickly point to the right direction. More often than not, the simplest and quickest version of your page will be the most effective. Always start with some basic best practices, create your hypothesis and then test everything – headline, buttons, video, CTA placement and so on.
Give your tests enough time to reach a conclusion, then build a new test based on your findings. Keep at it even when you think you’ve nailed the perfectly performing campaign and you’re exceeding your expectations. PPC advertising needs to be repeatedly tested to maximize performance.
5. Numbers trump opinion and emotion. When funds are tight and every dollar counts, using data instead of your opinion to make decisions is a lifesaver. You can use Google and Bing Ads, along with tools like GA Content Experiments and Optimizely combined with your own analysis, to determine the most valuable ad groups, as well as increase your quality score. If necessary, you may turn off campaigns that are underperforming.
Marketing on a small budget might seem a tough but there are ways to get results. A carefully planned, highly detailed PPC marketing strategy can generate the results your company needs without spending an arm and a leg.
Ultimately, deciding whether or not to choose PPC is up to you, but it has many benefits and considerations that need to be discussed before your company dives into it.
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