As a marketer, PPC marketing is a skill that you should have in your tool belt — or at least have a basic understanding of. In this PPC guide, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know to get up and running with your own PPC campaigns.
If you’re just starting out with PPC or you just want to learn more, our eCommerce PPC guide has you covered! In this guide we will explain:
What is PPC?
PPC, otherwise known as pay-per-click, is a form of online advertising in which businesses pay to have their ads shown on search engines such as Google and Microsoft.
Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) will show the ads that you create in order to direct visitors to your site. You will only pay if your ad is clicked on.
Typically, paid ads will appear in the organic results in position zero. Below is an example of how a PPC ad will appear in Google SERPs.
PPC Terms and Definitions
It wouldn’t be marketing if there weren’t any acronyms or jargon. However, if you’re new to PPC, this can get quite confusing, so we’re here to help.
Below we have compiled a list of the most common PPC terms that you will likely come across:
Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
SEM refers to any paid and unpaid digital marketing done on a search engine.
Remember: Not all PPC occurs on search engines — social media also has PPC ads (think: Facebook Ads).
CPC is how much advertisers pay for each click that their ad gets. Think of CPC acting as your bid in an auction, determining which position your ad is placed in. As you might expect, the higher the bid, the higher the chances are for the ad to show at the top of SERPs.
You determine your CPC as the maximum price that you’re willing to pay, per click, on your ad. The following formula determines how much you actually pay:
(Competitor’s Ad Rank / Your Quality Score) + 0.01 = Actual CPC.
Let’s explain the terms used in this equation so that you understand what you’re paying for.
Ad rank determines an ads position on the SERPs and follows this formula:
Maximum Bid x Quality Score = Ad Rank.
The score search engines give your ads based on your clickthrough rate (CTR), keyword relevancy, the quality of your landing page and your past performance on the SERP.
Maximum bids are the maximum CPC that you’re willing to pay for your ad.
You can either set this to:
Manual – you determine the maximum bid for your ads.
Enhanced – allows search engines to adjust your manual bids for clicks to help maximise your conversions.
Cost per Mille (CPM)
CPM is the cost per thousand impressions and is commonly used for display and paid social ads. There are other types of cost pers, such as cost per acquisition and cost per engagement, but for ease, we will just focus on CPM.
When setting up your PPC ad, the first step is to determine your ad campaign. Think of your campaign as the key message you want to portray with your advertisements.
You’ll then need to create a series of ads within your campaign because, after all, one size doesn’t fit all. These ad groups will contain a set of highly related keywords and a CPC can be set for each ad group that you create.
As previously mentioned, the ads within your ad group will target a set of relevant keywords or terms. The purpose of your keywords is to inform search engines on which search queries or terms you want your ads to be displayed alongside in SERPs. A micro CPC can be set specifically for the keywords used within your ads, once you determine which keywords perform the best.
The keywords that you choose should inform your ad text. Remember, your ad’s relevancy determines your quality score, as a result, your ad text should reflect the keywords you’re targeting.
Landing pages are a critical component in your paid advertising strategy. After all, this is the page where users will be navigated to once they click on your PPC ad. In order to maximise conversions, it’s important to follow landing page best practices, whether it’s to a dedicated webpage or somewhere else.
Common PPC Platforms
Now that you understand the PPC basics, you now need to know where you can advertise.
When choosing which platform to use, you should consider usability, the availability of keyword terms, where your target audience spends their time and your advertising budget.
Below we have compiled a list of some of the best PPC platforms.
Google Ads (formerly known as AdWords)
Google Ads is the king of paid advertising with over 90,000 search queries being processed by Google every second. This means that there is ample opportunity to target keywords that will reach your target audience.
However, the drawback of this is that the keywords will be more competitive, which ultimately leads to a higher ad spend.
Microsoft Ads are much like Google Ads. However, Microsoft Ads has a slightly lower CPC compared to Google Ads at the expense of a larger audience.
Facebook Ads is a popular platform for paid ads due to its specific targeting options. Using Facebook, you are able to target users based on demographics, interests, behaviours and location.
As well as this, Facebook allows for native ads, meaning that ads are introduced and blended into the social feed. Additionally, they can also be used to advertise on Instagram.
Benefits of PPC
There are many benefits of using PPC in your marketing strategy. The following are some of the benefits of using PPC:
1. PPC ads are cost-effective
A huge benefit of PPC is the control that you have over how much you’re willing to spend since you only pay when visitors click on your ad.
2. PPC ads produce fast results
It can sometimes take months to organically rank on the first page of the SERPs.
If you’re a smaller or startup business, it’s unlikely that you have the time to wait for organic social, direct or organic traffic to take effect.
This is where PPC ads are beneficial. When your ads are optimised, you have the opportunity to appear at the top of the SERP in a matter of hours.
3. You can easily control and test PPC ads
You can easily control various aspects of your ads, including your budget, ad placement and the keywords that you’re targeting.
A/B testing can be done on your ads to identify which ads are performing the best and producing the highest return on investment. Ads that are no longer doing well can also be scaled if they are not producing the desired results.
4. PPC ads allow you to target your ideal customers
You can skip past disinterested audiences, instead targeting an audience that’s ready to buy your products and services.
You can bid on keywords that you know people will be searching for a solution to. As well as keywords, you can use PPC ads to offer retargeting campaigns to target visitors with past online activity, but who didn’t make a purchase.
5. Algorithm changes have little effect on PPC ads
With the numerous changes to Google’s algorithm and the many ranking factors, it can be more challenging to gain free organic traffic when compared to PPC ads.
Thankfully, you don’t need to worry about algorithm changes with PPC ads. Instead, focus on how well your campaigns perform.
6. PPC ads help you rank even with low domain ratings
As a result of keywords becoming increasingly competitive, it has become more and more difficult for businesses with a low domain authority to appear in front of their target audience.
Fortunately, PPC advertising allows you to quickly rank for keywords your audience is searching for, regardless of your domain authority.
7. Data from PPC ads can improve your SEO strategy
Just because you’re using PPC ads, doesn’t mean you should completely ditch your SEO efforts. Instead, use your ads to complement your SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) strategy.
SEO vs PPC
SEO is the process of optimising your website in order to rank and gain free search engine traffic. With PPC, on the other hand, you have to pay for clicks in the SERPs.
Although these strategies differ, businesses see the best results when SEO and PPC are aligned in their marketing.
How to Build a PPC Campaign
Now for the fun part – setting up your campaign. Below we have created 5 easy steps for setting up your PPC campaign.
1. Set Parameters
The first step in setting up your PPC campaign is to set parameters. If you don’t have parameters, you take the risk of your ad being untargeted and, therefore, ineffective.
Put your campaigns into the context of your business goals and consider how your paid campaigns contribute to them. You should then think about what you want to accomplish with your ads and how much you’re willing to pay to achieve your goals.
Ensure that your ads encompass the following:
- The type of campaign you want to run
- Who you want to target
- The theme of the campaign
- How you will measure the campaign’s success
2. Create Goals and Goal Metrics
Following on from the previous stage, you will need to set out your goals and goal metrics. This will give you something to show for your ad spend as long as you determine how you will measure those goals.
Important: Your goal metrics should not be confused with your campaign metrics.
Let’s cover some common PPC campaign goals and how to measure them.
Brand awareness – how familiar your target audience is with your company. It can be worth looking into display ads for this goal to supplement your copy with engaging imagery. Brand awareness can be measured through surveys, social engagement, surveys and direct traffic.
Lead generation – the direct result of having a relevant and engaging landing page to follow your paid ad. You can easily track lead conversions either in the Google Ads interface via a tracking pixel or, if you’re using a tool like HubSpot, through UTM parameters.
Sales – measured by how much of your product or service is sold through your ads. This can be tracked through CMS software or with attribution reporting.
Site traffic – if you’re going to spend money on attracting people to visit your site, you’ll want to ensure that you can keep them there and eventually convert them into leads. Therefore, this goal is particularly useful if you know that you have quality content throughout your site.
3. Choose Your Campaign Type
As there are many different types of paid advertising campaigns, each ad can only reach a specific audience. However, this doesn’t stop you from trying a combination of campaign types to see what works the best for you.
Remember: Test and revise to see what works and what doesn’t.
Search Ads – the most common PPC type. Search ads are text ads that are displayed on SERPs and use the keywords in your account to show relevant ads to the user’s search.
Display Ads – allows you to place (typically image-based) ads on external websites through the Google Display Network.
Social – these ads appear on social media channels such as Facebook and Instagram. You can pay to appear on your target audience’s social feed or, depending on the platform, somewhere else within their profile.
Remarketing – can use either cookies or a list of contacts that you upload to target people who have previously engaged with your company through an action. This can include filling out a form, reading a blog or visiting a page on your site.
Google Shopping – most effective for eCommerce sites. Your ad and its information will be displayed on the Google Shopping tab or on SERPs using the product data.
4. Perform Keyword Research
You will need to assign a set of targeted keywords for each ad group to ensure that search engines know when to display your ad. As a rule of thumb, you should have 1-5 extremely relevant keywords per ad group.
The keyword you choose should closely follow the theme of your ad group, if they don’t, create a separate group for them. For example, if you have an ad group for a furniture brand that has a good search volume for ‘outdoor bistro set’ and ‘sofa bed’, you can set up an ad group for the indoor and outdoor variety of the brand.
Remember: You’re not stuck with your original keyword list. You can add and remove keywords if you can see that they aren’t performing as expected.
5. Set Up Google Analytics and Tracking
Since Google Analytics is free to use, it’s a no-brainer to ensure that it is installed on your site. With Analytics, you can gain insights into your website performance, understand what content is attractive to visitors and you can understand how visitors interact with your site’s pages – all of which can be used to inform your PPC ads.
PPC Best Practices
Much like anything in the marketing industry, you may find that some of your tactics work and some simply don’t perform as expected. So, we have compiled a list of PPC best practices to consider when setting up your PPC campaigns.
Let’s get into some PPC strategies that will help you maximise your efforts and your budget.
PPC Ad Copy
Bidding on keywords will get your ad in front of the right people, meaning that a well-thought-out ad copy will get those people to click on your ad. As a result, it’s important that you give searchers what they’re looking for and make it clear through the words you use in your copy.
For a search ad, you will need to set your headlines, a URL and descriptions, all of which have limited character requirements. Make the most out of your character space by ensuring that your ad copy does the following:
- Speak directly to your target persona
- Include your main keywords
- Include an actionable CTA to ensure that the searcher knows what to do next
- Make an appealing offer
- Use similar language to your landing page copy
- A/B split test your copy
Landing Page Best Practices
After your ad copy, your ad’s landing page is arguably the most important element of PPC. Therefore, it’s important that you ensure that this page is highly targeted, relevant to your ad, accurately reflects what was promised in your ad and presents a seamless experience.
This is because the aim of your landing page is to convert your new visitor. Additionally, a high-converting landing page will improve your Quality Score, leading to better ad placements.
The following points are what a PPC landing page should include to increase conversions:
- Clean design and layout
- Strong headlines that reflect your ad
- Specific and relevant copy to your keywords
- Use a stand-out CTA button
- Reflects what was promised in your ad
- A/B tested
A/B Testing Your PPC Ads
As marketers, it’s rare that you’ll put content forward to your audience without testing that it works first. PPC campaigns are no different.
It is critical that you A/B test your paid ad campaign, with the goal of increasing both your CTR and your conversion rate. The good news is that ads only comprise of 4 parts that you’ll need to test:
- Landing page
- Target keywords
Minor tweaks to just one of these elements can significantly impact your results. As a result, you can make changes one at a time to keep track of where improvements come from.
As a rule, it’s a good idea to list out all the potential tests you can run and prioritise them by the most significant impact. Finally, allowing your ads to run long enough to gather the data you need, means that you won’t waste your budget on a poor-performing ad.
Maximising Your ROI
Maximising ROI on your ad campaigns means considering customer lifetime value and customer acquisition costs. As a result, this can help to understand how much is worth spending on a new lead and how much of that spend can come from paid advertising.
To get more granular, we need to talk about lowering your inputs (cost per lead) and outputs (increasing your revenue). Below we will break down some of the factors that will affect both that you should keep an eye on.
Ways to Decrease Inputs
- Before you start, determine an ad budget
- Create more relevant ads to lower your CPC
- Improve your Quality Score – the higher your score, the less search engines will charge you for clicks
Ways to Increase Revenue
- Increase your conversion rate by following landing page best practices
- Go after quality leads by being specific with your ad – higher quality leads mean that people are more likely to convert and become customers
Additional PPC Tips and Tricks
There are a few additional things you can do to maximise the ROI of your paid ads.
You can tailor your audience so you can save money and get in front of the right people. Google allows you to upload a customer list so that you’re not wasting your budget on people who have already bought from you.
Your bid can also be increased for more relevant subgroups within your target audience, otherwise known as layering audiences.
You can make bid adjustments to increase or decrease your bids based on performance. Adjustments can even be made based on different categories, such as language, demographics, devices and more.
As an example, if there is a drop in keyword performance between mobile and desktop, you can add negative bid adjustments. This way, when someone on mobile searches for your keyword, you’ll bid a certain percentage lower than your normal bid.
Custom Ad Scheduling
Ad scheduling can be set up in Google Ads to show your ad on specific days and times. As a result, this can cut down on ad spend and improve relevance for your target audience.
Using sitelink extensions, you can supplement your ad with additional information. For example, if you have an ad for a promotion at a local store, sitelink extensions can be added to show the store’s location and hours of operation. A benefit of these extensions is that they take up more real estate on the SERPs and they play a huge role in improving your Ad Rank.
You can monitor how your landing page is performing through a tracking code that you place on the page where people land after completing your form through conversion tracking. As a result of enabling this feature, you can make adjustments to improve your conversions.
Make sure that you don’t let too much time pass before you check how your keywords are performing. You can add negative keywords that don’t perform well and place higher bids on the keywords that are creating the best results.
Match types allow you to choose how closely related you want your ad group to be associated with a search term. You can choose from four match types: phrase, broad, modified broad and exact match.
As previously mentioned, you can add keywords and search terms to a negative keyword list to tell search engines what you don’t want to rank for. You might know some of these, such as competitors, but you’ll likely determine these keywords by reviewing what isn’t performing well within your target search keywords or viewing irrelevant matched search terms within your performance data.
PPC Management and Tracking
It’s extremely important that you constantly manage and monitor your PPC ads to reach your desired results. Management, analysis and tracking are integral to PPC campaigns as they give you valuable insights to help you to develop more effective campaigns.
What is PPC management?
PPC management encompasses a range of techniques, from A/B testing and introducing new keywords to adjusting goals.
Managing your campaigns involves analysing your strategy and ad spend and adjusting your resources to maximise ROI.
Overall, PPC management is a huge task within itself, which is why it’s a good idea to invest in solid PPC management tools.
PPC Tools and Software
Since there are many variables that you should be tracking, using additional PPC tools and software can help to make the process a little easier. Below we have created a list of common, sought-after PPC tools that will help with your PPC campaigns:
- SEMRush – helps you to manage your keywords. With this tool, you can find relevant keywords, manage your keyword list and create negative keyword lists.
- HubSpot – makes it easy to keep track of your ad groups, keywords and A/B tests by offering a robust template which helps you to monitor your campaign.
- Microsoft Advertising Editor (formerly Bing Ad Editor) – a Bing management tool for PPC ads. This tool helps you to manage your bids, perform keyword research and make changes to your ads.
- Ahrefs – you can use this tool to check the performance of your PPC ads and to keep track of your competitors keywords.
- WordStream – automates the set up and management of your PPC campaigns.
- Databox – helps you to track your ads performance and displays key metrics in a handy dashboard. Databox’s predictive analysis can also be used to estimate how well your ads might perform in the future.
Whether you’re just getting started or you want to try something new, PPC marketing could be the boost you need to gain an advantage over your competition.
By applying the lessons and best practices covered in this PPC guide, you will be well set on your way to improving your website’s traffic and conversions.
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