Pay Per Click (PPC) marketing is a great way to generate leads and increase your ROI. In our Ultimate Guide to PPC Marketing, we will discuss how PPC works, the different types of campaigns you can use, and what tools you need for success. We will also show you some tips on where to find quality keywords for your campaign!
This guide will introduce you to the main terms, definitions, platforms, technologies, and even techniques relating to PPC advertising. It really is everything you need to know about PPC.
Let’s start with the definitions of a few acronyms relating to PPC ad campaigns and SEM marketing. You can see there are many definitions to take in – but don’t worry, you will learn them as we go along!
We know there is a ton of content out there on the web, but most of it focuses on B2C marketing, so where possible, we’ve skewed the content to also be useful for B2B marketers/advertisers or even other agencies.
Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
When it comes to SEM, the term PPC is often used interchangeably with SEM. SEM is a broad term which can be split into two unique areas; paid advertising (PPC) and organic listings on search engines like DuckDuckgo or Google, of course. It’s probably how you found this article today. The better optimised your content, the higher your website will rank on search engine results pages. This digital marketing strategy falls within the practice of SEO (Search Engine Optimisation).
SEM includes both types of promotions, as well as all related marketing efforts. This means you will find SEM at every stage in the customer journey – from initial research to final purchase.
Search Engine Marketing is defined as a form of internet marketing that involves the promotion and sale of products or services on search engines.
CPC is defined as an acronym for ‘cost per click’. This term is used in SEM and PPC marketing as a metric to indicate the amount of money spent on an ad and the number of times that ad is clicked.
CPM – Cost Per Mille or cost per thousand impressions. This stat simply tells you how much it will cost for your ad to be displayed a thousand times. This is probably the most common stat used in PPC marketing as it enables you to compare the relative costs of running ad campaigns across different platforms.
ROI – return on investment, is a financial metric used to evaluate the efficiency and profitability of an investment. This term is also used in PPC marketing as a way for marketers to define the success or failure of their campaign and to understand if their investment is worthwhile.
Ad Rank is defined as the rank of the ad in relation to other ads on search engines. This is determined by a combination of factors, including Quality Score and Bid amount.
‘Quality Score’ is the ranking system used by Google Ads and Microsoft Advertising (formerly Bing Ads) to determine which ads are more relevant than others when running a search campaign. This score is made up of several factors, including the relevance of your keywords, click-through rate and ad extensions that are relevant and working.
Ad extensions are tools provided by both Google Ads and Microsoft Advertising that enable you to add more information to your ads. This can include images, phone numbers and location information to help advertisers focus on what is most important about their business or product.
Ad extensions are optional enhancements for your ads. Most take up more space on the search results pages and make your ads more visible instantly.
Keyword research is a vital part of PPC campaigns, and there are many tools on the market that will help you find the most appropriate keywords for your campaign.
Google Keyword Planner
The Google Adwords keyword planner is a very useful tool that will enable you to find keywords related directly to your product or service; you can even use your website as a starting point!
If you use Google trends, this is a great way to look for relevant new and emerging keywords over time.
Bing Ads Intelligence
Another useful tool which again enables you to find keywords related directly to your product or service. This is a tool provided by Bing; it’s a similar set of tools to that Google’s intelligence tools.
The maximum is the highest amount you are willing to pay for an ad click. This is an important factor when running a PPC campaign, and it will affect your overall Ad Rank.
An Ad Group in a PPC campaign is a collection of ads within your campaign. The ads within your ad group should be well-organised and related to each other. These ads work together to achieve maximum results.
A campaign in PPC advertising is defined as a collection of ad groups, and this allows you to track the performance of different ad groups.
Campaigns are usually organised around a certain theme, have distinct ad group names and set their own daily budget amounts.
Keywords are an integral part of any PPC campaign, and these are words or phrases that advertisers bid on within their ad groups. There are many tools on the market that will help you find relevant keywords to include in an ad campaign, but some have high costs, so your agency can help spread those costs.
When it comes to keyword advertising, above all, you need to ensure your keywords are relevant to the product or service you are selling. A good agency will ensure sufficient keyword research is done to use the right keywords before going live in order to achieve success with your campaign. This is all part of a PPC management service.
In PPC advertising, the landing page is defined as the page to which users are directed when they click on an ad.
The ad text in a PPC ad is the text that appears on your ads, usually under a headline. This will be seen by those searching for keywords related to your product or service.
Conversion rate is defined as the percentage of visitors to your site who complete a pre-defined action. A high conversion rate is vital for any PPC campaign, and there are a number of ways to improve the conversion rate of your landing pages.
ROAS (Return on Ad Spend)
ROAS is a calculation that takes into account the amount of money spent on your PPC campaign and divides it by how much revenue is generated from these campaigns to show you how much profit you have made from your PPC marketing campaign.
CPA (Cost Per Acquisition)
It is a calculation that takes into account the amount of money spent on your PPC campaign and divides it by how many customers you have acquired from these campaigns.
Average Position Rankings
Average Position Ranking can be found in your campaign reports. It is the average position that your ads have appeared on the search results pages. As you can see in the result below, there are several positions. Magidcx appears top, and a similar web appears bottom, so the average position ranking is a calculation of these positions.
In PPC campaigns, impression share is defined as the percentage of times your ads appeared compared to the number of times they could have been shown. The higher your impression share, the more opportunity you’re given to appear in front of potential customers. It’s an important KPI in paid search ads. It can be found easily in your Google Ads reports. Impression share is influenced largely by budget and keyword relevance.
CTR – (Click-Through Rate)
CTR is defined as the number of times your ad has been clicked on, divided by how many impressions it has received. The higher your CTR, the more interested users are in what you have to offer, and this will lead to greater success for your paid search marketing.
Bid Strategy & Targeting
In PPC advertising, bid strategy refers to how you set up your bids. For example, you may want to bid higher at a particular time of day or on a certain device. This will align with your overall PPC strategy based on what you want to achieve (awareness, leads, sales etc.)
In PPC advertising, a campaign budget is the amount of money you want to spend on your ad campaigns within a specific time frame. In Google Ads, for example, you apply a daily campaign budget which is quite different to programmatic advertising through platforms such as Google DV360, where you apply a total budget.
Negative keywords are simply words or phrases that you don’t want to be associated with your ad. These can be used to improve ad relevance and, therefore, the effectiveness of an ad campaign.
A reporting platform that allows you to track the performance of your ad campaigns. This is free for all marketers, which makes it extremely popular.
There are other platforms that are finally making an impact in being the favoured choice for analytics, such as Oribi, which is great if you are an E-Commerce brand. For larger enterprise advertisers, take a look at Google Analytics 360 or Adobe Analytics, but these platforms are going to cost upwards of $150,000 a year.
Great, so we have a better idea of the key terms and acronyms that get thrown about by marketers and agencies. Now, let’s take a look at some of the most popular platforms.
You can’t talk about PPC marketing and not include Google Ads, formerly known as Adwords. This is the biggest paid search platform on the market, and it’s likely you’ll be using it to run your PPC ad campaign. There’s no doubt it has a place in your PPC marketing strategy, but the question you should be asking is, how do I make Google Ads work for me? There is so much competition, so you need to set up your Google Ads account with an effective advertising strategy that is well targeted.
Google Ads is a mega beast of a platform. Sure, it’s easy to get going, but doing it well isn’t actually that easy, and it takes years of experience in digital marketing knowledge to do well. We’re not saying that you couldn’t achieve success / ROI on your very first campaign, but if you operate in a competitive niche, there is a good chance your competitors will have a well-oiled set-up to make your life that bit harder.
With this being the biggest PPC platform in the world, we’re going to take a bit more of a deep dive.
How does Google Ads Work?
Google Ads is a pay-per-click advertising platform that allows businesses to create text, image and video ads which are shown on Google search and third-party websites. PPC Google Ads are usually text ads placed above organic search results after performing a search.
What’s great about search ads is that they are relevant to the user based on their intention at that moment. Intent-based marketing is important because not only is your ad placement to the right target audience but it’s also displayed at the right time.
When a user clicks on a search ad, the advertiser pays Google for the click. It’s that simple! Google Ads does also encompass other advertising types such as the Google Display Network and YouTube, but, as neither of these is PPC advertising, we won’t explore these any further in this guide.
Google Shopping Ads
Google shopping ads are a type of product listing that appear as paid listings on Google’s search results page and website pages where shopping comparison information is shown.
Product listing ads are a form of advertising in which businesses can promote their products or services to consumers by displaying them directly within the search engine results page (SERP) – next to organic search results – and Google’s advertising network where relevant.
Google Ads also offers Remarketing Ads, which is an excellent tool that allows advertisers to target users who have already visited their website or used their app. Users are then served ads across the web when they are browsing via the Google Display Network. Again this is not a form of PPC ad, so we won’t dwell on them right now. We will, however, look at other vendors who offer remarketing PPC ads.
Microsoft Advertising (Formerly Bing Ads)
Microsoft Advertising is normally a little bit cheaper than its Google counterpart in terms of CPC, but that’s counteracted by lower traffic levels. This is only a top-level comparison of Google and Microsoft Ads, and it’s still an effective PPC tool, but if we could only choose one platform to master, it would be Google Ads!
The Facebook marketing platform is also an absolute beast in the world of technology that is actually very hard to master and takes years of experience, which is why many businesses will use a paid social media marketing agency. Facebook Ads also includes ads served on Instagram and even across millions of sites globally through what it calls the ‘Meta (formerly Facebook) Audience Network’.
The Meta Audience Network is an ad network that lets you show ads on websites outside of Facebook through its pixel.
This advertising tech platform has the ability to reach specific audiences based on their demographics, interests and behaviours. This may include some kind of intent depending on the mighty, almost stalker-like, Facebook algorithm.
Facebook ads are very effective at targeting customers who have already shown an interest in your business which makes it a great tool if used correctly!
The platform offers many types of pricing, including CPV (cost per view) and CPC, which is why it has made it into our PPC Guide.
If you’re a B2B marketer, you may not instantly think of Facebook and Instagram, but at the end of the day, you’re advertising to people, and if your target audience is using Facebook and Instagram, then it has the potential to convert. Facebook Ads are not typically thought of as part of a B2B marketing or B2B lead gen strategy but don’t discount it. We’ve seen it perform really well, even for ABM (Account Based Marketing) campaigns! With the right targeted data, you can reach your target account list (TAL) even in the Metaverse!
Facebook is used for a mixture of brand awareness and performance campaigns where the objective is direct sales.
Want to learn more about social media ads?
Adroll focuses on retargeting ads – getting ads in front of people who have already visited your website. Adroll retargeting is also a great tool for remarketing across the web, so it’s definitely worth checking out if you’re interested in display advertising.
AdRoll isn’t just about displaying adverts on other websites. It can help B2B marketers generate leads with its advanced targeting capabilities, which allow them to reach their target audience more accurately than other platforms. The benefits are that they offer both cost per click (CPC) and cost per impression (CPM) campaigns, as well as reporting tools that will let you track the performance of all your paid social media ads by channel, like Facebook or Instagram etc.
Criteo is a competitor of Adroll and also focuses on display advertising and remarketing ads.
Criteo works with thousands of publishers to bring ads across the web and is a great platform for remarketing. Criteo charges only when ads are clicked, and the price you pay depends on many factors that are part of the Criteo proprietary advertising algorithm.
Criteo is also an effective pay-per-click service that uses its predictive technology to find the most likely customers for your business.
They have a self-serve platform, so you can get started without needing any assistance!
OutBrain is a native advertising network. They work with publishers like The New York Times, Rolling Stone and Men’s Health to place ads across different websites that are relevant to your target customers’ interests.
Outbrain is a great platform for reaching the top and mid-funnel potential customers, but they also offer retargeting ads, which may need further nurturing before they’re ready to buy! Outbrain offers a wide range of targeting capabilities, including content, audience and interests.
Unlike programmatic advertising through technologies like ShareThrough, you only pay on a CPC basis.
Taboola is a similar PPC platform to OutBrain. Taboola arguably appears on less premium inventory – more tabloid than high brow. Their advertising policies are less restrictive than OutBrain, and they allow landing pages to be eCommerce pages, whereas OutBriain’s advertising only allows you to advertise landing pages which are not eCommerce pages, so if you are an eCommerce brand wanting to use OutBrain, they’d only be good for advertising your blog page, for example.
Like OutBrain, Taboola offers a self-serve platform so you can get started without needing any assistance. For larger campaigns, they offer managed services, or you can use a native advertising media agency.
Linkedin Ads is a B2B social media ad platform that allows CPC bidding strategies.
It’s a great platform for B2B marketing because it allows you to target users by job title, company size and industry sector. This means that if your customers are all professional services-related businesses, then LinkedIn could be the way forward!
The LinkedIn Ads platform is quite easy to navigate, making it a great option for beginners who are just finding their feet with paid B2B advertising.
LinkedIn Ads offers a number of different campaign types and allows you to experiment with them. One of the campaign types is lead generation, where you can capture data from potential leads before nurturing them further down your sales funnel.
The platform is quite flexible, allowing for both automatic bidding as well as manual bids – which gives businesses complete control over their ads.
Pinterest Ads offers you the ability to run PPC bidding.
Pinterest is a great platform for eCommerce brands wanting to drive traffic back to their sites.
What we particularly like about Pinterest is that it offers keyword targeting. Just like Google search ads, your ads will appear to audiences who have searched the keywords you enter at a campaign level.
Benefits of PPC Advertising
Advertising has many different pricing models. We’ve discussed some already, CPM, CPA and CPC. PPC is similar to CPC, but PPC refers to the style and overall realm of advertising vs the actual cost per click you end up paying.
The important thing to note is you only pay when someone clicks on PPC advertising. CPM advertising, on the other hand, is where you pay per impression regardless of whether someone clicks your ad or not.
Therefore CPM has potentially greater risks because you could spend a lot of money, and no one ever clicks your ads. CPC is one step closer to your goal of driving a sale.
Let’s take a look at some other key benefits of PPC ads. Note these benefits are not mutually exclusive to PPC ads. They may also apply to other programmatic ads.
PPC ads are highly targeted
You have a choice of various targeting mechanisms, from audience traits such as interests to keyword targeting, ensuring your ads are as relevant as possible.
PPC ads are highly measurable
With the correct implementation of pixels on your site or app, you can track users right the way through from click to sale. Google Analytics integrates directly with Google Ads, making this process much easier. Just one of the ways Google makes its platforms easy to use and incredibly sticky. Facebook Analytics has caught up, though.
For further measurability, if you’re an app-based marketer, you’ll need proper app attribution from companies like Kochava and Appsflyer.
PPC can help your SEO
If you are running PPC campaigns on Google then this is great for your SEO because it means that the ads will be more visible to people searching.
PPC ads get found higher in search results than other channels, which means they’re getting greater visibility. If you can achieve a combo where you appear on top of the paid ads and on top of the organic SERPs, you’ll have the SEM equivalent of jab, jab, hook KO! Being top of both shows your audience that you are hyper-relevant and thus improves your overall CTR and reduces marketing spending.
You don’t have to wait for your website to be found via organic ranking, which can be a long and slow burn. PPC ads allow you to get going straight away, driving traffic to your site from targeted audiences in just a few hours if you want to.
Cost Effective PPC
If PPC is done well, it can yield excellent results. Some PPC platforms, such as Google Ads, are a must on any digital media plan, correction, or any media plan! The results are just so good that you have used Google Ads. It’s that power of ROI that keeps Google at the absolute top of the tree when it comes to PPC advertising.
It’s important to remember that PPC management does take work. It is by no means set and forget. You have to stay on top of it. Strong reporting tools and detailed real-time dashboards will help you visualise what’s happening. Google’s interface, for example, can be quite daunting at first, so we recommend getting an agency to help you visualise the data more easily so you can better see how your ads are performing against your KPIs. Tools such as Google Data Studio are great, but for larger advertisers, you may want to consider Tableau or similar.
Data, Machine Learning & Algorithms
Yes, Data, Machine Learning & Algorithms will help your ads perform better, so immerse yourself in all that data. Consider developing your own algorithms if you’re serious about PPC. These algorithms can then be imported on top of your campaign data and automate your bidding to make it more effective.
Setting up for success
Hang on in there; we’re not done yet. There’s still lots to learn; let’s take a look at how to set up a PPC campaign. How you end up building a campaign will ultimately depend on the final platform you choose; what platform you choose will depend on some of the basics.
1- Establish the Basics
With any marketing campaign, you want to establish your goals and the objectives for reaching those goals.
You want to establish first and foremost:
Who do you want to target?
How do you sell your products?
How do people buy what you’re selling?
How will you measure success?
How can you track offline activity?
What type of campaign do you want to run?
2- Goals & Objectives
An example of a goal might be:
To increase revenue by 20%
An example of an objective might be: Increase the number of new customers acquired through PPC campaigns by 40%.
Let’s look at some of the different types of campaigns you can run to reach your goals.
This type of campaign is aimed at getting your brand known among your target audience. Brand awareness campaigns can also aim to increase your KPIs, which might be ad recall or top-of-mind awareness. Whilst awareness is good, just because someone is aware of your product does not mean they are willing to buy it; therefore, as part of a branding campaign, you may also want to increase consideration and purchase intent, which is slightly further down the buyer journey funnel. Purchase intent is harder to achieve than funnel awareness. Video storytelling can be a good medium for purchase intent, but you won’t be able to buy video ads on a PPC basis; more common is pay-per-view.
Lead gen campaigns are typical where you’re offering a service; industries include insurance, finances, insurance, accounting and law. These types of brands typically require contact information so they can send out more detailed content via emails such as whitepapers or additional offers.
Lead generation campaigns are all about collecting data from your target audience and building up profiles on those people so you’re ready to market to them again. This is a very common practice if you are a B2B marketer.
Direct sales/performance campaigns.
The goal is a direct sale, we’re getting into the weeds here, and you’re thinking, hold on, isn’t this always the goal? Well, yes, pretty much every campaign leads back to sales, but that isn’t always the objective. Direct sales campaigns are normally where the only metric that matters is ROI. £10 in ad spend £20 out in revenue. For example, you’re not bothered about your brand or leads, just sales! Performance campaigns are going to be most popular for E-commerce brands.
3- Choose a Campaign Format
Digital advertising encompasses many formats. Let’s take a look at them.
Display Ads are banner ads in the form of html5 of images, they can be bought by some ad networks on a PPC basis, but mostly they are bought on a CPM via programmatic real-time bidding.
Paid ads that show up when a user performs a search great for keyword targeting. Search ads can be run on Apple search, Bing, Google Ads and also Pinterest, among others.
Social media ads
Ads that appear on any social media platform, such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Social media ads are typically image-based as opposed to just text which is more popular with search ads.
Google shopping ads
Google shopping ads are product listing ads that appear at the top of search results on Google with an image and description. This format is typically used for eCommerce brands and can be bought on a CPC basis.
As we’ve established, some platforms are better than others at remarketing and specialise in just this one thing, but they do it well.
4- Perform Audience Research
You need to know your audience in-depth, and part of that is understanding what they are looking for or what they are searching for. So much of our behaviour nowadays is linked back to our search habits. From our search habits, marketers can infer so much data. Try the Google Keyword planner for free or upgrade to paid tools like SEM rush can give you keyword ideas based on an initial seed word.
Alternatively, turn to a specialist partner who can help properly asses the path to purchase / user journey and map out the different keywords that are relevant at the different stages of the buyer journey. Let us know if you’d like us to refer you.
5- Research Your Competitors
It’s crucial that you know who your competitors are before launching a campaign- just knowing the keywords they are bidding on and seeing what ads they’re running can give you a great head start.
If you already know your competitors it’s a good idea to set up alerts for any new or changed ads they are
Tools from SEM Rush can help you see what keywords they are bidding on and the estimated CPC for each, as well as their ad copy.
-Keywords they are bidding on
-Headlines, the more competitive keywords will probably have stronger ad copy that you can learn from.
-Ads they are running
6- Set Up Analytics & Audience Tracking
Installing Google Analytics is an easy job, and there are loads of plugins, especially if you are using web tools from the likes of WordPress, Squarespace or even an E-commerce solution like Shopify or Bigcommerce.
7- Develop your Creative
If you did your job well in the audience research phase, you’ll know the motivations behind why someone would want to use or buy your product and, even before that, what kind of content is going to engage audiences.
Creative is so important. You can deliver an ad to the right person based on the target keywords you’ve to know the user is searching, but if the ad copy does not resonate with the user, they may not consider it to be relevant, and they’ll just scroll straight past your ad and result in wasted ad spend.
Having good ad copy will benefit your whole campaign and increase the quality score of your campaign. Quality score is crucial to keeping costs down and driving return on investment.
A well-written ad will use the right keywords, make it stand out visually and will even use the persona data that you’ve collected to be sure it’s relevant.
A few tips for excellent ad creative:
- Use powerful headlines. Above all, remember you are selling something, so don’t be afraid to be direct about it. Remember, you are selling something, so don’t be afraid to be direct about it when it comes to performance campaigns. For brand awareness campaigns you can be a bit softer and more emotive.
- Be concise – Remember your audience is human, too, so think like a consumer rather than just an advertiser. If you are selling a product that you would use or buy, then your audience will be more likely to also.
- Be relevant -Understand your audience and target market, be mindful of your audience and use language that is going to resonate with them.
- Be creative – Use a mix of images & video where possible.
ABT Always Be Testing
Chances are you won’t nail it the first time. A/B testing ads is the only way to find out what works for your target audience. Look at your reports and see which creatives are delivering the best ROI or which ads are hitting other metrics such as quality score, CTR etc. You can then use this information to inform your creative approach going forwards.
And remember – just because you have a new winner, it doesn’t mean you should stop testing. PPC is a constant work in progress. Always be testing!
8- Campaign Set up
Once you have all the ingredients, you want to set up your campaigns. Be sure to keep the structure of the campaign well organised. If you are selling many products or you have a complex audience where you need many different messages, you need a taxonomy/ short code structure so you can easily see what each ad group is doing.
Here are some good tips you should follow when setting up campaigns:
Structure campaigns tailored to specific audiences allowing us to understand which audiences are best performing and where we see the biggest engagement
Audience groups Clear definition of audience targeting groups with a deep understanding of who you are addressing
Dynamic budgets Allow for flexibility
Use smart bidding and use AI where possible to gain a competitive advantage.
Automation Automate simple tasks that will lower costs and increase KPIs
Clear insights having your campaigns clearly labelled and broken out allows you to see insights and better understand what’s driving sales and what should potentially be paused.
Good reporting is the backbone of success in digital marketing, particularly when it comes to PPC advertising. Reports can help you track your campaign’s performance and make informed decisions on how to adapt in the future.
There are a variety of different reports available depending on which platform is used but no matter what platform you use pay close attention to Google Analytics to see which traffic source is driving traffic and sales.
PPC marketing takes time to learn, and whilst this guide is a good starter, it cannot replace years of knowledge in developing a digital advertising strategy. For that, you should be a knowledgable team or turn to an agency that is experienced. Sometimes the trade-off in fees paid to a paid media agency is worth it because, ultimately, their goal is to return a higher ROI than if you advertiser were to manage the campaign yourself.
Good luck with your next campaign and if you need help, we’d love to use our knowledge and experience in driving sales for your brand!