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A Beginner's Guide to PPC Marketing

Have you been considering ramping up your digital advertising game? Have you dabbled in online ads, but felt you didn't know enough about the process to create a really effective PPC marketing strategy. We can help. We've put together a step-by-step guide to help you put together effective and profitable pay-per-click marketing campaigns, even if you have no prior experience.

Table of contents:

What Is PPC Marketing?

PPC marketing, also known as pay-per-click marketing, is a marketing model where companies get visitors to their website (and hopefully customers) via small ads that are placed on other websites via publishers like Google Ads, Amazon marketing, and Microsoft Advertising. The company bids on keywords that are applicable to its business and pays an agreed-upon fee each time someone clicks on one of their ads. The publisher places these ads on sites where people with an interest in the keyword are likely to visit. Note: There is no guarantee that the person clicking through to the company's website will purchase anything. That is up to the quality of the company's product and website.

PPC Advertising Benefits

Pay per click advertising can be extremely beneficial for online retailers and other businesses. Just a few of the benefits of this marketing model include:

  • In-Depth Targeting: Because you choose the keywords you want to use for your PPC campaign, you can target a specific segment of your market. This is useful in a number of ways. Perhaps you have a new product that you feel will appeal to or benefit a particular demographic. Maybe your sales have been slipping among one age group or gender. Maybe you have an event you'd like to promote, but don't want to waste your efforts on promoting it to people who live too far away to be interested in attending. The ability to target a particular audience with your PPC ads also gives you the opportunity to reach out to a segment that wouldn't necessarily be reached by your other marketing efforts.
  • Measurable & Trackable: PPC publishers like Google Ads make it easy to track how your marketing campaigns are doing. You can simply use the Google Analytics tool to watch your results in real time. In addition to the number of click-throughs, you can see where your traffic is coming from and whether those visitors "converted" (made a purchase, downloaded your ebook, rsvp'd to your event) as you define it. This is much better than a banner ad, where tracking the results are vague at best.
  • Quick Entry: It's easy to get going with PPC advertising since most of the work is done by the publisher. Once you have your keywords, all you have to do is write your small ads and set up your conversion tracking (more on this later). You can start seeing results within a few days. That compares to months or even years to ramp up a good, organic content marketing effort.
  • Full Control: Even though the majority of the work is done by the publisher, you still have full control and flexibility when you use PPC advertising. You get to choose your keywords and your budget. You can even set a maximum of how much you want to spend in a month. When you reach that threshold, your ads will cease to run until the next month. Conversely, if your ads are producing traffic and revenue right away, you can increase your budget and the number of ads that are running with just a few clicks on your dashboard.
  • Full Access to Data: PPC platforms like Google Ads not only give you a wide array of data about your marketing campaigns, they also offer useful free tools and other resources to help you get the most out of your PPC marketing campaigns.
  • Full Funnel Marketing: PPC marketing can be used to reach consumers at any stage of the sales funnel. You can target consumers who have a need or problem but haven't decided on the product to fix that problem. You can target those who have decided to buy a particular item and are shopping for a good brand or model. And, you can hone in on those buyers who know exactly what they want to buy and are looking for the best deal.

Types of Pay Per Click Advertising

Not all PPC marketing is created alike. There are a number of different ways to use this dynamic approach. These include:

  • Paid Search: Paid search is the most common type of PPC marketing and the one we've discussed so far. Using this type of marketing, you purchase keywords and compose small ad copy while the platform/publisher places your ads where it thinks they will attract the most attention.
  • Programmatic: Programmatic advertising is an advanced marketing technique that can help you reach highly-targeted audiences. Basically, your ad appears on sites where a person of your set target audience lands by an automated, real-time bidding process based on parameters that you've set up ahead of time. This is definitely a digital marketing 401 tool, not an entry-level tool, but it can be very effective and cost-efficient for products with a very narrow, highly-targeted audience.
  • Display: You've seen those ads that appear on the bottom and signs of web pages while you are browsing. These are display ads and are set up to appear to consumers whose browsing history matches that of your target audience.
  • Social Media Advertising: Social media advertising on sites like Facebook and others involves paying for your ads to appear in the news feeds of targeted members. These are the "sponsored ads" you see on social media. Such ads can be very effective. Obviously, the channels you choose depend on your product and your target audience. Remember, although Facebook and Twitter are the big social media players, there are more than 400 other social media sites, most of which have a much narrower focus than the "big two."
  • Retargeting: Have you ever shopped for a new coat and seen nothing but coat ads for the next two weeks. That's an example of retargeting. This form of PPC advertising looks for consumers who have shopped for similar items or visited similar websites as yours in the recent past and shows them your ad.

PPC Ad Platforms

While Google Ads is by far the largest player in PPC ad platforms, they are far from the only company that offers PPC ads. Below is a brief overview of Google and other PPC ad platforms.

  • Google Ads: Google is the largest PPC ad platform in the world. According to Google, "Google Ads display ads appear on over two million websites and in over 650,000 apps". In addition, they share that there are roughly 3.5 million searches on Google's search engine every day. Obviously, by working with Google Ads, you have potential exposure to a huge number of consumers. When you work with Google Ads, your ads appear on Google search results, on pages that subscribe to the Google marketing network and on YouTube pages.
  • Microsoft Advertising (formerly Bing Ads): This is the PPC ad platform associated with Amazon and their Bing search engine. According to Amazon, Bing is growing faster than Google and they claim they reach 145 million searchers that are not available via Google. (That would be the people who use an Amazon tablet or other Amazon device to access the internet.) Microsoft Advertising also works with the Yahoo! search engine for ad placement.
  • Facebook Ads: Facebook ads are the sponsored ads you see in your news feed as well as the ads on the sides of the pages. While Facebook has more than 2 billion registered users, the information it captures on its users allows it to hyper-target ads to match your desired audience. Facebook ads may also appear on Instagram and Messenger.
  • AdRoll: AdRoll is a retargeting platform that works with Google Ads and other major platforms to target consumers who have recently shown interest in a product or service like yours. AdRoll places your ads on websites. Unlike other major PPC Marketing publishers/platforms, AdRoll has a minimum that you have to spend each month to be a part of the program.

PPC Campaign Structure

A good PPC campaign structure is essential to your overall results. That's why it's time to spend a little time on this portion of your campaign. Set your campaign up well in the beginning and you'll be setting yourself up for success. What does that mean? We'll walk you through the steps.

  • Account: Your basic account structure includes campaigns, ad groups, keywords and ad copy. This is where you decide what market segments and demographics you want to target, how much you want to spend, what types of reports you want to see and what pages you want the people who click through on your ads to see.
  • Campaign: Campaigns are individual advertising events. You can have multiple campaigns under your single account. For example, maybe you are an HVAC contractor. You may sell heating systems and cooling systems. Promoting each of these would be two individual campaigns since the person in the market for a heating system isn't likely to buy a cooling system at the same time.
  • Ad Group: Ad groups are subsets of your basic campaigns. Using our HVAC example, ad groups for "heating systems" could be residential, commercial and contractors.
  • Keywords: Next, you'll choose the keywords that web searchers looking for your items will most frequently type into the search engine box. Google provides a useful tool to help you gauge the most frequently-used keywords for your topic or product. For the HVAC example, you might want to use something like "best home heating systems" or even "best home heating systems in Chicago". The more specific your keyword phrase, the more targeted your audience will be.

PPC Ad Targeting

Targeting refers to who you are hoping to entice with your ads and where you think those people will most likely be searching or browsing on the internet. There is a variety of targeting strategies. The most common include:

  • Search Targeting: Search targeting is aimed at finding those people who are actively looking for a product, service or company like yours. These ads show up on search result pages. To do this, you bid on keywords that, based on your research, are most likely to be used by your target customers. If a user of the platform you're using types in a phrase that matches your keyword, then your ads will be eligible to be shown to them. A more recent addition to search targeting is dynamic search ads. With this format, the platform looks at your website and the search engines will choose likely customers using AI.
  • Contextual Targeting: Contextual ads are placed in the middle of blocks of text on website articles. For example, your potential customer might be reading an article on a favorite news website or reading a blog about their hobby. In the middle of the article, they'll see framed ads if the article happens to mesh with your topic and keywords.
  • Audience Targeting: With audience targeting, Google or another ad platform shows your ad to consumers that it believes to be "in market" from your product or service based on the person's browsing history. You can also fine-tune this function by choosing from a list of markets that describe your product or service, things like business services, home and garden products or clothing. Google's "Life Events" function allows you to further define your target audience. You can choose from things like recently married, just graduated and new parent. Custom Intent is the latest targeting function from Google. This allows you to choose keywords that finely define your ideal customer. The Google algorithm then finds users with those set of interests/values/behaviors and shows them your ad.
  • Remarketing: Remarketing is the practice of showing ads to consumers who have previously looked at a similar or even the exact item. There are a number of ways to do this. Using a small pixel code that attaches to the cookies of a site visitor, ad platforms can show an ad to consumers who have previously visited your site. Another way to target your past customers is to share your customer email list with your ad platform partner. Google Ads also gives you the option to use the data you have on your previous site visitors via Google Analytics to remarket to those potential customers.
  • Demographics: Google Ads and Microsoft Ads both give you the option to target your ads based on age and gender. In addition, Google Ads has the capability to target specific household income ranges for Google users in the United States as well as a user's parental status.

How to Optimize a PPC Campaign

Of course, you want to get the best results possible from your PPC marketing campaigns. To do this, you'll want to consider the following best practices for optimizing your campaigns.

  • Choose Your Goals: Clearly defined goals are essential for getting the most from your campaign. For example, do you want to sell more of a specific product, increase your overall sales by X%, or maybe get 100 new customers.
  • Set a Budget: Your budget is how much you want to spend on your PPC campaign per month. Once you've reached that limit, whether that is on the 2nd or the 31st of the month, your ad platform will cease running your ads for the month. You are charged your keyword rate each time a person clicks on your ad. The good news is that you can add more money to your account at any time if your campaign really takes off.
  • Choose Your Channels Wisely: The channel (or site where your ads will run) is important to your campaign's success. You want a channel where your target audience is likely to frequent. For example, you don't want ads that run on Instagram if you're targeting an over 60 crowd.
  • Target the Right Audience: Speaking of target audiences, you want to make sure that you've correctly identified the right audience for your product or service.
  • Choose the Right Keywords: Your keywords are an integral part of your PPC campaign. Spend a little time to get this part right and use the tools your ad platform provides. It's usually not enough to just use your gut feeling or empirical evidence.
  • Add Negative Keywords: Negative keywords can be very useful in keeping your ad away from those interested in your overall topic, but not your products. For example, if you are selling Chicago IL real estate, you might want to purchase a negative keyword like "jobs" because those people looking for "Chicago IL real estate jobs" are probably not in the market for a house.
  • Build a Strong Structure: Good structure is a lot easier to build in the beginning than to re-build later. Structure, as we mentioned above, refers to your different categories of campaigns and the sub-categories that fall under them.
  • Write Killer Copy: Writing your ad copy is the most important role you have to play in PPC advertising. After all, it's the only thing a reader will see to potentially entice them to visit your website. Ideally, you want your ad copy to have a killer "hook" and a clear call to action. Some experts recommend using statistics in your copy to increase your credibility.
  • Test Ad Copy: Once you've written your ad copy, it's time to test it. Do this by choosing a campaign and seeing how well it performs. It's a good idea to test two different ads for the same product and see which one performs the best.
  • Build Stellar Landing Pages: Your landing pages, the pages that the people who click on your ads are forwarded to, need to be your best work. These pages are the first impression that your potential customer is going to have of your company — and you have to grab them quickly. The average internet user decides within 10 seconds whether to stay on a website or exit to look at something else.
  • Test Landing Pages: Just as you test your ad copy, it's wise to test your landing pages. You can set up two different pages for the same product and see which one leads to the most conversions.
  • Measure & Tweak: Lastly, it's not enough to set up your campaigns and do the initial tests. It's important to keep an eye on your metrics and make small changes when a campaign is lagging. You may even have to suspend low performing pages and replace them with a new campaign.

PPC Metrics to Track

Google and other ad platforms give you ample information to help you track how well you are moving toward your goal. Just a few of the metrics you'll want to keep an eye on include:

  • Clicks: Nothing happens until someone clicks on your ad. This metric is the raw number of people who are interested enough in your ad to click on it.
  • Cost per click (CPC): Your CPC is an essential part of monitoring whether your campaign is making money or costing you money. This number is your ad spending divided by the number of clicks.
  • Clickthrough rate (CTR): Similar to the number of clicks, your click-through rate is the number of clicks as a percentage of your total impressions (times your landing page was viewed).
  • Impressions: Impressions is a computer-speak term for the number of times a specific web page is viewed.
  • Ad spend: Ad spend is the total amount you are spending for each PPC marketing campaign.
  • Return on ad spend (ROAS): ROAS is the amount of profit that can be directly traced to the PPC campaign. A good benchmark to shoot for is $4 for every $1 you spend on advertising.
  • Conversion rate: Your conversion rate is the number of sales (or RSVPs or downloads) that you get as a percentage of your clicks. For example, if 100 people click through to your landing page from your ads and 10 people make a purchase while on your site, your conversion rate is 10%.
  • Cost per conversion: Your cost per conversion is arrived at by dividing your total ad cost by the number of conversions.
  • Quality Score (QS): Quality score is a Google metric that refers to how they view your keyword's relevancy to your ad. It is a 1-10 metric and you can find it on Google Analytics. Google punishes companies who bid on popular keywords and then send those who click to a site that has nothing or little to do with those words. Google also looks at your ad copy as it relates to your keywords. While a whole article could be written about Google's Quality Score, suffice it to know that the lower your score, the better your ROAS will be. Google offers a lower price to those with low-quality scores and charges a premium for advertisers with high-quality scores.

We hope that our PPC guide has given you some tools to help you craft your own PPC strategy. To learn more about PPC marketing and how it can transform your digital business, give us a shout - we'd love to hear from you!

  • Paid Media

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About the author

Morgan Oakes

Morgan is the Paid Media Director at Marcel Digital, specializing in creative ways to provide solutions in paid advertising platforms for all types of goals.