1. Defining PPC (pay-per-click) marketing

“PPC marketing is a powerful tool for driving traffic, conversions and sales, so at the very least, every marketer and business owner should have a basic understanding of what it is and how to use it.”

Pay-per-click (PPC) is one of those terms that we are all familiar with, but very few truly understand its meaning and value – we’re here to change that. PPC marketing is a powerful tool for driving traffic, conversions and sales, so at the very least, every marketer and business owner should have a basic understanding of what it is and how to use it. So, let’s start by defining exactly what it is. 

PPC marketing is a form of SEM (Search Engine Marketing) that puts your business at the top of the search engine results pages; this means your ad will be displayed above or to the right of the organic search results. While PPC advertising is most commonly seen on Search Engines, such as Google, it’s important to note that it’s also available on other platforms, like Facebook and Instagram. 

As the name suggests, with PPC marketing, you only pay when someone clicks on your ad. When done correctly, this form of SEM marketing can have a huge ROI (up to 200% to be exact) – but that’s just one of the many benefits. 

To discover the other ways PPC marketing can benefit your business, keep on reading. 

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2. Why use PPC Marketing?

“Unlike SEO, PPC advertising will put your site at the top of the SERP almost immediately, giving you an efficient way to reach new customers.”

Before we get stuck in with the nitty-gritty of PPC marketing, you probably want to know why it’s worth your time. After all, doesn’t SEO do the same thing for free? 

Well, in short, yes, but competition is fierce and it’s a long, hard road to get there. That being said, you shouldn’t see PPC marketing as an alternative to SEO but rather a short term complementary strategy. 

There are several benefits of PPC marketing your business should be aware of, including:

  1. Increased reach: it goes without saying more people knowing your company is never a bad thing. 
  2. Improved brand awareness: a recent study found that PPC ads can help increase brand awareness by up to 80%!
  3. Instant results: unlike SEO, PPC advertising will put your site at the top of the SERP almost immediately, giving you an efficient way to reach new customers. 
  4. More sales: research has shown that PPC ad visitors are two times more likely to complete an on-page conversion than organic visitors.
  5. Trackable results: for PPC ads run through Google ads, with the help of the ads tool and Google Analytics, you can access detailed performance reports including key metrics such as clicks, impressions and conversions. This data can also be used to inform other marketing activities, such as your SEO strategy or content marketing plan.
  6. Controlled advertising: with the ability to choose your target keywords, audiences, campaign type, budget and bids, PPC advertising is great for those who want total control over their advertising. 

3. The Basics of a PPC Campaign

“As with every aspect of marketing, you need to have clear goals defined in order to make your journey a successful one.”

First things first, you need to think about exactly why you are running a PPC campaign. As with every aspect of marketing, you need to have clear goals defined in order to make your journey a successful one. Think about exactly what you are seeking to achieve: perhaps it’s increased brand awareness, or maybe you are looking to drive traffic to your website, or increase your sales. 

After you have defined your objectives, you then need to think about how you will measure the success of your campaigns and ensure you are in the best position to achieve them. This means selecting metrics and setting targets for each to closely monitor your achievement towards each of your objectives. Ensure all targets are S.M.A.R.T.: Specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timeframe-specific.

Once these are in place, it’s time to look at your on-page offering. Whilst clicks are important, it’s the content on your landing pages that will get people to stay and really drive those conversions. So, you need to make sure you get it right by ensuring it is relevant to your ad and fulfils any promises made. 

The on-page content for these landing pages should include powerful headings and subheadings, copy that is as specific and relevant to your keywords as possible, utilise a clear, well-designed layout, and most importantly, include a powerful CTA that really motivates the user to take action. 

It’s also worth noting you may need to create different versions of the page for mobile and tablet users, compared to those on desktop. While ensuring your site is optimised for mobile devices may take a bit of extra time, it’s certainly worth the investment, with 53% off all paid clicks being made on mobile devices. The reason PPC is such a lucrative format for mobile e-commerce and transactions is that the best pages are geared directly to encourage a conversion as fast as possible. 

Ultimately, the end user should find everything they would expect to see in a user-friendly format, no matter what device they are using. 

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4. Choosing your audience

“Remember to ensure that any data you do upload is GDPR-Compliant!”

Now you have a clear idea of what you want your campaign to achieve, you need to set parameters to ensure it targets the right people. Platforms, such as Google, allow you to get really specific when defining your audience to ensure your ads are shown only to the most relevant people. 

When defining your target audience, start by identifying their interests, needs, behaviours and goals. Once you have established a clear understanding of each, you can then define your audience targeting options for each campaign. 

With Google, you have the option to select predefined audiences, or you can choose to create an audience or combined audience yourself. 

Some of Google’s audience targeting options include:

  • Affinity audiences: target people based on their lifestyles, interests, and habits. 
  • In-market audiences: enables you to target those who are actively researching a product or service similar to your offering. 
  • Custom audiences: this type of targeting puts you in control, allowing you to choose how to reach your target audience with the use of keywords, URLs and apps.
  • Similar audiences: with the help of machine learning, Google is able to identify new audiences based on your existing customers by targeting those who share characteristics with people on your Customer Match and remarketing lists. 

All of these audiences have pros and cons, so it’s good practice to test multiple combinations to determine that sweet spot. Alternatively, you can let Google optimise your audience for you and build on this categorisation in the future when you update your campaign. Remember to ensure that any data you do upload is GDPR-Compliant!

5. Researching your keywords

“After all, if your campaign is based around keywords and phrases that have little relevance to your audience, it won’t be very successful and will be very expensive.”

When it comes to creating an effective PPC advertising campaign, keywords are, well, key. They are the backbone of your campaign. They are what inform the Search Engines when to display your ads and can influence your results not only in terms of user-related metrics – such as click-through rates (CTR) – but also on the cost side. 

PPC ads that use effective keywords and have better performance rates in terms of conversions will achieve higher quality scores. This in turn will show Search Engines that your advert is effective, resulting in it appearing more and generating a lower cost per click. Simple but effective.

So, let’s take a look at how you can go about selecting the right ones for your ads. 

The easiest way to get started with keywords is by putting yourself in the shoes of your target audience. This step is absolutely critical and you should take plenty of time deciding on these. After all, if your campaign is based around keywords and phrases that have little relevance to your audience, it won’t be very successful and will be very expensive. 

So, think about what they want and how they might search for it. Start by looking at your buyer personas and brainstorming keywords and phrases based on the data you already have, then use tools – such as Google’s Keyword Planner – to validate your initial thoughts and refine your list. These tools are not only great for providing insights into your chosen keywords, but can also help you discover new ones, get bid estimates and create a shareable plan. 

To measure the performance of your keywords effectively and create more relevant ads, it is useful to organise them into targeted groups, for example, brand terms and generic terms. Here, you should bear in mind that search intent will differ between more specific long-tail phrases, such as ‘digital marketing for professional service firms’, and wider terms, such as ‘digital marketing’. 

When using Google Ads or Bing Ads, you can get really specific with your keyword match types, with the ability to split your targeting into three categories: broad (for less specific enquiries), phrase-match (for enquiries close to, or matching your chosen subject) and exact match (for identical matches). Each has its benefits and drawbacks and should be chosen carefully for every campaign. For example, while exact match targeting will lower your reach and raise your CPC, it will mean your ad is shown only to the most relevant audience, thus resulting in higher click-through rates. 

While choosing the right keywords is vital, choosing the wrong ones is important, too. If your campaign ends up targeting irrelevant keywords, you are likely to end up spending a lot and getting little or no returns. This means if any keywords are similar to the ones you have selected but are by no means relevant to your business, you should filter them out using negative keyword selection. 

Negative keywords are again split into broad, phrase and exact matches to help you decide the specificity of what you want to rule out. If you are just getting started, it’s worth looking into online lists of relative negative keywords for your industry and uploading some of them to help you filter out bogus or spammy enquiries. 

It’s also important to note that keywords must be monitored throughout your campaign – not just at the start. By evaluating the performance of your keywords, you will be able to adjust your bids accordingly. This will enable you to focus your budget on those delivering the best results. 

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6. Setting your bids & budgets

“This highlights the importance of clearly defining your objectives before creating any campaigns.”

When it comes to choosing your bidding strategy, there are two options: manual or automated bidding. This decision will be determined by several factors, including your budget and goals. If you have a limited budget, manual bidding may be more appropriate as you can set a limit on your cost per click (CPC). It’s worth noting, however, that manual bidding can be difficult to manage due to the ever-changing nature of ad auctions. Furthermore, if your manual bid is too low, you risk finding yourself underperforming as your adverts will only be shown in very specific circumstances. 

If you have a bit more freedom with your budget, automated bidding is great as it allows you to optimise your bids and requires a lot less campaign management from your end. If you do choose to opt for this type of bidding, you will need to select a bidding strategy relevant to your goals. For example, if your goal is to drive traffic to your site, then ‘maximise clicks’ is the strategy for you, however, if your goal is to increase conversions, the ‘maximise conversions’ strategy will be more appropriate. Again, this highlights the importance of clearly defining your objectives before creating any campaigns. 

Another important aspect to consider is your budget – and the good news is, you don’t need to spend a lot to get started. To calculate your PPC budget, you should consider the following:

  • Your cost per click (CPC)
  • Your conversion rate 
  • How many new customers you require to achieve your target – this should be based on (revenue / sales period) / average sale amount

You can use the information above to calculate your required traffic by dividing your required number of customers by your conversion rate. Next, you will use the result of this calculation to determine your budget by multiplying the ‘traffic required’ figure by your average CPC. You can also use this calculation to estimate your high and low ranges by changing the formula to include the highest traffic required multiplied by the highest average CPC to give you the highest total budget estimate, and following the same pattern to calculate your lowest total budget estimate. 

For some, the prospect of manually calculating the campaign budget can be daunting – but fear not. As with most things, technology is here to lend us a helping hand. You can use tools, such as Google AdWords Performance Planner, to help make these calculations and explore estimates based on machine learning algorithms (and prior account performance where available) as to how your budget will do. 

An alternative method to calculate your PPC budget is through competitor analysis. Here you should explore their PPC ad spend, their keywords and the products or services they are promoting. To obtain a sufficient amount of information to estimate your budget effectively, you should review a minimum of 10 competitors. If you choose to opt for this approach, it’s important to be aware that you could be missing out on exploring new opportunities for keywords that competitors have not yet invested in.

7. Campaign types

“To get the most out of PPC advertising, when choosing your campaign type it is fundamental to consider your goals, strategy and the amount of time you are willing to invest so you can select the one most relevant to your objectives.”

To get the most out of PPC advertising, when choosing your campaign type it is fundamental to consider your goals, strategy and the amount of time you are willing to invest so you can select the one most relevant to your objectives. There are several campaign types you can use for PPC marketing, some of which are outlined below. 

  1. Search campaigns: the most common of all the campaign types, search campaigns are those which appear across Google’s search networks. These are the ads you see at the top of the SERP, so are a great way to reach those who are actively searching for a product or service offered by your business. This type of campaign is great for driving traffic to your website, generating leads and increasing your sales.
  2. Display campaigns: similar to search campaigns, display campaigns are shown across Google’s search networks and are great for boosting leads and sales. They can also help increase your reach and brand awareness through the use of engaging visual ads. Display campaigns tend to have the highest click-through rate of all forms of advertising.
  3. Social media campaigns: YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, even TikTok; PPC advertising is offered over (almost) all social networks and is a powerful way to increase awareness of your business and drive traffic to your website. In the world of B2B, LinkedIn is (unsurprisingly) the most effective for PPC campaigns, with 65% of companies saying they have acquired new customers using ads on this platform. However, it is also the most costly of all the platforms. 
  4. Remarketing campaigns: if you’ve ever visited a website then seen an advertisement for that site (or even the very product) you were looking at, it’s likely thanks to remarketing (also referred to as retargeting). This form of PPC advertising is usually very effective, as it targets those who have already shown an interest in your business and can help reduce loss and increase conversions by keeping users engaged with your brand.

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8. Writing effective ad copy

“While choosing the right parameters will get your ads seen by your target audience, if you want them to take action, you need to nail your ad copy.”

While choosing the right parameters will get your ads seen by your target audience, if you want them to take action, you need to nail your ad copy. Start by putting yourself in the minds of your target audience. Think about what and why they are searching and how you can address their search intent. You need your ad to be as relevant as possible to really drive those clicks, so make everything explicit. Ensure to use relevant keywords and direct language, and include an actionable CTA. Really make them feel like they will be missing out if they don’t click your ad. 

We’ve mentioned this earlier, but ensuring this is carried through to your landing page is essential. When writing both your ad and landing page copy, think about the following: 

  • Does it include the target keyword you are bidding on?
  • Is the offering appealing to your target audience? What is motivating them to take action?
  • Is your content relevant to your target audience? Are you speaking directly to them?
  • Have you included an actionable CTA?
  • Have you completed A/B testing? While research can provide a good indication of what will work, nothing is certain until it is put to the test.
  • Have you included a powerful headline? Will it capture the attention of your target audience? 
  • If you’ve made any promises, are you delivering on them? If not, you need to be! 

9. Monitoring campaigns and tracking results

“PPC advertising requires constant monitoring to ensure you are obtaining the best results possible.”

PPC advertising requires constant monitoring to ensure you are obtaining the best results possible. By tracking the performance of your campaigns, you will be able to identify underperforming ads and create plans to improve them, as well as make informed decisions on how best to invest your budget. 

Some of the key metrics you should consider when assessing the effectiveness of your PPC advertising include:

  1. Clicks: a great indicator of the effectiveness of your advertising; this metric can help inform budgeting decisions and ensure you are investing your funds in the best way possible.
  2. Click-through rate (CTR): this relates to the percentage of ad views that result in clicks and determines how much you pay for each click (your CPC). Ultimately, if your CTR is low, it’s a good indicator that you need to improve your campaign as it’s clearly not resonating with your target audience.
  3. Relative CTR: this allows you to compare your CTR to that of your competitors. 
  4. Cost per click (CPC): this metric refers to the amount you pay for each click you receive on an ad. 
  5. ROI: the metric used to assess the overall profitability of your campaign. 
  6. Cost per acquisition (CPA): to calculate this metric, you will need to divide the total cost of your ad by the number of conversions. This is the cost it takes to generate a lead and will indicate how profitable your campaign is. 
  7. Quality score (QS): this is a metric used by the search engines to determine the position of your ad on the SERP. The higher the quality score, the better your ad position and the lower your costs. 
  8. Conversion rate: arguably the most important metric, your conversion rate is where the true value of your ads is shown. While your CTR may be great, if you aren’t getting any conversions, you won’t be getting any sales which means you need to rethink part of your strategy.

To help make your life easier, there are several PPC tools that you can use to help track and manage your campaigns. Some examples of popular PPC software includes:

  • WordStream: designed to help maximise the ROI of your PPC marketing by optimising your campaigns, covering everything from keyword research to campaign analysis.
  • NinjaCat: offers the capability to track your entire campaign in one place. Includes budget insights and automated reports.
  • SEMRush: great for managing and optimising your keywords.

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