PPC Advertising Made Simple: A Crash Course for Your Business

As you further delve into digital marketing, you’re hearing a lot about how PPC, or Pay-Per-Click, advertising can increase exposure for your business, help boost sales, or spread the word about events or special offers. It sounds important, and it sounds effective. You know it’s time to dive in.

But when searching for resources on what PPC advertising is, what it entails, and how to get started...even uber-specific Google searches can overwhelm you with widely-varying how-tos, courses, guides, etc. It’s like too many cooks in the kitchen, all with their own preferred recipes. Which PPC video tutorial is the best? Which eBook is the most current? Which how-to post is best tailored to beginners?

Whether you’re just starting out or you just want to be thorough in honing your skills on this vital aspect of digital marketing, this simple guide will introduce you to the world of PPC and help you begin your first ad campaign.

WHAT IS PPC?

When you search for something on Google, do you notice the ads on top of the list of search results? Ever wondered how these businesses got their article, product, idea or website in that prime spot?

What is PPC - an example of a PPC ad

Maybe you’ve noticed image ads on the top or on the side of webpages. They’ll often be advertising products you recently searched for and you wonder, “How do they know I was looking for something like that?”

PPC advertisement on a website

PPC advertising is the process behind these types of targeted, high-visibility opportunities. Rather than buying a specific “ad space” like in print where your ad would appear only in the publications you placed it with, with PPC your ad can appear all over the internet, and you pay a small fee each time one of your ads is clicked. You’re essentially buying traffic, and you only pay for the visits you get to your designated landing page.

PPC can be a great way to:

  • Increase brand awareness
  • Support quality lead generation
  • Boost sales
  • Promote a new product or offer
  • Test keyword performance
  • A possible, temporary “shortcut” to search traffic for related keywords and gaining traffic, especially if your business or website is new.
    • NOTE: PPC should never be considered a replacement for long-term SEO efforts. It can bring more traffic to your site while your campaign is active, but it has no effect on your webpages’ actual organic ranking.

No matter your goal, carefully-planned PPC campaigns can be a catalyst to most of your digital marketing efforts.

HOW DOES PPC WORK?

After creating an ad you wish to appear in areas reserved for sponsored content, you’ll be given data that helps you set a competitive “bid” on how much you’re willing to pay for each person to click on your keyword-specific ad.

When your ad is active, if your bid is high enough to compete with other advertisers wanting their ad to appear for the same keyword, your ad has higher chances of appearing.

There are millions of searches happening every minute, so your ad will have numerous chances to appear.

For each person that clicks on your ad, you pay no more than the amount of your maximum bid. (The actual amount depends on a formula that evaluates your Quality Score, Ad Rank, and the bids and scores of other bidders.)

Once the person clicks on the ad, however, the rest is up to your landing page to do the converting.

TYPES OF PPC

Pay-Per-Click advertising is everywhere, and in many forms.

Paid search marketing, or search network ads, is the most common form of PPC. It’s the text ads you see above, beside or below search engine results on Google or Bing. They show up when a searcher uses a keyword or phrase that matches the keywords the advertiser set it for.

There is also display advertising, which can be seen when you’re hopping around from site to site but see ads for a site you visited an hour ago. They might appear on a banner atop the page, or in an image ad to the side of the page. These types of ads don’t have as high of a click-through rate as search network ads, but they can be useful for building brand awareness.

Social media advertising is also PPC, such as the sponsored posts you see on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc. But this will be explored in a separate post as the approaches to social PPC are a bit different.

In this post we’ll start with the most common and comprehensive approach to PPC, using the most prominent tools—Google Ads.

GETTING TO KNOW GOOGLE ADS

If you’d like to see your own text ad appearing with related search engine results, Google Ads (formerly Google AdWords) makes these types of targeted, high-visibility opportunities available for businesses willing to invest in keyword-centric campaigns.

While there are several platforms for PPC, such as Amazon Ads, Bing Ads, Adroll and more, Google Ads remains the most popular and accessible.

You can sign up at ads.google.com using your company’s Google account, so make sure that’s the account you’re currently logged in with.

Before digging in, let’s define a few key terms you’ll come across in your setup:

Ad Extensions: These snippets provide additional information or features to your text ad, and have generally been shown to increase click-thru rate. These could be buttons, location information, additional text, links to different parts of your site, a click-to-call link, or more.

Ad Group: Each of your campaigns can have one or multiple ad groups, as you might have more than one active ad in your campaign. Ad groups are used to organize your ads, keywords, and who you’re targeting.

Budget: This campaign setting is where you specify how much you want to spend per campaign per day. Determine your max amount to spend per month and divide it by 30 to get the best idea.

Campaign: You could think of these as “projects” or “folders” for your Google Ads account. You can have multiple campaigns active simultaneously, running independently from one another.

Campaign Types (Search, Display, Shopping, and App): We’ll focus on Search Ads for this guide, but these are the types of Google Ads campaigns you can run. Search Ads appear on search engine results pages (SERPs), Display Ads show on websites that have ad space, Shopping Ads allow a product to show up in Google Shopping search results, and App Ads promote your app in search results, Google Play, YouTube, and the Google Display Network.

Click-thru Rate (CTR): The ratio of users who click on a link compared to the total users who view the page the ad appears on. Google Ads, as well as several other PPC platforms, use CTR to determine how successful a PPC campaign is. (It’s also used to analyze email campaigns or call-to-action buttons.)

Competition: This number represents the rate of competition for your ad’s keywords. Any number above 0.8 is considered high competition, any number below 0.3 is considered low.

Conversions: Actions that meet a goal for your business, such as a purchase, subscribe, share, download, etc.

Conversion Rate: The percentage of clicks to your ad that result in a conversion.

Cost Per Click (CPC): The amount you’re charged for each click your ad receives. If you set a manual bid, this serves as a maximum for how much you’ll pay for each click. You’re only charged the amount necessary to “win” the bid for a click among advertisers vying for the same keyword.

Impressions: These measurements track how often your ad is displayed, regardless of whether it is clicked or not.

Keywords and Keyword Match Types: Keywords are terms that represent the topic or focus of a piece of content. They are a central strategy for creating PPC ads that best relate to the terms people use in their Google search queries. Google has since become more intuitive with how it matches search terms with related content.

  • Broad match and broad match modifier keywords are more general terms that can also have several subtopics. Broad match keywords do not have any modifiers, such as quotes or plus signs, and are only ideal in certain scenarios. Too broad a keyword can lead to misleading clicks. Broad match modifier keywords are keywords that use a plus sign.
    • Broad match example: backyard tv projector
      • Because this keyword has no modifiers, Google may display your ads if any of those words are included. This includes search terms such as: backyard trampoline, indoor projector, what time is Law & Order on tv?
      • Keep in mind, there is also Broad match modifier
    • Broad match modifier example: +backyard +tv +projector
      • With the plus sign modifier, Google looks for phrases that include each of those words (but may have additional words in the search). For example, a search for: big backyard tv projector for sale will bring up your ad.
  • Long-tail keywords are specific, looking to target an audience further along in the buying cycle that knows what kind of product, service or information they want. These keywords will have modifiers, such as quotes and brackets to make sure only relevant search terms bring up your ad.
    • Phrase match example: “blue shirts for sale”
      • When you use quotes, that means that your ad will be shown for that phrase, but may include other words before or after. For example, a search for blue shirts for sale near me will display your ad.
    • Exact match example: [blue shirts for sale]
      • When you use brackets, your ad will be shown for that exact phrase only (or a close variant). For example, a search for blue shirts for sale will display your ad, as well as shirts for sale blue, will display your ad.
  • Negative keywords: Terms or phrases that prevent your ad from being displayed for specific search queries. Use these if you do not want your ad to appear in certain searches.
    • Negative keywords also use modifiers to help remove irrelevant searches. You don’t want to put broad keywords in your negative keyword list as this will create a reverse problem of having your ads not display at the right times.
Google Ads match type

Location Targeting: For your ad campaign, you target users in certain geographic locations, or with an interest in that location (if they type a city, state or country name into their Google search). For example, a brick and mortar business may want to only target people within a certain radius whereas a company that ships their products throughout the United States will have a broader target.

Search Volume: How many people worldwide (or within a selected location) are searching for a certain keyword. This is a good indicator of whether or not your keyword is going to be in high competition or if it’s a low search volume and you have to be more creative with your keyword choices.

SERPs: Acronym for Search Engine Results Pages

CONDUCTING KEYWORD RESEARCH FOR YOUR AD CAMPAIGNS

Before you start a PPC ad campaign, you want to do the necessary groundwork to make sure you get a feel for how your audience is searching Google for products or services that relate to yours. It’s important that your ad copy uses terms or phrases that best match their preferences and intent, while also clearly explaining how your business can deliver what they’re truly looking for.

Plan on spending significant time with keyword research throughout your PPC advertising efforts, as it’s central to your ads’ effectiveness. Not only will you discover new terms to add to your keywords list, especially as you get more specific with long-tail opportunities, but the data can change over time. Search behaviors, market trends and other factors that are constantly in flux can directly affect keyword performance.

When signed into Google Ads, you will be able to locate the Keyword Planner under Tools. This is where you’ll start your keyword research. (In addition, if you have a separate department or individual who is already handling the website’s SEO, they can start you off with a great list of keywords already associated with your site.)

You’ll be prompted to select Find keywords or Get search volume and forecasts. For starters, let’s select Find keywords. Then you’ll be to enter a word or phrase relative to your business. Maybe you’re a coffee subscription service, so you start by typing “coffee.” You can enter more than one, so you might also type “coffee subscription” or “gourmet coffee membership,” depending on the aspects that define your business.

As an alternative, you can type in the page URL that you want your PPC ad to send people to when they click on it. (This should be a sales page, landing page, or product page, rather than just the homepage of your website.)

Google Ads keyword planner

The first column over shows you the average monthly searches, or search volume, for the words you chose. Since this is your first time using Google Ads, this data may be displayed in aggregate numbers, such as 10K - 100K, or 1K - 10K. As you start using Google Ads with active campaigns, you’ll “unlock” more specific numerical data.

The next column over, Competition, shows how competitive the market is for your chosen keywords. If it says “High,” that means that many advertisers are also placing ads for this keyword or phrase. This can affect the Suggested Bid (or Top of Page Bid) amount, or cost per click you might pay in order to have your ad appear. Take note of these so you can best plan your PPC ad budget.

Aside from the 3-4 ideas you typed in at the start, look at the section below to find other suggested keywords and their stats as well. You might find a word or phrase opportunity you hadn’t thought of yet.

or all the possible keywords or phrases that could lead people to your product, you want to use Keyword Planner to determine which of them has the highest search volume with the lowest rate of competition, meaning your ad has the best chance of showing up often in related searches.

DRAFTING YOUR FIRST PPC AD COPY

Let’s start by documenting your goals, so you know what to enter when setting up your campaign. Are you looking for sales, to gather leads, or simply to get more traffic to your website? This will affect the type of campaign you set up, and how you word your ad.

Then, using your keyword research findings, it’s a good idea to draft your ad content in a separate document before you set up your campaign. This is an important process that directly determines the performance of your ad.

When you’re ready to start writing your ad, make sure to use the selected keyword prominently! It should appear near the beginning of the headline(s). Be clear about what you are offering and the benefit it provides your audience. Be sure it is short enough to fit the character counts, clearly worded and free of typos!

Your ad will perform best if it matches your target audience’s search intent as closely as possible. For example, if they’re searching for the cheapest coffee subscription, you might write, “YumJava Coffee Subscription | Your affordable, dependable fix” and lead them to your lowest-priced option. But if they’re searching for the high-quality exclusive product, you might write, “YumJava Coffee Subscription | Taste the difference” and have the click direct them to your top-notch option.

The headlines are, naturally, what will get your audience’s attention. It’s worth it to test several wording options and to research what your competitors are saying, as well. Make sure to devote the proper time and effort to your ad’s headlines. (And avoid these ad content no-no’s.)

After the headlines, you’ll want to include supporting information and an appropriate call to action. Briefly explain any extra details that won’t fit in the headline, and ask them to “order now” or “start their free trial,” etc.

And make sure that your landing page is ready to convert these people after they click over to it!

Draft as many variations of your ad as possible, for brainstorming shake. You will want to have at least three ads per ad group to see which one performs best. And, later on, after measuring the performance of your first campaign, you will likely want to adjust your ad copy. Additional ideas will be helpful.

SETTING UP YOUR FIRST PPC AD CAMPAIGN

When creating a new campaign, we suggest focusing on Search Network to start, so select that box when the choices appear. (We’ll cover Display, Shopping, App and Video ads in a later post.) This means your ad will appear at the top and bottom of Google’s SERPs, depending on how your ad measures with Google’s Quality Score.

For the Campaign Type, select from Sales, Leads, Website Traffic, Product and Brand Consideration, Brand Awareness and Reach, or App Campaign depending on the goal you established while drafting your ad.

For the purpose of example, we’ll use Website Traffic, a typical starting point for beginning PPC campaigns.

Before you start naming your campaigns, you need to determine how you’d prefer to group them. You might create a group about each of your products, or you might create a couple of groups based on the different audiences that may want your one product for different reasons.

A good starting point is to create campaigns that are grouped similar to how your website groups your products/services.

Name your campaign something easy to glance at and remember its details. You might choose, “First Coffee Subs Campaign.” In the future, you might want to name a campaign based on a certain promotion or push, such as “New Dark Roast Decaf Awareness Campaign” or “Free Trial Offer Campaign,” or name them based on the different categories of your products.

When it asks you if you’d like to Include Google Search Partners, it’s easiest to just leave these checked. This means that other sites that partner with Google can also display your ad. This can expand the reach of your search network ad to “hundreds of non-Google websites, as well as YouTube and other Google sites,” according to Google Ads support. If you have specific concerns as to what kind of sites display your ad, you may wish to uncheck this box.

Then select the Locations you’d like to target with your ad. You can select whole countries to regions of countries, from a collection of states to a single state or even a specific city. You can even customize a geographic area if you know that your product or idea may only appeal to a localized region. This is especially important if you’re a brick-and-mortar business, if you have products that appeal to people in a certain geographic area, or if you can only ship your products to certain countries.

In the Bidding section, for a beginning bid strategy, we recommend starting with “maximize clicks” (later on, when you have the hang of things, we recommend using “maximize conversions”). By initially focusing on getting more people to click on your ad and go to your website or landing page, you’ll both increase traffic and website activity while also being able to see how many of those clicks turn into conversions.

For your first campaign’s budget, it’s a good idea to start small to allow for testing (which we’ll cover shortly) while not making a big dent in your overall advertising budget. (Remember that what you’re going to pay for your ad depends on how much other advertisers are willing to pay for that same keyword.)

A minimal amount, such as $10-$20 per campaign, can be enough to determine if your ad is getting clicks and if your clicks are getting conversions. Set the Delivery method to Standard.

Consider Start and End Dates if your ad is promoting a limited time offer, as you’ll want to end the campaign when that offer expires, even if you haven’t reached the budgeted amount of clicks. If your ad is not time-sensitive, you don’t have to set these dates. Plus, you can always end the campaign anytime you want.

Don’t worry about the other options at this point. Click Save and Continue, for now, to move on to Ad Groups.

CREATING YOUR CAMPAIGN’S AD GROUPS

Here’s where you put your ad copy drafts to work. You can create multiple ad groups for the different emphases within your campaign.

You should have decided how you’re going to group your products/services when you set up your campaign. Within each campaign, you can create ad groups based on keywords or the focus of your ad copy.

For example, the ad copy about affordable coffee subscriptions could be used for one ad group, while the ad copy about high-quality coffee could be used for another. This allows them to be tested against each other to see which one gets more clicks.

For each ad group, you’ll put together a related group of keywords and set a bid for your CPC. You can also set bid prices for individual keywords in one group.

You’ve done your keyword research ahead of time, so you know which ones you want to use. Now it’s time to create your ads!

Type in the URL of where you want the click to lead, which would be one of your landing pages or product/service pages.

You’ll see the space to enter your headlines to describe what you’re giving your audience. You’ll have additional space underneath the headline to describe what action they need to take.

Next, you’ll be given choices on how to “Make your ads stand out.” Here you can choose how you want your ad to appear in search results. If you want to display more pages from your site on the search results page, such as your Contact or About page, or a page based on a specific call to action like “Get Free Quote” or “30-day Trial Offer,” choose the “Sitelinks” option. These will display below your ad and give your potential customers more options to click on. Also, not everyone utilizes options like Sitelinks or Callouts so it can help your ad stand out.

Click on the “Additional Settings” collapsible section and look for Ad Rotation. If you’re interested in split testing two ads, you have the option to de-select “Optimize: Prefer best performing ads” and select “Rotate ads indefinitely” to help both of your ads get equal time to generate an accurate test of their performance. (More on this later.)

However, you can also leave “Prefer best performing ads” selected, and you’ll still be able to see which one performed better while also making sure the better ad was shown to more searchers.

If you want to list more details about your business below your link and ad text, such as “Limited Time Only!” or “Free Shipping,” the “Callouts” option could be good for you. And if you want to get people to call you, the “Calls” option prominently displays your company phone number.

SETTING UP CONVERSIONS

Conversions are often misunderstood as solely relating to purchases. While they do include purchases, conversions are best described as “when a customer completes an action that you've defined as valuable."

You can set up different conversions for different actions. For example, a conversion for your business may include:

  • Making a purchase
  • Filling out a form
  • Calling your business
  • Downloading an app
  • Downloading a PDF
  • Visiting a specific landing page*

*We recommend that you be careful about setting up “visits to a landing page” as a conversion. Think hard about what value the page brings. If you don't offer anything for sale and you have some important information on a specific page, such as information that could lead to a visit to your coffee shop, then go ahead and count it as a conversion. (Note: You can also set it up as a conversion but not give it a value.)

If you do set it up as a conversion without determining that a page truly brings you value, your conversions will become very misleading and lead you to believe your ads are performing better than they actually are. (Aside from purchases, this same concept applies to the other conversions.) The bottom line is: Don't set up a conversion-type just because you can.

Tracking conversions can be very useful for your business. Since the specific settings you need to set up vary depending on your goals and the conversions you want to use, we recommend checking out Google’s resource for conversion tracking.

MONITORING YOUR CAMPAIGNS AND CONDUCTING SPLIT TESTING

After your campaigns are in motion, you can check-in at the Overview page to see how many clicks you’re getting and how your keywords are performing in general. You’ll also get to see which ad variations are performing best.

Some things to look for when you’re reviewing your campaigns include impressions, clicks, and conversions. Whether you’re creating your PPC account from scratch or creating a new campaign or ad group, it’s a good idea to look at impressions first. If you aren’t getting any impressions, your keywords are likely too specific. And you’re not going to get any clicks or conversions if your ads are not being seen. On the other hand, if you get a ton of impressions and aren’t seeing clicks or conversions, your keywords may be too broad.

It’s best to look at the Search Terms for each ad group and campaign to see what searches are bringing up your ads. Along with the search term, you will see the keyword that prompted Google to show your ad. It is up to you to make sure that these search terms are relevant to your business. Analyze your keywords to see if you don’t have enough modifiers or an unnecessary search term that is triggering your ad to show for the wrong search. This helps you to add negative keywords to your list.

Now let’s look at some examples of campaigns and ad groups performances…

After the ad budget is reached for your campaigns, you may notice that the ad about affordable coffee subscriptions received more impressions than your other campaign. Meaning more people saw that ad than the other, likely due to the keywords they used in their searches.

If you notice that the ad about high-quality coffee got more clicks, even though it had a lower number of impressions, you know that the ad connected better with this audience. Or that those using these keywords were closer to a decision-making point in their customer journey.

The real clincher, however, is in discovering which ad brought about more conversions. For example, how many of those clicks are resulting in someone entering their information on the landing page to get their first bag of coffee? Or how many of the clicks are encouraging the customers to put a bag of coffee in their cart once they arrive on your product page?

The rate of conversion, in addition to the effectiveness of your ad copy, depends on:

  • How well your landing page is worded and designed
    • Does the content complement the goal of the ad?
    • Is the landing page content well-written and free of typos?
    • Is the page cleanly designed with a clear flow of what to read first, next, etc.?
    • Is the page mobile-friendly?
  • How easy it is to find the call to action
  • How compelling the call to action is
  • How easy it is to complete that action

Given the data you’ve received, you can start your next campaign(s) feeling more informed about your audience and their behaviors. You might adjust the focus of your ads and refine your ad content, and run the next test with a higher budget. Depending on the results that come in while a campaign is active, you can even make adjustments to your ad even while it’s still running. It pays to keep tabs on campaign progress!

Remember to document the information from your split testing in your ad copy draft documents. This is valuable information for your PPC advertising efforts as you grow.

Continue to test your ads frequently, as search trends do change and your ideas and observations can further influence how you craft your ads.

YOU DID IT!

You’ve launched your first Google Ads campaign and even learned a little bit more about your customer base and their search behaviors. Hopefully, you enjoyed a few conversions, too.

PPC advertising can be extremely profitable for your business—but it can also be overwhelming if the concept is new to you, or you don’t have someone in-house to handle it. i7 Marketing is here to provide the help you need to boost business awareness and increase conversions through Google Ads or other PPC platforms. We’ve helped many customers achieve their goals for growth, profit increase or brand awareness, and we’d love to do the same for you. Contact i7 today to see which of our PPC packages best fits your needs!

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Michelle Krein

Michelle spends most of her time discovering opportunities with Google Analytics and helping companies reach their customers via social media. Her attention to detail has also made her indispensable in her Quality Assurance role. In her spare time, Michelle likes to watch college football games, try new recipes, and scrapbook.

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