What Is PPC?
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There’s a good chance that you’ve already heard of PPC. As a marketing tool, PPC is invaluable, but there seems to be a lot of confusion about what it actually is and exactly how it works. No matter your level of experience with PPC, this handy guide will tell you everything that you need to know. Whether you’re looking for a starting point or simply hoping for some clarification, here’s the rundown of your PPC essentials.
PPC = Pay Per Click
PPC as an acronym stands for Pay Per Click and is a form of online marketing. PPC means that advertisers are able to pay a certain fee every time that their online advert is clicked on by an internet user. Rather than having organic traffic heading to your site, PPC is more artificial, however, it doesn’t break any of Google’s rules and is a viable method of getting traffic to your website.
In essence, PPC advertising is a way of buying website visits, and many advocates of PPC believe that this is far more useful than more organic strategies.
Where is PPC used?
The majority of PPC advertising takes place on the most popular search engines. Google is the single most visited website in the western world, although Bing and Yahoo are also valuable pages to make use of. With PPC, advertisers are able to make bids for an advert placement, which you’ve probably seen every time you’ve used a search engine. The front pages usually have a number of top results that are subtly highlighted as promoted results.
PPC works because you only pay when someone clicks on your ad, which in turn takes them directly to your website.
If you have set up your PPC correctly, then each click costs only a minimal amount. That should mean a considerable ROI, since those site visits that translate into actual sales will more than cover the costs of the advert itself. For example, if you pay just £2 for your advert but each click to your site results in a £100 sale, then you’re making a significant profit.
How to set up PPC
Getting started with PPC takes some work, but with the potential benefits that work can be more than worth it. Before you start setting up your PPC campaign, you need to get the basics right. This will mean:
- Doing some research on the best keywords to bid on.
- Integrating those keywords into your structured campaign.
- Making sure that your landing pages (those web pages that visitors are taken to when they click on your ad) are fully optimised for maximum conversion potential.
The good news is that search engines reward those advertisers who have cleverly targeted and relevant PPC campaigns. The better your PPC strategy, the less your ad click costs.
Search engines want you to be relevant and useful to internet users and will reward your hard work with increased traffic.
The most popular PPC advertising system is Google AdWords. Google processes up to 40,000 search engine queries every second, so it’s no real surprise that their AdWords platform is so useful. AdWords is the system that allows advertisers to bid on keywords, so that their adverts are promoted and clicked on. It’s the most basic of PPC options, and also the most effective. How it works is that for every search query, Google looks at its available AdWords advertisers and selects those adverts that are best suited and useful for the questioner.
“Always be relevant, create relevant campaigns, and give the user the answer to his query as precisely as you can.” Marko Kvesic, Online Marketing Manager
When you sign up for Google AdWords, you get given an advertising Ad Rank, which will be affected by two separate factors:
- CPC Bids: This is the amount that you have opted to pay per each click on your chosen keywords.
- Quality Score: This will once again be reflective of your preparation, and comes down to your click-through rate, page quality, and overall relevance to the initial search.
If you think that this sounds like an auction, you’re not far wrong. AdWords allows you to reach out and grab those potential customers, and all without exceeding your marketing budget or individual AdWord costs. The complex algorithms that Google uses to determine the best pages of results for every individual query are the key to the success of PPC and AdWords.
When looked at subjectively, PPC advertising is a fairly simple concept to grasp, but your PPC campaign is not. It can take up a significant amount of time, and the effort required to keep up to date with changes to AdWords and other paid search engine algorithm updates means that there needs to be a high level of commitment to the strategy. Falling behind on algorithm changes or the changing price of your keywords can have a negative effect on your PPC campaign, and can increase costs while reducing usefulness.
That’s why, if you’re looking at PPC advertising, you need to get it right and you need to commit to it. These are the areas where you need to concentrate your efforts:
- The relevant keywords – This is your first step and will involve building a suitable list of keywords that are related to your website. These keywords will need to be relevant to the potential searches that will encourage site visitors by being suitable enough to click on.
- Quality of your landing pages – Your landing pages for each advert are essential to the success of your PPC campaign. Those pages need to be very carefully optimised so that they are not only persuasive and appropriate but also contain those all-important calls-to-action that are already vital for your website. For your PPC landing pages, those calls-to-action need to be specifically tailored to your relevant search engine queries.
- Quality Score – Your quality score will rely primarily on your relevance and website quality. Using a combination of your landing page content and the suitability of your keywords, you will get far more advert clicks, and your costs per click will be reduced as well.
Researching your PPC keywords
This can take some time and patience, but it’s the most essential step when it comes to building your PPC campaign. Your keywords are the center of your strategy, and every subsequent step will be built around those keywords.
Those businesses that keep refining their keyword lists are the ones that will continue to have successful PPC results.
The first step is setting up your initial keyword lists and then making the effort to keep them updated. That way you will be able to take advantage of those highly valued, low-cost and relevant keywords that will continue to drive visitors to your website.
Your keyword list needs to be:
- In-depth – You are not just looking for the most popular keywords related to your website and business, but also those all-important ‘long-tail keywords.’ These are strings of keywords that work together in order to gain greater relevance to your site, and usually consist of three words on average.
- The relevance factor – This is where your continued research will come into play. It’s fairly easy to set up your initial keyword list because it will be based on your business and where it stands right now. However, businesses evolve, and your keyword costs will fluctuate as well. Failing to consider those changes will end up with you paying for non-relevant clicks that will not lead to conversions.
The ideal PPC management
Managing your PPC strategy needs to become a regular task in your business diary. This is the only way to keep your campaign relevant and effective. Continuous analysis and the gauging of your performance will help to guide your PPC strategy and help make sure that it’s a success. The best way to do this is by making constant adjustments:
- Adding keywords – By adding new and relevant keywords on a regular basis, you will be better equipped to remain relevant and also expand your reach.
- Negative keywords – It’s a good idea to include on your keyword listings some negative words and negative long-tail keywords that will act as a filter and reduce the chances of site visitors that are less likely to buy from you. This can drastically reduce costs.
- Reviewing costs – Sometimes, you’ll find that some of your keywords will not be working as well for you as you hoped. Your most expensive and least well-performing keywords should be tweaked and adjusted as often as possible in order to ensure that your ROI remains high.
- Creating and splitting Ad groups – By splitting your ad groupings into smaller ones, you can refine your relevancy and fine-tune your landing pages. This means that you are able to create much more persuasive ad texts.
- Landing page clarity – The worst thing that you can do is allow your PPC adverts to all link to the same page. Too many businesses simply use their homepage as the landing page for their PPC campaigns, but this should be avoided at all costs. Instead, tailor your landing pages to reflect solutions to the possible search queries that result in your ad being shown. Your landing page should also contain the best calls to action that will encourage sales and improve your conversion rates.
“Creating a well converting landing page is about presenting a sentiment that your audience will connect with. You have one page to build up enough trust to collect personal information from someone who in most cases has had no interaction with your brand before.” Jillian Zacchia, Content Generation Specialist.
There are a few reasons why marketers like to use PPC campaigns. Getting to the top rankings on search engines using just organic methods can be challenging, but PPC advertising allows you to take a shortcut to that hallowed top-spot on Google. These are the top three reasons why PPC is so useful for your business:
- Speed – The moment that you set up your pay per click advertising campaign, it starts working immediately. As long as you have set your campaign up correctly, then you will rapidly start to appear in the search engine queries that are relevant, generating site visits from the get-go.
- Flexibility – It can take time for organic SEO campaigns to have an effect, and that means that your analytics will always be behind. When that happens, your campaign will be slower to adapt to change. With PPC you can access your data and results immediately, and this gives you the ability to adjust and fine-tune your strategy as your markets, costs, and customers change.
- Cost-effectiveness – The primary benefit of PPC marketing is that you only (as the name suggests) pay for those adverts that are successful in generating a site visit. Compare that with more traditional advertising, like billboards that may not be noticed or radio adverts that are missed. Targeted advertising and long-tail keywords are the advertising tools of the modern age. Their effectiveness is proven, and they are much cheaper than most other forms of advertising.
The challenges of PPC
For those marketers that don’t keep an eye on their PPC performance, costs can rise very quickly. One of the reasons why some PPC campaigns fail is because businesses invest their marketing budget in bidding wars over a specific keyword. There’s also the factor of what is known as ‘ego-bidding’ which is where a CEO is determined to appear at the top of a related Google search no matter how much it costs. This is the wrong way to tackle PPC advertising. For the busiest of sectors, being too focused on generic keywords can result in spending significantly more than your returns.
The greatest challenge of PPC is related to its key benefit. It is not scalable. Although the positives of PPC include the fact that you only pay for those ads that inspire a click, the downside of that is that you pay for every click whether you make a sale or not. Generating more traffic is great, but if you’re not converting those site visits into sales, then your PPC campaign is falling.
When to use PPC advertising
It is foolish to put all of your marketing eggs into the PPC basket. The costs can add up, and the level of maintenance required is not for everyone, but there are times when PPC is unparalleled in terms of filling important roles:
- New campaigns – For those short-term campaigns that are offering a new product launch or a special offer, PPC is a fantastic way of building the necessary buzz you need to inspire a boost in site visits. Due to the fact that PPC is quick and malleable, you have the speed and ability to fine-tune and adjust your advertising and landing pages.
- E-Commerce – If the majority of your web pages are direct sales pages or product listings then PPC is perfect. Not only does it mean speed for the site visitor when it comes to finding exactly what they’re looking for, it also reduces the need to encourage further page visits in order to find the perfect product. E-commerce stores often find that PPC advertising is the best form of advertising available.
- B2B businesses – One of the defining features of any B2B business is that growth is measured over the long-term rather than short bursts. If your sales cycle is more measurable in terms of weeks and months rather than swift minute-by-minute changes, then PPC can help. Not only does it help you boost your visibility, it also helps you to gain the high-quality clicks from high-quality users that want your business service or products. PPC for the B2B market can create leads, and all at comparably low costs.
How to make PPC work
The trick to making sure that your PPC campaign is successful is by paying a lot more attention to your conversion rates and being less concerned with the number of actual site visits. There are five ways that you can make sure that you accomplish this:
- Track your conversions constantly – Conversions are the end game of your PPC advertising. Every time that someone lands on your website, you want a clearly identifiable result that can be tracked and measured. This doesn’t necessarily mean sales. Sometimes it can be something as simple as getting a site visitor to fill out a newsletter form or download your latest whitepaper.
“It’s much easier to double your business by doubling your conversion rate than doubling your traffic.” – Bryan Eisenberg, author and keynote speaker.
The important thing to remember is that your conversion has to be worth something to your business. If it’s not, then PPC is not the way to go. Use your Google Analytics to gauge and measure your conversions, and make sure that you are able to make adjustments in reaction to your findings.
- Budgeting – There’s no right amount to spend on PPC, as your budget will rely on your goals and your circumstances. Stick to the basic measurement system of:
Cost of ad = less than conversion rate x clicks x profit per conversion
The total amount of your budget that you spend on your keywords should be noticeably less than the potential profit that you earn from every site visit. This is where your analytics will be essential, so that you know exactly what’s working and what’s not. If your costs are exceeding your profits (or even your potential profits), then you’re going to want to refocus your strategy.
Do remember that PPC can also inspire long-term customer loyalty, so it’s worth giving your PPC campaign some time to show analytic changes.
- Niche keywords – It can be very tempting to choose your keywords to be as broad as possible. If you sell shoes, then you’re probably thinking of bidding on keywords like ‘trainers’ or ‘dress shoes,’ but consider how many other businesses are doing the same. Look for those niches. Using keywords like ‘new trainers in Hull’ or ‘red and black running shoes’ gives a much narrower focus, and will result in much lower PPC costs. That’s why those long-tail search terms are much more useful than the generic keywords that everyone else is already bidding on.
- Quality Content – Never underestimate the quality of your content. When it comes to PPC, you’re going to need to provide a number of short yet descriptive texts about your landing page. It may seem like basic advice, but the correct spelling and grammar is incredibly important for obvious reasons. You will need to check the terms and conditions of your search engine platform of choice, because big players like Google and Bing will actually reduce your rankings if you use too many superlatives or even push you lower down the page for something as simple as too much capitalisation.
- The Quality Score – Your Quality Score will be the proof that you are using your PPC correctly. You will be ranked according to the quality of your actual advert, the keywords that you have opted to pay for, and the quality of your landing page. These are the basics of your quality score. Having a good quality score will reduce your costs and ensure that your website sits naturally at the top of search engine page rankings.
What to do next
Clearly, PPC is not to be entered into lightly, but it has become one of the most valuable advertising strategies of the digital age. The most important thing to remember if you do decide to make use of PPC is that you should forget all about the whole ‘more site visits is best’ aspect, and concentrate solely on conversion boosting.
Focus on your conversions and your ROI instead of basic site visit numbers and you’ll be in a much better position to make the most use of PPC.
Take your time to build up a solid history that reflects your business’s longevity. The longer that your ad campaign runs, the more trustworthy search engines believe you to be. Keep testing your ad copy, so that you get the highest conversion rates, and above all, build your entire PPC strategy around your keywords. By doing so, you develop the foundation that will mean your PPC has a much greater chance of success.
So, what is PPC? It’s your first step to better visibility, better conversion rates, and a better future for your business.