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Breaking Into Paid Search: A Beginner’s Guide to PPC Marketing

Whether you’re familiar with the term “pay-per-click ads” or not, there’s a good chance you already know what PPC marketing is. These ads are common on search engines and social media, typically displayed at the top of results pages or embedded within.

Searches like “Thai food near me,” “cell phone repair,” or “career resources for female marketers” trigger and display paid search ads among the high-ranking results, boosting the chances users will see and click on an ad.

If you’re considering a career in paid search ads, there’s never been a better time to break into the industry. Fortune 500 companies and small mom-and-pop businesses alike are taking advantage of the opportunities PPC ads afford. In this guide, we’ll take a deep dive into PPC advertising, the marketing careers that support paid search ads, and what you can expect during a typical day as a PPC ad specialist. Let’s get started!

What is PPC marketing?

PPC (pay-per-click) advertising is a powerful method for connecting with potential customers. By creating ads and bidding on relevant keywords, companies can target their desired audience through search engines. When users click on these ads, they are directed to the advertiser’s website, generating valuable traffic.

The cost-effective nature of PPC advertising is particularly appealing, as companies only pay for actual clicks on their ads rather than simply for the number of impressions delivered. This approach ensures that advertising budgets are spent on engaging users who show genuine interest in the advertised products or services. PPC advertising is an umbrella term that includes paid search ads, display ads, and remarketing.

Career Opportunities

Let’s explore a handful of roles in the PPC vertical:

Digital Marketing Specialist

Digital marketing specialists may be tasked with developing and executing multi-channel campaigns, such as email, social media, and paid advertising. They’re responsible for tracking and analyzing the results of said campaigns, reporting results, and suggesting data-informed adjustments to optimize performance. Collaboration within teams and across departments is also common practice.

Generally, digital marketing specialists are expected to have 2-3 years of experience in a digital marketing vertical alongside extensive knowledge of a variety of online marketing channels like search engine optimization (SEO), email, and social media.

PPC Ad Specialist

A PPC ad specialist’s core functions lie in developing, managing, and optimizing PPC campaigns to drive targeted traffic and increase conversion rates. People in this role may be responsible for conducting keyword research, designing ads, crafting copy and conducting A/B testing, and monitoring performance.

On average, PPC specialists have 1-2 years of hands-on experience managing paid ad campaigns. To succeed in this role, marketers should be knowledgeable about SEO and keyword research, in addition to possessing strong analytical and technical skills.

Search Engine Marketing Specialist

Search engine marketing (SEM) specialists develop and implement search engine-based strategies to maximize visibility and drive conversions. Their responsibilities often include PPC advertising, search engine optimization (SEO), and other digital marketing disciplines.

SEM specialists typically have 2-4 years of experience in search engine or digital marketing. To succeed in this role, candidates should have a background in SEO, managing PPC ad campaigns, and keyword research.

Day-to-day responsibilities

As the name suggests, one of the most prevalent duties you’ll be tasked with is managing and optimizing PPC ad campaigns. Depending on the size of your team and company, you may own this process from start to finish. Keyword research, creating ads, A/B testing, optimizing landing pages, and analyzing results are all key components to executing a PPC campaign.

Tracking, analyzing, and optimizing performance is vital to the success of paid search campaigns. Key performance indicators (KPIs) like cost-per-click (CPC), conversion rate, and return on ad spend (ROAS) can help you identify underperforming keywords, ads, and landing pages and offer insight into areas for improvement.

Because PPC advertising is heavily intertwined with search engines and algorithms, you may also support additional tasks relating to search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM).

Skills and qualifications

Analytical skills are a must for PPC marketers. You will likely be privy to large amounts of data that can be used to identify trends, assess performance, and pinpoint areas of opportunity. The success of paid ad campaigns may rely on your ability to analyze data and translate your findings into data-driven adjustments.

Because PPC advertising is exclusively digital, it’s important to be proficient in a variety of digital marketing tools, including PPC platforms, search engines, and analytics tools. PPC platforms also require marketers to have a working knowledge of up-to-date bidding strategies, A/B testing, keyword research, and retargeting tactics.

Creativity is equally important for PPC marketers. Depending on the size of your company and team, you may be responsible for copywriting and designing ads. Writing persuasive, engaging copy that resonates with your target audience is what differentiates your company and entices users to click on your ad – it’s the foundation of paid advertising.

Is a career in PPC advertising right for you?

Whether you like them or not, paid search ads aren’t going anywhere. They’ve become an integral part of the digital experience and offer companies a cost-efficient avenue for reaching new prospects. As companies invest more time and resources in digital ads, marketers specializing in PPC ads are in a prime position to take advantage of the job market.

Whether PPC advertising is the right career path is largely dependent on your interests and motivations. If you have a knack for appealing to an audience’s pain points and desires, crafting targeted ads, and are eager to drive tangible results, PPC advertising might be right up your alley!

For more info about PPC advertising and career paths, check out our Complete Guide to PPC Ads!


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