Pay-per-click (PPC) ads, also known as paid search ads, are everywhere. Search engines, social media, mobile apps – you name it. They’ve become an intrinsic component of the digital experience for advertisers and users alike. PPC ads offer a cost-effective means of generating targeted traffic and increasing visibility without needing to invest wads of cash in campaigns that may or may not have garnered results.
Although PPC advertising is a subset of digital marketing, marketers pursuing a career in this field ought to be well-equipped with specialized knowledge before diving into the deep end of PPC campaigns. In this guide, we’ll break down the core concepts of PPC marketing, define relevant jargon, and share essential industry knowledge, tips, and tools to help you excel as a PPC marketer. Here we go!
Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising has evolved into an indispensable tool in many businesses’ marketing strategies. These paid digital ads are a cost-effective means for advertisers to generate targeted traffic and expand their online presence. Rather than paying a flat rate to get prospective customers’ eyes on an ad, advertisers only incur fees when users click on their ads. This approach ensures that advertising budgets are spent on engaging users who show genuine interest in the advertised products or services.
PPC advertising is inclusive of paid search ads, display ads, and remarketing. Most commonly, PPC ads appear in search engine results, interspersed with high-ranked organic results.
Key Components of PPC Advertising
Now that you have a clear idea of what PPC advertising is let’s jump into the fundamentals of successful paid search ads. Every PPC marketer should know these essential concepts and skills:
Keywords are the foundation for PPC advertising, as they will determine when and where your ads will appear. These terms are the queries that users enter into search engines.
Selecting the right keywords requires thorough research and strategic bidding. It’s crucial for reaching your target audience and driving qualified traffic to your site.
Understanding the difference between broad, exact, and long-tail keywords will help you optimize your targeting and minimize unproductive ad spend.
Choosing the right keywords doesn’t guarantee a successful PPC campaign. One of the most important factors is ad copy. Ad copy is the text that appears in your PPC ads and communicates your marketing message to potential customers.
Your copy should capture users’ attention, enticing them to click on your ad. This involves crafting attention-grabbing headlines, appealing to their desires or pain points, and a persuasive call-to-action (CTA) to drive engagement.
Now that you have your ad in hand, it’s time for bidding. Advertisers bid on keywords, with the highest bidder receiving the top ad placement.
There are a variety of bidding strategies to choose from, each designed to achieve specific goals, such as maximizing clicks, conversions, or return on ad spend (ROAS). Understanding and selecting the right bidding strategy will depend on your campaign’s overarching goals. Some common bidding strategies include manual cost-per-click (CPC) bidding, targeted ROAS, and maximized conversions.
Landing pages are the destination pages users arrive at after clicking your ad. They’re responsible for converting ad clicks into leads or sales. Ensure the page you’re directing targeted traffic to is easy to navigate, clearly presents the offer from your ad, and funnels users toward a strong CTA.
It’s important to note that PPC campaigns are dynamic. Your ad copy, landing pages, and overall content aren’t set in stone. Testing different headlines, images, and layouts can help you optimize conversion rates and maximize your ROAS.
Brief History of PPC
Pay-per-click advertising has become an integral marketing channel for businesses of all sizes rivaling the effectiveness of more traditional marketing tactics. PPC marketing materialized within the transition between the analog and digital eras, capitalizing on the meteoric rise of the Internet.
PPC advertising first gained traction in the late ’90s under GoTo.com, an early search engine that hosted digital ads through the PPC model that we use today. The platform also introduced the auction-based model, allowing businesses to bid on keywords to secure top ad placements among search results. Soon after, the popularity of Google and social media platforms like Facebook eclipsed their early predecessor. In an effort to monetize their user base, these platforms adopted and refined the PPC model to include improved targeting capabilities based on interests, location, and demographics.
In the late 2000s, the proliferation of smartphones and mobile devices further shaped the trajectory of the PPC advertising landscape. Recognizing the growing importance of mobile devices, PPC platforms began to prioritize mobile-first strategies, introducing new ad formats and features designed specifically for mobile users.
PPC marketing continues to adapt to meet the changing needs of businesses and users. Advances in remarketing tactics, hyper-specific targeting, and new ad formats, such as ecommerce and video ads, have expanded the scope of PPC advertising far beyond its origins.
PPC Marketing Terminology
As you develop your PPC chops, it helps to understand the marketing jargon you’ll regularly encounter in the industry. Here’s a list of some of the most common terms and definitions you should be familiar with:
Also known as split testing. The practice of testing slightly different versions of content among smaller groups using live traffic. A/B testing can be used to optimize ads, landing pages, emails, and other types of content.
A collection of paid ads that target similar keywords and audiences.
Also known as ad rank. Quality scores measure how well an ad performs based on several factors, including click-through rate, conversion rate, and landing page experience. The higher an ad quality score is, the lower its cost per click will be, and vice versa.
Click-through rate. This measures the number of people that click on an ad after seeing it. The CTR can be calculated by dividing the number of ad clicks by the total impressions.
The percentage of users that interact with a product or service. For example, conversion rate might be defined as the number of purchases made after clicking on an ad divided by the total number of ad clicks.
Cost per action, also known as cost per acquisition. A measurement of the cost of a customer taking a specific action, such as making a purchase or subscribing.
Cost per click. The average cost of driving a single visitor to your website, page, etc., via paid digital advertisements.
Cost per 1000 impressions or cost per mile. A pricing model used to charge advertisers based on the number of times their ad is displayed to users, typically 1,000 impressions per dollar spent.
A significant word or phrase that people type into search engines to find content that matches their queries. Keywords are important for indexing content, such as ads or web pages, and determining search engine results page (SERP) rankings.
A web page that users are directed to after clicking on an ad or organic search result. Landing pages are dedicated to campaigns or encourage specific actions, such as making a purchase or subscribing to a newsletter.
A tactic that uses ads to target online users who have previously visited a website or performed a certain action (e.g., clicked on a link). Remarketing is often used in conjunction with other digital marketing strategies such as SEO, social media marketing, and email marketing.
Return on ad spend. A means of measuring the amount of revenue per each dollar spent on paid advertisements. ROAS is an indicator of the overall effectiveness of paid ads.
Return on investment. A means of measuring the effectiveness of your marketing tactics at driving revenue. ROI is often used to make educated decisions to optimize marketing campaigns, such as allocating budget spend to concentrate efforts around high-impact channels.
Search engine marketing. Marketing efforts associated with search engines, such as search engine optimization and PPC advertisements.
The process of acquiring new users or customers through paid ads.
Tips for Success
With businesses of all sizes turning to PPC advertising over other marketing channels, there’s no shortage of opportunities for marketers looking to explore the industry. To stand out from the competition and be a successful PPC specialist, keep these tips in mind:
- Test and iterate your ad copy. Effective ad copy is persuasive. Concise. It resonates with its target audience. Practice writing copy that addresses users’ needs, highlights unique selling propositions (USPs), and has a strong CTA. A/B testing your copy is key for identifying the most performant versions of your ad and improving over time.
- Hone your keyword research skills. The importance of keywords in PPC advertising can’t be understated. Learn to identify high-volume, relevant keywords and understand the difference between broad, exact, and long-tail keywords.
- Incorporate data whenever possible. Successful PPC campaigns are built on data-driven decision-making. Once you’ve deployed your ads, start tracking data early and often. Analyzing and interpreting key performance indicators (KPIs) like click-through rates (CTR), cost-per-click (CPC), conversion rates, and return on ad spend (ROAS) can offer valuable insights into what is working and what can be improved.
- Learn from your competitors. Competitor analysis is a valuable tactic for taking your PPC campaigns from ‘good’ to ‘great.’ Monitoring your competitors’ PPC strategies can reveal vacuums in the market and provide inspiration. Research their keywords, ad copy, landing pages – basically, anything you can get your hands on – and look for opportunities to differentiate your company and outperform your competitors.
Tools & Resources
As a PPC specialist, your eyes are everywhere. At any given time, you could be switching between ad networks, analytics dashboards, and search engines. Your attention is a limited resource.
Luckily, there are plenty of tools at your disposal that can support your PPC efforts. Your tech stack can do wonders to lessen your load and consolidate your tools in a central location. Here are some of the most popular tools and resources used by PPC specialists:
PPC platforms, also known as PPC networks, host and distribute your ads. They act as an intermediary channel between advertisers and millions of potential customers. These networks offer a variety of advertising formats, such as search, display, video, and remarketing ads, to accommodate a variety of marketing goals. Advertisers typically bid against other advertisers on keywords, with the highest bidder earning the top-ranking positions. PPC platforms typically offer their own analytical tools to gather user and performance data.
The most popular PPC platforms include:
- Google Ads
- Microsoft Ads
- Social media-based networks: Facebook/Meta, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Youtube Ads
Landing Page Builders
Landing page builders like Unbounce and Leadpages aid marketers in creating and optimizing effective landing pages. These platforms streamline the design process with customizable templates and improve conversion rates with built-in testing features.
Ad Creation Tools
Ad creation tools are a great way to simplify ad management, as they offer a centralized location to create, monitor, and optimize ads across multiple PPC networks. Tools like WordStream and AdEspresso are among the most popular with marketers. These platforms generally include customizable ad templates, A/B testing features, and performance analytics to guide your optimization efforts.
These tools are an excellent resource to support your PPC career. Regardless of the tools at your disposal, however, your success hinges on your foundational knowledge of the industry and your craft. Committing to continuous learning and approaching PPC marketing with a strategic, analytical mindset will give you the competitive edge you need to get your foot in the door (and beyond!)
Want to learn more about careers in PPC marketing? Read our Beginner’s Guide to Breaking Into Paid Search Advertising!