Take a quick look at most marketing blogs and you’ll find yourself floating in a sea of acronyms. From CPC to SEO to KPI, it would appear that the marketing world’s favorite lunch is alphabet soup. We’ll be picking two of those acronyms—SEO and PPC—out from our soup bowl for a closer look at the two key elements of what is called Search Marketing. In part two, we explore Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising. Click here for part one to learn more about SEO (search engine optimization).

PPC: Pay-Per-Click Advertising

Whereas SEO focuses on increasing organic traffic to your website, pay-per-click campaigns use paid campaigns to drive traffic. In a nutshell, PPC campaigns allow you to “bid” on specific keywords that you’d like to rank for, allowing you to place yourself at the top of a particular search results page. The “pay-per-click” designation refers to the most common bidding strategy, in which you are charged when a user clicks on your ads. While some campaigns operate with a CPM (cost per thousand impressions) or a CPA (cost per acquisition) bidding strategy, these tactics are still generally referred to as PPC.

The most common (and for the purposes of this post, our primary focus) PPC tool is Google’s AdWords. Chances are you’ve seen AdWords ads before—just Google a generic enough word and you’ll likely see the top two to three results listed with a small green “Ad” designation. Those ads were placed by businesses trying to capture your attention before you reach the organic results.

AdWords pay per click campaigns

Examples of Google AdWords ads

Compared with SEO tactics, PPC campaigns are generally quicker to generate results. But if you’re going after more “expensive” keywords (e.g. commons words with a lot of competing brands vying for attention), be prepared to back up your campaign with a substantial budget.

To set up a PPC campaign, you’ll need to answer a few key questions first:

  • What keywords do you want to compete for? Are you going after a generic set of keywords (like baseball bats or men’s shirts), or are you going after more long-tail keywords with less competition (like moisture wicking work shirt for men)? It’s crucial to research existing keyword traffic and competition levels in order to narrow your list down to around 10-20 potential options.
  • What will your ads be linking to? Like any good digital ad campaign, you’ll need a well-built landing page that mirrors the content of your ad. The success of your PPC campaigns is heavily dependent on what the user experience of clicking your ad and visiting the landing page is like. Divert customers to a bad website or try to bait-and-switch them and Google will not show your ads at all.
  • What is your budget? As we mentioned previously, high competition/high traffic keywords may simply be out of your reach. Conversely, you might be able to “buy” certain long-tail keywords at a relatively low cost. Geography can also play a part in this part of your process, as you’ll find some smaller cities and towns will be naturally less expensive to “own” keywords than in larger markets.
  • Where do you want your ads appearing? We’ve mostly discussed what Google calls its Search Network ad campaign type, where your ads appear as if they were organic search results. However, you could also create more visual Display Network ads, too, which add a branding element to the process. These ads allow your aesthetic and messaging to shine through with ads on websites of relevance to your audience.
  • How good is your SEO? The success of AdWords campaigns depends on a combination of several factors directly related to your PPC campaign, but your website’s SEO also plays a role. If the underlying structure of your website is unintuitive or slow to load, this can affect your overall ad quality score —meaning your ad will be shown to fewer people.
  • What’s your Call To Action (CTA)? If your goal is to drive phone calls to your business, you can tailor your ads to only be shown to mobile users who can make a phone call right then and there. If your CTA is to download a white paper that isn’t necessarily optimized for mobile viewing, you might consider emphasizing desktop impressions.

One of the key points we always emphasize when launching a new campaign is that while PPC ads are certainly quicker to produce results than SEO tactics, you must still allow the PPC campaign to build some steam. You cannot begin to optimize around meaningful results with only a week’s worth of data. We often recommend running one set of keywords for at least 2-4 weeks before making changes. That way, you can get a better feel for what is working and what’s not.

Helpful PPC Tools

Much like the tools available to take on SEO yourself, there are some similarly helpful resources for PPC campaigns. Here are a few of our favorites:

  • Keywords Everywhere: This handy Chrome and Firefox browser extension allows you to see real-time keyword costs and competition when searching on Google.
  • AdWords Keyword Planner: A free tool within Google AdWords, Keyword Planner allows you to see a detailed breakdown of keyword costs and competition, as well as help you build keyword lists from ones you already have. You can also plug in your website (or a competitor’s) and it will scan the site for potential keywords.
  • Google Suggest: This one you’ve probably seen before—simply start typing your target keywords or product/service into a Google search window and you’ll see Google’s auto-suggestions, which are often generated from real searches. These results can give you insights into how your audience might be searching for your products or services.

So now that you’ve got a handle on at least one of these particularly complicated acronyms, let’s start exploring all the ways a targeted SEO strategy can help you conquer search engines organically (without paid ads).

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