Introduction

Running a business is hard. Today, the Internet allows people instant access to information and resources with just a couple clicks. Yet search engines bring in hundreds of thousands of results for a single keyword. It’s very easy to get lost in the shuffle.

Wouldn’t it be great if one of those coveted clicks went to your site?

While businesses can take the time to organically grow their audience, there’s also another way. Pay-per-click, or PPC, is a type of internet marketing where advertisers pay a fee each time someone clicks on their ads.

By the time you finish this resource, you’ll have a firm understanding of PPC as well as the tools necessary to launch your own campaign. We’ll also provide additional resources at the end of each chapter so you can continue learning about PPC.

Table of Contents

Understanding PPC

Search Engine Advertising

Let’s take a look at the screenshot below:

We’ve all used search engines; in fact, 89% of purchasing decisions involve doing an online search somewhere in the buyer’s journey. Most of us have seen the sponsored results that appear on the top and to the right of the organic search results. Advertisers bid to be seen when someone types in a keyword that matches their products or services, so ad placement in these sponsored sections is the goal of Search Engine Advertising campaigns. In the above example, we see specific coffee beans from vendors on top and coffee bean vendors on the right. Those ads correspond directly with my search terms.

If I were to click one of those ads, the advertiser would pay the search engine a small fee. Just like other advertising strategies, PPC aims to attract visitors to the site and turn them into customers. If your PPC campaign is effective, the new sale will easily outweigh the cost per click (CPM).

Other Types of PPC

Banner Ads

Banner ads have been around since the Internet launched, but they remain a powerful advertising tool for businesses. According to Gray Digital Group, banner campaigns are focused on creating brand recognition and awareness. Todd McPartlin of imarketingleader.com further explains that banner ads complete a company’s “business circle,” as they give businesses access to the enormous web market without spending significant amounts of money. Quality banner ad packages will include various sizes that fit with computer screens, tablets, and smartphones.

Email Newsletters

Also known as Solo Ads, newsletters are a great way to keep your existing and potential customers informed about the happenings in your business. You can mention special promotions or include summaries of recent company events. Newsletters are also great for linking to recent blog posts or social media channels.

Retargeting Campaigns

Retargeting campaigns are a special type of banner advertising that focus on the people who have already visited your site. There are two types of retargeting campaigns. List-based retargeting utilizes a list of existing customers which tells the retargeting platform to adjust ads for those specific users. Pixel-based retargeting uses cookies to adjust the ads that someone sees based on the pages they visited on your site.

Social Media-Specific Campaigns

Social media ads are a great way to interact with existing customers and grow your audience. While YouTube is the world’s second largest search engine with 3 billion searches per month, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg reports that this social media platform hit more than one billion users in a single day. Both sites offer their own ad programs that work to target specific audiences.

For more information on the various types of PPC advertising, take a look at:

Why use PPC?

Every business has a budget. Some businesses may feel that low-cost marketing strategies, such as self-generated or curated content marketing, will result in a bigger bang for their buck. This is a somewhat misguided assumption, as organic traffic growth is a lot trickier than you think.

What Is Organic Traffic?

Organic traffic is defined as unpaid visits to your site, such as people coming across your page just by typing in keywords and searching through the results. Never underestimate the power of organic searching, as it drives 51% of visitors to B2B and B2C websites. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the practice of increasing a site’s (or page’s) ranking and visibility in search engine results pages (SERPs). Backlinking, enhancing content quality, and indexing are all techniques that can improve a site’s ranking.

Content Marketing

The Content Marketing Institute explains that content marketing aims to create and distribute content that’s valuable, relevant, and consistent in order to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience. In other words, content marketing is a way to organically draw visitors to your site. Blog posts and photo sharing are great ways for businesses to impart information related to your product or services.

For example, if you run a wine shop, then a blog post on wine and cheese pairings would certainly resonate with your audience. If you run a costume store, posting photos of your employees in different outfits shows potential visitors what you offer. Bill Gates said in 1996 that “Content is King”—and today this statement is more relevant than ever.

The challenge, especially with lesser-known businesses, is getting content in front of their clearly-defined audiences. 4 million blog posts are shared and 500 million tweets are sent every day. While SEO is a great way to organically increase traffic, it can take 5-6 months before a business starts seeing results. In some instances, businesses might not be able to hold out this long without converting at least some customers.

Enter PPC

Unlike organic website growth, PPC is a way to buy visitors to your site. Though more expensive in the short-term, PPC increases your chances of being seen by an audience that’s interested in what you have to sell. MarketLive conducted a study showing that conversion rates from paid search traffic are 35% higher than those from organic searches.

To demonstrate this further, let’s take the example of a coffee bean supplier that focuses on selling organic and fair-trade products. We’ll use the remainder of this chapter to see how PPC can help this company create campaigns that lead to new customers.

Benefits of Paid Advertising

Increased Visibility

In 2013, revenue from digital marketing made up 35.3% of total revenue from U.S. agencies. Digital marketing firms and in-house marketing departments alike are launching campaigns that compete for the same visitors. Businesses today need to do more to stand out, and paid advertising has the potential to put their content in front of a larger audience.

The screenshot in Chapter 1 shows 1,190,000 results for the search phrase “organic raw coffee beans.” It’s incredible to think how many of those results belong to coffee bean providers looking for new customers! Our coffee shop could use PPC to appear in the sponsor space at the top and to the right of the page. While top organic search results receive 90% of clicks, PPC ads receive 10% or less (lower ranked organic search results receive little to no share of clicks).

Highly-Targeted Viewership

PPC campaigns allow businesses to reach specific audiences using targeted keywords. Though using more specific keywords will reach a smaller number of visitors, a higher percentage of them will likely be converted into customers compared to more general keywords. Google AdWords, for example, allows for targeting based on geography, language, time of day, and more.

Our coffee supplier could launch a PPC campaign that focuses on the phrase “organic raw coffee beans.” While this excludes people who search for the broader phrase “coffee beans,” the pool of people looking for organic and raw beans is much smaller, so not only will PPC put our supplier’s ad in front of more people, but in front of those more likely to click on it. We’ll discuss targeted keywords in a later chapter.

Reliable Traffic Source

Let’s say our coffee supplier spent months working on and implementing an SEO strategy. The supplier is the new kid on the block and therefore has to compete with other coffee bean suppliers for decent search rankings. Suddenly, traffic drops. Their marketing team team goes back to review the site. Pages aren’t down. No dead links are found. What changed?

Google is always updating its search algorithms. The last major update called Panda 4.0 occurred in May, 2014, which affected 5-7% of search queries. Other updates have impacted the once-popular practice of guest blogging. This year, Google introduced a mobile-friendly algorithm to address the fact that 29% of people now search the internet on tablets and smartphones. These changes can impact organic traffic even for large corporations, who then have to revisit and modify their SEO strategies.

Luckily, companies can turn to PPC to ensure that their ads are always appearing in front of potential customers. So our coffee supplier can still utilize ads to make sure that the people who are searching for “organic raw coffee beans” will still see its site.

Data for Split Testing

Split testing is a technique in which a business conducts experiments in order to improve website metrics such as conversions and click rates. Unfortunately, search engines like Google have made it hard for sites to see which keywords are drawing traffic to their sites. Without understanding traffic sources, businesses are also unable to tell which keywords are actually resulting in higher conversion rates.

Fortunately, our coffee bean supplier realized that it can create different PPC campaigns to test which keywords are drawing in the best traffic. Though the company is paying for ads, the supplier will have a better understanding of how to place their ads to make their next campaign more successful. If the keywords “organic coffee beans online” result in more sales than “raw coffee beans,” the supplier will know which ones to invest in for its next campaign.

For more information on the advantages of PPC Marketing, read:

Understanding Google Adwords

Google processes around 40,000 search queries every second, or 3.5 billion searches every day across the globe. In April 2014, Google held 67.5% of the explicit core search market. Naturally, it makes sense that Google AdWords is also the most popular advertising system used for PPC campaigns.

AdWords follows the search engine advertising model in which businesses bid on keywords and pay for every click that their ads receive. When someone conducts a search, Google scans through AdWords advertisers and chooses a couple relevant ones to appear in the SERP’s ad space.

Google uses the following three factors to determine which ads appear in search results:

  • Ad Extensions and Formatting: AdWords has different extensions that enhance the appearance of ads (e.g. size, information shown).
  • CPC Bid: The highest price an advertiser is willing to pay for a click.
  • Quality Score: The value determined by analyzing an advertiser’s click-through rate, landing page quality, and relevance of keyword.

Together, these factors make up the ad score. The higher an ad score, the more likely that Google’s algorithms will select the advertisement to appear in the sponsored search result space.

To learn more about Google AdWords, you should visit:

Quality Score

At first glance, it might seem that increasing your CPC Bid would result in better placings. However, it’s important to remember that this is only half the equation. Without a high-quality score, you’ll be paying higher bids for fewer visits. In this chapter we’ll discuss ways to enhance your ad’s quality score.

Types of Quality Scores

Let’s start by saying that Google has kept a good amount of its quality score information secret. The type of quality scores that exist are a topic of debate for internet marketing professionals. UK-based Converted explains that there are several types of quality scores. Though each focuses on a different aspect of PPC, together they can affect the potential of your campaigns in significant ways.

Account Level Quality Score

The score based on the performance of all ads and keywords in an account. Though Google hasn’t confirmed that this score exists, most marketers will agree that this high-level score is important for two reasons. First, if an account has a high number of poorly-performing keywords, or low click-through rate ads, they will start new keywords with lower-quality scores. Second, Google favors older accounts if they have a long history and a strong-quality score.

Ad Group Quality Score

The quality score for a particular ad group. Businesses are able to see different-quality scores to understand which ad groups are performing the strongest. Though AdWords doesn’t allow users to start over with new accounts, they can modify their poorly-performing ad groups to try and turn their scores around.

Keyword Quality Score

When marketers go into their AdWords account, this is the quality score they see. Ranked on a 1-10 scale, this score is based on the performance of searches that exactly match the keywords you’ve assigned. Until a keyword hits a “significant” number of impressions in your AdWords account, its quality score is based on its historical performance on Google.

Ad-Level Quality Score

Underneath an ad group’s quality score are individual scores given for each ad. At this level, click-through rates impact scores.

Landing Page Quality Score

The value assigned to the format and content of your landing pages. Google has specific guidelines that explain how landing pages should be set up. Among the factors that Google considers are: content quality, transparency, navigation on computers and mobile devices, and leading time.

Ways to Improve Quality Score

Targeting Viewers

Let’s say the coffee bean supplier hires Dan the intern to work on the marketing team. He’s tasked to create different PPC campaigns with different keywords to test their effectiveness (i.e., split testing). To save time, Dan creates one ad group and assigns every target keyword to it. Among the keywords are “coffee shop,” “organic beans,” “sustainability,” and “online shopping.”

Notice the problem? There’s no way for a single ad to possibly be relevant to all these target keywords. PPC algorithms will skip over the ad, as it lacks the keyword + ad group + landing page combinations that drive ad placement.

It’s necessary to break up your ad groups, assign one main keyword, and then include a few other closely-related keywords. This narrowing of ad groups gives you the ability to create relevant ad text and corresponding landing pages that will resonate more with those who see them.

For more information on Market Segmentation, visit:

 

Landing Pages

After the intern realizes his mistake, he goes ahead and creates separate ad campaigns with different keywords. His next step is to assign the landing page, or the web page to which the ad directs once it’s clicked. Thinking the goal is just to get traffic to the coffee supplier’s site, he assigns the homepage to every ad group.

Landing pages, just like ads, need to be targeted to the audience that clicks on them. Someone who found the supplier’s site by searching for “organic coffee and sustainability” will want different information than someone who searched for “buy coffee online.” Having one general landing page will distract and possibly confuse the visitor into leaving the page. Optimized landing pages can drastically improve conversion rates: the top 10% of companies who use landing pages have conversion rates of 11% or higher.

Dan goes back and creates landing pages that correspond to each ad campaign. His copy includes relevant keywords and matches the voice of each ad. Visitors who click on the coffee supplier’s ads will now be directed to landing pages that are relevant to them. It’s this comfort in getting what’s expected that keeps them on the site and increases the chances of their purchasing a product. The intern can also try different landing page images and other qualities to test their effectiveness.

Improving Site Load Times

Google makes it known that fast loading times are an important factor not only in quality score, but in general search engine results. Slow landing page load times will not only dock you in Google search results, but also increase the likelihood that someone will abandon your page. PPC Hero explains that a slow load time is considered to be the regional average plus three seconds. You can find your pages’ load times by visiting Google Analytics or Webmaster Tools.

Dynamic Keyword Insertion

Let’s go back to our coffee shop provider. While their ad campaigns are starting to bring in results, Dan wants to take it a step further. He’s heard of a concept called dynamic keyword insertion, which uses special code within an ad’s text to display the keyword that the user searched for. As Google AdWords explains:

“This feature allows you to have one ad that appears differently to customers depending on their search terms, making your ads appear more relevant and useful.”

Please note that this is a more advanced technique, and you should follow the link above to learn more about dynamic keyword insertion.

To learn more about improving your quality score, take a look at:

 

The Waiting Game

Google prefers older, well-established sites with good-quality scores over others. It can take months before you notice a change in your quality scores. This is another reason why tactics like split testing are so important. By having more than one ad campaign going at once, it’ll be easier to identify ineffective campaigns due to their low-quality scores and modify them accordingly.

For more information on improving a site’s load time, visit:

Getting the Most Out of Your PPC Campaign

We’ve spent the previous chapters covering the basics of PPC and Google AdWords. If you think you’re ready to launch your own PPC campaign, this chapter is a must-read for you!

Understanding the Realities of PPC Campaigns

PPC campaigns, just like any other business investment, need to be analyzed carefully to see if they’re worth the time and money. Budgetary restraints might impact how much your team can spend on PPC campaigns, a common challenge that businesses face today. In order to gauge the value of a PPC campaign for your business, you need to understand the following:

Conversions

The end goal of every advertising strategy is to land a sale, yet there’s typically several steps between someone visiting a website and actually buying a product or service. Our coffee bean supplier, for instance, includes a field to subscribe to their newsletter on their landing pages. If a visitor subscribes, the marketing team considers this a conversion. Conversions are desirable actions a visitor takes that provide value to the business. The coffee supplier includes informative content and monthly promotions in its newsletter.

Other examples of conversions include completing a form for more information or downloading an e-book. While these don’t provide value in terms of sales, they do provide value by starting a relationship that could potentially end in a sale.

Return on Investment

If you review our post on sending paid traffic to marketing campaigns, you’ll see that some CPC fees can run as high as $25 for one click. Every industry is different, as is the financial position of businesses. Understanding the PPC campaign’s return on investment (ROI) for your business will dictate how much attention you should give to this advertising strategy.

Calculating ROI becomes more complicated once you start factoring in conversions that don’t correspond to sales. In these cases, it’s necessary to have proper attribution modeling that properly weighs different conversion factors. If requesting to speak with a sales rep leads to more sales than subscribing to a newsletter, these conversions should be weighed accordingly.

For more information on conversions and ROI, check out:

 

Planning Your PPC Budget

Keyword Research

Businesses need to understand the customers whom they want to target. Market research uses methods like surveys and focus groups. With Internet marketing and PPC, there’s keyword research. Programs like Wordtracker and Google’s term selection tool are great for understanding the popularity of certain keywords over others.

Let’s look at the below example where Dan did some research on Wordtracker to understand which related keywords were most popular for “organic coffee”:

Luckily for Dan, “organic fair trade coffee” is the top related keyword phrase to organic coffee! This is a finding he can bring back to his team, as “organic” and “fair trade” are selling points for their products.

Dan also notices that “green coffee” appears in several related phrases. Since he’s new to the coffee market, he conducts additional research to learn more about green coffee in order to see if including the phrase would benefit his company’s ad campaigns. Dan can use other tools, such as Google Keyword Planner, to cross-check results. Keyword research can expose you to unfamiliar search terms and may be a new way to position your offerings.

“Anything worth doing is worth doing well” is an adage that applies very well to keyword research. There are likely many keywords that your target audience will search on, and proper keyword research requires a lot of time to ensure that you’re including the right terms in your campaigns.

Setting Your Budget

Once you’ve identified the keywords that you want to use in your campaign, you’ll need to find their CPC. Next, you’ll need to determine the number of clicks you want to purchase. You then multiply the CPC by the number of clicks to determine your campaign budget.

Let’s say Dan was tasked to develop the PPC campaign budget and expected ROI. The CPC for the keyphrase “organic coffee” is $2.00 and Dan decides to buy 1,000 clicks. The total budget for his campaign is $2,000.

At first Dan is ready to pass this along to his team, but then he remembers that they also wanted to know the ROI on the campaign. He knows that the expected conversion rate is 6%, meaning he can expect 60 of the 1,000 clicks to result in sales. If the average customer buys $40 of organic coffee, the expected revenue from the campaign is $2,400 (60 customers multiplied by $40). Since the total campaign cost is $2,000, the ROI on this campaign is $400, or 20%.

If you don’t feel like manually calculating your campaign budget, use this PPC ROI Calculator.

Cutting Costs

The last thing any business wants is to spend money on costly PPC campaigns that fail to deliver on new sales or even draw traffic. While you may need to launch a couple PPC campaigns before you start reaping the benefits, reducing costs in other ways include:

  • Reach out to Google directly for questions on improving your Quality Score.
  • Take advantage of position preferences to understand your strongest keyword performances without burning through cash.
  • Try out secondary search engines like MIVA and ABCSearch.
  • Turn off content matching in AdWords.
  • Use quality analytics to understand which keywords are generating web traffic.

For more information on budgeting for your PPC Campaign, visit:

PPC and Content Marketing—Putting it all together

Now that we’ve covered the importance of justifying your investment in PPC campaigns, it’s time to discuss how to utilize PPC along with content marketing to deliver strong conversion rates and sales. When used correctly, content marketing can result in conversion rates six times higher than for those businesses who don’t. It’s unfortunate that many businesses still don’t take advantage of content marketing or they have misunderstandings about it that hinder their success.

Even More PPC Traffic Sources

We’ve covered the value of AdWords in depth because it’s the most popular PPC advertising platform available. Nevertheless, there are other traffic sources available to launch your PPC campaigns and expose your content to a wider audience.

Banner Ads

Media buying platforms like BlogAds, BuySellAds and SiteScout are available if you are interesting in investing in banner ads.

Native Advertising Platforms

Have you ever read an article on a website and found a list of suggested articles at the end? These suggested articles come from an advertising strategy called native advertising that promotes related content across the Internet. Outbrain, Taboola and Zemanta are examples of native advertising platforms.

Selecting Content for PPC Campaigns

Our coffee supplier recently decided to launch PPC campaigns to boost the visibility of its self-generated content. Though the company is new, its content portfolio contains blog posts, e-books, infographics, and newsletter articles. The marketing department now has to decide which content is best for PPC advertising. To narrow down the selection, the marketing team, including Dan the intern, used the following criteria:

Revisit Data

The marketing team remembered that they have a vast archive of data from their previous ad campaigns. After looking through their AdWords, analytics, and webmasters accounts, the team identified three blog posts, one infographic, and their first e-book as the content that generated the most conversions and sales. If content has a proven record for contributing value to your business, there’s a good chance it will continue to do so though a PPC campaign.

Match the Content to the PPC Platform

The marketing team decided to use native advertising and AdWords for its PPC channels. The next step is to determine which pieces are best for each channel. Not all content is best suited for every advertising platform.

For native advertising, the team selected the blog post titled “5 Reasons to Buy Organic Coffee Beans,” as its title is most likely to stand out among other suggested posts. The blog post “About Our Certified Organic Coffee Beans,” was selected for AdWords because the post contained the popular keywords “certified organic coffee.” If visitors click on the ad, they’ll be directed to content that aligns with their expectations.

For more on managing PPC Campaigns and additional resources, check out:

Conclusion

There’s so much to learn about PPC. While we’ve reviewed the basics over the past few chapters, we’ve only touched the surface on this complicated yet lucrative advertising strategy. In today’s environment, thousands of companies are after the same audience. Wouldn’t it be great to have a team of experts who understand how PPC can grow your business?

We at Single Grain provide a top-tier PPC campaign management program that’s meant to work with your goals and budget. From expert strategy planning through ongoing tracking and monitoring, we see the entire PPC campaign process through. Our paid offerings include Google AdWords, Facebook ads, YouTube advertising and many more. If you’re looking to boost your online presence, contact us for a quote today!