If you’re hesitant about using PPC campaigns, here’s a fun fact – traffic from PPC ads yields 50% more conversions than organic advertising.
Not only that, but the Google Advertising Network reaches 90% of internet users.
These stats prove that PPC campaigns are still well worth the investment, especially when combined with an optimized sales funnel on your landing pages.
Plus, it’s no secret that organic methods like SEO take a lot of time to start working. That’s why many companies fill in the gaps with PPC marketing. That way, you’ll continue to generate new traffic, leads, and conversions while building your organic efforts.
According to Google, PPC advertising is also one of the most effective ways to build brand awareness for startups.
Whether starting a new business or managing digital marketing for a large enterprise, a solid PPC strategy will benefit companies of all sizes.
This post is for you if you’ve never developed a pay-per-click campaign before. I’m going to break down all the steps you need to take to find success with your paid ad campaigns, including how to do keyword research and retarget known leads. Without further ado, let’s dive right in.
Understanding the PPC Marketing Strategy
PPC or pay-per-click is a form of paid advertising where you pay a search engine or social media platform to display your ads for specific keywords. Each time a user clicks on the ad, you get charged a fee – hence the name pay-per-click.
For search engines like Google, your PPC ad will display at the top of the search engine results page (SERP), even above the organic results.
That’s incredibly advantageous as your ads will likely be the first thing someone from your target audience sees.
As an example, let’s say that you sell bicycle repair services and want to display your ads on Google in front of bicycle enthusiasts.
To do so, you’d need to do keyword research to discover what bicycle enthusiasts search for online. After doing some digging, you decide to pay Google Adwords to display your PPC ads for the long-tail keyword ‘bicycle repair near me.’
In this scenario, your ad will show up at the top of the SERP any time someone searches for that keyword (more on match types in a bit).
That’s a simple example of using PPC ads to market your products and services. It gets more complicated when you factor in CPC, your advertising budget, and ad rank.
CPC (cost-per-click) and how to calculate it
How much you pay for each click is your CPC or cost-per-click. Yet, it’s more than a simple fee; it’s actually a bid in an auction.
What’s being auctioned off?
Ad placements on Google, that’s what! (Or a social media platform if that’s where you’re focusing your PPC campaign).
It works like this – you set the maximum amount of money you’re willing to pay for a click. Yet, that amount is often not what you’ll end up paying. Instead, what you actually pay gets determined by the following formula:
- (Competitor ad rank/your quality score) + 0.01 = Your CPC
Why the complicated math?
It’s due to how the paid search model works. You see, you aren’t the only company wanting to run ads for specific keywords in your niche. Instead, there’s steep competition involved, which is why ad placement takes the form of an auction.
To see how you stack up to your competitors, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with your quality score.
Quality Score and Ad Rank
In the formula listed above, notice that your quality score is a significant part of the equation. Your quality score is how search engines (or social media platforms) view the strength of your website in relation to others.
Here are the metrics used to determine your quality score:
- Your click-through rate (CTR) and how it stacks up to the CTRs of competing websites
- The relevancy of your keywords
- Your past performance on SERPs
- The quality of your landing page
The other term listed in the formula is competitor ad rank.
How is ad rank determined?
By another formula, of course! In this case, the magic equation is Maximum Bid x Quality Score.
I’ve already gone over the maximum bid – it’s the maximum amount you’re willing to pay for a click. So when a search engine like Google ranks your paid ad, it will measure the quality of your website with how much you’re willing to spend for a click.
As you can imagine, the highest quality website with the highest bid will rank the highest.
So by now, you should have all the data you need to calculate your CPC, ad rank, and quality score. These are all vital to know and will help you devise bidding strategies.
To succeed with your PPC strategy, you’ll need to cast a wide net – which is what ad groups do best.
An ad group serves as a container for ‘groups’ of tightly related keywords, ads, and landing pages. Every PPC campaign consists of one or more ad groups, so it’s a crucial concept to grasp.
How do you know what to include in an ad group?
The rule of thumb is the ads should all share similar targets. For example, if you have several ads promoting a particular service (like bicycle repair from before), that’s a perfect theme for an ad group.
Your ad groups play a big part in how search engines determine which ads to show for your keywords, what your ad copy says, and where visitors will be taken when clicking on your ad.
That’s why it’s imperative to organize your ad groups consistently in a way that makes sense.
Always group similar ads together, especially if they’re promoting the same product or service. Also, don’t forget to group relevant keywords together if they relate to the specific product you want to sell.
An example would be including the keywords bicycle repair near me, bicycle repair, and bicycle fix together in the same group as they all promote the same service.
You’ll have a few targeting options when it comes to your keywords. In particular, you can choose from several match types that will determine which keyword ‘matches’ will trigger your ads.
There are four keyword match types, and they each have varying levels of restrictiveness:
The first and most restrictive option is the exact match. In a nutshell, only word-for-word matches for your keywords will trigger your ads. It’s important to note that there are a few exceptions to this rule.
Google will still count misspelled keywords, singular or plural, changes in word order, and synonyms as exact matches. To format an exact match keyword, you need to encompass it in brackets (i.e., [bicycle repair near me]).
If you format your keyword in quotations (i.e., ‘bicycle repair’), you’re telling Google to match your ad with phrases containing your keyword.
For the example given, your ad will show up for search queries such as ‘bicycle repair near me, ‘the best bicycle repair,’ and so on. As long as the phrase contains ‘bicycle repair’ in it, there can be extra words before or after your keyword.
If the exact match is the most restrictive, the broad match is the most open. When you select a broad match, your ad will trigger the most comprehensive range of keywords that still somewhat relate to your original search term.
Lastly, you’ll want to tell the search engine which keywords you DON’T want your ads showing up for – which are negative keywords.
It’s an important step to take because you don’t want your ads triggering for unrelated keywords or keywords that may interfere with another one of your ad groups.
In the past, it was possible to modify broad match keywords with a broad match modifier. Yet, Google and Bing both stopped supporting it in 2021.
Considering your budget for match types
Also, you’ll want to factor in your ad budget when selecting match types. If your budget is tight, it’s better to use exact matches a majority of the time. That’s because, with an exact match, you’ll know for sure that your ads are triggering for your most relevant keywords.
With broad match and phrase match, your search ads will trigger far more often, translating into you spending a lot more. Not only that, but you could wind up spending money on clicks that don’t convert because the keyword that displayed your ad was too broad or unrelated.
Popular Platforms for PPC Campaigns
While Google Ads is what most people think of when they hear PPC, it’s far from the only platform out there. Other platforms such as Facebook, Microsoft’s Bing, and Instagram all offer paid search ads to anyone willing to pay.
Which platform will work best for you?
It depends on a few factors, including your budget and the habits of your target audience. For example, if you know that a majority of your prospects use Facebook, that’s a great place to start a PPC campaign.
Here’s a look at some of the most widely used platforms where you can host PPC marketing campaigns.
Google Ads (formerly Google AdWords)
More than 80% of global businesses trust Google Ads for PPC, which is why it has such a well-known reputation in the field. Beyond that, Google is the largest website in the world, with 4.3 billion users worldwide, so advertising on the platform is a bit of a no-brainer.
It also helps that Google Ads has an intuitive interface that makes setting up and monitoring a campaign a breeze.
You can organize your keyword list into ad groups quickly, and Google even recommends related keywords that you can use. To closely monitor the success of your efforts, you can link your Google Ads account to Google Analytics. That way, you’ll be able to pinpoint precisely how much traffic you generate from your PPC efforts.
A downside of the platform is that keyword competition is incredibly steep due to its popularity. For this reason, you’ll have a higher ad spend on Google Ads than other platforms, which can be a turnoff for companies on smaller budgets.
Microsoft Bing Ads
For companies seeking out a lower CPC, Bing is an excellent choice. While it doesn’t have the massive audience that Google has, Bing is still a powerhouse of a search engine with 126 million users.
Microsoft owns more than just Bing, as AOL and Yahoo are also part of its network of search engines.
So when you run a PPC campaign on Bing, your ads display across all three search engines. When you combine them all, there are more than 5 billion monthly searches made across Microsoft’s network.
That’s a considerable user base you can advertise to – and for cheaper than Google Ads. For this reason, many smaller companies focus on Bing Ads instead of Google Ads.
Bing has a few other tricks up its sleeve, too. Besides all the usual frills that Google has (bidding on ads, 80-character limit, support tools for building a keyword list), it also has targeting filters. These allow you to dictate where you want your ad to display and where you don’t. For example, you can choose to only display ads on mobile devices by selecting mobile traffic only.
Depending on your preferences, you can only choose to display ads on AOL, Yahoo, or Bing. That grants your team a lot of flexibility when conducting a PPC campaign on Bing.
Besides search engines, social media platforms also offer PPC campaigns, such as Facebook. Whenever you choose to run a campaign on Facebook, it will also display your ads on its sister platform, Instagram.
A significant advantage of Facebook Ads is its numerous audience targeting options. You get to decide where to display your ads based on behaviors, interests, demographics, and location.
Facebook also runs native ads, which means it integrates your ads into users’ social feeds. It’s a slick way to present less intrusive and more natural ads for users.
Your ads will also display on Facebook Messenger and the Facebook Audience Network, increasing your exposure. The newest type of Facebook ad is the playable ad, where users get to test out a game before downloading it.
For the most part, Facebook campaigns tend to run as CPM (cost per mille or thousand) instead of CPC. So instead of paying a fee for every click on your ad, you pay every time your ad reaches 1,000 impressions. It’s a different pricing model that will affect how you budget, so it’s crucial to know how it works beforehand.
Pro tip: Ads on Facebook (and all social media) work better when they’re highly visual. Text ads don’t find as much success, so make sure to include engaging images with a clear message.
Does your target audience frequent news sites like Forbes and The New York Times? If so, then running paid ads through Taboola is a great idea.
It’s a native advertising platform that works with several news sites to display their client’s content marketing ads. Luckily, they’ve carefully curated only the highest quality websites that receive at least 1 million visitors a month.
That’s great news for you, as it ensures that your ads will display on trusted news sites that get tons of visitors.
To run ads on Taboola, you’ll need to create a news-style ad or blog post for your product or service. It should be high-quality and aimed at conversions without using hard-sell tactics. Payment-wise, you can choose from either CPM or CPC. Another advantage is that Taboola’s CPC rates are only a few cents, making it one of the cheapest PPC options online.
Forming a PPC Strategy: Common PPC Campaign Goals
Now that you know more about PPC strategies and the platforms you can use, it’s time to develop your own strategy. To start, you’ll need to decide on your primary goals for the campaign.
For example, do you want to build brand awareness and generate leads, or is increasing your conversion rate priority #1?
You’ll also need to consider your sales funnel and the length of your sales cycle when developing your goals. If you’re a B2B company, your sales cycle is likely much longer. That’s because a purchase must go through many internal decision-makers at a company. Not only that, but companies often do quite a bit of research before settling on a vendor.
That’s why B2B companies focus on generating leads and nurturing them for an eventual sale.
If you run an eCommerce store, on the other hand, your sales cycle may only last a few minutes. After a user clicks on your PPC ad, they may make a purchase straight away.
Bearing that in mind, here’s a list of the most common PPC goals for each type of organization.
Building brand awareness
Do you want to get the word out about what you do above all else? If so, you want to raise brand awareness through your PPC campaigns.
Startups and smaller companies will often want to build brand awareness with PPC due to their lack of exposure and experience in the market.
In this situation, it would be wise to focus heavily on social media PPC ads. Platforms like Facebook allow you to get super specific when targeting your audience – and if you want to build brand awareness – you’ll want to place your ads in front of a highly relevant audience above all else.
You can also use search engine campaigns, and Bing is an excellent option if you’re on a tighter budget. Its wide network encompasses three search engines, so it’s a great spot to raise awareness for your products and services.
You’ll want to focus on broad match types and a healthy list of negative keywords for search ads. You’ll want to go broad here so that you can reach the widest audience possible. A list of negative keywords will be handy as it will keep your ads from triggering irrelevant ones.
Brand and product consideration
If you’re a B2B company, your sales all hinge on the product consideration phase. This is where key decision-makers at a company are doing research online for a new product or service.
As stated before, the sales cycle for B2B companies is quite long. That’s where a goal like this comes in handy.
If your prospect is in the consideration phase, it’s a perfect time to introduce (or reintroduce) your brand. You’ll want to retarget them if they’re already familiar with your brand.
For this phase, it’s crucial to use highly targeted ads and persuasive CTAs in your copy. Responsive ads can work during this phase, too. For example, you can use a responsive ad to bring a customer back to a product they already viewed or left in the cart.
The goal with your PPC ads here is to guide your prospects along the buyer’s journey, showing up periodically to nurture them with more content, ads, and emails.
Is your company fresh out of quality leads? Instead of fishing around the bottom of the barrel for poor-quality leads, you can use your PPC campaign to draw in new prospects.
For this goal, your ads should have CTAs encouraging further action from your customers (often requiring them to give out their contact information).
Popular calls-to-action that you can use here include:
- Ads that offer a free trial in exchange for an email address
- Free consultations (the customer will contact you)
- Request a demo (the customer will contact you)
If you want to generate leads, every ad should entice the reader to give up their information or to contact you somehow. That way, you’ll have their contact information on file, and you’ll know that they’re interested in your products and services. Using your PPC ads to generate qualified leads is a great way to see a return on ad spend.
If conversions are where it’s at, you’ll want to focus on keywords that reveal purchase intent for your paid ad campaigns. Purchase intent indicates that the user is ready to open their wallet and buy something. These keywords include phrases like:
- Model numbers
- Near me
So if you want to increase your conversion rates, focus on keywords that contain the phrases you see above. That’s one of the most reliable ways to ensure that users intend to buy something from your website instead of just browsing or conducting price comparisons.
Selecting a Campaign Type
Now that you have your goals in mind, you’ll want to decide on a campaign type. There are a few different types of paid ads that you can run, each with distinct advantages and disadvantages.
Your goals will dictate your campaign type, which is why it’s important to set those in stone first. Also, there’s no rule that says you have to stick to one campaign type. In fact, many marketers choose to use a combination of campaign types to achieve their goals.
Search Ads (Text Ads)
The most common type of PPC ad is the basic text ad that shows up on search engines. There are no visuals here, only a few lines of ad copy that get your message across.
Whether you’re using Google Ads or Bing Ads, they both have pretty strict character limits for text ads.
Here’s a breakdown of the character limits for Google Ads:
- Headline 1: 30 characters
- Headline 2: 30 characters
- Headline 3: 30 characters
- Description 1: 90 characters
- Description 2: 90 characters
- Path: 15 characters each (2)
And for Bing Ads, there’s the choice of standard ads or extended ads.
- Title: 25 characters
- Ad text: 71 characters
- Display URL: 35 characters
- Title: 90 characters (three separate headlines of 30 characters each)
- Ad text: 180 characters (two descriptions with 90-character max)
- Display URL: Autogenerated from your final URL, plus two customizable URL paths
As you can see, Bing’s extended ads are nearly identical to Google’s standard text ads. Yet, with Bing, you have the cheaper option of going with standard ads, which is convenient if you’re on a tight budget.
Display ads are the way to go if you want to incorporate visuals into your PPC ads. You place these image-based ads on external websites, including social media platforms.
There are a few ways to buy display ads, but the Google Display Network (GDN) is by far the most popular and wide-reaching. In fact, GDN claims to reach 90% of internet users worldwide with its ads.
How far does the network’s reach go?
Well, the network includes over 35 million websites that can display your ads once you start a campaign. There are millions of blogs, news sites, and other websites within the network, and they’re all reputable and trusted.
Besides the impressive number of external sites in GDN, your ads will also appear on Google-owned websites like Gmail and YouTube.
Using GDN is a great way to expand your reach beyond Google Search and into the rest of the internet.
Also, if you’re running paid ads on Facebook and Instagram, you’ll want to use the display ad format. While your ad will primarily be visual, that doesn’t mean that you can’t include consistent messaging and a strong CTA.
Social media ads
Targeting social media sites is a solid campaign strategy, and you can expand your reach beyond Facebook and Instagram.
Twitter and LinkedIn offer PPC campaigns, which are great for reaching specific niche audiences. For example, if you’re targeting lawyers, you’re far more likely to find them on Twitter or LinkedIn than on Instagram.
LinkedIn is the best platform for reaching a professional crowd, including B2B decision-makers. You can also target educators, marketers, doctors, and others using LinkedIn’s audience targeting tools.
Ads can appear on LinkedIn through:
- The Google Display Network
- User’s news feeds
- Direct email to targeted customers
- Dynamic ads
- Text ads
The option to directly email targeted prospects is a perk that you’ll only find on LinkedIn.
When it comes to Twitter, its platform works like Google or Bing. You bid on ad placements by setting your maximum CPC. On average, the CPC for Tweets tends to run around $1.35 – $2.00 per click, making it a reasonably priced option.
Which social media platform is right for you?
It will depend on your budget and the habits of your target audience. Conduct some research to determine which platform your audience prefers to use the most. If you discover that it’s Twitter, then it’s worth investing in advertising there.
If you want to follow up with users that already interacted with your website, you can start a remarketing campaign. That’s where you retarget the customer and follow up with them to see if they’re still interested.
Actions they may have completed include filling out a sign-up form, commenting on a blog, or leaving a product in their cart without checking out.
In this scenario, you’d want to focus your paid ads on retargeting these users.
How can you initiate a retargeting campaign using PPC methods?
Google Analytics is a great place to start. It has a remarketing tag that you can use to monitor customer behavior on your website. You can track each customer’s time spent on your site using the tag.
For instance, you could decide to retarget customers from a specific geographical region that spent more than five minutes on your website.
Or you could focus on targeting customers that interacted with your site in one form or another. The idea is to place your brand back in front of a customer that’s already familiar with you in hopes of landing a sale.
If you run an eCommerce site, you’ll find the most success with running a Google Shopping campaign.
It works by displaying your ad on an image carousel related to your products and their descriptions. Users flock to Google Shopping to find the latest and greatest eCommerce products, so placing your ads on the platform is wise to gain visibility.
Conduct Keyword Research
By now, you should have goals for your campaign, a platform to run it on, and a campaign type –or types– to use. Now all you need is to build a list of relevant keywords to trigger your ads.
Like with organic SEO, keyword research plays a pivotal role in PPC ads.
What’s different is that you’ll arrange the keywords into ad groups. An ad group should contain one to five keywords, which should all be interrelated and highly relevant to your campaign. If you pick random keywords and have poor ad group organization, your quality score will suffer as a result.
Remember, for your ad to rank at the top above the competition, it needs to have a higher bid and a higher quality score than the other ads.
That’s why you shouldn’t take your ad group organization lightly, nor your keyword research.
You can use our free keyword research tool to help you find relevant queries for your niche. It’s powered by SEMrush and will provide high-volume terms and phrases that relate to your primary keyword. That way, you can build a robust list of keywords for your ad groups in no time.
Ad group tips
Remember to keep a similar theme for each ad group. If you feel that one keyword doesn’t relate well to the group, don’t include it, but create a separate ad group for it instead.
Even if you have an ad group with only one keyword, it’s better than ruining an existing ad group with an out-of-place keyword.
Also, keyword research can and should be an ongoing process for your campaign.
It’s not wise to build a few ad groups and then call it quits. Instead, you should use tools like Google Analytics to monitor your success with each keyword.
It’s imperative to do this for any keyword strategy, as the queries that people use change over time. Keeping a close eye on your metrics will help you identify keywords that aren’t generating the kind of traffic that you wanted. In that case, it’s best to get rid of those keywords and increase the maximum bids for keywords that are generating traffic.
You can always go back to the drawing board and build new keyword lists and ad groups, so don’t feel like you’re stuck with a specific set of keywords for life.
Best Practices for Creating PPC Ads
Now you’ve got your PPC strategy all set besides creating your ads. Of course, you’ll want to be incredibly strategic when writing your ads and designing images for them.
The quality of your ad copy and CTA will make or break your PPC campaign. Even if you have a stellar quality score and a sky-high maximum bid – all those clicks won’t amount to much if your ads and landing pages aren’t designed to convert.
That’s why you’ll need to familiarize yourself with these best practices for creating ads and optimizing your CTAs and landing pages.
Tips for writing ad copy
Writing copy for PPC ads can be tricky at times for even the savviest of writers.
Why is that?
It has to do with the stringent character requirements for text ads on search engines (see above). In around 120 characters or less, you have to address a customer pain point and let them know how your product will solve it.
For this reason, you need to be extremely concise with your copy. You can’t afford to fit in any fluff here. Also, don’t forget to include your primary keyword in your title and description and any others that you can fit.
Consistency is also essential, so you’ll want to use similar language as you do on your landing pages.
Tone-wise, your copy should speak directly to your target persona. Not only that, but you should strive to make the offer as appealing as possible while including a strong CTA.
You don’t need to reinvent the wheel with your CTA – all that matters is providing a clear next step you want your customer to take. That could be visiting your website, signing up for a newsletter, or ordering one of your products. Your CTA will depend on your goals, so bear that in mind as well.
Landing page tips
Your ad is important, sure, but your landing page is even more crucial. After all, your landing page is where the customer will go to make an actual purchase or complete your desired action from the CTA.
Also, the quality of your landing page plays a considerable role in determining your quality score.
If you have a poorly optimized landing page, don’t expect your ad to rank at the top of the results.
Your landing page should have a strong headline that mirrors your ad, a responsive design that works on any device, and a seamless user experience.
Navigation should be as straightforward as possible. Nothing can ruin a sale like poor navigation on a website.
Your messaging should stay consistent from the ad to the landing page, and you should deliver on all the promises made in your ads. Check all these boxes, and you’ll have a remarkable landing page designed to convert.
A/B testing PPC ads
Lastly, it’s always a good rule of thumb to conduct A/B testing on your PPC ads. It helps that it’s pretty straightforward to do, as there are only four components to variate (headline, description, keywords, and landing page).
To properly A/B test, you’ll want to run multiple variations of your ads to see what works best. Try using different versions of keywords, copy, and landing page layouts.
If you monitor your analytics closely, you’ll be able to pinpoint which version of each ad brings the most traffic and conversions, optimizing your PPC strategy.
Concluding Thoughts: Developing a PPC Strategy
Paid ad campaigns are great ways to generate more traffic, build brand awareness, and increase conversions.
If you want to run successful PPC campaigns but don’t have the time, we’d love to manage your campaigns for you at The HOTH. Our managed PPC services will provide you with leads on demand, and we’ll do all the work for you.
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