A beginner’s guide to PPC paid marketing

A beginner's guide to PPC paid marketing

In the recent posts we discussed the details of how to make Inbound Marketing work for your business, and also explained Outbound Marketing, where we elaborated on the pros and cons of each.

Today, we’re going to discuss pay-per-click (PPC) marketing, which is a type of online marketing that allows advertisers to buy ad placements and pay a fee every time someone clicks on their ad.

Table of Contents

  • What is PPC Marketing?
  • How does a PPC auction work?
  • Types of PPC ad platforms
  • SEO vs PPC. Which one makes sense for you?

Overall, we will show you how (and when!) it makes sense to include pay-per-click marketing in your overall growth strategy.

What is PPC Marketing?

In pay-per-click marketing, advertisers are charged based on how many people click on the ad.

You can choose to bid the amount you think an ad is worth based primarily on keywords, target audience, and the duration of the ad. This value is also estimated taking into consideration the amounts that competitors are bidding, turning PPC into a auction type bidding mechanism.

While most businesses are hesitant to try PPC due to the costs involved, especially if they are looking to target high-value search terms, however, once you get past the initial obstacles, PPC offers solid profit margins and one of the best ROI out of all the marketing channels.

Why, you ask?

Since PPC allows you to target keywords with high buyer intent, your aiming to capture the potential customers whose searches match your exact query, or, in the case of Social Media Ads, you are targeting the audience that better fits your buyer persona.

Social Media PPC has opened a new era of hyper segmentation, where your options for targeting users are very specific. For example, beyond the traditional demographic data, such as age, gender, Facebook allows you to target your audience based on their interests (likes) and their location. You can go into details such as: “I want to just target tourists in my country”.

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How do PPC Auctions work?

When you go to place a pay-per-click ad, you don’t just buy a certain number of ad impressions like with some kinds of traditional media. You have to bid at an auction for impressions and win the bid. Basically, you tell the ad provider how much you’re willing to pay for a click.

How does google adwords auction work
How does Google Adwords auction work

Apart from the different values, the quality of the ad also affects how these auctions turn out. Even though it makes sense for a higher quality ad is to win an auction, we’re left with a commonly asked question: What makes an ad high quality? There are usually three elements that need to be considered to determine the quality of an ad:

  • Click through rate:
    Click through rate simply refers to the number of times someone clicks on an ad and ends up at the landing page. To understand this better in terms of Google Adwords, let’s say that you buy an ad for the word ‘cake’ and offer $10,000 for every click. That’s a lot of money, right? However, suppose your ad is actually for a kind of cake that people consider too unappetizing, so they never end up clicking on it. Even though Google is expected to make a ton of money per click, they end up making nothing because no one clicked on your ad. In comparison, an ad priced at a dollar per click that people actually clicked on would be a better deal, so the latter is given more preference during an auction.

  • Relevance:
    If you have one ad or group of ads that have a whole bunch of topics attached to them, your relevance automatically goes down. For example, if you run a campaign for ‘free cupcakes’ on the keyword ‘new car’, people might happily click on the ad to get the free cupcakes, but the fact that the cupcakes don’t actually have anything to do with buying a car would make the ad irrelevant.

  • The landing page:
    The landing page is the webpage that your ad links to. For example, suppose a potential customer clicks on an ad about a ‘new car’ and they are directed to a landing page that hasn’t been updated since 2016, or just has poor UX. The individual will be thoroughly disappointed about wasting their time clicking on that ad. Google wants its users to have an exceptional search experience, so they will lower the quality rating of an ad with poor landing page metrics. Google will extrapolate the quality of your page from metrics such as time on page, click-through rate, and bounce rate.

Now, since you bid for specific keywords, there will be competition that overlaps. Let’s see the example of several bidders competing for the word “hybrid”.

If you have a platform for discussing “plant hybridization”, then you might be interested in the keyword “hybrid”, which would also act as a match when someone searches for a “hybrid car”. However, what’s important to note here is that the search value on ‘hybrid car’ for an auto manufacturer or car dealer is going to be higher than a plant hybridization business. So, a car company is more likely to win the auction for the keyword ‘hybrid’ because it’s worth much more to them, and there is more competition around that keyword.

On a similar note, the car companies won’t be interested in the keyword ‘hybrid plants’. Google introduces the concept of negative keywords, which are those that you want to avoid bidding for. In this case the car manufacturer will want to have plants as the negative keyword.

Bidding has this nature of trial and error to figure out, from all the available keywords that might serve your purpose, which ones are profitable and will also be shown to searchers. Therefor, you’ll have to trial with very specific keywords, as well as with more generic keywords, to understand which ones bring you the best results. With some experimentation, you’ll eventually zoom in on the winning keywords for your business.

For people largely unfamiliar with PPC, Google Adwords usually serves as the starting point, and rightly so, as it provides you with the largest advertising network on the internet. Google, with its Ads and its display network, own the largest advertising network, allowing you to target prospective consumers from just about any niche under the sun.

On Google Ads, you can bid on keywords relevant to your business, and the ones that fit your budget, to have your ad placed on top of the Google search results page. The big advantage here, as stated previously, is that you can reach customers with high buying intention.

Types of PPC ad platforms

Social Media PPC Ad Platforms

In this guide, I am going to focus on two main social media ad networks: Facebook Ads (which also includes Instagram) and LinkedIn Ads. Facebook, with the Instagram combo, will be killer for B2C communications, and LinkedIn Ads will be the default for B2B audiences.

Let look at those networks in more detail:

Facebook ads and Instagram Ads

Touted as the largest social media network in the world, Facebook is used by more than two million people every month. Facebook offers PPC advertisements for every budget, and allows you to find the right people to target with your products or services.

A big advantage of Facebook Ads, is that unlike traditional Adwords and Bing, there’s no ‘bidding’ process involved in Facebook advertising, and you don’t need to carry out keyword research either.

What Facebook and Instagram have is an enormous amount of information about its users, including their geographical location, interests, gender, age and other data that’s publicly available.

You can create eye-catching, flexible and mobile-friendly ads using to target custom audiences who are the ideal potential purchasers for your products.

The power of Facebook Advertising
The power of Facebook Advertising

Facebook also provides you with comprehensive ad reporting tools that helps you track conversion and engagement metrics in its interface. Not only this, you don’t need to be a tech wizard to run a Facebook ad campaign as the creation process is rather self-explanatory for the average user.

The editor could be simplified, but you’ll quickly get accustomed to it, and understand the step-by-step process.

Facebook Ad Campaign Editor
Facebook Ad Campaign Editor

LinkedIn ads

With more than 3 million business pages, LinkedIn is a hot spot for professionals looking to connect with organizations to facilitate informed decision-making. Not only this, 50% of LinkedIn members admit to buying from a business that they’ve previously engaged with on LinkedIn.

LinkedIn leads the pack on B2B lead generation
LinkedIn leads the pack on B2B lead generation

With LinkedIn ads, you can actually reach out to other like-minded B2B professionals who are responsible for making purchasing decisions for their businesses.

In this network, the targeting options won’t be as fine grain as Facebook, and the advantage will be to have the Job role, and company all updated and current. So you’ll think about your targeting more towards which roles I want to show my ad to, and what kind of companies.

LinkedIn, due to its nature, also puts people in a business mindset, and that will make the audience more willing to receive an unsolicited business offer, or ad, since the timing will be right. The question that someone does to himself, when receiving a LinkedIn Ad, might be something similar to “Will this benefit my business?”.

Native ads

If you want your ads to be more visual, you can opt for native advertisements that match the interface of the platform they appear on.

In the last decade of so, native ads have grown in popularity and are considered an effective way to engage users who frequent websites that display native banner ads. Since they don’t look like conventional ads, they are known to perform slightly better in terms of click-through rates (CTR).

The evolution of the role of Native Advertising
The evolution of the role of Native Advertising

The obvious question here is: Do native ads work? In fact, native ads are expected to contribute to 74% of the ad revenue in the U.S. in the next 5 years. Native ads result in 18% increase in purchasing intent, and a 9% increase in brand affinity.

32% of consumers also admit to sharing native ads with their friends, family and peer group.

Percentage of Users who saw content Vs native Ads
Percentage of Users who saw content Vs native Ads

Major providers like Taboola and Outbrain help you in creating a successful native ad campaign, and appear on top media publishers’ platforms to target an already engaged audience.

The downside of native advertising is that if it’s not done well, it can leave people feeling “tricked” into thinking they’re accessing a specific website’s content and are being delivered something entirely different.

For inspiration, here’s a colletion of the best native ads, that you should take a look at.

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Two polar opposites: SEO vs PPC.
Which one makes sense for you?

I previously described the pros of Inbound Marketing (very centered on SEO), and on this article I present a totally different approach, PPC. Instead of pulling / attracting the audience, you are pushing your ads to be displayed to them. So which one suits you better?

Any search query where an individual has a high intention of making a purchase (eg: ‘buy a toaster’) will have more competition.

PPC provides a solid approach to attract prospective customers that are most definitely going to engage with your platform by making a purchase, and are more willing to consider your offer, than actually reading through content to inform themselves.

Generating leads is fundamental to any sales funnel – as without leads, there are no prospects to attempt to sell to. PPC doesn’t require tracking down lists of specific people who need a product or service and then doing cold outreach, as previously described in Outbound Marketing.

Instead, you simply create customer personas (a generalized representation of your target audience + what they are interested in buying) and focus on the relevant keywords you want to rank higher in the search results for.

This simplifies things considerably, since prospects will click on the ad to demonstrate interest and initiate the sales process themselves.

On the downside, PPC will saturate (run through) your audience quicker. You’ll need to keep rotating your ads, to keep the campaign looking fresh, since at one point, your target audience will already seen your ad, and then disregards it.

A better perspective: PPC as complement to SEO

Given that 41% of the clicks from the Google search results page come from the top 3 ad spots, PPC deserves a spot in your overall marketing strategy. To recap, according to Hubspot:

“Inbound marketing is focused on attracting customers through relevant and helpful content and adding value at every stage in your customer’s buying journey. With inbound marketing, potential customers find you through channels like blogs, search engines, and social media.”

– Hubspot

In simple terms, Inbound Marketing is driven by content that adds value to the customer journey, without bringing them into your sales funnel until they’re ready. So, you’re basically creating and offering content (like ebooks, blogs, newsletters, or whitepaper) that customers want, out of goodwill, but how do you make sure they see it?

You can use take the traditional route of SEO, social media channels or PR outreach to create awareness about your brand and the content resources it provides. And after laying those foundations, amplify your reach through PPC. While it isn’t automatically a shortcut or the be-all and end-all – what PPC can provide is traction, and accelerate your Inbound Marketing results. Specially since Inbound Marketing as to be approach as a long-term approach.

Improving your PPC efforts

You can reach people who fit your target demographic using Google Adwords, Facebook advertising, or other channels that support PPC. Remember, it’s not considered economical to build your entire brand awareness strategy around pay-per-click and you shouldn’t have to. The bottom-line is to give you a boost or strategic moments, such as when you’re just starting out, or launching a new feature / product / content, so you can grow faster.

(Note: Of course, if you do have a large budget and a limited time to work with, you can make PPC the star of your entire marketing strategy. Other elements of your strategy can then capitalize on this exponential traction and brand awareness to keep the momentum going, however, this isn’t the recommended solution.)

Finally, when you’re just starting out with PPC marketing, make sure you explore different keywords combinations, and experiment with the ad copy, images, or landing page. Building on the things that work well and dropping or revamping the things that don’t can make all the difference.

With sufficient experimentation and applying the Growth Hacking principles, you’ll fine tune a highly effective Online Marketing tactic, that will contribute to your business growth!

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I define companies’ Online Marketing Strategy, and manage their Organic traffic (SEO) + PPC efforts. My goal is to setup a scalable demand-generation system that will feed Sales’ pipelines with hot leads and new sales opportunities.
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