How Does PPC Work?

Pay Per Click (also called Cost Per Click or PPC/CPC) is a form of online advertising that uses real time bidding to direct traffic to websites. Advertisers only pay when the ad is actually clicked by an end user, or the “searcher.” The end user types a search query or search term into their web browser, ultimately defining a question they want answered into a “keyword” or “keywords.” As the searcher looks for an answer to their query, the advertiser has an opportunity to connect with the user by bidding on those keywords. Each time a user sees an ad containing their keyword(s), it is called an Impression.

Once the searcher finds a potential answer to their question or query, they’ll be inclined to click on the link that directs them to the website they are looking for. For our purposes, this could be a paid listing or an organic listing. The paid listing is what we call PPC. (For more information on organic listings, please see blog posts on SEO – I don’t think we need this).

There are two main kinds of PPC—Search and Display.

Search PPC is when a text ad shows up at the top of a Search Engine Results Page or SERP. Based on the advertiser’s bid, and ad quality/rank, the ad will appear higher on the top of the SERP.

Display PPC is when an end user or searcher is reading content about their query and a display ad is shown to them based on the content of the relevant webpage or landing page (so long as that page accepts display advertising).

It is good to note that Search and Display PPC typically reach potential customers at different points in the purchasing funnel. Most likely, someone clicking on a Display ad is in the process of learning about a product or idea. They are still towards the top of the buying funnel, in the discovery phase. A searcher who clicks on a paid Search ad is usually closer to making a purchasing decision, and is therefore more likely to convert. They are at the bottom of the purchasing funnel, and they know exactly what they’re looking for.

Now that you know WHAT PPC is, how should you use it?

Google offers a lot of training and certification materials to become familiar with PPC. While PPC is available through several platforms, Google seems to have the most extensive training program currently available, so Google AdWords is a good place to start.

To create a campaign you will need 4 items to start:

  • a budget
  • ads/ad copy
  • keywords
  • billing information

Google makes the planning process easy by providing a Keyword Planning tool that will help create keywords, as well as give you an estimate of daily traffic and spend (which then gives you an estimated budget). That knocks out two of the four above items in one fell swoop. As for ad copy, we always recommend that you use two forms of ad copy so that you can test which ad performs better. Once A/B testing is complete, you can optimize from there. We also know that it’s good practice to use keywords in the ad copy as a means of making the copy more relevant to the user/searcher. For billing, just enter in your credit card information and you’re ready to go!

Now that you’re all set up, you can move into the optimization and maintenance part of PPC. We recommend looking at the past 30 day trend for position, click through rate, impressions, clicks, cost, cost per conversion, quality score, and bounce rate (if you connect Google Analytics to the AdWords account). Once you are familiar with optimization and maintenance, you can work on scaling the campaign to a larger budget, so long as the margins remain profitable.

So there you have it. A brief run-down of PPC, what it is, and how it works. Want to get your own campaign set up but aren’t sure how to dive deeper? The Blue Onion Media is always here to help!