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Beginners: All You Need To Know Guide To PPC Advertising

Updated 5 Feb 2024 9:02 PM

PPC advertising is made to sound really easy by the platforms that promote it, after all it’s just a case of setting up a campaign with auto changes, or boosting a social media post.

But in reality it can be very complex, and very easy to get in a muddle (especially with Google Ads auto additions – steer well clear!) and end up wasting valuable budget or advertising to completely wrong audiences or on wrong terms.

What is PPC?

PPC stands for Pay-Per-Click and is a type of digital marketing where advertisers pay a search engine or advertising platform every time their advert gets clicked on.

Pay-per-click can be found across search marketing and social media marketing.

Where Do Paid Search Ads Show?

Typically paid search ads are displayed above and below organic results on search engines. Depending on the search engine or the user’s device (desktop, tablet or mobile) the number of ads displayed will differ as will the placement.

For example, currently (January 2024), Google hosts between 2-4 adverts above organic results, and a further 3 beneath on desktop and 3 adverts above organic listings on mobile devices.

Is PPC A Useful Channel To Advertise My Products Or Services?

PPC whether it’s via paid search or paid social is a great, and cost effective, way to advertise your businesses products or services.

The various platforms that you can advertise on tend to enable you to forecast the number of clicks you’re likely to get, depending on your campaign set-up, which provides a predictable source of traffic, and a good way of budgeting for your adverts.

Pay-per-click advertising can also be low cost, when you get the right mix of keywords or audience targeting.

Paid advertising can be very complex – it can be very easy to make a mistake with your campaign set-up which can lead to wasted budget and time.

But it can be very complex, with auction pricing that fluctuates depending on the market (who else is bidding etc). It can be very easy to make a mistake with your campaign set-up, which can lead to you:

  • Cannibalising your organic search
  • Bidding against yourself on the same keywords or audience across different campaigns
  • Spending too much in a short time
  • Wasting budget on the wrong terms or audiences (especially when you leave it too broad!)

A lot of companies outsource their paid marketing entirely, and others will have large in-house teams. If you’re determined to “go-it-alone” I’d highly recommend that you seek paid advertising help and advice as you venture on your journey from a trusted supplier, and be very wary of taking advice from the platforms support teams, as ultimately they simply want to increase your spend with them, in any way they can.

How Can I Balance Paid Search and Organic Search?

For me, paid search is about:

  • Capturing quick wins – great for when you’re just starting out or launching a new service or product line
  • Capturing traffic from different keywords, which you don’t want to have on your website for the fear of making your writing appear keyword stuffed and non-authentic

But it’s important that you monitor the balance of traffic that goes via paid search vs organic search keywords, in order to ensure you don’t cannibalise (or pay for) traffic that would have found you anyway via organic search.

I see this a lot around brand terms, where businesses feel they must advertise on their brand term. However, the only times you need to bid for your brand terms are when:

  • A competitor is bidding on your brand term and stealing your traffic – though be warned this can sometimes turn into a costly bidding war, so proceed with caution and monitor carefully.
  • Your website search engine optimisation is so poor that you’re not being ranked organically for your brand terms

Ultimately paid search should take a downward trend curve in spend, as your organic search traction picks up and takes over on many of the terms.

In many cases I often recommend to my clients that they use paid search as a way to identify great keywords to build organic landing pages and content around, so they can rank organically for them and reduce paid spend.

How Can I Ensure My PPC Advertising Is Working?

Regardless of the platform you’re advertising on, they will have a way of tracking conversions. It’s important that you set these up correctly and without duplication so you track conversions correctly – as this not only informs your business knowledge, but it is fed back into the platforms and helps them to decide where to push your budget to, creating a constant circle of improvement.

Personally I recommend that my clients set-up all conversion tracking via Google Tag Manager and link it into their Google Analytics 4 account.

Your Google Analytics is important as this will give you insights into what happens after the click:

  • How long the clicker spends on your website (dwell time)
  • What pages they visit (what else are they interested in?
  • How your PPC advertising is performing against your other channels (including if it’s cannibalising your organic search traffic)

Ultimately what you’re looking for is a return-on-ad-spend (ROAS) of 800% or more – you can read more about this on my blog post about calculating your Return-on-ad-spend.

How Often Should I Be Monitoring My PPC Campaigns?

As a minimum I recommend at least once a week, for my clients I typically pop in 3 times a week to keep track of what’s happening.

These visits don’t have to be huge, sometimes it’s just 15 minutes for me as I sweep through key things to check, then I often have a weekly larger period of time to work on major improvements or tweaks.

For most platforms you can view essential data on mobile apps, which makes it super easy to make a quick check on ad spend and performance, but it’s valuable to ensure that at least one of your weekly checks is on desktop, as you’ll be able to see issues much quicker.

Not Sure You’re Doing Your PPC Advertising Right?

It’s easy to become unstuck with PPC advertising, but no fear! I offer power hours, Google Ads audits and various training courses on Google Ads or LinkedIn Ads if you’d like some short-term guidance, or if you’re looking for some longer-term help and support, then I can offer you my membership – Digital Marketing Connected – where you can get help and support every month for a very low monthly fee; or if you’d like the reassurance that it’s all being looked after well – then check out my paid advertising support packages for paid search or paid social.