Ranking high in searches is the mantra of every content marketer.
But you’ll probably agree that it’s easier said than done.
Even the most adept SEO experts have trouble keeping up with the new ways Google algorithms rank pages. And even when you finally learn all the latest tips and tricks, ranking methods can change on a dime.
But rather than jockeying endlessly for pole position, what if you could pay for it?
It almost sounds like cheating, but it’s a very valid strategy. Below, you’ll find answers to the most common questions you were too afraid to ask about pay-per-click marketing.
1. What Is the Pay-per-click (PPC) Model?
Let’s start at the very beginning, with a working definition of the subject matter.
PPC advertising boils down to paying every time one of your advertisements gets clicked on. The name pretty much sums it up.
So, instead of attracting so-called organic traffic, you’re paying companies such as Google to drive traffic to your site.
Here’s an example:
Suppose you start selling falafels in Mississauga, Canada. It would help a lot if your shop was the first on the list when someone searched for “falafel Mississauga”.
But you don’t have the time or resources to create a website, run SEO analysis, create content, and organically drive traffic.
Instead, you ask Google to list you at the top, and every time someone clicks on your business, Google charges you.
It may seem like a brute force approach, but think of it this way:
What’s a realistic alternative for our theoretical falafel vendor?
If you end up getting a return on your PPC investment, it’s a valid way to spend your advertising budget.
2. Is PPC Advertising the Best Way to Drive Traffic?
That’s not exactly a yes or no question. The answer is: sometimes.
With PPC advertising, there’s minimal guesswork. You set a budget, and you let it run.
It’s practically guaranteed to generate traffic to your content.
So, now you’re wondering:
Is it always worth it to drive traffic this way? Certainly not, and you shouldn’t always rely on PPC.
But sometimes, getting more traffic in a short period is imperative, like,as illustrated above, when you’re just starting out.
Another instance where you might need to get reliable exposure for your content is during limited-time offers. It’s hardly worth having a time-sensitive event if you can’t get the word out.
You can probably think of many great ways to use PPC, but what about the wrong ways to use it?
3. When Is It Wrong to Use PPC Marketing?
As already stated, PPC isn’t always the solution it’s made out to be.
It’s easy to start thinking of PPC as a replacement for good SEO practices, but that’s not the case at all.
PPC is a relatively expensive way to gain exposure, and it’s a bad standalone strategy when you need consistent results.
Here’s an analogy that might help:
PPC is like going to the supermarket and buying an apple. You know where the apple is, all you have to do is go and pay for it and enjoy it when you’re hungry. However, you’re subject to whatever the market is charging for those apples.
SEO is a lot more like planting an apple seed. Sure, you’ll have to look after your sapling until it matures. But once you have an apple tree, it continues to produce apples at no additional cost.
4. Why Shouldn’t I Rely on SEO Alone, Then?
The worst way to find out the answer to that is to give it a go as a new company.
Even if you’re an SEO expert – in fact, especially if you’re an SEO expert – you’ll know that SEO alone is not enough to get you to the top when you’re starting from zero.
It’s going to be even harder if you’re in a highly-competitive environment.
You’re also shooting yourself in the foot from the start because your competitors are almost certainly using it.
SEO is still crucial and doesn’t replace PPC, but you’ll spend a lot more trying to do just one or the other.
5. How Much Does PPC Advertising Cost?
PPC outlets aren’t created equally, so there’s no one answer to this question.
The biggest advertising platform by a long stretch is Google Ads. The vast majority of your PPC marketing is probably best spent on Google unless you have a very niche product or service.
But even then, you get what you pay for.
Once you set up your keywords and your ad, you’ll set a bid for how much you’re willing to pay when someone clicks your ad.
So, you’re still competing with everyone else using those keywords; it’s just a much smaller pool of competitors, and their spending power dictates the winner.
In highly competitive industries, such as legal, you might end up paying upwards of $30 per click. But the Mississauga falafel vendor is more likely to pay a few cents per click in an unsaturated market.
It’s ultimately up to you to set your budget, and most PPC providers allow you to do that.
Then, it’s a matter of tracking performance and adjusting that budget accordingly.
6. Do Keywords Still Count for PPC?
Absolutely. You could argue that they’re even more important in PPC.
The keywords you choose will ultimately impact who sees your ads, even if you’re paying for exposure.
Getting keywords right is an essential part of good PPC marketing. Without the right keywords, you might be paying for clicks from the wrong audience.
Use most of the same devices you would for SEO keywords to find the right PPC keywords.
Remember, though, that your marketing is a lot more focused with PPC models. Pay special attention to your brand in the context of your competitors, who are also using PPC.
Come up with creative ways to set your brand apart from competitors.
For instance, our falafel salesman might try branding as an “authentic Egyptian falafel” rather than just a plain falafel.
Sometimes, you’ll have to outbid competitors on highly contested keywords. But that’s often more expensive than working around them.
7. How Do I Target My PPC Ads to Reach My Customers?
Another excellent question. Targeting PPC ads is not only a great way to boost your conversion rate, but also saves you money by narrowing the competition.
Targeting options vary between search engines, but there are a few targeting options that you should always keep in mind.
The first is keyword targeting, which we already discussed above.
Another important one is the location; the best way to narrow your audience is by targeting only the markets you serve.
Then, consider device targeting.
Our falafel vendor would probably have the best results targeting his ads to mobile users. When people are hungry, they’re more likely to search for food options on their phones than their computers.
Lastly, language is a great targeting tool. If you primarily serve Spanish-speaking customers, English ads might be wasted on them.
Those aren’t the only targeting resources, but they’re a great place to start.
8. What KPIs Should I Track from My PPC Campaign?
What do you do once your PPC marketing campaign is in full swing?
Well, the one thing you don’t do is just sit back and relax.
There are several performance indicators that you need to start tracking, but only three will be covered here.
First, you want to see the raw clicks you’re getting. That makes sense since it’s what you’re paying for.
With your clicks in hand, you can move on to the click-through rate. You get to that number dividing the clicks by the total impressions (we address impressions in the next section). From there, you can find your conversion rate, which is even more important.
Finally, look at your quality score. The quality score is a bit murkier than other metrics because it’s measured by Google using a lot of data.
All you really need to know is if your quality score is seven or higher, you’re probably getting your money’s worth.
9. How Often Do I Need to Review My Keywords and Other Targeting Measures?
There’s nothing set in stone when it comes to updating your PPC campaign.
However, the longer you go without reviewing it, the more likely it is that you’ll be wasting money.
There is an ebb and a flow to search terms and keywords. For best results, you should be reviewing your PPC keywords and negative keywords at least every week.
Remember, every click that doesn’t lead to conversion is money down the drain.
10. What Are Impressions and Why Do They Matter?
In short, every time a search engine fetches your ad, that counts as an impression.
In other words, when someone sees your ad, that counts as an impression.
The more important question is: how many impressions do you need? And there’s no good answer to that.
You might as well ask how many quarters you’ll find on the ground in your life. It’s impossible to tell, but you increase your odds by going out more.
In the same way, more impressions are generally better, but how many of them result in clicks is more relevant. You could only have 1,000 impressions over a month, but if you have a 90% click-through rate, that’s still 900 people who visited your landing page.
11. Do I Have to Rework My PPC Strategy to Adapt to Algorithm Updates?
Avoiding algorithm updates is one of the key selling points when discussing PPC over SEO.
And it’s another reason why SEO isn’t enough by itself for successful content marketing.
The one thing that’s constant about search is change. How search engines collate and sort results are in a constant state of flux and optimization.
PPC allows you to ignore that to some extent.
A successful PPC campaign will be just as successful after major changes to search algorithms.
12. Don’t Users Avoid PPC Ads?
The short answer is no.
The long answer is definitely not.
A survey showed that only about 60% of users were even able to tell the difference between organic results and paid ads.
Now, that isn’t to say that you should go into PPC expecting to fool your audience.
Quite the contrary, if you’re delivering a good product or service, why shouldn’t you be at the top?
13. Why Can’t I See My PPC Ads?
Believe it or not, this question frustrates a large percentage of PPC users.
You might think that you should see the ads you pay for, but that’s not necessarily the case.
First, think about who you’re targeting.
Do you fit your own targeting criteria? If not, you won’t be served those ads.
Also, remember that Google uses a lot of criteria to ensure result relevance. You might just be outside the scope of the ads’ parameters for that.
You might also be subjected to frequency caps. There’s a limit to how many times a user is served the same ad, and you may have exceeded that cap.
And there’s any number of other factors such as ad rank and IP exclusion that might be conspiring against you.
Don’t use your search results as an accurate representation.
14. How Come My Competitors Have Ads Everywhere?
Nine times out of ten, if that’s happening, it’s the result of remarketing.
This tracking allows ad platforms to find users wherever they are on the web and serve them relevant ads.
It’s something you should include in your own PPC marketing campaign if your budget allows it, and it makes sense.
Make the Most Out of the Clicks You Pay for
Any of these questions can be explored at length, and teach you a lot about PPC.
The answers here are a great start and hopefully help you better design your PPC strategy. But if you want to become a true PPC guru, there’s more work to be done.
The more you know, the better your campaign will be, and the less it will cost.
Hitesh is a digital marketing strategist and entrepreneur with more than 12 years of experience in digital marketing, start-ups, branding, and customer acquisition strategies. Hitesh is the CEO and Founder of Reposition Group, which encompasses a number of companies in the digital sector including SEO.co.uk, Reposition.co.uk, and Bouncezap.com, amongst others.