There are a lot of things that you should know about PPC, but the first thing is that, although it is very easy to start, it is very difficult to do it right and make money with it. But before we get into that, a small explanation of what it is:

PPC is an advert platform for your website, which is provided on Google’s search engine results pages. Similar systems are in place on Bing and Yahoo!, but we’ll ignore those for now. It works through a system of charges being made against your account with google for every time that one of your ads is clicked, i.e Pay-Per-Click. You get to choose where you put your ads based upon a set criteria, or the ad parameters; based upon keyword, i.e what the Google user is searching for, and geographical location, so that if you want your advert to only appear for those searching in greater London, then you can do so. The amount your charged for each click is dependent upon how much you bid, which is where things start to get a bit complicated.

You can bid whatever you want for whatever keyword you want, but your advert will only appear some of the time. If you place your bid at a pretty high level compared to much of the competition for that keyword, then the advert will appear more often. If you bid considerably lower, it will appear rarely and not in prominent locations, like on the second page of Google’s results, which less than 5% of people bother looking at.

Google doesn’t, however, solely look at the bid amount in order to determine how regularly your advert is displayed; the other key factor is your quality score. Google creates this measurement, which ranges from 1 to 10, with 1 being bad and 10 being good (all new ads start off at 5 as default), by scoring your landing pages, (the page on your website that the ad is linking to) based upon the relevancy of the page to the searchers’ queries, and the ad copy, based upon the click through rate the ad has. This means that you need to be precise in creating the criteria upon which your ad gets displayed and its ad copy so that it doesn’t show up for irrelevant queries, and refine your page’s content so that it matches and answers what the users are looking for.

The ad parameters are a very important element to your PPC campaigns. It determines how likely it is that the person who clicks on your ad is going to it because you’ve got what they’re after; poorly optimised parameters are going to result in higher bid amounts and lower conversion rates.

Google provides you with a lot of tools to get this right, as well as a lot of rope to hang yourself with. If you’re a bit of a newbie, then you will probably not understand what broad and precise match mean, for instance. Broad match ads are when you’ve got a key-phrase assigned to an advert, but instead of only appearing for that key-phrase you’ll appear for everything related to it as well. Precise match is where you’re less likely to go wrong, as it will be targeted only at the key-phrase you’ve assigned.

No matter what you do in PPC, it can be quite difficult to turn a profit on competitive phrases, because the greater the competition is then the greater the required bid amount will be. One way around this is to target less competitive phrases, but that also generally means that they are less valuable for businesses too. Google shopping, another PPC platform from Google, has been proven to have a lower cost per conversion rate, but still, why bother with PPC? Due to it getting increasingly harder to turn a profit with PPC, why even use Google’s bought ads at all?

There are a lot of things that you can accomplish through PPC that you just can’t do through other channels. If you have the budget, then you can immediately gain access to a massive number of visitors, while with PPC or social media you will have to spend months or years building up your online presence to achieve this. If you’ve got a short term campaign which needs targeted advertising, yet again PPC has its moment in the sun.

PPC can be a very beneficial tool for web marketing purposes, but it does have its issues. Understanding what the pros and cons are of the channel will allow you to make informed choices about when and where it is appropriate. We often advise companies with the budget to use PPC heavily until they’ve managed to build up enough of a presence in the organic search results of Google, and then slowly dialling back their investment into it.