The concept of pay per click (PPC) advertising was unheard of when it first appeared in the mid-1990s. Paying for an online ad only when people clicked on it was a novel concept because people were used to paying a flat rate for online ads, similar to a print ad.

It’s hard to know why, but PPC took a while to gain traction in marketing. Google waited until 2000 to launch its AdWords platform with just 350 advertisers. But it’s become hugely successful and is practically everywhere online

What PPC ads look like            

When you do a Google search, you will notice that the first and the last few results look like regular results, but have the word “Ad” in a tiny box before the URL. These are PPC ads. There are similar pay per click ads in other platforms, such as social media. In Facebook, for example, you will see ads down the right side of your feed, or even slipped into the scroll of your news feed. You can tell it’s a PPC ad because, depending on which social media platform you are using, you will find one or more of the words “sponsored”, “suggested”, or “promoted” tucked in near or at the top of the post.

These ads are chameleons no matter where they turn up. On web sites and within apps, they can often be found mimicking the form of unpaid content, but with a word or two to alert the viewer that this is, in fact, online marketing.

How to launch a PPC campaign

In order to get in on PPC advertising, you’ll need to do a lot more than design an ad. Companies also need to figure out a list of keywords, including commonly searched phrases and questions, that are related to their product or service. These keywords will need to be reviewed regularly for effectiveness.

Negative keywords can be almost as important as regular keywords, by filtering out the search terms that you don’t want to trigger your ad. For example, if you are selling colouring books out of a warehouse, you might want to include “free printable colouring pages” as a negative long-tail keyword, since the viewer doesn’t want to pay, and doesn’t seem to want a whole colouring book

The bidding process

It sounds unorthodox, but if you want to get your ad in a search engine result, you need to be part of a bidding process. To take part, advertisers bid on a keyword that will trigger the ad to appear in the search results for that keyword.

Of course, we don’t all have the same amount of money to bid on keywords. But don’t lose hope – money isn’t the only factor that is considered in the bids. In Google’s AdWords platform, dollar amount is weighed against semi-secretive “quality score” criteria.  And while the search engine doesn’t want to make it too easy for huge companies to manipulate their scoring system, they do give some broad hints about how anyone can improve their quality score. In no particular order, they are:

  • Ad relevance: How much your ad embodies the meaning of the keyword you’re bidding on.
  • Landing page relevance: Once the viewer clicks on your ad, what do they do once they get to your linked landing page? Do they stick around or bail? Do they click on a link from that page to view more of your content? Does it have original content? Keywords? Is it trustworthy?
  • The click-through rate: How many of the people who see your ad actually click on it?
  • Ad extensions: This one takes a minute to explain but is pretty interesting when it comes to making your ad more enticing. Ad extensions are all about providing more than just your company name and a link to your website in your ad. It’s about providing extra bits of information about you and your product and can be split into two categories — “manual” ad extensions and/or “automated” ad extensions. You have 100% control over manual extensions, such as listing your location and phone number. Automated extensions, on the other hand, are powered by search engines that spontaneously gather information from the internet to provide the current state of something relevant to your business – such as your current consumer ratings. It’s a bit scary to not have total control over your ad, but very interesting for the viewer!

Facebook uses a similar algorithm to Google when it comes to determining which ads to run, weighing bidding amounts together with the quality and relevance of your ad, as well as what people do when they see your ad (how many are motivated to take action). It also is known to be particularly good at “retargeting” – tracking which ads a viewer has clicked on, and showing that company’s ads again to try and entice the viewer back.

Regardless of which PPC avenue you think has the most promise for your company, Pondstone is perfectly positioned to help you start your first (or next!) PPC campaign.  We can do it all, from designing eye-catching Facebook ads to helping you identify the most effective keywords that will trigger your ads.