FocusON: An introduction to Pay Per Click Search Advertising

PushON | May 1st 2013

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Pay per click (PPC) marketing is a catch-all term used to describe paid website promotion via a range of platforms, including search engines such as Google and Bing, social platforms such as Facebook, and advertising networks such as Google AdWords. Today we’ll be focussing on PPC search advertising, but we’ll be delving further into paid social advertising and ad networks here on the PushON blog throughout May.

An Introduction to PPC

PPC search marketing is distinct from organic search marketing in that a company can pay to directly promote their website within pay per click listings. While organic listings rely on thousands of factors when determining what website ranks where for which keyword, the positioning of paid listings (which can usually be found directly above and to the right of the organic results) can be influenced with greater immediacy. Broadly speaking, ad rank (i.e. how highly your ad appears above those of your competitors, for the same search term) is raised in line with the relevancy of the ad to the service it describes and to the page to which it points—and the amount paid for it to be placed.

Any company can set up a pay per click search campaign with relatively little difficulty, but it’s essential to understand how to manage and optimise your paid search campaign, in order to deliver the best possible return on investment.

The three major contenders for your PPC budgets are, as you might expect, Google, Bing and Yahoo. Bing and Yahoo are both managed from the same advertising platform, known as Ad Center, whilst pay per click ads at Google are managed from the much more popular AdWords platform. Google dominate the landscape thanks to a much larger user base than any of the competition, and, as such, campaigns run through Google are likely to produce higher levels of traffic, although not necessarily the highest levels of conversions and ROI. It’s worth trialling your campaigns across each network to see what works to create the best ROI for your site.

Setting Up Your Pay Per Click Campaign

In terms of an account set-up, it’s important to have an appropriate email address for your login purposes. To use Google as an example, if you intend to share your new AdWords account amongst other people, it wouldn’t be advisable to use your personal email address, since the AdWords account would then be linked to your Google Main and Google Plus accounts, etc. As is always the case, think of scalability.

Once you’ve signed up to an advertising platform, you’ll have to select your billing options, to pay the search engine for click spend. Options include invoicing and payment, manual payment when your notice that your balance is running low (you’ll need to be efficient and operate a good diary for this!), or automatic payment when your balance dips below a pre-set threshold. On the subject of budget, you can control your spend by setting daily limits on each of the campaigns that you build out. Whilst the advertising centre platforms are fallible and may well cut off some time after the daily limit has been exceeded (if it ever is), they do a pretty good job of turning things off and closing the wallet soon after the budget has been exceeded.

You’ll also need to obtain the unique advertiser tracking code from within your account, and paste this into the code on all of the pages of your website whose activity you wish to track. This is far easier than it sounds, as the steps are outlined within the platform.

The following diagram illustrates the basics of an account setup. The overall account is broken down into campaigns, in which are contained ad groups. The keywords and ads are then contained within these ad groups. Your destination URLs are the bread and butter of your data collection, as they track the user’s click through from the search engine, on your ad, and to your website. You can set destination URLs on either your ads or your keywords. You need only complete this step at one of these levels, and it needs to be consistent across the whole account.

AdWords Account Structure

It’s All About Relevancy!

As mentioned previously, the smart way to structure an account is to keep each keyword and each ad relevant to your product, service or offering. Google in particular will reward this relevance, over time, by affording you good levels of visibility in the paid space for less money. Another way to control spend is to make use of the different match types. Again, we’ll apply this to Google, as the match types are more profound with this advertising provider. The following is taken from the Google AdWords help Centre, and serves to outline the difference in match types:

AdWords Keyword Matchtypes

It’s legitimate to set up accounts with the same keyword spread across different match types. It would, however, be advisable to gauge which of these performs after a month or so, and pause anything that is spending money without incremental gains i.e. conversions.

In terms of the amount that you pay per click, you can set a maximum CPC (cost pet click) per keyword, or you could set this at ad group level, to apply to all keywords within. We’d advise setting everything at keyword level, as this approach will enable you to tweak bids as and when enough time has elapsed for you to draw meaningful conclusions from the data that the account has amassed.

It is this point of data interpretation that sorts the winners from the losers in the paid search game. Optimise your keywords and ads based on their performance, and know what your own KPIs are in terms of cost per acquisition or order. In this way, PPC moves from behind its smokescreen to become the measured, controllable activity that it is.