Understanding PPC for Beginners

Encouraging people to visit your website is one of the biggest challenges of any online industry. You can have the best product in the world, but if people can’t find you, it’s all for nothing. There are lots of ways to promote your site, but the most significant by far, are search engine optimisation (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM).

It is the combination of how SEM and SEO work together, that will ultimately dictate how successful your site is.

SEM comes in many forms, but most commonly, people use a pay per click (PPC) service. Virtually all search engines offer this method of marketing, and it is almost certainly going to be the method you use as you get started. If this is the road you wish to go down, you need to have a good understanding of how PPC works, and how you can use it to your advantage.

What Is PPC?

PPC is the pricing strategy used by a lot of search engine companies to allow you to advertise on their sites. The way PPC works is relatively intuitive. It is a pay per click model, so every time somebody interacts with your advert, you will pay a small fee. This method is in contrast to a cost per mille (CPM) approach, where every view costs you, irrespective of whether someone clicks through or not.

How PPC Pricing Works

When you set up an advert, you are competing against others to have it shown higher in the results. Each advertiser sets a maximum bid they are willing to pay to show their advert, and an algorithm determines who comes out on top. It is similar to an online auction at sites like eBay. You put in the amount you would be willing to pay, and if no-one reaches that level, you pay only as much as the next highest price. Naturally, the higher the bid, the more adverts you will show, but it will cost you a lot more per click. The art of SEM is in finding the right balance between cost and traffic.

Quality Score

PPC bidding doesn’t just rely on the maximum bid. There is a second criterion called the quality score, which dictates your ad rank. There are many aspects to calculating the quality score, and obviously, the higher it is, the more views your advert will get. Clickthrough rate (CTR) is one of the primary measures, which is the percentage of people viewing your advert that interacts with it. There are also other areas related to Quality Score, such as the keyword relevance, user intent and the quality of the landing page people reach when they click on the ad. As such, it’s imperative to get your site fully optimised before you start any PPC campaigns.

Is PPC worth it?

It is a lot of work to get your adverts set up, and your website finely tuned to make the most of PPC, so it’s natural to ask if it is worth it. The answer to this will depend on your industry and how high you can appear in the rankings using SEO alone. If you have a very particular field and are ranking high anyway, SEM may not yield a good return on investment. However, most people will be creating sites in an area that already has keyword dominance. For these sites, PPC may be the only way to reach your target audience.

Any form of SEM is time-consuming and potentially costly. However, it can be a highly productive route if it’s done right. As with any area of online business, success comes from developing a product with which people will engage. If this sounds like your project, contact us to see if we can help.

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Posted by Gareth Allen

Over the past 20 years, I have worked on magazine/newspaper design & pre-press production, advertising, POS, DM, brand creation and guardian. I'm a front end-digital designer (html/css), SEO & SEM with a passion for digital marketing.