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What Is PPC? Learn the Basics of Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Marketing

SEM Geek


Staff member
Jun 21, 2023
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Pay-per-click (PPC) is a digital advertising model where advertisers pay a fee each time one of their ads is clicked. Essentially, it’s a way of buying visits to your site, rather than attempting to “earn” those visits organically.

It’s one of the most common online advertising methods, allowing advertisers to reach their target customers based on predefined keywords and placements.

How PPC Advertising Works​

With PPC advertising, you create text-based ads and choose keywords that are relevant to your business. For example, if you sell shoes online, some of your keywords could be “buy shoes,” “shoe sale,” or “womens shoes online.”

When someone searches on Google, Bing, or another search engine using one of your keywords, your ad may show up alongside the organic search results. If searchers click your ad, they will be sent to your site. You then pay the search engine a small fee for each click you receive.

The exact fee depends on a few factors:

  • The competitiveness of the keyword – More popular keywords receive more searches and therefore cost more per click. Less competitive keywords are cheaper.
  • Your ad’s quality score – Factors like expected clickthrough rate and landing page relevance help determine your score. Better quality can mean lower fees.
  • The advertising platform – Google Ads, Microsoft Advertising, and other platforms have their own pricing models.

The Benefits of PPC Marketing​

There are a few key reasons PPC can be an effective marketing method:

  • Targeting Capabilities – You can display your ads to specific audiences based on location, demographics, interests, search queries, and more. This level of precision is hard to achieve through other advertising mediums.
  • Measurable Results – You only pay when someone clicks your ad, so you can easily track ROI and make optimization decisions based on hard performance data.
  • Quick Implementation – PPC campaigns can be set up in hours or days, allowing you to drive additional visitors while you work on long-term organic growth.
Unlike organic search engine optimization (SEO) efforts which can take months to bear fruit, PPC delivers quicker results, making it appealing for short-term lead generation or sales goals.

Main Components of a PPC Campaign​

While the details will vary across PPC platforms, these elements form the foundation of most pay-per-click campaigns:


Keywords and key phrases trigger your ads to show. Conduct thorough keyword research using tools like Google’s Keyword Planner to discover high-performing keywords aligned with your products, services, and target customer interests.

Organize keywords into tightly-themed ad groups to allow for more targeted messaging. For example, a shoe retailer may have ad groups like “womens running shoes under $100” or “clearance sale dress shoes.”


Your ads need compelling copy and design to capture attention against other search results and encourage clicks. Most PPC ads include:

  • A headline and description summarizing the offer
  • A prominent display URL
  • Ad extensions like call buttons or location info
Continually test elements like ad copy, calls-to-action (CTAs), and landing pages to improve performance.

Landing Pages​

The click is only the beginning. Your landing page experience must deliver what was promised in the ad copy to achieve conversions. Pages should:

  • Quickly indicate the offer or content mentioned in the ad
  • Facilitate easy purchase checkout or form completion
  • Match the ad’s messaging tone and style
Poor landing page alignment will cause visitors to quickly leave your site, squandering your ad spend.

Main PPC Platforms and Networks​

While other options exist, these platforms make up the bulk of the PPC landscape:

Google Ads​

As the dominant search engine, Google Ads provides access to the largest potential PPC audience. Key features include:

  • Powerful audience segmentation and targeting
  • Regular ad auctions determine placement
  • Ad variants like shopping ads, video ads, and more
  • Integration with Analytics and Google Merchant Center
With expertise, diligence, and time invested, Google Ads offers the highest possible return for savvy advertisers.

Microsoft Advertising​

Formerly known as Bing Ads, Microsoft Advertising places text ads alongside Bing search results and within their Yahoo-powered network. Benefits include:

  • Lower competition versus Google keywords
  • Good option for budget-conscious marketers
  • Similar targeting and tracking capabilities as Google
  • Can syndicate Google Ads campaigns for broader reach

Social Media Advertising​

Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn give access targeted advertising within their walled gardens. For example:

  • Facebook lets you reach audiences by interests, behaviors, and demographics
  • Instagram influencer ads tap into creators’ engaged followers
  • Twitter offers pay-per-engagement models beyond just clicks
Social PPC requires creatives tailored to each platform’s look and feel. But it provides extensive audience segmentation that search advertising lacks.

Steps to Implement a PPC Campaign​

Though execution varies across providers, these steps outline the general PPC campaign workflow:

  1. Set Goals and KPIs: Before launching ads, determine your targets around leads, sales, or brand awareness metrics. These guide campaign direction and optimization.
  2. Research Keywords: Use keyword research to discover relevant search queries aligned with your goals. Organize into thematic ad groups.
  3. Create Text and Display Ads: Compelling ad copy and visuals attract qualified traffic to your site. Test different approaches.
  4. Design Landing Pages: Ensure your post-click landing experiences deliver on your ad promises and facilitate conversions.
  5. Establish Your Budget: Define your daily spend limits based on campaign scale goals and targets. Allocate appropriately across ad groups.
  6. Set Up Conversion Tracking: Implement tracking pixels and UTM parameters to measure your post-click conversion performance, like form fills or purchases.
  7. Launch, Monitor, and Optimize Your Campaigns: Analyze performance data, adjust targeting, test new creatives, expand top-performing elements, and pause underperformers. PPC success depends on continual testing and optimization.

Wrapping Up​

As you can see, executing an effective PPC campaign requires research, thoughtful creative work, analytics, and constant optimization. But for advertisers willing to put in the effort, it remains one of the most efficient channels for directly acquiring new customers online.

The above overview explored the basics - from what PPC is to how campaigns are structured across platforms like Google Ads and Microsoft Advertising. There are always opportunities to expand your PPC knowledge further.

For additional learning, explore resources like Google's Skillshop for search advertising education or check our blog for future posts related to PPC strategy.