32 things you ought to know about PPC

32 things you ought to know about PPC from Wordtracker, the leading keyword research tool

PPC can be a rather strange and potentially expensive world for newcomers if things go wrong, but with a bit of knowledge disasters can be averted and money saved.

Duncan Parry, Head of Paid Search at digital marketing agency STEAK Digital was on hand at SES London 2012 to run through the basics of PPC.

“PPC is like a cross between scrabble and Sudoku”
Duncan Parry

Google had a 93% share of the UK search engine market as of Jan 2012. The reality of the PPC landscape is that if you do paid search advertising, the majority of your time will be spent on Google's AdWords platform. Whilst there are other search engines that are worth considering, you need to set your expectations realistically.

How PPC works

1) According to Duncan, successful advertising is all about relevance. To ensure advertisers produce relevant content for users, Google doesn’t only rank adverts based on the amount of money someone is willing to pay. They also use a 'Quality Score', which takes into account the relevance of your ad to the searcher's keyword. Your quality score should be at the heart of your AdWords campaigns and a good one will help reduce your advertising costs.

2) Google wants to deliver relevant content to its searchers. In a nutshell, relevance creates clicks and clicks create profit. And, from Google's perspective, clicks to relevant useful sites create loyal search engine users who come back (and keep clicking).

3) Google’s system calculates quality score for each of your keywords. Over time, Google has refined how quality score is measured. Some of these changes are publicized on the Google AdWords blog

What influences Quality Score?

4) Your historical clickthrough rate (CTR) for the keyword and the related advert influences your quality score. The clickthrough rate of an advertisement is defined as the number of clicks on an ad divided by the number of times the ad is shown (impressions), expressed as a percentage. A high clickthrough rate will improve your quality score. (Find your quality score by adding the attribute Qual. score to a campaign as shown in the image below:)

Find out your quality score

5) The historical CTR of the display URL (the one you see on Google at the bottom of an advert) also influences quality score, as does your overall account history.

Live elements that affect quality score

6) The quality of your landing page and the relevance of the keyword to the advert it is associated with will affect your quality score. Your overall account history (the CTR of all ads and keywords in the account) also comes into play. If your account history is poor, don't worry. Improve things, get it right today and you'll be able to leave the past behind.

Keywords and AdWords functions

7) Negative keywords are words you don’t want your ads to appear for. You need to keep adding negative keywords, as you don’t want your ads to appear next to things that are negative to your brand. And you don’t want to pay for irrelevant clicks. Recently it has become easier to add negative keywords to an AdWords account and to control when your ad appears.

Google search query reports

8) You can use Google's search query reports to check for appropriateness. Your report will show the actual searches your ads appeared against next to the keyword you bid upon. You can use these reports to find negative keywords that aren't relevant to your business and identify new search terms with potential.

Match types

9) Google offers a variety of match types. Let's look at some examples, using the keyword formal shoes:

  • Exact match If you chose to advertise against searches for formal shoes your ad would only appear for searches on this exact keyword. Nothing more, nothing less.
  • Phrase match This matches phrases with the keyword in that order. So your advert would appear for black formal shoes.
  • Modified broad match eg, formal + shoes. This also matches evening shoes, black dress shoes.
  • Broad match - matches formal footwear, evening footwear and men's dress wingtips.

PPC adverts

10) Check the clickthrough rate and bounce rate for your ads. Check whether people are clicking on your ad, then bouncing off your site because the ad is misleading.

11) Also consider whether people clicking through are not buying because the product is not competitively priced.

Tips on writing ads

12) Put keywords in your title. Aim to convey your unique selling point (USP) and relevant features in your ad copy.

13) Remember consumers skim read so make it easy to read your ad quickly.

14) Put the primary keyword in your display URL if space permits.

This ad includes the searched keyword in both the title and the site URL.

Structure and organization

15) Your account structure is also important. You should aim to create a campaign structure that is easy to manage. This is how you can turn the theory of relevance and quality score into practice, and demonstrate to Google you understand how the system works. This is the account structure that Google recommends:

AdWords account structure


16) Clickthrough rate (CTR) – this tells you how well consumers are reacting to your ads and keyword choices.

17) Max CPC – the maximum you specify you are prepared to pay per click.

18) Average CPC - the average amount you are actually paying.

19) Ad rank - this is a score based on your quality score and your bid, that determines your average position.

20) Quality score - this is measured out of 10.

Ad Extensions

Ad extensions

21) Ad Extensions are free to set up and you are charged per click as usual. These include:

22) Social extensions such as showing the Google+1 button.

23) Call extensions for ‘click to call’ on mobile ads.

24) Sitelinks, which add additional links to the ads in the top positions. These can be good for directing consumers to the right page in one click, on brand and ambiguous terms. This can help boost CTR and conversion rates.

25) Location extensions add a map and address in a dropdown (eg, Pizza Hut can show local pizza places).

26) Product extensions and ratings show ratings stars from reviews gathered across the web. You have to be promoting a physical product to have those turned on.

Google Display Network

27) Google display advertising can be useful for brand awareness as well as for sales. It shows PPC ads on third party content sites including YouTube.

Re-marketing and re-targeting

28) Re-targeting can work really well. It is possible to re-target consumers who have visited your site but have not bought from you. Or you can cross-sell to those who have bought.

Tips on planning and launching a campaign

29) It’s important to know your numbers. Work out what you can afford to spend to acquire a customer. Educate the other people in your business and manage their expectations.

30) Try and learn as much from your competitors as you can. Look at their ad copy, their landing pages and keywords.

31) Think about what can be automated in your PPC campaigns. If it can be automated then do it, as PPC can eat up your time otherwise.

32) Check everything and never stop!

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You can learn more about PPC and AdWords in these articles:

How to win with PPC
Increase your profits with negative keywords
Increase your clickthroughs and reduce your ad costs with AdWords extensions