PPC in Marketing

The Noob Guide to Understanding Pay-Per-Click Marketing

Ad GroupsLanding pages are obviously the most important element of any marketing campaign. They are a towering monument to the ingenuity of the human species; the logical endpoint to the digital marketing revolution that was ignited by the creation of ARPANET — the precursor of the modern internet — in 1969.

… Okay, I’m overselling it a bit. Landing pages are just one element of a great marketing campaign, but they wouldn’t be very useful if we didn’t have a way to actually get people to them.

And that’s where pay-per-click marketing comes in. It’s what’s responsible for those little text ads that appear when you search for something on a search engine (let’s be honest, it’s probably Google). PPC marketing is one of the best ways to reach the best prospects, at a moment that’s pivotal in their purchasing cycle.

Whether or not you’re planning on running PPC ads yourself, understanding the basics of how PPC works is critical to being a great marketer. After adding 12 new PPC-related definitions to the Conversion Marketing Glossary, we decided to offer this post as a primer on the core concepts every PPC marketer needs to know and, more importantly, understand. You’ll find links to the glossary entries, and each glossary page has links for further learning.

While we’ll be discussing these terms in the context of Google’s AdWords platform, most search engines use similar terminology.

It all starts with a campaign

But AdWords repurposes the word campaign to mean something slightly different. An AdWords campaign contains all of your ad groups, and those ad groups themselves contain your ads.

Broad Match ModifierWhen you adjust the settings for a campaign, those settings affect every ad contained within. Of note is the budget setting – ad groups don’t have individual budgets, but instead all pull funds directly from the shared campaign budget.

While you can also adjust other settings like language, schedule and which display networks the ads will appear on at the campaign level (a complete list of all campaign settings can be found here), the real fun begins when we get to ad groups. Ad groups contain all of the ads that are targeted at a shared set of keywords, which are essentially a user’s search queries.

So, for example, one ad group might have 15 different ads all targeting the keywords “shoes, ” “sandals, ” “boots, ” “gloves for feet, ” “protect my delicate toes from the cruel earth beneath, ” etc.

The different types of keyword matching

Because the way keywords are targeted is so important to the success of a PPC campaign, AdWords gives you a few ways to customize how your ads match up with users’ search queries.

Broad match is the default keyword matching option, and will target your ads at any queries with words that are synonymous, similar, or otherwise deemed relevant by Google’s algorithms.

While broad match can be tempting due to the wider reach, you lose a lot of control over who sees your ads, meaning you could end up paying for clicks that aren’t right for your offer.

Luckily, AdWords also offers broad match modifiers that allow you to target your ads only at queries that contain your broad match keywords or extremely close variations of them, like plural forms and misspellings. Modified keywords will also be targeted no matter the order they appear in the query.

Using a + symbol to designate broad match modifiers, +wear +shoes would target “wear shoes, ” “shoes to wear

Sickest Cool Shoes Emporium — NO DOG ALLOWEDYou could also try +wear shoes, which would ensure that “wear” or a close variation must appear in the query, but “shoes” could replaced with similar words like “boots” or “footwear”.

Phrase match is more exact in that it will only target queries that contain a specific phrase or a close variant thereof, in the order specified. For example, “wear shoes” (in quotations) would certainly target “how to wear shoes, ” but definitely not “why wear anything other than shoes, ” which is probably not the kind of person you want to engage with, anyway.

Exact match is even more, um, exact, in that it only targets queries that are identical to the keyword, barring exceptions for misspellings and pluralizations. If you target [wear shoes] (square brackets being the signifier for exact match) that’s all you’re going to show up next to.

While not precisely a match type, negative keywords are a crucial part of your keyword targeting strategy. They let you prevent your ads from being displayed next to queries that contain certain words. We live in a world where people buy shoes for their dogs, so consider adding -dogs as a negative keyword to keep them away from you and your human-sized shoe business.

Ensuring that your ads are being shown to people who are a good fit for your offering will save you money (because you’ll be paying only for qualified clicks) and time (because you won’t spend your days sifting through unqualified leads).

Discovering which keywords are worth targeting

Now you understand the different ways of matching keywords, but how do you decide which keywords to target in the first place?

That’s where keyword research comes in. This needs to be the first thing you do for every PPC campaign that you run. After all, it’s no good if all of your ads are targeting keywords that nobody actually searches for.

So how do you find out?

There are tons of great keyword research tools out there, but for beginners, AdWords’ built-in Keyword Planner does a great job. Not only will it suggest keywords to target based on terms relevant to your business, it will even give you historical search data and forecast estimated traffic and suggested bid amounts.

Welcome to the Sickest Cool Shoes Emporium, where there are no shoes for dogs.

While it can be tempting to go after keywords with the highest traffic, they won’t necessarily produce the best results. Competition for generic keywords is very high, and it can be difficult to create compelling ads for such generic queries. That’s why it’s important to pay attention to long-tail keywords.

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