PPC For Beginners – Part 1

Introduction To PPC

Overview

Welcome to the first module in the ‘Pay Per Click’ (PPC) advertising tutorial series.

In this tutorial series, we are going to examine all the ins and outs of marketing using PPC advertising and more importantly, how you can maximize the effectiveness and ultimately the profitability of your PPC advertising campaigns.

Let’s begin by looking at what PPC advertising is, how you use it and some of the advantages and disadvantages of doing so.

The Basic Targeting Concept

When you first come into Internet marketing, it sometimes seems as if there are a million new ‘chunks’ of information and advice about what you should and shouldn’t do in online marketing coming at you every day.

Remembering back to my own early days, I can remember that it was extremely confusing and not a little worrying at times just how much there seemed to be that apparently had to be learned.

However, one aspect of online business seemed to stand head and shoulders above all others in terms of importance (and still does).

This was the concept that you can have the best product in the world being sold from the most fantastic website (etc., etc.) but without visitors to your site, your business is incontrovertibly dead in the water.

Moreover, every marketer who had been in business for more than five minutes understands that whilst visitors are important, attracting targeted visitors is ultimately the key to online success.

In simple terms, if you have a golf equipment site to which you attract golfers, you will make sales. If however you attract bonsai growers, tropical fish enthusiasts or a potholing crowd, the chances of making sales are far smaller.

The second important fact about targeted visitors to your site is that the more of them you can attract, the more sales you will make.

To put this in very simple terms, if you get 10 golfers to your golf equipment site and make one sale, you will make approximately 10 sales for every 100 golfers you manage to pull in, 100 sales for every 1000 and so on.

In a nutshell, this is the central key to online success. If you can attract targeted visitors to your site, you will make sales, and the more targeted traffic you attract, the more sales you will make. PPC advertising is one very effective and quick way of making sure that you do.

Why Advertise?

In several previous tutorial series, we have focused on strategies and tactics for setting up your business system (e.g. by finding appropriate niches and keyword terms around which you build your promotional activities) so that your blog or site gets on the first page of the search results.

This is referred to as optimizing your business and site for natural or organic search results, the results on the left-hand side of the search results page:

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The results on the left-hand side of the page are called “natural” because you cannot buy your way into this results ‘table’, although there are many Search Engine Optimization (SEO) companies you can pay (a lot of money) to get your site ranked.

However, at the very top left corner of the results page (using Google as an example) there are paid advertising materials. In Google’s case, these adverts are placed on the results pages through their AdWords advertising program which is the Google version of PPC advertising.

All of the major search engines (and many smaller operations) have similar advertising PPC programs but they all essentially work in the same way.

Consequently, using PPC advertising is a way of buying a chunk of space on the search results pages which Internet users who are looking for information of the kind that you offer will land on.

Some PPC advertising companies (including Google) also offer you the ability to advertise on their content network, as well as websites and blogs that have signed up to carry advertising through their sister programs (in Google’s case, AdSense).

Hence, not only can your adverts feature on the most appropriate search results pages, they can also be seen on millions of websites and blogs as well.

The Advantages And Disadvantages Of PPC

Armed with nothing more than the information in the previous section, one or two of the advantages and disadvantages of using PPC advertising to promote your business or offers should be relatively plain already.

Even so, we will examine them here starting with the advantages:

  1. PPC advertising offers a very quick and easy way of promoting your business and/or offers on the most appropriate search results pages without mastering SEO or using other more time-consuming promotional tactics like article marketing.
  2. Because SEO is fairly irrelevant when you are paying for advertising, your site does not need to be optimized for search engines to any great extent.
  3. Although there is a learning curve involved in setting up your first PPC advertising campaign, you do not need any special skills or technical abilities to do so.
  4. The results generated by PPC advertising can usually be seen within a matter of a day or two, or even within a few hours. Once again, this is in sharp contrast to optimizing your site for the natural search results where you can wait for weeks or even months before you see any activity and targeted traffic.
  5. You can target any keyword terms that you want irrespective of how competitive they would be if you tried to rank in the organic search results page for these particular keyword terms. This does not of course mean that you would be wise to use a totally scattergun approach to choosing keyword terms, but your choice of keywords and therefore the search pages that your ads appear on is up to you.

Having listed the advantages of using PPC marketing to promote your business, let’s also consider the disadvantages of which there are several:

  • Perhaps the most obvious disadvantage of generating targeted traffic through PPC advertising is that advertising costs money. Optimizing your site for natural traffic costs time but with PPC, you pay in cash.
  • The basic idea behind PPC is that every time someone clicks on your advert, you pay for that click irrespective of whether that visitor takes any action when they follow that ad to land on your site.
  • In a worst-case scenario, you could have a great ad on the ‘front-end’ of your business funnel and a rotten ‘action page’ on your site that every visitor chooses to ignore. In this case, PPC can be ruinously expensive as you pay for every click without making any money.
  • Advertising networks (even the mighty Google) do not have complete control over how much of your advertising budget is spent. Although you must set a daily budget, there will sometimes be a ‘budget overrun’, especially if your campaign is flying along at a rate of knots. This is another reason why you can end up spending far more money than you have available with PPC.
  • You have no control who clicks on your adverts. It is therefore not unknown for competitors to click on PPC ads or for idle surfers who have no real interest in the product or service that you offer to do so. All of these clicks cost you money which is advertising revenue wasted.
  • Your advertising materials will only continue to run as long as you keep paying for them to do so.

The bottom line with PPC advertising is that it is a very good way of sending prequalified (i.e. extremely well targeted) prospects to your site and it is a method of doing so over which you have a good degree of control. Nevertheless, on the downside, it will cost you money to advertise and you do not have complete control over your advertising campaigns, particularly if you do not keep a very close eye on what is going on.

This last point is probably one of the most important to grasp about using PPC to advertise your products, services or business.

Especially when you first get involved in ‘Pay per Click’ advertising, it is absolutely critical to stay on the ball, to keep a very close eye on what is going on so you can rectify any initial errors you make, control how much money you’re spending and so on.

On the flip side, there is no quicker way of getting your business featured near to the top of the search results pages for the keywords that are most important to your business than by using PPC. Consequently, a successful PPC campaign can be profitable almost instantly as long as you set the thing up right from the start.

Setting Up Your First AdWords Campaign

In case you have not yet set up your first PPC advertising campaign, the rest of this tutorial will focus on the mechanics of doing so as a way of ensuring that you understand some of the things that you can do with PPC advertising.

By way of illustration, I’m going to use the Google AdWords program as it is by far and away the most popular and most widely used online advertising program.

If on the other hand you want to advertise with any of the other major advertisers like Yahoo! or Microsoft (Bing), you will find that the same general concepts apply.

You would however need to read the program rules because there are some slight differences. There is more information about both of these programs in the third tutorial in this series but for now, we are going to concentrate on using AdWords.

To get started, you need an AdWords account. If you already have a Gmail account, use this to sign up as it makes the whole process quicker and simpler.

However, as with most free service signups, the process is fairly intuitive and self explanatory, so work your way through it to get signed up.

Once you are signed up and logged in, the first thing that you are going to do is set up a campaign. Now, we’ll be looking at some specific aspects of optimizing campaigns (such as writing effective ads, the right way of using keywords etc.) later – for now, it’s just the basic setup that I’ll walk you through.

At the top of the first page, there is confirmation that you start with campaign settings before moving on to your ads:

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You have the option of loading a particular type of setting either from the drop down menu on the left (‘Campaign Type’) or of loading an existing campaign.

In terms of campaign types, you have many options available from the drop down menu, including where you want your ads to appear and the type of ads you want to display:

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We will leave it on the default for now but so you know, the ‘Search network only’ has your ad featuring only on search pages, the content option features your ads only on web sites and blogs whilst the Mobile option should be self-explanatory. Then you have a choice of display ads (both text and images), video or audio advertising materials.

Next, you select location and languages:

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This is very useful if you have a product or service that is basically local as you can geo-target your campaign down to city level or to within a certain number of kilometers of a given zip code. This is not entirely accurate as it uses your IP address but it is nevertheless possible to keep your ads local in this way if you need to.

On the other hand, if you have a digital product, you can target the world.

Next, you have the ‘Bidding and budget’ section of the initial set-up to deal with:

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Okay, there are many variations that you can play with here and as you become more familiar with PPC set up, I would recommend that you click all of the options so you get a clearer picture of just how many variations there are.

However, for now, here are the two things to keep very firmly fixed in your mind.

Firstly, assuming that your ads are going to appear on the search results pages, the position they will appear in depends on several factors (which we will return to) but it is based on a bidding system. And in simple terms, the more you bid, the higher up the results page you will appear.

Secondly, you must always set a daily budget and it must be one that is relatively affordable because as mentioned earlier, it is not unusual for a very popular campaign to run over budget before Google (or whoever it is) can close it off.

At the bottom of the page, there are several more advanced options that you should investigate but for now, with the maximum daily budget set at $50, we’ll move on by clicking the ‘Save and continue’ button:

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On the next page, you create your ad and tie it together with the keywords that are to be related to this ad.

For now, I’m just going to create a standard text ad (on the left) which is previewed on the right:

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There are a few fairly well-known but nevertheless effective ad creation tactics at work in this example.

Firstly, every word is capitalized to give the ad more impact and the message is designed to be controversial because controversy always gets the average Internet users attention.

Obviously, the target here is anyone who is thinking of buying anything to do with the LA Weight Loss plan. The link from the ad could therefore aim at a page featuring an LA Weight product on my site (in which case the page espouses how good the product is) or for a competing weight loss product, in which case, I‘d say that the LA product is good but this is better.

Next, you’d add a list of keywords which in this case would all be ‘LA Weight Loss’- related keyword terms. A quick search with the AdWords keyword tool would turn up plenty of these:

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So, you add your keywords and then set your bid.

Now, before bidding, you need to have some idea of how much to bid because otherwise you could bid far more than you need to (you get the #1 slot but you are paying $2 when $1 would have been enough) or you could bid too little in which case, your ad is nowhere.

So, you need an idea of how much to bid which is information that you can also get from the AdWords keyword tool.

Go to the ‘Show/hide columns’ menu that is above the ‘Global Monthly Search Volume’ and click the ‘Show Estimated Avg. CPC’ link as seen here:

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You also need to click the ‘Estimated Ad Position’ link above it so you have an initial estimate of how much you should bid and where this bid will put you on the search page:

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The initial estimates for the first few ‘LA weight loss’ keywords range from just below $2 to $3.44, all for a slot between #1 and #3.

However, you are not quite finished yet because these are average figures which are not much help to you. What you really want to establish is the lowest price you can expect to pay for clicks that will still keep you in the top 3 advertising slots. Here is how you do it.

At the top of the page, add a figure in the empty box and then click the ‘Recalculate’ button. Let’s use $1.50 for the sake of argument:

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Every single keyword term is still shown as likely to appear in slots 1 to 3 even though the bid has been dropped to less than $1.50 per click.

What you can therefore do – and there is some trial and error involved in this – is to keep dropping your maximum bid per click until the keyword terms you want to use move down to positions 4 to 6:

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By doing this, you have a far better idea of how much you really need to pay to land one of the coveted top three spots than you would do if you relied on the initial estimated average cost per click.

It may take some time to ‘tweak’ each keyword phrase you are interested in using in this way, but as you have dropped your bid for the top rated phrase from $3.41 per click to $.81, spending a bit of time doing this is well worth the effort.

However, you should also understand that even these drastically revised figures should only be used as a general guideline because (firstly) they are never 100% relevant and (secondly), there are other factors that dictate where your ad will appear that need to be taken into account as well.

Nevertheless, this little exercise gives you a far more realistic (and far more affordable) cost per click to start from.

One final thing to understand about these bid figures is that these numbers relate to adverts that appear on the search results pages. As far as ads that appear on the content network, you should always bid much lower than you do for a slot on the search results pages:

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For example, I often use a content bid at around 50% of the level of my bids for the search network as indicated in this example. There are several reasons for doing this.

Firstly, not every publisher wants their adverts on the content network as they have no interest in appearing on other people’s websites and blogs.

This therefore means that there is less competition on the content network which is one good reason for dropping your bid.

Secondly, advertising on the content network is different to advertising on the search results pages.

Whereas on the search results pages, the Internet user who is searching for information is looking for something similar to your advert (i.e. you are offering them what they need, when they need it), advertising on the content network is ‘interruption’ advertising.

In other words, they are not looking for an advert of the kind that you have created and therefore, they are probably less likely to click it.

This is however anything but a bad thing, remembering that you only pay when they click on your advert.

Hence, if they completely ignore your advert because you have interrupted their site visit, it makes no difference whatsoever to you.

On the other hand, clicks from content network adverts often show better conversion rates (i.e. more customers) because they are less ‘advert averse’.

They know that results on the right-hand side of the search page are adverts whereas on many sites and blogs, the Webmaster works very hard to ‘disguise’ the AdSense ads because that is how they maximize their income.

The visitor is therefore less on their guard and consequently more likely to take the action you want them to take.

And of course, cheaper clicks plus more conversions equals more profit in your pocket.

For this reason, unless your product or service is a really poor match for content network sites, I would always recommend using the content network but make sure that you pitch your bids much lower when you do so.

Finally, with your ads created, your keywords added and your bids entered, you are ready to pay your initial deposit to get this first advertising campaign up and running.

Conclusion

In this first PPC tutorial, you have been introduced to why PPC advertising is so effective, the advantages and disadvantages of using PPC and the mechanics of setting up your first AdWords advertising campaign.

In subsequent tutorials, we will expand on the information introduced in this first module by looking at some more advanced PPC strategies, tactics and ideas.

It is now recommended you proceed on to Part 2 – Delivering What Your Prospects Want.