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An Introduction to Pay-Per-Click Search Marketing Part 1

Everyone is doing paid search. How do I know? In their quarterly earnings report this week, Google showed a 17% increase to income and beat revenue forecasts by 3% ($6.5B vs. $6.3B net rev). Paid search clicks alone grew by 18% (analysts estimated 16%) in Q1 compared with the same period a year ago! Paid search, 65% dominated by Google, continues to gain adopters and share of marketing dollars. Revenue comes from advertisers, Google is paid for each ad click, and growth to both numbers simply means more and more folks are running paid search campaigns.

Everyone else is spending money on PPC… so where do you start?

This is the first in a three-part strategy series that will outline what it takes to spend marketing dollars intelligently on your Pay Per Click (PPC) channel. In preparing for this series, I sought out the business acumen of successful entrepreneurs (both real and fictional) and chose to follow Tony Montana’s infamous and proven three-step approach:

Step 1. First you get the money – Tony Montana spent his way to building the right network and to finding his target audience. The same rule applies to PPC marketing: spend, learn, refine.

Step 2. Then you get the power – Be empowered by the data acquired in Step 1 and scale your online marketing strategy.

Step 3. Then you get the… customers – Customer acquisition is the name of the game. Here’s how to stay ahead of your competitors to ensure you keep attracting new customers.

Before we start, let’s go over a short glossary of commonly used terms in online marketing:

PPC – Pay-per-click marketing, also known as “paid search” marketing – an advertising channel on search engines where businesses/individuals may bid on keywords used in searches

SEM – Search Engine Marketing, commonly used to describe both PPC and SEO but also often used synonymously with PPC marketing

SEO – Search Engine Optimization – the practice of “optimizing” website pages

1. First You Get The Money

Customer acquisition costs money. Whether you write a check for a billboard, pay for a radio spot or invest in online marketing, advertising costs money. The good news is, PPC marketing is one of THE most accountable and measurable forms of marketing. So start spending. Create a budget you’re comfortable with, spend money to buy test traffic and take copious notes on what works and what doesn’t for your business.

Tip: Don’t count on immediate financial success from your initial PPC test. Consider your test buy as a necessary education cost and remember that early learnings will pay dividends in the future.

Acquiring a customer on a major search engine (Google, Bing, Yahoo) typically follows these steps:

  1. Consumer searches on Google/Bing/Yahoo and sees search results with ads
  2. Consumer clicks on ad
  3. Consumer sees your site. Consumer decides in seconds (or less) if the click was worthwhile and if he/she should stick around

Let’s break this down further.

A. Consumer searches on Google/Bing/Yahoo and sees search results with ads

How? Cast a net of keywords and phrases, aka “keyword research”. The size of the net is entirely up to you.

We’ll use two fictional golf equipment businesses to illustrate points A through C.

The first golf business specializes in men’s left handed golf clubs. As the owner of this business, you wouldn’t want to cast too wide of a net and attract unqualified customers looking for other types of golf equipment. If this is you, start with a small list of keywords and phrases that only attract your customer.

Sample keywords may include:

  • Left handed golf clubs
  • Men’s left handed golf clubs
  • Left hand golf clubs
  • Men’s left hand golf clubs
  • Lefty golf clubs

Conversely, if you are Mr. Pro Golf Shop with an online golf shop that sells everything from kid’s golf socks to senior flex wedges, you’ll need to be more strategic about generating a broader list of keywords and phrases.

Should you generate keywords based on every piece of equipment you sell?

Absolutely not! Start with top-selling and high-margin items. Top sellers won’t have trouble generating search traffic volume and should provide results quickly. High margin items will allow you to run longer tests while enabling you to recoup your advertising dollars once sales are made.

Sample keywords may include:

  • Callaway irons
  • Beginner golf clubs
  • Senior flex wedges

Goal: In either scenario, your primary objective is to find keywords that will drive qualified traffic with the highest potential to generate conversions (sales, sign ups, etc) to your site.

B. Consumer clicks on ad

How? Hook consumers in with your ad copy, aka “ad testing and optimization”. How attractive you make your ad is (again) entirely up to you.

Using the same golf example as above, if your goal is to mainly attract consumers looking for men’s left handed golf clubs, make your ad very specific and unclickable to everyone but your target consumer.

For example:

pay per click example 1

Tip: Always start with more than one version of your ad. The risk of running only one ad is that the success or failure of your entire Paid Search test rests on one single ad.

If you are Mr. Golf Pro Shop, you want ads that appeal to the masses and your ads may look like the following:

pay per click example 2

A common mistake made by many new PPC marketers is to disregard the keyword-ad relationship. If your list of keywords is specific and thematic, make sure that is also communicated in your ad copy.

Goal: Always be qualifying. The objective is to spend money intelligently, and given that you’re paying for each ad click, make sure your ads attract users most likely to convert on your site.

C. Consumer sees your site. Consumer decides in seconds (or less) if the click was worthwhile and if he/she should stick around.

You invited the potential customer to click on your ad and visit your online store. Do you have control over what happens next? Yes, but not until the consumer has left your site. What matters most is what happened between the time he/she clicked on your ad to the time his/her exit took place.

  • Consumer searches for the phrase “left handed golf clubs” in Google/Bing/Yahoo
  • Consumer sees your ad (in position #1) for “Left Handed Golf Club!” and clicks
  • Consumer should see a landing page that shows a selection of… yes, left handed golf clubs. Anything else (like the home page of your site, a sign up page, etc.) may cause the user to immediately “bounce”.

Let’s go over three varying examples of landing page user experiences:

golf ecommerce PPC example

Bad: consumer immediately hits the back button or closes the window/tab. This is what search engines consider a “bounce”. The signal here is that the content on the page which the consumer first saw (also called the “landing page”) was not relevant to what they initially searched for on the search engine.

The landing page from the #1 ad is shown below. I expected to see left handed golf clubs, but instead, I am given options of categories that do not include any left handed golf clubs. BOUNCE.

gold ecommerce landing page example

Good: consumer stays on your site and browses around with a relatively good “pageviews per visit” or “time on site”. The signal here is that the content on the landing page was relevant enough to keep the consumer interested for a few more clicks and/or a few more seconds/minutes of browsing.

The landing page from ad #2 is shown below. Again, I expected to see left handed golf clubs, and yet again, I was shown a page full of content not directly relevant to my search term. The only reason I would let this slide as a “good” experience is because it presents three major brands (along with a deal) on the landing page, which may convince me to invest a few more clicks to find what I’m looking for.

Good Landing Page Experience

Great: consumer completes a desired transaction (purchase, sign up, download, etc.), which is called a “conversion”. The signal here is that you provided the consumer with exactly what he/she was expecting to see when he/she clicked on your ad.

The landing page from ad #3 is shown below. Finally, a page that with content relevant to my original search!

great ppc landing page example

Goal: Provide a high-quality and relevant user experience on your landing page. Don’t expect the user to navigate through ANY additional pages to find what they’re looking for. It is far too easy to hit the back button.

Conclusion: Get the money, spend the money

Paid per click marketing is not about blindly paying Google to drive clicks to your site. It is about knowing how much to pay for each click and understanding which type of consumer you ought to be paying to attract. It is also about listening to signals provided by clicks that result in both bounces AND your desired conversion goals to make the necessary changes to your keyword lists, ads and landing pages.

Everyone might be doing paid search, but very few do it well. Per Google, the average Adwords click through rate is 2%, meaning only two clicks occur for every one hundred ad impressions. Don’t expect immediate success from your test but expect to walk away with education. The single most important goal in this first step is to find the formula of keywords, ads and user experience that works for your business.

  1. Test – Invest time into generating a list of keywords and ad variations
  2. Learn – Test, stop, measure signals from your consumers
  3. Refine – Modify what doesn’t work, repeat steps 1 & 2

Stay tuned for Part 2 on how to “get the power”.

About The Author: Jacob Shin is the Director of Online Marketing & Customer Acquisition at where he focuses on high volume paid search strategy and conversion optimization for US and UK based traffic. Connect with Jacob.

  1. This is a Good way to Explain PPC Campaigns and Landing Pages. I have tried Adwords but set a low budget so the Impressions are quite low and click through rates are not that great.But I am Still working on Creating better ads for PayPerClick which is nearly as hard as creating a landing page that Converts.

  2. Cleofe Betancourt Apr 21, 2011 at 4:28 am

    This is the primary hurdle I face with my novice clients & I really like your approach to explaining the basics of the PPC process(with examples). I will definitely retweet this article today!

    Best regards…

  3. This is a great introductory article. After managing a few accounts, the most specific Ad Groups seem to be the ones with the best CTRs. Google says to have “tightly themed ad groups”. Making sure that the ad copy contains keywords is huge.

    • Yeah and that all comes with trial and error. Seeing what works and what doesn’t and then focusing on tweaking what works to make it better.

    • Michelle, you nailed it. Best practices include tight ad groups and relevant ad copy… with your ultimate goal of reaching high CTRs while qualifying customer.

  4. Good read. Google instant preview means people do not even have to click to reject your ad, and emphasizes matching ad offer and landing page content:

  5. thanks for sharing this information about the pay-per-click business. a lot of people really want to know more about this and its benefits. so I’m really happy that I got to find your site before using it.

  6. Thing you are talking about sounds right. However, consider this, what happens if you included a little more? I mean, I dont tend to teach ways to write your site, however if you added extra content which could get peoples awareness? Just as a video or possibly a picture or perhaps 2 to obtain your readers psyched regarding what youve got to say.

  7. Vladimir Blagojevic Mar 16, 2012 at 10:50 pm

    Insightful and practical, as always.

    One question: your examples are for established businesses, where the market and products are well known. Many of the readers are startup founders, just discovering their product and market. In the first step you describe, how should a startup, still searching for the right segment and the right messaging, approach this? Should they launch separate landing pages with separate campaigns for different segments to see which generates a better CTR (and take that as a signal that these segments are more promising)?

  8. Hello please explain what Different of PPC and Seo .


    • Alejandro Quetzeri Jul 30, 2015 at 10:29 am

      The main difference between Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Pay Per Click (PPC) is that traffic coming from SEO (organic) is free while traffic generated from PPC is not free (as the name implies you have to pay a cost per click).

  9. Mayyank Gupta Dec 25, 2014 at 11:00 pm

    Nice article. The explanations are clear with screen shots. Thanks for pointing me in a really good (data) direction!

  10. Now day PPC is most usable online marketing.

  11. I found your blog today and very well written. Keep up the good work & share more about ppc .

  12. Abhijit Mandavkar May 21, 2015 at 3:55 am

    That’s really a straightforward introduction to PPC. B2B or B2C companies that are anticipating to gain quick results from online marketing, PPC is the best advertising platform to promote your brand and get instant results.

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