How to run a PPC campaign

Learn how to make the most out of the cheapest, most effective form of display advertising, and how to really make your PPC campaign sing

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A PPC (Pay Per Click) campaign requires research, audits, and reports.
To the unfamiliar eye, this can seem a daunting prospect – even the word audit carries connotations of complicated data analysis and stuffy spreadsheets. But fear not – it’s actually really simple, and this ‘how to’ guide will lead you through your PPC journey.

The average person is served over 1,700 banner ads every month. If you want yours to be noticed, you’re going to have to make sure you PPC campaign really stands out from the crowd.
This takes more than pretty pictures and well-constructed ad copy. Getting your PPC ads noticed requires some serious keyword cunning, and some real search engine know-how.

On average, the click-through rate for any banner ad is 2%. That figure jumps up to 7.94% when the ad sits at the first position on a search results page. So, how do you create a PPC campaign that’s both enticing and search engine friendly? Read on to find out.
If you’re keen to create a PPC campaign, but want to feel a bit more clued up about what PPC actually is, then read our ‘What is PPC?’ guide before getting stuck in.

In this article, you will learn:

How to do PPC keyword research

Keyword research is the process of finding alternative search terms that people enter into search engines while looking for a subject. Once you know what successful keywords are, you can use them in your ad copy and gain a better position in the search results page, as your ad will be deemed most relevant to the search enquiry.

The first step to keyword research success is to take a look at what your competitors are doing, and see which keywords they use. This way, you’ll be able to target your paid search rivals.

Do your competitors have any particularly inspiring copy or display ads that you could learn from? If they do, make sure you don’t steal their ideas – it’s up to you to come up with something better.

Get Keywords smart:

SEMrush, a helpful online marketing toolkit, has helpful functions like keyword magic, and a PPC keyword tool. These tools are designed so that you can enter a term and SEMrush will then provide you with millions of related terms, all organised by group.

SEMrush can also tell you how many people are searching for that particular term, and what the value of that term might be (higher searched terms have a higher value when it comes to bidding for words).

The PPC tool offered by SEMrush is slightly more advanced, and allows you to cross-reference negative keywords and remove any duplicates from your campaign (so you’re not paying twice for identical or similar words).

We recommend taking a look at an online tool like SEMrush, or Keywords Everywhere. Tools like these will help you say the right things at the right time, and really refine your PPC ad campaign.

How to do a PPC audit and optimise your PPC campaign

  1. Define a goal
    Any successful PPC advertising campaign has clearly defined goals – because without measurable targets, it’s impossible to optimise a campaign.
    Before you begin, plot where it is you’re going using a business roadmap. This will ensure that your path to success is both clearly defined and achievable.

    Essential to this is the measurability of your goals. Fortunately, PPC campaigns are brimming with data, so it’s easy to select a measurable metric that you’d like to improve on.

    Make sure that your goals are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound), and you’ll be well on your way to creating some exciting targets.

    The audit and optimisation process of your PPC campaign depends on the targets you set. After defining your goals, you will be able to compare your campaigns and find out if you have reached the desired level.

  2. Put your focus on the high-performing keywords
    Keywords make the dream work. To run an optimised PPC campaign, you need to check-in on the performance of your keywords.
    Keywords are those words that you want to rank in a search engine for – so when a customer makes a search, if your keywords match, it’ll be your product advert that they see. This increases the chance of them clicking through to your product, and eventually making a purchase.

    Reviewing a keyword’s performance report (found in SEMrush or a similar tool) will help you find the keywords that are the best performers – in other words, which ones can bring you the most business. From this information, you can see which words you want to bid more on, and which aren’t worth a bid at all.
    And remember, don’t just let the best-performing keywords run as they are – keep tweaking and making changes to your bidding strategy to find the optimal bid for each word.

    The performance indicator of each keyword is known as the quality score. Keep an eye on this for each of your performance keywords to make sure they’re consistent top performers.

  3. Streamline your approach
    As well as keywords that perform perfectly, you’ll always have keywords that don’t perform so well, and can even damage the campaign’s performance by wasting your advertising budget.

    To root out those rotten apples, you firstly need to analyse the performance of your keywords, and then put a pause on those that are underperforming (i.e. they’re not generating any clicks or conversions, or no-one’s searching for them in the first place).
    If no one’s searching for a keyword, it means it’s getting no impressions ( instances of an ad being viewed by a visitor or displayed on a webpage). Be patient though – if you see your keyword isn’t generating any impressions, give it a week before taking action. If the impression rate is still very low, scrap it from your list.

    You might also have keywords that generate impressions, but no clicks. When the user’s search query has at least one of your keywords, an impression occurs, causing your PPC ads to appear. However, a click will only occur when the user finds the PPC ad relevant, encouraging them to click on the ad to then be redirected to your landing page.

    Keywords that have a lot of impressions, but don’t have the clicks to match are most likely lacking relevance. To avoid this, make sure that your keywords are always fully targeted – this will ensure that your ads correlate with the original search query.

    And then there are the keywords that get the clicks, but not the conversions. This can mean one of two things: bad PPC campaign management, or a landing page that’s lacking in conversion-friendly essentials. This could be because the landing page is badly designed, the load time is too long, or the product itself simply isn’t appealing enough.

    Other reasons for a keyword underperforming include the search volume being too low, the keyword bid itself not being high enough, or the keyword lacking relevance. Whatever the weather, the message here is: keep a close eye on those keywords, and ensure they’re always at their best.

  4. Get your negative keywords in order
    A negative keyword prevents your ad from being triggered by an irrelevant search query, and ensures that your ads appear in front of those who actually want to see them. This keeps your traffic relevant, and saves you money on wasted clicks.

    For example, if you sell new bikes, you might create PPC ads using new bikes as your keywords. But your ads may also be displayed to users searching for vintage bikes, old bikes, or second-hand bikes.

    Since you only sell new bikes, not vintage, old or second-hand bikes, your PPC ads being triggered when someone searches for vintage/old/second-hand bikes is no good for your PPC campaign. Customers might click on your ad, then immediately click away because the product you sell does not directly match their search. This will cost you money (through clicks), but won’t bring in any profit.

    To avoid this loss, you can log vintage, old, and second-hand as negative keywords. This means that your ad will only be displayed in directly relevant searches, saving on ad spend whilst improving your PPC campaign’s click-through-rate (CTR), conversion levels, and overall quality score.

  5. Optimise your keyword bids

    In order to stay ahead of the PPC game, it’s essential that you adjust your keyword bids. This will depend on the campaign you’re working on, as well as your marketing strategy.

    In order to improve the performance of a PPC campaign, you have the following bidding options:

  • Manual bids – these give maximum control, are the quickest change to implement, and allow for the most granular of changes. The only downside here is that, as the name suggests, this process requires a bit of manpower and can’t be automated – possibly costing you more in resource in the long run.
  • Target CPA (Cost Per Acquisition) bidding – this method sets bids at the specific CPA to maximise conversions. Google Ads will keep your bids and your clicks in check, ensuring that you appear in relevant searches without extending your pre-set budget.

    For example, if your target CPA is £15, Google Ads will automatically set your PPC bids to try to get you as many conversions at £15 on average.

  • Target ROAS (Return on Ad Spend) Bidding – letting you base your bids on your target ROAS, this method increases your conversion value, and can be used in a single campaign, across multiple campaigns, or across keyword groups.
    Target ROAS bidding means that Google Ads will try to keep your conversion value equal to your target ROAS.

    For example, in the case of a 300% ROAS target, Google Ads will automatically adjust your bids, maximising conversion value whilst reaching your ROAS targets.

  • Create killer ads

    Catchy copy and groovy graphics will help your ads grab the customer’s attention – first impressions are important, so make yours count.

    Make your ads:

    (to read, understand and use)

    Include a concise headline that really captures your USP, and feature a clear CTA (Call To Action) for the best results. Avoid the generic ‘click here’, as people are disinclined to do so. Instead, get creative, and appeal to the natural curiosity of the customer – for example, try something like ‘find out more’ or ‘exclusive deals here’.

  • Make your landing pages ad-specific
    Ensure both your landing page (where your ad clicks through to) and your ad copy are completely aligned for consistency. This will boost the performance of your ad, and present your customers with what they’re expecting.

    An all-singing, all-dancing advert that leads to a dreary landing page will be nothing short of a disappointment – make sure your landing page is as jazzy as your ads, so those customers keep coming back for more.

    Don’t just use the ad to direct your customer to your homepage, either – make sure the link actually goes to the product of interest, otherwise, your ad will be misleading, and take your customer somewhere they don’t want to be.

  • A/B test for best results
    An A/B test is an ‘either, or’ way of testing the success of an advert. Visitors will be directed either to the original, or an alternative version of the advert, so you can measure which performs better side by side.
    To do this properly, it’s important that you take a ‘one at a time’ approach to the tests. Don’t change it all at once – instead, select which individual element you would like to alter in your advert.

    For example, try changing one of the following to see if it impacts your click-through rate:


    Alternatively, you can try changing aspects of the landing page, such as:


    As the PPC world is always developing, it’s important that you perform A/B tests regularly – after all, what works well today might not perform so well in six months’ time.

    Another key thing to remember when it comes to A/B testing is patience. Once you’ve swapped one headline for another, or jiggled your copy around, give it at least a week before making your final judgement – things like this take time to have any real effect.

  • How to report on your PPC campaign

    Once you’ve done all of your keyword research, uploaded your ads to Google Ads, monitored your success rate, and carried out an audit to streamline your PPC campaign, it’s time to report on it.

    Reporting on a PPC campaign involves collecting a certain set of data to compare the success of one campaign with the success of others. You can do this manually by going through each metric for the report and extracting the data you need, or you can use a tool such as Swydo to make the process a little more efficient.

    A PPC campaign report will look something like this:

    The data within this report can then be extrapolated and visualised in any way you like. You might choose to create charts or graphs that show month-on-month progress, or you might wish to analyse the click-through rate (CTR) in comparison to the cost of running the ad, to see if you’re getting value for money.

    Again, tools such as Swydo will do this for you, but if you’re looking to take a more DIY approach, then Google Ads will be able to provide the data. You just have to find the numbers you need.
    Here’s a list of the metrics you need to compile a comprehensive PPC campaign report:

    • Impressions
    • Clicks
    • Cost
    • Conversions
    • Cost Per Conversion (CPC)
    • Ad performance
    • Keyword performance
    • Click-Through Rate (CTR)

    If you’re running more than one campaign, you need to provide the metrics that will measure their performance, and help you compare their success rate:

    • Overall campaign metrics
    • Cost per campaign
    • Device performance
    • Channel performance
    • Best performing ads and keywords
    • Lessons learned for future campaigns

    If you’re creating your reports for clients, stakeholders with a vested interest in the campaign will generally want to know:

    • The overall PPC performance
    • What your work has done to increase awareness of the brand or product
    • The number of conversions generated
    • The cost per conversion
    • What worked, what didn’t – and most importantly, why
    • What your next data-driven steps will be to achieve objectives

    Top PPC campaign reporting tips:

    When compiling the results of your report, always contextualise your data, and make sure the metrics you report on are relevant to your goals. For example, if brand awareness is the aim of the campaign, then you’re going to be looking closely at the impression rate of the ad (and less so at the conversion rate).

    Also, make sure the data is digestible. Overly complex charts, graphs, and jumbles of numbers are hard to work with, and even harder for someone unfamiliar with the metrics to understand.
    So, when it comes to compiling your report, always remember: be clear, contextual, and concise with your data.

    Final thoughts

    To run a successful PPC campaign, there are three things you need to do:

    1. Create the campaign using relevant keywords

    2. Monitor (audit) the campaign and the performance of the keywords

    3. Report on the campaign to identify areas of success and areas in need of improvement

    PPC advertisement is a fast-flowing, ever-changing world. To keep up with its ebbs and flows, you really have to be on your toes at all times. This means keeping a sharp eye on ad performance and keyword status, changing things up from time to time to find that PPC sweet spot, and using reporting to both communicate your results and learn from what went well and what needs improving.

    We appreciate that running a PPC campaign can be time consuming. That’s why there are professionals out there who specialise in PPC optimisation. To be put in touch with companies and suppliers who can help run a PPC campaign that’s smooth, efficient and effective, pop to the form at the top of the page. Fill in the form, and we’ll find you some quotes from companies that will give your PPC campaign the time, care, and attention it needs to be successful.

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