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What is PPC?

PPC is the advertising hack that makes sure your ads are in the right place at the right time. Learn how it works, and how to implement it, with our dedicated guide

PPC (Pay Per Click) is a type of online advertising that requires advertisers to pay each time a user clicks on one of their online ads.

The most common type of PPC advertising is the paid search ad. These ads appear when people use a search engine like Google to perform commercial searches, meaning that they’re specifically looking for something to buy.

The following goes into more detail about what PPC actually is, how it works, and the steps you can take to get your own PPC campaign up and running today.


On this page, we’ll cover:


What is PPC?


PPC (Pay Per Click) advertising means that each time a customer clicks on the PPC advert, the advertiser pays a fee to the search engine displaying it.

A good advert will generate a lot of interest, encouraging customers to click-through and hopefully make a purchase. The business running the advert will then be charged for this ‘click through’ process.

Sometimes referred to as Cost Per Click (CPC), PPC comes in a variety of forms – the most common of which is the paid search ad. Paid search advertising presents customers with adverts that the search engine operator deems most relevant to their search.

For example, someone searching for ‘beachwear’ will see adverts for bikinis and flip flops – rather than bobble hats and ski goggles – because the search engine has already filtered out the content that’s irrelevant to their search.

But it’s not just a case of “throw money at it, and the ad will appear” – oh no. Search engines are nifty, and will place adverts into what’s known as the ‘Ad Auction’.

This rather exciting-sounding process is used by Google and other search engine operators to determine the relevance of ads, and automatically assesses an advert’s applicability in relation to the customer’s original search.

If, after the Ad Auction, an advert is deemed ‘relevant’ by the search engine, then it will appear in the SERP (Search Engine Results Page).

How does the Ad Auction work?

You may or may not be surprised to hear that there is some bidding involved. Not in the ‘flog-it’ sense complete with block, gavel and auctioneer, but digitally.

Advertisers will bid on keywords that they want to prompt the display of their advert. Keywords shouldn’t be confused with search queries: the keyword links to the advertised product, whereas the search query is what the customer puts into Google.

For example, if a customer types the search query ‘pizza near me’ into Google, the keyword here is pizza. Therefore, Google will show ads for local pizza shops (as the query was ‘near me’, showing local intent).

The auction is automated and runs off a set of predetermined metrics, taking into account your budget, target market, and the keywords you’ve decided to bid on. Those keywords should be relevant to your product, and be search-engine friendly – if you’re looking for some helpful tools to carry out your keyword research, take a look at this list.

The bidder’s position, known as the Ad Rank, is determined by combining the PPC bid and the quality score of the advert itself. Low quality ads are not looked at favourably, so the winner isn’t necessarily the highest bidder.

Now, if your advert has won the bid – and is judged to be a suitable fit with the search intent of the customer – your PPC advert will appear at the top of the search page. If the customer clicks on your ad, you will then pay a fee determined by how much you bid on that keyword.


What is Google AdWords PPC?

The most popular form of PPC advertising, Google Ads (formerly known as Google AdWords) is a platform that allows businesses to create ads which appear and rank on Google.

Google Ads operates on a Pay-Per-Click model. Every time a search term is entered into Google, Google then dips into its bank of ads relevant to that search, and selects some to appear in the ad space on its search results page.

This selection process is based on:

  • The relevance of the advertiser’s chosen keywords
  • The quality of the ad itself
  • The size of the keyword bid

These factors combine to form what’s known as the advert’s Ad Rank (calculated by multiplying the PPC bid and the ad’s quality score).

The Ad Rank is designed to keep advertisers within their budget, as the system itself operates on a Pay Per Click basis. This allows the winning ad to reach the right customer at a cost that fits their budget.

But, how much will it cost?

That’s entirely dependent on how much you want to spend. In Google’s own words, “you’ll never pay more than the monthly cap you set”.

Google allows you to set a monthly budget cap, and there’s no minimum spend! Google will give you advice based on how much other businesses similar to yours spend on their PPC ads, and what the estimated results from that figure might be.

It takes around a month to start seeing results from a Google Ad, so there’s no need to panic. If you do feel that you’re really not getting the desired ROI, then you can readjust your budget at any time, with no strings attached.

What you choose to spend will depend on the value of the keywords themselves, as well as your own budget. But we can offer you the wise words of James Munro, PPC advertising expert at digital marketing agency, MVF: “A bid should always be what a click is worth to you.”


How to do PPC

PPC can be implemented in lots of ways, but the simplest, most popular method is to use Google Ads. It’s free to use, and relatively simple to get yourself started.

The steps it’ll take you through are detailed below, so you know what you’re getting yourself into before you get stuck in.

Step 1
Google Ads will ask you to set your goal

You can set your Google Ad account to have a certain focus, and Google will then help you achieve your targets. Your goal will have one of three focuses:

  1. Calls – get customers on the phone to book appointments or close a deal.
  2. Store visits – if you business relies on foot traffic.
  3. Website action – if you want people to use your online shop, join your mailing list, or fill out a form.

Step 2
Decide where to advertise

Global or local. You decide where you’d like to show your ads, and Google will put them in front of the right people at the right time.

Step 3
Your ad’s reach

Finding the right audience is key to your ad’s performance. With Google Ads, you can choose the location of your ad’s appearance, from encompassing a certain radius of your shop to covering entire counties or countries.

Other variable metrics include:

Demographic (based on gender, age etc)
Device (mobile, tablet, PC)
Time (am/pm – working hours or weekends)
Location (local or global)
Audience (based on interest)

Step 4
Create your message

Use some compelling copy to get customers excited about your business, or create exciting banner ads by adding images. Pop to our helpful guide on display advertising for more banner ad information.

Step 5
Set your budget cap

With no minimum spend and no commitment, the Google Ads budget cap allows you to spend within your means on advertising. You’ll never pay more than the monthly cap you set, while Google will also show you the estimated results for your budget, helping you make an informed decision.

Step 6
Go live

Google will display your ads when your product or service is relevant to a search. Your ads can appear on Google Search, Google Maps, and a network of partner sites. You’ll pay for results when people click on your ad, call your business via Google, go to your landing page via the ad, or get directions to your shop.

Step 7
Keep track of your progress

Google Ads will help you audit your performance by providing reports, insights, and ongoing tips on how to make your ads even more successful.


Choosing your keywords

Keywords allow you to target your advertising based on what people are searching for. You can judge the intent of the customer based on their search query – for example, someone searching ‘where is my nearest coffee shop’ probably wants a cup of coffee immediately.

If you’re keen to do some of your own keyword research, then here are some helpful sites and plugins that’ll make optimising your keywords a breeze:

Google Ads also has an inbuilt keyword planner to help you figure out the value of each word you want to bid on. This helps inform your bid budget, and shows the value of each individual keyword.


In a nutshell

PPC is a process that sees users bid on keywords and pay for each click on their advertisements. Favoured over traditional advertising methods due to its measurability, accountability and flexibility, PPC is perfect for a small business looking to create a targeted ad campaign on a budget.

Giving you the freedom to choose how much you’re willing to spend at any one time, PPC is adjustable to any budget or requirements, providing useful metrics for you to constantly streamline your approach.

If PPC sounds like something your business could benefit from, but you don’t have the manpower to run such a campaign, there are marketing specialists who can help. To be put in touch with a marketing specialist who’s just right for your business, pop to the top of the page, fill in the online form, and we’ll help you find the answers to all your PPC needs.