PPC Campaigns Demystified: A Beginner's Comprehensive Guide

What Is a PPC Campaign?

A PPC campaign is a type of digital marketing where a company pays a fee each time a user clicks on their ad. This fee, known as cost per click (CPC), is determined through an ad auction. These campaigns allow companies to advertise to large user bases across various platforms.

A pay-per-click (PPC) campaign is a key component of digital marketing, where a company pays a fee whenever a user clicks on their ad. This fee, known as the cost per click (CPC), is determined through an ad auction.

PPC campaigns enable companies to reach large audiences across different platforms. For instance, a Google search ad for “kitchen supplies”

or a Reddit PPC ad for a specific product.

Benefits of PPC Campaigns

Here are the primary benefits of PPC campaigns:

PPC Campaigns: The Quick Results Driver

With PPC campaigns, you can launch a campaign in just a day, provided you have the necessary creative elements, ad copy, and budget ready. The main wait is usually for the platform to approve your ads.

Once approved, your ads will be displayed to your defined audience (more on that later), and you can expect to see results fairly quickly.

In comparison, SEO can also deliver impressive results, but it often takes several months for rankings and traffic to see significant increases. This is illustrated in the chart below, which shows the organic (unpaid) traffic to semrush.com.

Precision in PPC Targeting

One of the key advantages of PPC campaigns is their precise targeting capabilities. You can tailor your ads to a highly specific audience, increasing the likelihood of engagement and maximizing your ROI.

Targeting options include geographic location, interests, and more. This level of specificity far surpasses what’s achievable with content marketing, where you can create content for a particular audience but lack control over who sees it.

Measuring the Impact of PPC Campaigns

PPC campaigns offer robust measurement capabilities, providing valuable insights into campaign effectiveness.

Platforms offer data on impressions, clicks, click-through rates (CTR), conversions, conversion rates, cost per click (CPC), and more.

Calculating return on ad spend (ROAS) allows you to determine the revenue generated per advertising dollar spent.

Additionally, you can quickly adjust or deactivate underperforming ads, optimizing campaigns for better results. With this data, you can identify trends and refine tactics for future campaigns.

PPC Campaigns Are Customizable

PPC campaigns offer extensive customization options, allowing you to tailor your copy, creative assets (where applicable), keywords (where applicable), audience, placements, and more.

Working within the platform’s guidelines, such as adhering to image size requirements and character limits, ensures smooth campaign execution. Avoiding content that could be perceived as harmful is also crucial.

The flexibility of PPC campaigns extends to the ability to refine them at any time. You can easily adjust campaigns, ad sets, or individual ads to optimize performance.

Key Elements of a PPC Campaign

PPC campaigns are structured around several key components, although the specifics can vary slightly between platforms.

Campaign Objectives and Ad Sets:

PPC campaigns have overarching objectives and are often organized into ad sets, which are groups of related ads.

For example, a SaaS company might have different campaigns for each of its products or services.

Each ad set within a campaign is aimed at achieving the campaign objective and contains one or more ads with different creative assets, targeting options, and budgets.

PPC Ad Content

The content of PPC ads varies depending on the platform and ad type. Some platforms allow for GIFs or videos instead of static images, and there may be differences in character limits for headlines and descriptions.

Ad copy is a crucial element—it’s the text that users see in your ad. Well-crafted ad copy can significantly impact click-through rates (CTR) because it informs users about your offer.

In addition to ad copy, creative elements play a vital role, especially for display and video ads. Images, videos, and GIFs are used to grab users’ attention and encourage them to click on the ad.

For search ads, ad assets (formerly known as ad extensions) can enhance the ad’s visibility and relevance. These assets provide additional information, such as location, sitelinks, prices, and more, making the ad more compelling to users.

Targeting Options

Various platforms offer different targeting options to help you reach your desired audience effectively.

On social media platforms, you can use demographic, behavioral, and psychographic data to narrow down your audience. This allows you to target users based on factors such as age, gender, interests, and more.

For example, Meta Ads Manager provides audience controls that let you specify the characteristics of the audience you want to reach.

Search engines like Bing and Google use a combination of audience and keyword targeting. This means your ads will be displayed to users who are part of your targeted audience and are searching for specific keywords related to your ad.

Budget and Bidding Options

 When setting up your PPC campaign, you’ll need to consider your budget and bidding options. Budgets are typically split into daily or lifetime budgets.

A daily budget limits your spending to a set amount per day, while a lifetime budget spreads your spending over a longer period, adjusting daily spending based on performance.

You can also use both types of budgets together, allowing your campaign to spend up to a daily limit until the lifetime budget is exhausted.

Most platforms use a bidding system to determine which ads to display. This means that ads compete against each other, with the highest bidder (meeting all other criteria) getting more visibility.

If your ad is displayed and clicked on, you’ll pay up to your bid amount (or slightly more on some platforms, like Reddit).

Higher competition often requires higher bids. You can usually adjust your bid amount, setting a maximum bid that you’re willing to pay for a click.

For beginners, it’s often wise to start with default bid settings. Platforms have algorithms that optimize bidding strategies automatically, reducing the need for manual intervention.

While manual bidding can be effective, it requires significant research and understanding to optimize your PPC campaigns effectively.

How to Prepare for a PPC Campaign

Before starting a PPC campaign, you need to take several preparatory steps. Here’s a guide to help you get ready:

Review Your Competitors’ PPC Campaigns

Conducting a competitive analysis can provide valuable insights and inspiration for your PPC campaign. Here’s how you can review your competitors’ PPC campaigns using Semco’s Advertising Research tool:

Enter a competitor’s domain into the search bar and click “Search.”

Navigate to the “Positions” tab to see how many keywords they’re bidding on, their estimated paid traffic, and the cost of that traffic.

Look at the “Paid Search Positions” table to find the exact keywords your competitor is bidding on and related data.

Switch to the “Ads Copies” tab to view the exact copy your competitor used in their search ads and which keywords they’re bidding on.

Take inspiration from your competitors’ ad copy.

Visit the “Pages” tab to find all the landing pages your competitors are driving traffic to from their PPC campaigns.

By reviewing your competitors’ PPC campaigns, you can gain valuable insights into their strategies and use this information to improve your own campaign.

Find Your Audience

Audience research is crucial for refining your target market and improving overall campaign results. Semco’s One2Target tool can help you uncover demographic, socioeconomic, and psychographic data for your target audience:

Open the One2Target tool and select “Check Competitors.”

Input up to five competitors’ URLs and click “Analyze.”

The “Demographics” report will provide insights into the audience’s age, country, and more.

Click on “Socioeconomics” to view data on household income, size, employment status, and education level.

Navigate to the “Behavior” tab to access information on interests, social media usage, and device type.

Using this information, you can tailor your messaging to better resonate with your target audience.

Step-by-Step Guide to Launching a PPC Campaign

Launching a PPC campaign involves several steps. Here’s a general guide for setting up a search campaign in Google Ads:

Define Your Objective

Most advertising platforms offer campaign objectives to help you focus your efforts.

In Google Ads, you can choose from options like sales, leads, website traffic, awareness and consideration, app promotion, local store visits and promotions, and even customize your own goal.

Selecting a campaign objective in Google Ads Your choice of objective will affect your bidding strategy and when and how your ad is displayed.

Fortunately, deciding on the best objective is usually straightforward. Here’s a simple guide:

  • Choose sales or leads if your goal is to drive direct sales
  • Select traffic, awareness and consideration, or local visits to boost brand visibility
  • Opt for app installs if you want to increase downloads for your app

Conduct Keyword Research

Keywords play a crucial role in search campaigns as they determine when your ads will be shown to users.

For instance, if a user searches for “wooden watch,” your ad may appear if you’re bidding on that keyword.

To find relevant keywords, use tools like Keyword Gap to analyze yourself against competitors. Enter your domain and up to four competitors’ domains, select “Paid Keywords,” and click “Compare.”

Review the report, focusing on the “Missing” tab to see keywords your competitors rank for but you don’t.

Identify relevant options for your campaign.

Use Semco’s Keyword Magic Tool to find more keywords. Input a keyword from your gap analysis, click “Search,” and explore the list of related keywords.

Pay attention to metrics like “Competitive Density” and CPC.

Also, consider the “Intent” column, which categorizes user intent as Informational (I), Navigational (N), Commercial (C), or Transactional (T).

Filter based on intent to build a solid keyword list for your PPC campaign, aligning with your campaign goals.

Choose Your Bidding Strategy

Next, you’ll need to decide on your bidding strategy.

You can set your maximum CPC limit either now or at the keyword level.

If you’re new to PPC campaigns and unsure about the appropriate maximum CPC, review the averages you found during your keyword research.

Select Your Campaign Settings

Each search campaign offers various audience targeting options based on your research.

Google Ads allows you to target specific locations, languages, and audience segments (such as interests, demographics, etc).

Keep in mind that you can set up ad sets for each campaign, which are collections of ads that are each slightly different.

Enter Your Keywords and Write Compelling Ad Copy

The copy is crucial in encouraging users to click on your search ad, so it must be compelling and include your target keywords.

Start by entering the keywords you selected during research.

Next, write your ad copy in the space provided.

Consider what you learned from your competitors’ copy and the keywords Google Ads suggests. Experiment to find your unique approach.

Many companies include their unique selling propositions (USPs) in the headline to stand out. For example, if you’re promoting watches, you might highlight “natural materials” and “craftsmanship” in your headlines.

Ensure your descriptions include a clear call to action (CTA) like “buy,” “get,” “try,” or “discover.” You can also experiment with numbers and including or excluding your brand name.

Don’t forget to include ad assets for more visual appeal and a clearer CTA for the user.

Optimize Your Landing Page

To enhance your landing page for your PPC campaign, make sure it matches the keyword intent and offers a great user experience. For instance, if you’re selling software, prominently display the product with a clear call-to-action button. Use simple descriptions and include any unique selling points (USPs) mentioned in your ad copy.Like this page:

Incorporating reviews, testimonials, and social proof can also build trust. However, avoid elements that could slow down the page load time. Keep navigation straightforward, with minimal links or buttons that distract from the main conversion goal.

 Set Your Budget

In Google Ads, you can assign your daily budget in the final step by making a simple selection, which is then used to pay for the clicks.

Google provides three recommended options, along with a custom budget option where you can assign a daily budget of any size. You’ll also receive an estimation of the weekly number of clicks, average CPC, and the weekly cost.

 Monitoring and optimizing PPC campaigns

Monitoring and optimizing your PPC campaigns can lead to better results. Start by understanding industry benchmarks for PPC campaigns to gauge performance. Then, analyze key metrics in Google Ads like CTR, conversion rate, impressions, clicks, and CPC.

Supplement this with external data using tools like Semco’s Position Tracking tool. Set it up with your domain and target keywords,

Then track your paid keyword rankings and changes over time.

Use the tool’s “Landscape” tab for high-level information, Click the gear icon in the upper right corner and select the circle next to “Google Ads” under “Type.”

You’ll now see high-level information about your paid keyword rankings and how they’ve changed.

and the “Overview” tab for a detailed look at your paid search rankings.

The “Competitors Discovery” tab helps you identify your closest competitors and compare your performance.

Look for patterns in your data. For example, if you have high impressions but low conversions, consider improving your landing page. Experiment with different copy, images, and CTAs.

If you have low impressions and a poor CTR, try adjusting your ads. Test different USPs, address specific pain points, or tweak your keywords. Keep refining your campaigns based on data and industry benchmarks for optimal performance.

PPC Advertising Platforms

Google Ads isn’t the only platform for PPC ads. 

Here’s a quick rundown of the options:

Google Ads

Google Ads makes it possible to reach nearly any audience. And offers numerous targeting options.

ExpressVPN’s PPC ad on Google for the search term “vpn” But there’s a lot of competition compared to other platforms. And it may be harder (or more expensive) to compete for certain keywords.

Google Ads also separates itself into the Search Network (Search, Maps, Shopping, etc.) and the Display Network (YouTube, Gmail, Blogger, etc.).

YouTube Ads

YouTube offers various video ad formats for different business needs. And includes similar targeting options as Google Ads.

Here are a few of the choices:

  • Skippable in-stream video ads that play before, during, or after any video the targeted audience is viewing. And can be skipped after five seconds.
  • Unskippable in-stream video ads that play before, during, or after any video and cannot be skipped. But are 30 seconds or less.
  • In-feed video ads are video ads that appear in YouTube search results, on YouTube’s mobile homepage, and alongside related videos

You can also run text and image ads on YouTube. Which appear at the bottom of the video player.

Bing Ads (Microsoft Advertising)

Running ads on Bing and Microsoft Advertising partner sites gives you similar targeting options and features as Google Ads.

But there are unique features like LinkedIn profile targeting and image extensions (which gives search ads visual appeal). And it allows you to import campaigns from Google Ads.

Bing Ads may also be less competitive than Google Ads. Which can help you spend less on PPC campaigns.

LinkedIn Ads

LinkedIn Ads enables you to easily target industry professionals and businesses.

This platform includes unique targeting options like job titles, company names, industries and sectors, and more. And there’s even a type of ad that lets you send direct messages to users without having a connection to them.

Reddit Ads

Reddit lets you target its subreddits, which are created for enthusiasts of specific topics like gaming, food, etc.

Most of its targeting features are similar to those on Google Ads, but they’re not as extensive, which is understandable because the main draw is subreddits. You also get to choose from multiple creative formats like images, GIFs, videos, and even text-only ads.

Meta Ads

Meta Ads combines advertising on Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger into one platform.

One of the great things about Meta Ads is that you have the ability to reach diverse audiences. It also provides a complete array of demographic, geographic, and psychographic targeting options. And you get a high variety of creative asset options—GIFs, videos, images, etc.

Turn Your PPC Campaigns Into A Long-Term Strategy

Transforming individual PPC campaigns into a long-term strategy involves more than just setting up and managing a single campaign. As you continue to run campaigns in the future, it’s important to periodically conduct PPC audits to identify areas for improvement, optimize performance, and effectively manage your budgets.

To enhance your results further, consider leveraging advertising tools such as Advertising Research and Position Tracking. These tools can provide valuable insights and help you refine your PPC strategy over time. Sign up for an account today to explore the full potential of your PPC campaigns.