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PPC 27 min read August 3, 2021

A Complete Guide To PPC Marketing Basics

ppc marketing
Natalia Kurinnaya
Global Account Manager at DataFeedWatch
As a business owner that is beginning to delve into the depths of online marketing, you have probably come across the term PPC a few times. However, like many unfamiliar terms, it can seem complex on the face of things. In this guide, we aim to clarify what PPC is, by telling you all there is to know about it, and how you can use it to create the perfect online marketing strategy. Here are the basics of everything you need to know about PPC advertising.

What is PPC?

PPC (pay per click) is a form of online advertising, where the advertiser is charged for every click on their ad. The amount paid is determined by the bid of the advertiser, with the highest bidder for each keyword attaining the advertising slot.

PPC is the most prevalent form of advertising on search engines, although it is now also visible on various social media platforms as well. The idea behind this type of advertising is to inorganically lead potential customers to a product, website, or other landing pages of the advertiser, in the hope of generating sales or awareness.
google ad example

The main PPC platforms


Google is the biggest player when it comes to PPC advertising. You can find PPC ads after any standard Google search, Google Shopping search, or in other areas of Google. On Google, advertisers bid on keywords, with the highest bidder for each keyword gaining the advertising slot. The quality and relevance of the keywords, as well as the CTR (click-through rate) of previous campaigns and landing page quality also play a significant role in deciding who gets the slot. These factors combined are known as the Quality Score.

Facebook and Instagram

Facebook is an increasingly popular platform to advertise on, with PPC campaigns being at the forefront of the marketing options on the site. There are currently more variations of PPC ads on Facebook than on any other platform, with options ranging from carousel ads to video ads. Instagram, now under Facebook's ownership, offers a similarly wide range of PPC choices.

Like Google, Facebook PPC ads rely on a keyword bidding system. However, advertisers can also be very specific about the demographics they aim to target, as well as how, where, and when they want to advertise.


Twitter is another social media platform that is a good option when it comes to PPC advertising. Pricing on Twitter is less straightforward than other social media platforms, as the cost per click differs depending on your bid, as well as audience size, engagement, and competition.

All Twitter campaign types use the same PPC model, whether they are video feed ads, standard feed ads, or hashtag promotions.

Microsoft (Bing)

Similar to Google, Microsoft also frequently uses PPC advertising on its own search engine, Bing. It also uses keywords to match search intent with advertisements, just like its main competitor. Advertising positions on Bing go to the biggest bidders with the most relevant keywords in their ads.

How paid search works

Paid search works by auctioning off ad spaces on a platform. Each ad space is dedicated to a keyword or keyword combination that is entered by the searcher. Various advertisers will compete in auctions for certain keywords, with one successful business taking the ad space. This will ensure that their ad shows when a user enters a search related to the keyword the advertiser successfully bid on.

A number of factors are used to determine which bidder is successful when attempting to gain an ad space. They include the bid amount, ad quality, landing page quality, and historical CTR. Depending on the platform of the PPC campaign, other factors may also come into play. On Google, these factors are known as the quality score. However, other platforms may have their own name.

Advertisers can also choose when they want their ads to appear, as well as where, and to whom. Some platforms, such as Facebook offer extensive demographic options that allow advertisers to narrow their target audience further. This allows advertisers to reach the most refined audience possible, stretching their ad budget to get more for their money.

Those advertisers that run larger campaigns will usually split their advertisements into ad groups. This allows them to divide their campaigns by keywords, showing the most relevant ad, with the most relevant copy, for the ideal keyword. Thus ensuring that the most appropriate advertisement reaches its target audience.

Managing a PPC campaign

Keyword research for PPC campaigns

Keywords are the most vital element of any PPC campaign, regardless of the platform you are using. Without the right keywords, your perfect target audience will never come across your ads. That is why it is so important to conduct keyword research prior to initiating an ad campaign.

Your keywords should always be relevant to your line of business, product, or niche. You can find the perfect keywords for your campaigns by using one of the innumerable keyword research tools on the market. There are keyword research tools for all budgets, and whilst the free options offer less detail than their paid competitors, they are still worth using if you cannot yet use a paid alternative.

By using keyword research tools, you can discover the most relevant keywords for your area of business. The only requirement is that you provide a more general term related to your business or product. With that, the tools then find the top-ranking terms related to your general term, as well as high-ranking competitors.

If you get your keyword research right, your PPC campaign will take off. Your target audience will enter search queries, and your ad will be right there when they do.

You should also keep in mind that a keyword's influence can change over time, so check your keywords and their performance regularly. If a keyword is costing you a lot of money, and offering little reward it is probably worth dropping it entirely. If it is successful but only at certain times of the year, try to spot the pattern and use that to your advantage when setting your keyword bids.
keywords for ppc

Negative keywords

Using your budget effectively is another important part of any PPC campaign. Negative keywords can go a long way to helping you manage that. Hiring PPC experts for SaaS businesses can help ensure that your campaigns are optimized for maximum return on investment.

By adding negative keywords to your campaign, you can ensure that your ads are not showing for irrelevant search queries. This helps to reduce the bounce rate from users who click on your advertisements and immediately disregard them, as they are not relevant to their initial search. It will also help to give you more accurate analytics results for future campaigns, as you won't have excess irrelevant traffic providing impressions and hampering your click-through rate.

It can sometimes be challenging to recognize what terms you should list as negative keywords. Especially when in most cases, the terms listed in your analytics results will be similar to those you aim to rank for. However, you can get around this by comparing other results for those terms or putting yourself in your customer's shoes. Should a slightly different variant show when you search a term, it may be ideal to add it to the negative keywords list.

One example of this is a term such as 'women's blue shirt' which would trigger under the query 'blue shirt'. However, if you are selling a blue shirt for men, this keyword would be a budget killer. Therefore, it should be added to the negative keyword list.

Negative keywords will continue to develop, so remember to stay on top of your list, and frequently update!

Campaigns and ad groups

Making use of campaign and ad groups can help to take your PPC advertising to the next level.

Campaigns allow you to decide on the type of PPC advertising you are going to use. This allows you to better define your goals prior to starting your advertising. It also ensures that the algorithm for whichever platform you are using can help to offer you the best possible results. If you run a campaign that aims to generate conversions, then the algorithm will prioritize, your click-through rate, as opposed to impressions.

By running separate campaigns for separate objectives, you ensure that each of your advertising goals is met, without them getting in the way of one another. This helps you to get the best possible results, and can also provide you with clearer metric results to analyze when creating future campaigns.

Ad groups can also help in similar regard. By using ad groups, you can separate your advertisements into collectives with similar aims. For example, if you have an ad designed to advertise blue shorts, and another designed to advertise summer clothing, they may be ideal to use in the same ad group. On the other hand, an ad for winter hats would belong in a different ad group.

By separating ads into different groups, you generate a more rounded campaign. This then allows you to create the perfect ad copy and landing pages, specifically for the goals of one ad group. By putting this into practice, you should be able to improve your click-through rate and your quality score (or equivalent).

Another benefit of separating your ad groups is the freedom it offers in terms of budgeting. Without ad groups, it would be one budget for all ads. This often doesn't work, as some products are more profitable than others, as well as certain ads being more effective than others. Therefore, being able to set budgets to suit the success of certain ads, products and pages are far more financially rewarding.

Audience segmentation

Another useful way to manage and get the most from your PPC campaigns is to segment by the audience. This can be done by targeting specific groups. There are four main ways to segment by the audience when targeting in PPC advertising. They are:
Device-based targeting
Device-based targeting can be aimed specifically at mobile and tablet users, or desktop/laptop users. This type of targeting allows you to segment audiences based on the type of device they predominantly use. For example, you could choose to target people who use a mobile device to buy online. You could also use this targeting for specific campaigns and landing pages. This would help to ensure that any mobile-optimized content is shown to mobile users, and so on.
Location-based targeting
Location-based targeting aims to target users in a specific geographic location. This allows advertisers to regionalize their advertising campaigns, offering specific ad content to specific areas. This can assist ad performance, as more localized content is easier for users to identify with. Contrastingly, advertisers can also make nationwide campaigns if they want to convey a more generic message.

Location-based targeting is also ideal for avoiding issues such as language barriers. With location-based targeting, advertisements in English could potentially be shown to non-English speakers living elsewhere in the world. And although this may seem like an extreme example, it can be useful in areas like tech, when modern words are integrated into several languages. On a smaller scale, this can also be useful when it comes to advertising locally, as you can use dialect familiar to the area to create a sense of inclusivity, without worrying about the ad showing up to people who wouldn't understand it.

Last but not least, location-based targeting can also be a great budget saver for smaller businesses. If you only want to advertise to people in a very small catchment area, this kind of targeting can be very useful in helping you avoid budget drainers outside your catchment zone.
Demographic-based targeting
Demographic-based targeting is arguably the most commonly used method of the four. This method of audience segmentation allows you to target users based on their characteristics, qualities, and socio-economic background.

When using demographics-based targeting, you will be able to choose from numerous parameters to refine the audience you hope to reach. These parameters differ depending on the platform you are using for your PPC campaign. Facebook (and Instagram which is Facebook-owned) has by far the largest selection of demographic parameters to choose from.

By using demographics-based targeting in your PPC campaigns, you can narrow down your audience to a very specific group or groups of people. Therefore, getting more from your budget due to the relevance of the ads to the users they reach. An example of this could be only advertising football shirts to men who have shown an interest in sport and are between the ages of 18-40

Some prevalent parameters used in demographics-based targeting include:

  • age
  • gender
  • ethnicity
  • household income
  • parental status
  • employment status
  • relationship status
  • language spoken
  • education
  • interests
  • political affinity.
Time-based targeting
Time-based targeting is aimed to target users at a certain time of day, or day of the week. It is useful when you know the times/days your advertising is at its most effective, as you can set your ads to show during that period. This allows you to get as much value as possible from your ad budget.

Another effective use for time-based targeting is when you are running campaigns across the globe. Different time zones can often mean one campaign cannot cover all, as it will show during the day in one nation, and the night in another. However, by using time-based targeting, you can show your ads at the perfect times in all locations.

Budgeting and bidding

In most cases, you will set your budget for your PPC advertising at a campaign level. Budgets will have a maximum daily spend, that can never be exceeded unless manually told otherwise. However, this does not mean all your budget will be spent every day, as it is vastly dependent on the CPC, the number of clicks, and whether you won the advertising position in the first place.
Google Search Console manual actions
You can also decide how you want to spend your budget. This differs slightly from platform to platform, but the general premise remains the same. Using Google as an example, you can choose between the standard delivery method and the accelerated delivery method.

Standard delivery shows ads throughout the day, according to your budget. This means with a higher budget, your ads will show more frequently. However, with a smaller budget, you will still cover the time period you want to with a wide net.

On the other hand, accelerated delivery shows ads constantly until your budget is depleted. This tends to be a much more effective method when budgets are more substantial. Smaller budgets are too quickly depleted to make a significant impact with this method.

The amount you can bid will also be relevant to your budget. Sticking to the aforementioned example of Google, you can choose from a range of bidding strategies, each designed to meet a certain predetermined goal. On Google, these strategies consist of:
Enhanced CPC
This bidding strategy allows you to raise your maximum bid, should the algorithm believe you have a chance at converting. Maximum bids can be raised as much as 30% over your original bid limit. Should the algorithm believe you will not convert, then it will lower your bid in the auction, with the aim of enhancing your CPC and getting as much value from it as possible. All of this is calculated automatically by Google using historical data, so it is best to only use this method if you have sufficient data for Google to go on.
Target search page location
This strategy aims to ensure your ads are always shown on the first page of the SERP by adjusting your bids. This is ideal for maximizing the number of people who see your ads, as most users don't search beyond the first page. Bids are either increased or decreased, depending on the possibility of attaining a first-page spot, with the top of the first page being the priority for the algorithm.
Target CPA
Target CPA (cost per acquisition) aims to keep costs to a minimum, whilst adding to your conversions. For this strategy, Google sets bids to maximize conversions at your set cost per acquisition. This makes it the ideal choice for those working on a tight budget.
Maximize conversions
This strategy aims to push your budget to its furthest extent, maximizing the number of conversions you receive per bid. Maximize conversions is only available at the campaign level on Google, so to find it, you will have to go to your campaign settings.
Maximize clicks
If your main goal is to get as many clicks as possible, then this is the ideal strategy for you. Maximize clicks uses Google's algorithm to ensure you get as many clicks on your ads as possible, within your budget.
Target ROAS
Not all conversions are worth equal value. Target ROAS (return on ad spend) recognizes this and automatically sets your bids to maximize conversions within your stated ROAS goal. This helps to ensure that you only target the most profitable conversions.
Bidding strategies on other platforms
It should be noted that all the general premises of budgeting and bidding for PPC campaigns follow a similar structure on all platforms. For example, Facebook, Instagram, and Bing all also offer the ability to target ROAS when bidding. However, it comes under a different name. On Facebook and Instagram, it is known as 'minimum ROAS'.

This premise continues throughout the platforms. However, you can still apply the same general principles stated in the list of Google examples above.
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Ad rank

As mentioned earlier, ad rank is determined by different criteria depending on the platform. On Google, it is determined by a Quality score, attained by factors such as:

  • bid amount
  • time of day
  • device used to enter the query
  • advertisement formatting (including extensions)
  • historical click-through rate
  • keyword to ad relevance
  • keyword and ad to search query relevance
  • the quality and relevance of the landing page in question.

On Facebook and Instagram, ad rank is determined by a relevancy score given between 1-10. Scores are given comparatively, so your ad essentially battles it out against other ads for the best score. Relevancy scores are also only given to ads that receive at least 500 impressions. Determinants consist of things like:

  • ad quality
  • ad engagement
  • ad relevancy

Each of Facebook's three deciding factors is categorized as average, above average, or below average. This is what determines your score.


Retargeting is one of the most effective forms of PPC advertising. This is because it is specifically designed to show your ads to those who have already expressed an interest in your product or brand. All of the main PPC platforms offer you the opportunity to use retargeting to reach out to customers who didn't quite finalize their purchase before, so you can win them over with a reminder.

Retargeting through PPC advertising uses cookies to unobtrusively trace user behavior. This ensures that anyone who visits your site will then see your products advertised to them in the future. If you want your PPC advertising budget to really maximize its potential, then remarketing is definitely something you should consider.
retargeting circle

Ad extensions

Ad extensions are a very useful addition to your PPC ads. They help with your ad ranking, regardless of the platform, and also provide users with additional information on what you're selling. Here are some examples of the most useful extensions to add to your advertisements:
Sitelink extensions
These links direct searchers to other areas of your website. This type of extension will need to be manually added yourself, and all links should remain relevant to your ad and keywords.
Sitelink extensions
Location extensions
This is the perfect extension if you have a physical store, as you can add the location to guide shoppers to your shop. This extension also allows you to build an omnichannel marketing strategy, creating a smooth transition between shopping online and in-store. Should you be selling on Google, you can also use this as a chance to add social proofing, through Google Maps reviews.
Location extensions
App extensions
App extensions allow you to attach a download link to your app. This extension is ideal if you are looking to extend your brand's reach, increase your app downloads, or simply make your business more convenient for customers.
App extensions
Call extensions
Call extensions provide customers with the number for your business. On mobile devices, users just have to click the link and the number is automatically entered into their device, making your business easy to contact. On the desktop, the number is displayed on the ad for users to call themselves.
Call extensions

PPC tools and software

PPC ads are highly detailed and nuanced beasts. This means they need a lot of monitoring, analyzing, and tracking. More than any person can do. Thankfully, there are plenty of PPC tools to manage our business needs. Here are some of the best PPC software tools on the market:

  • Serpstat
  • Ahrefs
  • Google Keyword Planner
  • Google Trends
  • Wordstream
  • HubSpot
  • Adzooma
  • Google Ads editor
  • Bing Ads editor
  • Facebook Ads manager
  • Ad Espresso
  • Hootsuite

A few quick reasons why these tools are so useful:

  • For analysis and reporting
  • For tracking
  • For scheduling
  • For multi-platform and general management.
Serpstat PPC report shows you information on paid keywords related to your keyword, gives you ads that are shown for those paid keywords and landing pages being promoted through paid search in your niche.

With various Serpstat PPC reports you can get the following:

  • different versions of the keyword that websites use to promote in PPC
  • a list of domains that compete for a provided keyword and rank in Google top-100
  • ads examples that include the desired keyword in their text
  • pages a potential client lands at after clicking on the advertisement
  • basic information about a keyword and top-100 pages in search and paid results for the analyzed keyword
  • get main parameters for keywords from selected search engines
  • assemble lists of keywords from any reports of the Domain analysis module
  • submit keywords to the Rank Tracker tool.
serpstat ppc research report
Would you like to learn how Serpstat can help you with PPC tasks?
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Final thoughts

Understanding PPC, how it works, and how to create your own campaigns is just touching the surface of online advertising. However, these basics should set you well on your way, and offer you a platform to gradually optimize and perfect your PPC campaigns as you go. No campaign will be perfect from the get-go, so try to do A/B test, and tweak your ads frequently. This will ensure they gain as much traction as possible, while you better understand all the more in-depth features of PPC advertising.

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