Search engine marketing (SEM) most often refers to paid search and SEO. Pay per click (PPC) is a model of internet marketing in which advertisers pay a fee each time one of their ads is clicked and is the format in which ads are purchased on the main search engines. The search engine results page (SERP) will display the ads that you create to direct viewers to your site, and the fee you pay is usually based on clicks of these ads. In other words, you can pay to rank on sponsored search listings.

Paid search is a great option if you are not ranking well in the search engines with organic search alone and is an extremely powerful tool and a valuable asset for enhancing your company’s online presence and complimenting your SEO strategy.

Read why your SEO and PPC efforts should complement each other and lead to a more successful search strategy.

The most popular PPC programme is Google’s AdWords

AdWords is an automated auction – when you advertise with Google Ads, your ads can appear on different places across the web depending on how you target your ads, to whom you choose to show them, and the types of ads you create:

  • Google search
  • Google search partners
  • Google display network
  • On different devices
  • By location/language

You write the ads and choose relevant keywords and key phrases that describe your business – the services or products you offer and the content to which you want to drive to on your website – these keywords will then trigger the ad when people search for these words or phrases.

So how does it work?

I’ve provided a simple outline of the process below.

  • Sign into your existing Google account or create a new one.
  • Create a campaign with one theme i.e. cruises.
  • Create a set of ad group per campaign – I’d recommend a minimum of 3 per campaign that focus on different strands/categories of your theme. I.e. River cruises/Caribbean cruises/Nile cruises.
  • Create multiple variations of the ad – at least 3 or 4 – in each ad group.
  • List all of your keywords and phrases then split them into the ad groups.
  • Directly relate the ads to the keywords – ideally, you’ll want keywords in your heading with benefit and instruction in the description.
  • Quality of copywriting is key – this makes the search experience better for people searching and Google will reward you with higher positions on the page as well as lower costs.
  • Make sure the url leads to a specific landing page that is relevant to your ad – Google uses something called “quality score” which is an algorithm that scores each of your ads for relevancy – it looks at how closely your keyword relates to your ad and how closely your ad relates to your landing page content to ensure that you’re not just buying keywords and directing them to totally irrelevant pages.
  • Between 5 – 50 keywords per ad group is recommended.

You can segment keywords into different types

Broad match: This is a keyword setting that allows your ad to show when someone searches for that keyword or a variation of it.

Broad match modifiers: Help control when your ad can appear for closely related keywords. Broad match modifiers can also help your keywords achieve a higher click through rate (CTR) with a more targeted audience, which in turn can help your site get more paying customers or other conversions.

Exact match: You can show your ad to customers who are searching for your exact keyword, or close variants of your exact keyword. Close variants include searches for keywords with the same meaning as the exact keywords, regardless of spelling or grammar similarities between the query and the keyword.

Phrase match: This is a keyword setting that allows your ad to show only when someone’s search includes the exact phrase of your keyword, or close variations of the exact phrase of your keyword, with additional words before or after.

Negative match: Negative keywords let you exclude search terms from your campaigns and help you focus on only the keywords that matter to your customers.

Yellow = paid for – PPC
Green = organic – SEO

Setting Your Budget

You set a daily budget and for each campaign you can dictate how much money Google can spend on those ad placements per day. Google also offers a feature that allows you to request that your budget be spread out across the day – this works well for brands that want to establish a presence throughout the day.

Google will try to spend your full daily budget, but the ability to do so ultimately depends on your keywords and also on the effectiveness of your ad copy.

Measuring success

There are four basic metrics that are important for paid search: impressions, clicks, conversions, and spend.
These 4 basic metrics are important to track regularly, but the analytics that will be the most critical for optimising your campaign are actually derived from combinations of simpler ones – these include: click through rate, conversion rate, cost per click, and cost per acquisition.

Top tips for PPC beginners

  • Your AdWords account should reflect the structure of your website – it will help you create structured, focused and effective keywords for your campaign.
  • Don’t replicate keywords in multiple ad groups – Google will see this as competition for the keywords meaning the cpc (cost per click) could go up.
  • Create a buyer persona for your target audience – this will help you structure your keywords and ads.
    See what keyword and phrases you are already being found for.
  • Look at related search terms and phrases to the keywords you type into search.
  • Use Google trends to see which search terms are trending upwards.
  • Look for ‘Low-hanging fruit’ keywords – those for which there are high searches relative to the number of results. Even though low hanging fruit keywords get far fewer searches compared to more popular keywords, all that matters is that the absolute number of people clicking is high enough for you to get a decent number of clicks. There are very few searches on Google where this is not the case. Since you pay less per click, as long as the search is genuinely relevant (so that they won’t increase your bounce rate) they are much more cost effective.
  • One of the easiest ways to drive your cost per-click down, while maintaining relevance to your product is to take a subset of your search terms. There will be far fewer searches for this phrase, but if you combine many subphrases you can still address a large market.
  • Speak to your sales/customer service teams – what are clients talking about/asking for/mentioning – this can help guide what search terms you use.
  • A good keyword strategy is to use broad match and phrase match to drive traffic, then use the Search Terms report to find the keywords that convert well and make sense for your business, and set those to exact match, because they’ve been proven to work.
  • See what your competitors keywords and key phrases are using SEMrush – there are a number of free tools/reports you can run.
  • Commit to an ongoing review of your competitor sites and review their PPC ads on a regular basis – emulate their best performing ads and keywords where you think it’s worth competing and zero in on weaknesses and wins for critical sets of keywords.
  • Look at how you can craft your ad copy to differentiate from competitors.
  • Make sure the content that you are driving your search ads to is high quality, relevant and useful.
  • Paid search is a great way to do landing page A/B testing because it allows you to direct traffic to your choice of pages, split this traffic to different pages, and ultimately find the pages that convert at the highest rate.
  • Keyword performance will change over time, and your campaign strategy should change with it. Commit to keyword research as part of your ongoing PPC strategy and expand your keyword list on a regular basis – keeping a close eye on current search trends.
  • Keep optimising and making improvements so you can drive your performance up and your costs down and ultimately run a successful PPC campaign. Include regular analysis of conversion pages – what pages on the website are driving the strongest engagement and conversion.
  • Location analysis – if your business operates locally or regionally then make sure you analyse keywords on a local level using tools like Google Trends, ensure your ad copy is locally relevant tailoring call-outs and site links to local ad copy and adding any regional dialect, distance, convenience etc. to each local campaign.
  • Test, track, learn and improve – ensure all tracking codes, URL tags and goal funnels are in place and carry out regular analysis of site behavior and conversion funnels.
  • For start-ups and new businesses – once you’ve established what your most profitable services or products are – focus your PPC campaign efforts here.