Whether you’re just starting out or you’re already established, a successful advertising campaign is an extremely valuable resource to any business. There are many ways to advertise, but a great deal of these methods can prove often to be cluttered and generally ineffective. One of the simplest and strongest options out there is “pay per click advertising,” or PPC. The method was created in 1996, right about when the internet’s vast marketing potential was first being realized on a large scale and it was beginning to become more thoroughly monetized, though it didn’t really catch on until 2002. However, over the next decade PPC became more and more prevalent, with many preferring it other marketing plans being offered by firms specializing in online services. To this day it remains the most trusted method by which web advertising can be done and its popularity only continues to increase.

Keyboard with Internet marketing

PPC revolves around the sensible notion that you should only have to pay for advertising if it’s effective. Previously, with the “cost per impression” system, you would have to pay every time someone saw your ad, but PPC is much more fair than that. Under this alternative system, clients only have to pay if their ads are actually clicked on. Generally, a flat rate will be decided upon in advance, and every time the add gets a click that rate will be paid to the advertising firm. This is an improvement over “cost per impression” for several reasons. For one thing, it’s more affordable, as presumably many more people will see your add than click on it. That being said, the rate charged per impression is usually less than the rate charged per click, so it’s kind of a toss up in that regard. But regardless of the pricing, there are plenty more advantages as well.

  • It’s fair: A subjective notion I know, but look at it this way: if you’re not getting a lot of clicks you shouldn’t have to pay a lot of money. That would be a waste after all. If you are getting a lot of clicks you’re probably paying a fair amount back, but the amount of publicity you’re getting should pay for that in no time.
  • It’s informative: The mark of an effective advertisement is whether or not it legitimately interests and/or compels the potential consumer. If it does, the add is a success. If not, it must be revised. Under the “cost per impression” system it was nigh on impossible to tell whether or not an add was truly effective. You just knew whether or not they’d seen it, not if they liked it. Pay per click solves that problem. Using this system, you can actually tell whether or not your add is interesting potential customers. In this way you can optimize your campaign much more effectively.
  • It’s Highly Customizable: One of the greatest features of PPC is how tightly you can narrow down your target audience. One major aspect of the plan is the usage of keywords. Ideally, customers whose online activity corresponds closely to said keywords will be the ones who see your ads. But there’s plenty more to this process than simply selecting some keywords. You can also select what keywords you don’t want associated with your product. If you only work within a defined area you can limit the amount of people who can see your ads to those within certain area codes. You can even target your advertising to a certain time of day. These features, and many more like them, are a big part of what makes PPC such an attractive option.

Of course, you can only get as much out of PPC as you put in. You can’t just plug in some data and watch it do all the work. If you want your ad campaign to be a success then you still need to take an active role. For example, I mentioned above how PPC can be used to measure the appeal and overall effectiveness of your ads. Use that information. If an ad’s not working then come up with something you think is better and try that. Keep experimenting and you’re bound to find something special. PPC grants you that freedom and flexibility. Use it. Ideally, you’ll want to start your campaign with several ads. This will probably cost a bit more money, but it’ll pay off in the long run. Make the ads diverse and try a few different strategies. Target each ad to a different keyword. After that, all you have to do is wait. In a little while, check back in. See which ads were successful and which ones floundered and use this information to strengthen your ad campaign. The lessons you learn carrying out an experiment like this can be incredibly beneficial in the future.

However, before you even put an ad out there you need to decide who exactly you want to see it. Ask yourself some questions before committing to a project:

  • What keywords best summarize my product or service?
  • What age group or gender would my service most appeal to?
  • What geographic location do I want to target?
  • What season or time of day best represents my service?
  • And so on…

As with any successful ad campaign, you’ll want to narrow down your target audience as much as possible. The more exact your aim the better the chance you’ll hit after all. Answer the above questions, and any other like them, with a great deal of care. Remember that you can narrow down your audience not only with positive keywords but negative ones as well. For these ads to be optimally effective you’ll want them to reach the right people just about every time. Be sure not to use “broad match” keywords, which can get your ads sent to places only tangentially related to the keywords you selected. And if your ad keeps getting sent to the wrong place add some items to your list of negative keywords to compensate. Watch your traffic carefully. False clicks do you no good. They just cost you money.

Also, while we’re talking about areas of caution, watch out for fraud. PPC is a very easy system to exploit. Since the advertising company of your choice gets paid every time your ad gets clicked there’s naturally a desire among some of them to earn some easy money buy creating automated scripts to click on your ads over and over and over. Sometimes they simply just click on them themselves. Click fraud, as it is known, is hard to prove. Those perpetrating it can even use public computers to make matters that much more difficult. Every system has flaws, ways that it can be used nefariously, and PPC is no exception. I’m not saying it’s reason enough to abandon the system. Not at all. However, proceeding with some degree of caution is wise when embroiled in any sort of business dealings.

Once you’ve decided on your target audience you’ll need to bring them in. As stated above (and as could be assumed through the power of common sense) you’ll need a compelling ad to do this. What makes a ad compelling is not an exact science. The first thing that people will notice about your ad is the aesthetic element, so you’re going to want to make it stand out, either by using an effective design scheme (nothing garish or too loud but not boring or overly familiar either), an attention-grabbing graphic or perhaps a bit of humor. You might even want to include something a promotion, a promise of a small free item or maybe a limited time giveaway. Don’t make them feel pressured, but a little enticement never hurt. Once you have their attention you need to decide what will happen when they click on your add, basically where their action will take them next. You have three options here:

  • An Unrelated Page: This is an option you should absolutely not utilize. Essentially, if you don’t link a page to your ad then the click will take you to an unrelated landing page, thus killing the viewer’s interest, disrupting their attention and perhaps even creating a bit of resentment.
  • Your Actual Homepage: A decent option. That’s why they clicked on the ad after all. This is what they’ve come to see. They’re interested in your service, and as such sending them to the page where they can procure it isn’t a terrible idea.
  • A Landing Page: This is the best option in my opinion. Capturing the interest of a user is not enough. You have to sustain that interest until they’ve learned enough about your business to consider you. A landing page can accomplish this beautifully. Immediately plopping a person who knows very little about your business beyond a slogan and perhaps a logo down on your homepage can be an overwhelming experience, perhaps enough so to turn them off entirely. A landing page can be utilize to teach potential customers the basics without supplying them with too much information. Here you can lay out the basics, all of the reasons they should consider you, and at the bottom you can place a link to your full site should they be interested. It’s a great way to sustain interest and inform your potential customers without coming on too strong.

In the end, PPC has its flaws. After all, just because someone clicks on your ad doesn’t mean that you’re going to make a dime off it. However, if that occurs you’re probably at least somewhat to blame. Though it does simplify matters considerably when it comes to web advertising, PPC still largely depends on you. Your actions alone can determine whether or not a PPC campaign is a success or a failure. Don’t assume that it’ll do all or even most of the work for you. Use it carefully, stay alert and diligent, and you may find that a PPC plan is exactly what you need.