what is PPC There’s no shortage of digital marketing channels to consider when it comes to promoting your business online. It’s easy to get lost in all the “ROI-boosting” and “traffic-maximizing” promises but few channels have a track record as solid as PPC advertising. Google Ads offers a clear and transparent solution for utilizing your marketing budget and converting your ad spend into relevant traffic.

Navigating the world of Pay-Per-Click advertising can be a daunting experience even for seasoned marketers, let alone someone just starting out with PPC. We’ll do our best to cover all the important basics along with some actionable insights that should provide a good introduction to PPC and Search Engine Marketing as a whole.

What is PPC?

Pay-Per-Click or PPC is a digital marketing model for generating traffic from digital ads on a pay-per-click basis, often in the context of search engines or social media platforms. It’s a way for marketers to purchase traffic to their websites on a pay-per-click basis, rather than obtain it via organic ranking. Each time you see an ad online, chances are there’s an advertiser behind it willing to part with a few dimes for a click from a user with relevant intent.
Textbook definition aside, PPC is an invaluable tool when it comes to online advertising. Whether you’re trying to boost the user acquisition rate of your SaaS startup or looking to get more customers for your pet grooming business, PPC marketing offers a uniquely efficient channel for reaching your target audience.

What is Search Engine Marketing, or SEM?

PPC advertising is one of the pillars of Search Engine Marketing (SEM). Search Engine Marketing is the utilization of paid ads which appear on search engine results pages — or SERP. Popular examples of search engines are Google and Bing. There’s some debate whether to include SEO under the SEM umbrella (which is often synonymous with PPC) but for the most part, SEM comes down to promoting your website by securing a higher spot on the Search Engine Results Page. With more people than ever turning to Google for answers and recommendations, it’s no surprise that SEM has gained a well-earned reputation for being a consistent and reliable marketing channel for generating quality traffic.

PPC versus SEM

Results from pages can be timely (and often costly) organically. A PPC strategy is your best bet to secure a place at the top of Google’s search results. Do this to get an offer in front of your target audience. That being said, PPC and SEO are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they work best in tandem. Making it a worthwhile investment to pursue both in your digital marketing strategy.

What is the difference between SEO and PPC?

If you are looking to focus on one search marketing strategy in particular this may help. There are a few distinctions that might help you choose the right fit. One fundamental difference between Search Engine Optimization and Pay-Per-Click is the type of traffic you get: organic vs. paid. You pay for every click within a PPC campaign while SEO-generated clicks come at no direct cost*.

*Quick note: “organic” doesn’t mean “free”. SEO may not put a price tag on every click. Unless you’re a content marketing wizard, there’s usually a hefty investment of time and money that comes along with climbing the search results pages organically.

Another noteworthy distinction is the time and effort required to start reaping the benefits of SEO content. PPC campaigns require a bit of time and dedication to set up. But, they pale in comparison with the amount of time it takes to launch and maintain a proper SEO strategy. Even if you do have an effective content marketing strategy in place. Or, if link-building is your main passion in life. It can still take quite a bit of time for Google to recognize the relevant keywords in your content. Then it will start rewarding you with higher SERP placement.

Flexibility of PPC

The flexibility of PPC campaigns also allows your marketing strategy to stay agile and adaptable. While changing the course of a months-in-the-making SEO strategy requires considerably more effort. If for whatever reason, you need to adjust your reach (which may happen). Or switch to a slightly different niche within your industry, no worries. Your PPC campaign can be easily adapted to your new strategy without skipping a beat. Whereas SEO often requires investing more time and money to pivot.

To be fair, SEO offers more long-term value and doesn’t rely on continuous ad spend to bring in traffic. On the downside, there’s no definitive guarantee. The money you invest in SEO today will lead to ranking for relevant keywords in the future. The entire process is much quicker with Pay-Per-Click. So if your campaign is not yielding the results you were hoping for, it’s ok. You can implement a new PPC strategy in little to no time.

What are the main benefits of PPC?

From precise targeting to near-instant results, there’s no lack of reasons to include PPC advertising in your online marketing efforts. We’ve put together a quick overview of the top benefits that you can expect from investing your hard-earned marketing dollars into paid search advertising.

benefits of PPC

Inputs and Results

  1. Faster results:
    • It might take you a moment to research the right keywords and set up your first PPC campaign, but once it’s live — you should start generating website traffic almost instantaneously. A PPC ad campaign can be created within a matter of days if not sooner. SEO, on the other hand, may take up to several months before you’ll notice a higher organic ranking on the search results.
  2. Smaller upfront investment:
    • The wide appeal of Pay-Per-Click advertising comes from accessing to a highly relevant target audience without “breaking the bank”. PPC costs can be easily managed. All you need is a relatively small ad budget to start getting website traffic and you can invest more money as you convert that traffic into paying customers. You also have a lot more control over how you spend your advertising investment, which is particularly great for small businesses and solopreneurs with limited marketing budgets.
  3. Targeted reach:
    • One of the biggest advantages of a PPC strategy is how precise you can get with your targeting, making sure your ads get in front of the right target audience with relevant intent and higher conversion rate potential. Granular ad targeting also helps to ensure a message match between your ads and landing pages, contributing to better conversion rates as well.
  4. Powerful analytics:
    • PPC campaigns offer easy access to accurate performance metrics and ad spend insights that come along with it. Having a birds-eye view of your campaign performance can often lead to less wasted ad spend and higher ROI. Plug in Google Analytics for an even deeper look at performance.

Control and Maintenance

  1. Easy to maintain and scale:
    • Once set up, a PPC campaign doesn’t require a lot of time and effort to maintain. Limited only by your budget and keywords, there’s virtually no limit to the amount of traffic you can generate using paid search marketing.
  2. Pursue highly competitive keywords:
    • Ranking for highly competitive keywords can prove to be incredibly difficult, particularly for a new website with recently published content. So unless you’re ready to spend a lot of time chasing long-tail keywords, you will quickly learn that efficient PPC management is an excellent way to improve ad copy and tap into the reach of those high-volume keywords.
  3. More control over ad spend:
    • ROAS (Return On Ad Spend) is a crucial metric that should inform most of your marketing strategy decisions. With PPC you’re only paying for actual clicks that generate quality traffic right then and there, rather than investing in the hope of getting organic traffic somewhere down the road or spending money on countless impressions with questionable returns.
  4. Remarketing:
    • Last but not least is being able to reach people that have already visited your website in the past. Every website visitor that didn’t convert is a missed opportunity for you to make a sale and improve your conversion rate in the process. Remarketing (or retargeting) offers a chance to get them to reconsider and sometimes even entice them with a custom offer.

How does PPC work?

At its core, PPC connects advertisers with their target audience. It does so at the precise moment they are most receptive to their offer. When they have the right search intent. Usually, when someone uses Google to search for a solution, Google serves them relevant ads that might answer their needs. Google’s main priority is to resolve whatever question or issue the user came to them with. If a PPC ad is what does it for them — it’s only fair that Google gets a small fee for “making the introduction”.

how does PPC work

To deal with the overwhelming number of advertisers competing for the same keywords Google is using an auction model. This decides which ads are being triggered at any given moment. Designed to be fair and transparent, the ad auction favors higher quality ads. These have the best chance of being relevant to the user’s search intent and prompting them to click on it.

How does Google Ads auction work?

Your ad position and how much a click will set you back is determined via an auction. Held in real-time at the moment of each search query. Depending on your Quality Score and maximum CPC bid (among other factors). Google will calculate your Ad Rank and actual Cost-Per-Click rate. Your Ad Rank determines the position your ad gets relative to your competition and organic search results.

Google ads

Maintaining a consistently high-Quality Score is crucial to coming out on top (quite literally) during ad auctions. Higher Quality Score often leads to less costly clicks and improved ad positions. The quality of your ads is defined by 3 contributing factors: expected clickthrough rate, ad relevance, and landing page experience.

There are certain Google Ads strategies that are specifically designed to improve your ad relevance and CTR. This is done in pursuit of consistently high Quality Scores across the board. With some PPC know-how, you can get your ads on the good side of Google’s algorithm. Enjoying the reach of highly competitive keywords at fairly reasonable prices.

How much does PPC cost?

There are no fixed costs when it comes to Pay-Per-Click advertising. Much like your ad auction bids that are constantly fluctuating based on your keywords, ad quality, and competition’s eagerness to outbid you — your PPC budget is not set in stone either. It’s entirely up to you how much of your marketing budget you’re willing to set aside for Google Ads or other PPC platforms.

The great thing about paid search marketing is that it can accommodate whatever budget you’re working with. Even if you’re focusing on the less competitive long-tail keywords that are often easier on the budget, they still give you access to much-needed traffic and potential leads for your business.

Main takeaways of our PPC Guide:

Pay-Per-Click (or PPC) is an online advertising model that allows advertisers to get digital ads in front of their target audience and only pay when someone actually clicks on one of their ads.

PPC is part of a bigger marketing channel called Search Engine Marketing (or SEM) that refers to promoting your business online through search engines like Google or Bing.

Pay-Per-Click has very little in common with Search Engine Optimization (or SEO) but they both compliment each other and contribute to your SEM efforts in their own way.

Marketing Advantages

This type of marketing offers a lot of advantages over other marketing channels. Most noteworthy being granular targeting, quick results, and budget-friendly initial investment.

Remarketing campaigns can be an incredibly powerful tool for improving your conversion rate. Making sure you’re not leaving potential leads on the table.

Google Ads uses an ad auction system to decide which ads are shown, what spot they take on the Search Engine Results Page (or SERP ), and how much to charge for each click.

You can affect your ad auction performance by adapting Google Ads strategies that are designed to have a positive impact on your Quality Score and Ad Rank.


Your actual Cost-Per-Click (or CPC) is constantly fluctuating and depends on a number of factors like the granularity of your targeting or the popularity of your keywords. Highly competitive keywords = more advertisers bidding on them = higher average CPC. Pursuing long tail keywords can often lead to cheaper clicks and better ROI.


Is PPC right for my business?

Yes (probably)*. If your target audience is searching for your type of product or service online. There’s a pretty good chance that a PPC campaign is going to be a worthwhile addition. On the off chance that your business isn’t a part of an already established niche. You can still use PPC to piggyback off of related keywords and generate some relevant traffic to get you started.

*One of the very few reasons to think twice before doing paid search marketing is if your product or service is so unique that nobody could possibly be searching for something like that on Google.

How much money do I need to start PPC?

It’s entirely up to you, there are no minimum upfront costs. You only pay for actual clicks so think of it as a pay-as-you-go phone plan. You can start small and grow your marketing budget with the profits you make from PPC.

What if my keywords are extremely competitive?

Focus on long-tail keywords or less obvious keywords. That might still give you a chance to connect with your target audience. Let’s say you’re a lawyer looking to get into PPC marketing. Placing a keyword bid on highly competitive keyword like “legal help nyc” will quickly drain your marketing budget. This will leave very little room for mistakes or fine-tuning your campaign. However, if you were to focus on less obvious search term, you might just discover how effective PPC advertising is. Even in a competitive industry like legal support.

I’m already doing SEO, do I need to do PPC?

It ultimately depends on your campaign objectives and long-term marketing strategy. Both channels have their own advantages and drawbacks. If you can afford to pursue both at the same time — there’s a lot of value in combining your SEM efforts.

How long does it take for PPC to start working?

It might take a bit of time to fine-tune your Google Ads campaign to get the most out of it. Generally speaking, you should start seeing the fruits of your labor almost instantly. At any given moment, you are about one PPC campaign away from generating more traffic for your website.

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