Pay per click marketing, or PPC, is an essential part of digital advertising - but it can be a little confusing at first.
If you’re intrigued by paid search but not sure where to start, then check out our PPC glossary. From AdWords to ZMOT, we’ve got you covered.
PPC from A to Z
Paid search, or PPC, is an invaluable part of any digital marketer’s toolkit. But with so much confusing jargon and acronyms, it can all seem a bit daunting at first - especially when there are thousands of pounds’ worth of advertising budget at stake. If you want to get started with PPC but don’t know your negative keywords from your URL parameters, fear not; we’ve compiled this handy glossary of PPC terms and concepts to help get you started.
When it comes to paid search, Google AdWords really is the leader of the pack. When people talk about PPC, more often than not they’re referring to AdWords, to the extent that the terms ‘PPC’ and ‘AdWords’ are used almost interchangeably. Google pretty much wrote the book on paid search, and their business model has become the industry standard - often copied, but seldom bettered. There are, of course, other platforms - such as Bing Ads - but for the purposes of this guide we’ll mainly be talking about AdWords.
AdWords operates on an auction system, and your bid is the amount you’re willing to pay for a click from a given keyword. Your bid, along with several other factors that make up your overall Quality Score, determine your ad position - i.e the physical position of your ad on the search engine results page, or ‘SERP’.
Clicks and Conversions
It may sound obvious, but clicks are what PPC is all about - the clue’s in the name! The AdWords business model works by charging you, the advertiser, every time somebody clicks on your ad. The cost-per-click, normally referred to as the CPC, can vary wildly depending on your industry. The UK average is between 66p and £1.32 - but high-competition keywords such as ‘play live blackjack’ can cost as much as £148.51 per click.
Of course, it’s no good getting lots of clicks if they don’t lead to conversions. A conversion can be defined as any favorable action that a user takes on your website, be that filling in a form, signing up to a mailing list, or making a purchase.
The AdWords offering goes far beyond text ads. If you want to cast your net even wider, you can run display ads - also known as ‘image ads’ or ‘banner ads’ - through Google AdWords. You’ll have access to Google’s Display Network of over two million sites and apps. You can, of course, upload your own suite of image ads, but if you don’t have an in-house design team and you can’t afford to outsource, then Google can scan your website and use the images it finds there to generate a set of, surprisingly professional-looking, banners for free.
Ad extensions are a way of embellishing your text ads with extra information, such as a phone number, address, website links, and a list of your products and services. As well as improving your Quality Score, ad extensions also make your ads larger, giving you more SERP real estate and helping your ads stand out among the competition.
If you’re serious about getting into AdWords, then you really ought to consider taking the AdWords Fundamentals. A set of exams covering everything from Google Shopping to display, from mobile to video, the Fundamentals are free to take and will stand you in good stead for a glittering career in PPC. You can even put it on your CV. To access the exams, you’ll first need to register as a Google Partner.
As well as search engine results pages and the Display Network, you can also use Gmail Sponsored Promotions to serve ads to your audience directly in their Gmail inboxes. You can target users via keywords, demographics, and even based on the mailing lists to which they subscribe.
If you ever find yourself in a jam, just head to the AdWords Help Centre where you’ll find comprehensive how-to guides covering everything from basic account setup to URL parameters. If you’re still having problems, you can speak to an AdWords representative via email, phone or even live chat. There’s also a thriving Advertiser Community full of like-minded search marketers on hand to give advice and guidance.
Impressions can be thought of as ‘ad views’. Each time a user inputs a search query that contains one of your keywords and triggers one of your ads, it’s counted as an impression. Divide the number of clicks by the number impressions and you’ll find your click-through-rate, or CTR. Normally expressed as a percentage, this metric is a handy way of determining how likely people are to click on your ads - the higher the CTR, the better.
Keywords are individual words and phrases that are used to match your ads with users’ search queries. For instance, if you were a company that sold vegan cookbooks, you’d bid on the keyword ‘vegan cookbooks’; then, whenever somebody searches for - you guessed it - vegan cookbooks, your ad will appear on the search engine results page.
You can test out new keyword ideas using the Keyword Planner within the AdWords interface. The Keyword Planner lets you see estimated search volumes for any given keyword, and also suggests alternatives. The search query report, which shows you the exact searches that have triggered your ads, is another great place to find inspiration.
This is an important one: no matter how good your AdWords campaign is, if your landing pages have a high bounce rate i.e. people immediately click the ‘back’ button, or don’t convert, then you’re essentially throwing money away on wasted clicks. Try to make your landing pages as relevant to your keyword as possible, and consider undertaking some conversion rate optimization (CRO).
Without going into too much detail, keyword match types are used to widen or narrow the scope of your keywords. The three basic match types from broadest to narrowest are Broad, Phrase and Exact. You can use a mix of match types to strike a balance between volume and relevance.
If there’s a term you don’t want your ads to appear for, you can set that term as a negative keyword. For instance, our vegan cookbook sellers may wish to add ‘vegan cookery courses’ and ‘vegetarian cookbooks’ as negative keywords, since anyone searching for these terms probably won’t be interested in vegan cookbooks - at least not at that moment in time. You can use the aforementioned search query report to find out whether your ads are being triggered by irrelevant terms.
PPC is a constant, ongoing process of refinement, whether that means trying out new keywords, refreshing ad copy or trialing new landing pages. Google are also constantly releasing new products and updates. This makes it important to stay abreast of the latest developments, lest you find yourself falling behind the competition.
Ad position, also known as AdRank, means pretty much what you’d expect it to mean: it’s the position of your ad on the SERP. Although it varies from search to search, positions one to four are the most desirable because they’re above the organic search results. In any given search, Google multiplies each advertiser’s keyword bid by their Quality Score, and the advertiser with the highest combined total gets the coveted top spot.
As we’ve said, your Quality Score, along with your keyword bid, is what determines how high up the SERP your ads appear. To determine your Quality Score, Google considers various factors such as ad relevance, historical click-through-rate, landing page quality, and the expected impact of ad extensions.
Remarketing - also known as ‘retargeting’ - allows you to serve banner ads across the Google Display Network to people who’ve already visited your website or app. Have you ever been followed around the web by an advert for a product you’ve already viewed online? That’s remarketing - and you can remarket to your audience via Google AdWords.
Google Shopping ads are the perfect PPC solution for any ecommerce business. If you sell tangible products, you can use Google Shopping to serve compelling image ads alongside organic results on the SERP, as well as in the Shopping tab. Your ads can also include reviews, ratings and special offers.
Testing, testing and more testing: therein lies the art of PPC optimization. Whether it’s ad copy, keywords, sitelinks or landing pages, you should never assume that whatever you’ve got running is the best possible option. A/B testing gives you valuable insights into which parts of your campaign are working as they should, and which are letting the side down.
Universal app campaigns
If you’re an app developer, you can use a universal app campaign to promote your app across Google Play and YouTube, as well as the search and display networks. All you need to do is provide a few lines about your app, set a bid and Google will do the rest. Is there anything AdWords can’t do?
When you sign up for a new AdWords account, you’ll get a promotional code that gives you £75 free credit when you spend £25. Google also periodically send out physical vouchers to existing AdWords customers, so be sure to double check any post from Google before discarding it as junk mail.
There’s a real art to writing effective PPC text ads. In AdWords, text ads are made up of two 30-character headlines and an 80-character description - and fitting all the relevant information about your product or service into such rigid confines can prove quite a challenge. There are also various editorial guidelines that dictate what you can and can’t say in an ad - so choose your words carefully.
If you’re a small business and don’t have a lot of time to devote to adjusting keyword bids and writing ad copy, then AdWords Express might be the perfect solution. AdWords Express is a hands-off, entry-level version of AdWords that automatically creates ads and displays them on appropriate SERPs, with no need to worry about keywords or bids. Simply write a three-line description of your business and Google will take care of the rest.
Thanks to improved internet speeds and greater commercial viability, video advertising is poised to take off in a big way in 2017. The good news is, you can now run YouTube video ads from within the AdWords interface, so you can add yet another string to your advertising bow.
Zero Moment of Truth
The Zero Moment of Truth - or ‘ZMOT’ - is a consumer behavior model that refers to the research that consumers undertake online before making a purchase, and so constitutes their first contact with a brand. The concept was proposed by Google back in 2011, and PPC is often the channel via which it takes place.
So there we have it. By now you should have a fairly good handle on the basic concepts of PPC.
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