Pay per click (or pay per click) is a method of online paid advertising that, as the name suggests, involves the advertiser paying for each click on adverts that are generated as they are displayed to target audiences. Most of the largest online platforms provide PPC opportunities to advertisers, including Google, Bing, Facebook, Linked In, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. Collectively these sites carry the majority of daily traffic on the internet, so they provide a powerful way to convey marketing messages to internet savvy people internationally.
Through a combination of targeting features, online social media and search companies have made it possible to tailor PPC campaigns so that marketing budgets can be precisely used in ways that ensure exactly the right message reaches specific people. While privacy restrictions mean it is not possible to target specific individuals through PPC ad campaigns (such as named CEOs or other prominent people in society), it is possible to define target audiences based on numerous key demographics. The wide variety of options that can be adjusted when running PPC campaigns allows for high optimisation potential and so success means a continual process of monitoring, analysis and refinement where needed.
In general, PPC advertisers provide creatively designed advert copy and/or multimedia andthen define target audiences and assign a budget to each campaign. Once approved by the advertising platform, the ads will start to be shown to appropriate people as they browse the site(s) in question. For example, users of Facebook may see your adverts in their newsfeed, alongside posts from their friends and pages/groups that they subscribe to – while Youtube users may see your video advert alongside videos they choose to watch. Each time a user clicks on an advert, their web browser will be redirected to whichever page the campaign has been configured to point them towards. Therefore, each click generates traffic to a target destination and the advertiser pays the host platform accordingly.
Prices of clicks vary widely according to which keywords, regions and other factors are being targeted. Prices for competitive niches and keywords will be higher than prices for those which are less valued by advertisers. In general, keywords that are associated with high purchasing intent or that relate to industries which are well funded or have high average conversion rates will tend to be highly competitive and this will be reflected in their cost per click (CPC).
A typical PPC campaign starts with a research process to understand which audiences are aligned with the objectives of the project’s marketing strategy
and which platforms are likely to allow the most effective access to target audiences. The goal of each campaign can differ according to the needs of each project and it is possible to optimise campaigns for various end results, including:
Budgeting and campaign design decisions will vary depending on the nature of the goals involved.
Each online advertising platform has different features and limitations which, to some extent, will shape the design of the ad campaigns that can be run through them. In some cases, such as certain areas of healthcare, there will be restrictions placed on which keywords can and cannot be targeted, so it is essential to thoroughly research this while deciding which platforms to work with for a given campaign.
Some online advertising platforms only allow text based adverts whereas others allow images and full scale HD video too. Each format has it’s strengths and weaknesses, plus varying levels of competition for each niche and targeted keyword. Depending on the project’s needs, advertisers might benefit from running campaigns on multiple platforms in order to compare their performance and increase the overall effectiveness of their work.
Switching between platforms is relatively straightforward, however, it is necessary to allow a time period of several weeks for campaigns to run in order to assess their effectiveness. Additionally, platforms are often managed by forms of artificial intelligence which automatically adjust campaign performance after an initial testing period and also after any edits are made to the campaign later on. These details of the algorithms on certain platforms can mislead inexperienced advertisers with performance data that is not truly reflective of the potential of the campaign, so when in doubt it is wise to allow more time to assess a campaign’s true value.
Effective and creative design of the adverts themselves relies on the advertiser’s experience and ability to apply psychological principles, to empathise with their audience and also to be able to apply scientific thinking to analysing the results of each design once they have been tested in the real world. A great deal can be learned by researching the text and media content that competitors are already using for specific keywords and niches, since it is common for significant amounts of money to have already been invested into their refinement.
The finished advertising materials are then uploaded to the target platforms and are assigned to campaigns in such a way that they can be tested and optimised over time. Split testing (A/B testing) is commonly used as part of the optimisation process in a similar way to it’s application within the Conversion Rate Optimisation
process that is applied to webpages. Different versions of adverts can be run simultaneously and with enough impressions/views it becomes possible to determine which ones perform best with which target audience. Weaker adverts can be redesigned or removed completely and an evolutionary process can take place which continually yields better results.
Once campaigns are live it can be beneficial to monitor which keywords are underperforming and to identify new keyword opportunities. Preventing adverts from being displayed in response to certain search terms (‘negative keywords’) via your campaign’s configuration options can also improve the campaign’s performance significantly.
The highly competitive nature of online advertising means that strategies and designs need to be constantly reviewed and updated. Should an advertiser discover a new tactic that significantly improves their results, it is not usually long before their competitors catch on and seek to duplicate the success. Continual improvement needs to also include careful monitoring of competitor activity and also trends in the field of online advertising and marketing in general.