If your website’s traffic levels need a kickstart and you are ready to invite hoards of people to your project then paid online advertising could well be for you. The wide variety of options for online marketing teams to take advantage of can sometimes seem daunting, but we at Crucial Web are ready to help you navigate the process safely and to reach the lofty traffic glories that PPC promises! Let’s take a look at some of the details...

What is PPC?

Pay per click (or payperclick) 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.
Pay Per Click Advertising
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).

PPC Strategy

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:
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Lead generation and customer acquisition: Aims to generate valuable relationships with new customers and usually involves a limit on the financial cost of the acquisition of each customer. The cost of acquisition needs to be low enough to ensure that the overall revenues generated by the process leave a net profit.

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Increasing Brand Awareness: Introducing people to a product, service or organisation in order to generate general interest which may or may not lead to specific sales actions being taken. For example, traffic may be driven to a site’s homepage for general education/promotion or a social media profile in order to increase user engagement and support for that page.

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.

Ad Retargeting (Remarketing)

A variety of additional tactics exist in order to improve PPC campaign performance, including the powerful retargeting options offered by most major platforms. Retargeting allows management of the way adverts are served to individuals over time and for specific adverts to be served in response to specific actions that they take. For example, if someone signs up to a newsletter, they may then see a different advert when browsing a social network to the one they would have seen otherwise. This allows advert budgets to be focused on people who have specifically expressed interest in a product already, which increases the likelihood of the advert impression leading to further conversions or a sale and thus profit generation.

Retargeting can make use of existing lists of emails that marketers may have available or can use lists of users that are generated automatically in response to specifically designated events that are captured via website tracking solutions (e.g. Google Analytics or Facebook’s tracking pixel).

Budgeting for PPC Campaigns

The cost of paid search advertising and social media ad campaigns is highly dependent on the level of competition present for the keywords or demographics being targeted. Each campaign is unique, however, the following are generally good ideas when planning and managing budgets for PPC campaigns:
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Informed decisions: Use data and analytics from both the advertising platform and your own target websites to inform your decisions as much as possible. Google Analytics provides a wide array of advanced tools that can be used to deeply understand traffic patterns and how they respond to ad campaigns. (Make sure each ad campaign is uniquely identified using URL parameters in order to accurately identify them in analytics systems).

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Goal Tracking: Determine whether your campaign goals will generate profit directly or not. If it is possible to directly track a user’s journey from their search right through to a conversion goal, then doing so will enable fine grained ROI analysis and greater potential for profit.

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Make Predictions: If historic sales and conversion data is available it is possible to estimate a likely average value for each visitor that reaches your landing page or website. You will be able to estimate how much traffic you need to reach your objectives and this allows for smarter budgeting and more effective Conversion Rate Optimisation.

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Use CPC Price Tools: Most ad platforms provide keyword tools that show the current price of certain keywords on their platform (e.g. the Google Adwords keyword planner). These are invaluable when it comes to planning campaigns and budgeting too. Be sure to input the geographical and other demographic parameters of your campaign before searching for CPC cost predictions.

The overall aim is to know how much budget is going to be needed to generate a financial return, based on worst case and best case scenarios. Once campaigns are underway it is possible to optimise and improve results, however, it is important to accept that sometimes performance can go down without the cause being immediately obvious. Budgeting needs to take the presence of unknowns into consideration as much as possible and this generally means allowing for some inefficiencies or struggles with competition along the way.

Successful budget planning will be able to demonstrate the amount of profit that can be expected to be generated in relation to the money invested. There is no ‘right’ answer to how much must be spent on any given campaign and the fine details are for the advertiser to decide, based on their goals, available resources and what their data predicts.

SEO vs PPC

A common challenge faced by every diligent online marketing manager involves deciding how to split marketing budgets between their SEO efforts and PPC campaigns. SEO and PPC are both key elements in a successful long term growth strategy, however, their natures are significantly different and it is essential to know the benefits and limitations of each.

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) involves changing the content and design of a website in order to improve organic traffic that comes from search engines without the need to pay money to the search engine operators directly. Through making your website more valuable to the search engine algorithms, you will be able to receive more exposure and traffic from online search providers automatically. However, SEO efforts can take several months to be fully realised and are also at risk from search engine algorithm changes. SEO work can, however, be carried out for free if you have the understandings, skill and time to invest in the process.

Results from PPC campaigns are far more instantaneous than SEO, generating targetted traffic to your site immediately. The comparative downside to PPC being that any investment may be gone as soon as the campaign is completed, whereas successful SEO provides longer lasting benefits. None the less, well managed PPC campaigns are profitable and so are absolutely suitable and effective for many projects in the long term too. In cases where competition is too fierce for PPC to be profitable, then maximising SEO investment makes total sense.

Another important point to consider is that the supercharged traffic surge that PPC can provide is perfect for accelerating your process of Conversion Rate Optimisation. Optimising the effectiveness of a website requires a great deal of testing and improvement that itself relies on having traffic moving through the site. CRO efforts are boosted much more efficiently by PPC than is possible, in general, by SEO.

The ideal budget split for each of these approaches will depend on the needs of the specific project. For example, a startup project will likely need to focus on both SEO and PPC in order to gain a foothold in the marketplace, yet PPC will provide the project a much faster initial growth period which may be needed to achieve certain early goals.

The general advice is to use PPC if it is profitable or can provably help achieve non profit related goals in a sustainable way, yet don’t overlook SEO! The final budget allocation for each is something that can be experimented with over time to produce the best results.

CRUCIAL Ad Campaign Management

We at Crucial Web offer a complete service for researching, managing, configuring and continually optimising PPC campaigns across numerous platforms. We are happy to consult with those seeking to manage their own campaigns, but who need a helping hand too. For smaller projects we generally recommend an absolute minimum ad spend budget of around £1000 per month in order to produce results that can be effectively optimised, however, the budget that is needed in total will vary.
CONTACT US to discuss your PPC requirements