In the traditional sense, Pay Per Click advertising, the “sponsored listings” usually found at the top and down the right hand side of search engines, is an auction-based system that allows businesses to display adverts based on search terms entered by prospective customers.
When search engines first started attracting users, businesses saw the sales opportunities in being in the first page results.
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), is a way of convincing Google and the like to display your website higher than others, which quickly became an important element in the marketing mix and the SEO industry exploded. Businesses and webmasters were engaged in a non-stop battle and game of one-upmanship to keep their website showing as high as possible.
The search engines tried, often in vain, to stop the results being manipulated and it didn’t take them long to figure out that if this much time and money was being spent by businesses to attract traffic from the results pages, then adverts here would see strong take-up.
To many businesses, Pay Per Click is seen as a way of buying your way to an instant Number 1 ranking, without the hassle and uncertainty of SEO.
Over the past decade, Pay Per Click has grown to cover not just search engine properties but also websites of every type, including large news and media sites and all manner of social networks, from the household names to specialist blogs and forums.
An advertising format that is barely a decade old has become the world’s most popular way of bringing traffic to websites, and it’s easy to see why:
• It is extremely targeted. You can set adverts up so they only promote your business to people interested in what you offer. This means the amount of money wasted on advertising to uninterested parties is minimal.
• It has high conversion rates. Visitors who come through from an advert have made the choice to click through after reading your sales message, so are quite likely to buy what’s on offer.
• It is completely scalable. Campaigns can be set up to suit organisations and budgets of all sizes.
• It is quick to set up and it often starts showing immediate results, making it great for testing out new markets and launching new products.
How Pay Per Click works
Advertisers bid on keywords (single words and phrases) that they feel are relevant to the products or services they offer. Then, when a person enters these search terms into the search engine, the advert will show. When the user clicks on the advert they are sent straight through to the advertiser’s website. Hopefully, the user will buy a product or enquire about a service, which will lead to the advertiser getting a return on their investment.
Only when an advert is clicked on does the advertiser incur a charge, hence the name ‘Pay Per Click’. If users do not click on the advert then there is no charge to the advertiser, meaning they have in effect been displaying adverts to their target markets for free.
Pay Per Click is an auction based system as, in essence, the more an advertiser is willing to pay for a visitor, the higher their adverts show. It is important to know that Google does not set the prices for adverts within its search results. They are decided by the market and the more profitable the products or services are, the more advertisers are willing to pay for traffic, so the more it costs to appear in a high position.
What are Pay Per Click ads used for?
The majority of Pay Per Click adverts are in place to generate sales for products and services. From selling insurance to end of season clothing sales, if you can spend money on it, then there are usual y adverts on AdWords trying to get you to spend your money there.
But it’s not just the selling of products and services that you’ll see people bidding on keywords for. Just a few of the things Pay Per Click can be used for include:
• Buying products (wanted ads)
• Generating interest for an event, such as a concert or ral y
• Enhancing brand recognition or changing brand positioning
• Market research
• Recruiting staff for organisations, or students for educational establishments
• Promoting politics, religion, etc.
• Pushing PR messages and countering negative press
Pay Per Click terminology
• Impression – The displaying of an advert. The number of impressions is the number of times that an advert is served up in the search results.
• Click Through Rate (CTR) – The number of impressions divided by the number of clicks. The higher the CTR, the better your advert is performing.
• Cost Per Click (CPC) – The amount you pay when someone clicks on an advert.
• Average Position – The position in the results where your advert normal y appears.
• Bid – The maximum price you are willing to pay for a click.
In the late 90’s a new form of advertising was invented that would soon have a tremendous impact on how businesses spend their marketing budgets and how they would target and engage their prospective customers.
Up until this time, the world of advertising could be defined as ‘push’ based – in the offline world, marketing messages were sent out with the hope of hitting the right audience, grabbing their attention and bringing them towards the business in order to generate new sales. For businesses with a message that they wanted to broadcast, the main options were print, TV, radio and direct mail. The trouble with these traditional mediums is that not only are they hard to measure accurately, the returns generated are often very small when compared to the outlay.
In the mid to late 1990’s, search engines started being used as the default way to navigate the web. Back then, Yahoo! was the main player but the young Google was quickly taking up a large share of the market. These search engines were seeing huge usage – millions of people were using them every single day – and it wasn’t long until someone saw an opportunity to take advantage of the quickly growing crowds of search engine users.
GoTo.com, an online advertising company that would later be purchased by Yahoo! is credited as creating the concept for Pay Per Click advertising. In 1998, the company started charging businesses to place them at the top of the Yahoo! search results, with payment being made each time someone clicked.
The GoTo.com system was soon followed by AdWords, the Pay Per Click (PPC) platform that Google created to attract advertisers to its own search results. As Google became the default search engine for internet users, AdWords became the default PPC platform for advertisers and the amount of adverts skyrocketed. Since late 2000, AdWords has grown phenomenal y and in most of the world it is now the main place that businesses choose to spend their advertising money.
In 2010, AdWords brought Google around $28 billion in revenue. Whilst AdWords is barely a decade old, the system has undergone many changes and has branched out to offer advertising across many websites, not just Google. Within seconds and a couple of mouse clicks, advertisers can also choose to have their adverts displayed on other search engines and portals that use Google results and by selecting the Display Network, adverts can appear across news websites, blogs and forums of all types. Those adverts you see along the top, the side and the bottom of your favourite websites with “ads by Google” placed next to them are being served via AdWords.
As this was happening, the other main English search engines, Yahoo! and Microsoft, were also creating and refining their Pay Per Click systems. Based on the GoTo.com model (which went on to become Overture and then Yahoo! Search Marketing), Yahoo! had quite a popular system and Microsoft placed adverts within the search results of Bing via its own adCenter model. Whilst each of these is a powerful Pay Per Click system, usage of the Yahoo! and Bing search engines has always been a lot lower than Google, meaning neither of their Pay Per Click platforms enjoy market-leading positions or become a default system.
Whilst Pay Per Click on the search engines has not altered fundamental y for a few years, Pay Per Click as a marketing medium has come a long way. The social media networks are now where people spend the most of their time online and the proven Pay Per Click model was soon ported over.
You can now place adverts on popular websites, such as Facebook and LinkedIn. Rather than adverts displaying every time a particular search term is used, these systems display adverts based on demographics. If your business rents out marquees then you can choose to advertise on LinkedIn and only display adverts to people in the events profession, or you can advertise on Facebook to people who are engaged and planning a wedding.
Pay Per Click is constantly evolving and whatever changes and new platforms are on the way, you can be sure that scores of businesses will be quick to spend their money on them.
Why Pay Per Click is so popular
Offline media such as TV and radio advertising has been used by businesses for decades; print advertising for over a century, so how could this new form of advertising grow so quickly and overtake these enormous entities within just a few years?
Rather than the ‘push’ based system, where messages are being blasted to often unready or uninterested audiences, Pay Per Click allows businesses to ‘pul ’ in prospective customers at just the right time.
By waiting for prospects to enter relevant search engine queries (keywords) and then by only paying when those users click through to their website, businesses on platforms like AdWords often generate a return on investment that had previously been unachievable.
Not only did advertising returns prove to be significantly improved when compared to more traditional methods, Pay Per Click also offered a quick, flexible and accountable way of attracting enquiries and making sales.
New accounts can be set within minutes and without constraint or upfront payment, meaning a business can create adverts that are accessible by hundreds of millions of people almost instantly.
The process is also very simple. So long as you can write a few lines of text about the products and services you offer then you can get started. You don’t need a graphic designer, you don’t need a script, a set or a media buying agency. So long as you have a website and a credit card then you can put your messages out to the market.
Perhaps more important than these things, for professional marketers at least, is the fact that advertising in this new way is completely trackable and offers an unprecedented level of control. The famous saying by successful American businessman John Wanamaker (“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half”) is no longer a worry. With all clicks accounted for and showing up in analytical reports, it is easy to see what is working and what isn’t. And with the ability to split-test adverts, as well as choose things such as the time of day when adverts show and the places where they are seen, Pay Per Click systems are a dream for marketers that are used to advertising offline.
With AdWords, structure is important. If the account grows to one that covers an array of products across numerous countries and various online networks, then you need to make sure it is easy to navigate.
My team and I often take over accounts that are underperforming and the first thing we do is re-work the structure. It is important not to jump straight into this without taking the time to plan out your account. An account that is all over the place often leads to multiple keywords appearing for different campaigns, the wrong adverts showing for search terms and budget being spent differently to originally intended.
The first thing to understand is that there is a hierarchy to each AdWords account. At the highest level are campaigns. A campaign holds a number of ad groups and within the ad groups are adverts and keywords.
This may be an alien concept but picture an account a bit like a department store. Within the store they have the furniture section, the clothing section and the perfume section – these will be the campaigns. Each of these will have different brands on sale (the ad groups) and within these brands are individual products (the keywords). Every single product can be categorised and stored within its brand and its department.
Whilst this is a very simplistic view, any business – or even just a list of products – can be compartmentalised in this way. An example of how this could look for a discount online shoe retailer would be:
When starting with AdWords, as an advertiser you should take the time to list all of the products and services that you want to advertise and divide them up into categories. At the top of the categories list, write “Campaigns”. Then split each of these categories into sub-categories and call these your “Ad Groups”. Don’t worry about keywords or adverts at this point in time.
When you have a list that you are satisfied with, it is time to create a new Google account or log-in to your existing one and get started on setting up AdWords.
After going to AdWords, choosing to start advertising and inputting your location and preferred currency, you will see this screen:
Do not click the big button called “Create your first campaign”. This may seem counter-intuitive but you will have to trust me on this one. Doing so will force you into creating a campaign with certain features that we do not want set as default.
These features, such as the Display Network, are left “on” by default as they make Google a lot of money. If you want a very tightly focussed advertising campaign then it is best not to spend your budget here. For new advertisers, these options rarely lead to an increase in sales, so instead, play it safe and click “creating advanced campaigns” under the “For experienced advertisers” section, where you will be taken through to the campaign set-up screen.
Here, you should name your campaign, choose where in the world you want the adverts to appear and the languages your target market use. You can then also specify the Networks and Devices that they appear on. Choosing the right networks is hugely important and it is advised that all newcomers to Pay Per Click choose only the Search Network.
The difference between the Search and Display Networks
The Search Network is where adverts appear next to the search engine results page. This obviously includes any searches made on Google but can also include their “search partners”, i.e. other search engines that show Google results, such as AOL.
The Display Network is a range of websites where adverts appear next to content that Google sees as relevant, based on the words held on that page. You will often see “ads by Google” with what appear to be AdWords adverts down the side of news sites or blogs and the adverts will be related in some way to what you are reading.
The main reason why I don’t often advise new advertisers to place adverts on the Display Network is mainly because the accuracy of where your adverts appear is a lot harder to get right than on the Search Network.
The other reason is because user intent is different on the Search and Display Networks. If someone is searching on Google for “cheap garden furniture” and they see an advert from a discount furniture retailer then not only is it very relevant but they are likely to be in the market at that time and seeking out a supplier. If however, someone is reading up on gardening or researching images of furniture designs and sees an advert that interests them enough to click through, they are less likely to part with their money as they are less likely to be in a buying mind-frame.
We will discuss the Display Network a lot more and how it can be used to great effect later on in the book.
For now though, once you have chosen the options that best suit you, define a daily budget that you don’t want to exceed for this campaign and save it. You will now need to create an ad group and write your first advert.
Ad groups, as the name suggests, are where a number of adverts can be grouped together, for use with the same keywords.One of the best things about ad groups is that you can try out a number of adverts by split testing them for the same keywords, something we will cover later on.
Once an advertiser has created a campaign, they will need to create an ad group and then immediately get started on writing their first advert.
The first hurdle you will have to overcome with Pay Per Click adverts is how limiting the space is. You don’t get much room to sell your wares and you have to make the most of every single letter.
The Headline can only be 25 characters, including spaces, and each of the description lines can only be 35 characters, including spaces. This means that you only have 95 characters to inform a searcher about your offering and entice them to click through to your website instead of your competitor’s.
If you sell products or services with long words or do business in a place with a long name then this can get tricky and often requires you to think about phrasing what you do in new ways. An O rthodontist in Birmingham would use up over a quarter of their ad space with those three words and would not be able to use that phrase in the title as it exceeds 25 characters.
Even though we haven’t covered keywords yet, it is important to think about them at this stage. If keywords are included within an advert then when Google displays the advert, it will show them in bold. This means people are more likely to notice the advert and will lead to more traffic coming your way. Ideal y, keywords will be included within the title and the description of the advert, though this rule should only be followed if you can do so and still write an advert with impact.
Writing powerful copy that grabs people’s attention and makes them click through is a skill all of its own and one that takes a while to master.
As a quick guide to writing adverts, you can use this formula, trying to include keywords as often as possible:
Headline = attention grabbing benefit
Description 1 = a reason to use you instead of the competition
Description 2 = another benefit and a Call to Action
Display URL = website.com/keyword
An example of how this may look for an electrical goods site looking to increase TV sales is:
the Call to Action, you can use words like “buy here”, “order now” and “sign up today”, you cannot use the most obvious one, “click here”, as Google does not allow this.
Take the time to look at what competitors are putting in their ads. Do you have any offers that are better? Do you do something that they can’t beat? If you do have something that stands out then put these things into the advert. Many businesses play it safe and write adverts that read just like the rest. Putting something different in, such as a great offer, can lead to a considerably better click-through-rate.
Recently, Google also introduced a different way of displaying adverts that show above the search results, as opposed to those that are on the right hand side. For these adverts, the second line can appear as an extra part of the heading, meaning that when in the top 3 positions, the above example would look like this:
Punctuation is important here. Unless the first description line ends with a full stop, question mark or exclamation mark then it will not move up to join the title.
Once you have written your advert you can add in a Display URL and if needed, a different Destination URL. You may choose to use your home page (www.example.com) as the display URL and the best landing page (www.example.com/lcd-tvs/january-offers) as the destination URL. If keywords are included in the landing page URL and it fits within the character limit then it’s worth testing this out as the display URL too.
Always deep link to the product or service you are advertising. Don’t put extra steps between the advert and the sale. We look at landing pages later on
10 tips for writing powerful adverts
There are up to ten other advertisers as well as ten organic listings vying for a searcher’s attention. There are also things like site-links and universal search results like Twitter feeds, videos and images that all take attention away from the adverts. The search engine results pages are a competitive arena and unless you can write an advert that grabs attention and entices a click-through, then you will be in trouble.
Here are some tips for writing adverts:
1. Look at what competitors are saying. Can you base your advert on a different message, to stand out?
2. Put your keywords in your headline and in one of the description lines
3. Put your keyword at the end of the display URL, even if that exact URL doesn’t exist on your website 4. You are allowed an exclamation mark in your advert. Use it!
5. Incentives like “30% off” and “Half Price Sale” can bring much higher clicks
6. Capitalise all first letters of words. For example “Sports Trainers Sale”
7. Create a sense of urgency to really drive up Click-Through-Rates and often drive up sales: “Buy Now”, “Call Now”, “Offer Ends Soon”, “Only 5 Spaces Left”, etc.
8. Test out prices and dates to see if your market is time sensitive or price sensitive.
9. Try out dates and prices to see if these work
10. Try out emotive and exciting words like Discover, Explore, Control, Love, etc.
One thing to remember is the importance of testing. Don’t let your adverts become stale. Keep them up to date with the latest offers and keep trying out new messages.
Once you have created an advert, the final part of the hierarchy, keywords, need to be put in place. Keywords are the search terms you believe people in your market will use when searching on Google. When these searches are made, your advert is triggered and displays above, or next to, the search results.
Researching and choosing keywords
One of the most important parts of any search engine marketing campaign is keyword research. If you don’t pick keywords that people use, or the ones that will lead to the sale or sign-up that you have in mind then this is all a waste of time, or worse, a waste of money. The good thing is that AdWords has a built in Keyword Tool that makes finding search terms easy.
There are other ways to perform keyword research and figure out the search terms to bid on. One easy way is to look at the keywords that your competitors care about. Webpages often contain ‘meta keywords’, which are lists of search terms that the page is about. If you “right click” on their web pages and then click ‘View Source’, you will be able to view this data.
Another good place to get keyword inspiration is the Google drop-down. Start typing words into it and it will show what people frequently search on as drop-down options.
How to use low cost keywords to your advantage
Bidding on specific product names will lead to traffic that is more likely to convert into a sale. People searching on generic product names, such as “iPod” are more likely to be in the research phase of the buying cycle, whereas people using “32GB iPod Touch” are far more likely to be in the position where they are ready to spend money. Not only are these types of searches more likely to convert, the traffic is usual y cheaper as any lazy competitors will probably not bother to include all of these keywords.
Google recommends you use both singular and plural versions for your keywords and misspellings are also worth bidding on as very few advertisers bid on these terms. You can also put variations of words into your keyword list, such as “optimization” and “optimize” as well as “optimise”.
Keyword match types
A fundamental thing you need to understand about keywords is the different Match Types or, in other words, the different ways you can choose to input a word or a phrase into your ad group. These match types are the difference between your adverts showing for quite broad and generic searches and for very specific ones.
With AdWords there are five different match types:
1. Broad match.
This is where the word or phrase is simply as it appears (shown in AdWords as it is typed in, i.e. keyword1 keyword2). This means that Google will display the advert for any search query that includes these keywords or ones related to it.
2. Phrase match.
This is where you put quote marks around the keywords (i.e. “keyword1 keyword2” ). This tel s Google to only display the advert when the search query includes the keywords in the same order that you list them. If other words are used before or after the phrase then the advert will still show.
3. Exact match.
Place your keywords into square brackets (i.e. [ keyword1 keyword2]) and you will tell Google to show the advert for that exact search term only. No variation of the phrase and no other words included in the search will trigger the advert.
4. Negative match.
This is where a minus sign is put in front of any keywords you don’t want the advert to appear for (i.e. – keyword).
5. Modified broad match.
This is the newest match type. By putting a plus sign in front of the phrase or the words within a phrase (i.e. +keyword or keyword1 +keyword2 keyword3) then you are being more specific than broad match and telling Google to only display the advert for very closely related words.
Modified broad match came about after many complaints from advertisers that broad match was showing adverts for quite vague search queries and therefore reducing the return on investment.
If this online TV retailer is based outside of London then of all the above, only the Exact Match may be of interest. However, if you only stick to exact match keywords then you would be severely limiting the number of times that your adverts appear and therefore the amount of traffic that could come through to your site. This is where negative match comes in.
For the above advert, if you included a few negative match keywords, such as -London, – fix and – monitor then your advert would not show for anyone looking for a retailer in London, information on fixing their TV or anyone after an LCD monitor.
Negative keywords are something that you will need to add to an account on an on-going basis if you use anything other than exact match – something that will be discussed in detail further on.
Once you have chosen your keywords, you need to choose a bid amount. In Google’s own words “You can influence your ad’s position by setting its maximum cost-per-click (CPC) bid. This bid is the highest price you’re wil ing to pay when someone clicks on your ad. You’ll input an initial bid below, but you can change your bid as often as you like. Try a bid now to get started, then revise it later based on how your ads perform”. The truth is, when you are setting up your account, this part is pretty much a guess. There are tools out there that estimate positions but for the most part they are quite inaccurate.
It’s best to think about how much a website visitor is worth to you and put that amount in for now. Once the adverts start showing, you will be able to refine this, manage spend and traffic levels and ensure that you are bidding at levels that generate a return on your investment.
There are a few key things you should keep in mind when deciding on bids and overall advertising budgets:
• How much profit is there in a sale?
• How many visitors does it take to make a sale?
• If you divide the number of visitors by the amount of profit then you have the maximum amount you can spend acquiring a new customer.
After your bid amounts are in place, your adverts are ready to go. Once the Ad Group is saved, your new Pay Per Click adverts will be set live and will soon start showing above and to the side of the search results.
Facebook users are growing rapidly and with over 500 million active users at the time of writing, it’s an avenue that all marketers should be seriously considering.
Facebook allows you to interact with a wide audience at usual y cheaper costs than traditional pay-per-click methods.
The platform Facebook provides allows you to be extremely targeted and base campaigns on interest categories and other key demographics such as gender, age and location.
Some of the benefits of advertising on Facebook include:
• Repeatedly marketing to a very specific audience via demographic targeting
• Granular targeting options make it easy to promote a niche product or service to a highly targeted audience
• Facebook receives more page views than Google, with Facebook adverts usually receiving more impressions.
If you have made it this far through the book then you should have a good foundation on how to set-up and organise pay-per-click accounts. Getting started on Facebook couldn’t be easier, as the interface is user friendly and easy to understand.
Designing Facebook adverts
There are two options when creating your first ad. You can:
1. Suggest an advert. Enter a destination URL for the advert and Facebook will suggest a title and content for your ad based on the destination landing page you have selected. If you decide to use this feature, don’t think you have to use the suggested ad – you can alter it to suit your requirements.
2. Create your own ad. As with traditional PPC advertising, you can choose the message from the start. You are allowed to use 25 characters in the title, 135 in the body text and all adverts on Facebook require an image.
With regards to what you can and cannot use for images, there are a few things you should try to ensure take place, such as using an image that relates to your product or service, relates to the text in your advert (once again, relevancy is key) and is clearly visible when smal . You are allowed a maximum image size of 110 x 80 pixels.
There are a number of ways you can choose to target prospective customers in Facebook.
Location is one option. Like AdWords, Facebook will allow you to target users based on their location. You can also include a radius around your main target area in order to market to other cities, states or countries.
Demographic targeting is an obvious advantage over search based PPC platforms and the targeting tool in Facebook is real y useful for displaying adverts to people with certain characteristics. It allows advertisers to market to users based on their age, age ranges and/or gender. Just remember, the more targeted your selections, the smaller your audience will be.
Likes and Interests can also be chosen as advertising options. This real y sets Facebook apart from other platforms as it allows you to market to an audience based on things they have previously said they like or have said they are interested in. This is obviously very powerful for advertisers seeking to create highly targeted campaigns by demographic.
There are a number of advanced targeting options. Connections are one way and, in a nutshel , it allows you to market to other people connected to your selected audience who are involved in related groups, events and applications. You can also choose to target audiences based on birthdays, relationship status, languages spoken, educational background and occupation.
Facebook Ads is very similar to other Google AdWords when it comes to pricing. Set a daily budget, schedule your adverts to run either continuously or on certain days and enter your bid amount. The one important difference with Facebook is that they give you an estimated cost-per-click based on your targeting options. The CPC that you enter will act as your maximum.
Some basic optimisation tips
With Pay Per Click advertising on Facebook still fairly young, there isn’t too much in the way of best practice available yet. Here are some things we do for client accounts that work so we recommend following them:
• Use multiple ads and test them to find the best Click-Through-Rate.
• Change the adverts more regularly than you would with other Pay Per Click adverts. Facebook users are well known for their ad blindness so, change messages and images regularly as the audience may get bored with seeing the same message all the time.
• Use an appropriate landing page that matches the message in your advert. This can either be an external page or your company Facebook page.
• Experiment with different keywords to increase relevancy and improve your Click-Through-Rate.
• Start off with CPC bidding at first and switch to CPM (cost-per-thousand impressions) once your campaigns have been established for some time.
• Start with a small daily budget until you’re comfortable with the traffic you’re generating.
Some things we recommend you avoid doing:
• Targeting multiple interest categories with the same ad.
• Using bad pictures – the images are quite smal , so make sure they are clear and relevant.
• Testing too few ads. Use different variations to keep making improvements and bettering results.
• Making too many changes. Decide what metric you want to focus on and stick to it. That way you will be able to interpret the data more easily.
• Using long copy. Keep it short, eye-catching and compelling.
How others are using Facebook Ads
Whatever you’re promoting, you can target people based on any of the factors mentioned above and more. The number of advertisers using Facebook to promote their brand and their offers is huge. To help inspire you, here’s a taste of what you could base your campaigns around.
If you are a supplier of green energy solutions, you may wish to promote your latest deals to an audience who are particularly affluent, such as doctors, lawyers and accountants. Or target by regions of the country where energy tariffs are highest. In the hope that they will make the switch to a greener solution that will generate them income in the long run.
If you’re promoting a music event, you can advertise to all those people who are interested in music – but you can refine this by age and gender, based on the particular event being held. For example, if you were promoting a Take That concert your key demographic may be female, aged between 21 and 55. For a concert travelling the country, you could set up individual campaigns to target particular cities and those interested in that particular style of music.
If you’re a health club that wishes to grow its members, you could advertise based on location and demographic. You could also choose to target people who are interested in sports or fitness.
As you can see, the possibilities with Facebook Ads are nearly endless and as the targeting options get more sophisticated, more and more marketers will be drawn to the system.