PPC Basics Explained — PPC Management for Small Businesses

47% of small business owners execute marketing campaigns on their own. But knowing where to spend your time, money, and effort on marketing can be complicated. Especially when customers are shifting to digital channels for entertainment, shopping, and communication with brands. Online engagement is only increasing.

So why is this important? Because pay-per-click advertising (PPC) needs to be an option for small businesses to reach customers and stay competitive online. In this article, we will cover what PPC marketing entails, why it’s beneficial for small businesses, and some basics and best practices to get you started.

Let’s get started.

What is PPC?

PPC stands for “pay-per-click advertising.” It is often used interchangeably with SEM, or “Search Engine Marketing.” It refers to online advertising where the advertiser pays a fee every time their ad is clicked. The total cost is calculated on a per-click basis.

PPC ads are commonly shown as:

– Text ads on search engine result pages like Google and Bing

– Text or image ads on YouTube

– Image ads on social media platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn

– Image ads on various websites referred to as partner sites, or Google’s Display Network.

The goal with PPC advertising is to target the right keywords and organize them into effective campaigns and ad groups to make the cost of clicks trivial. If done correctly, the visit to your website should be more valuable than the fee you pay. If you’re struggling to convert visitors into paying customers, check out our guide on checkout strategies.

PPC vs SEO — What’s the difference?

The notable difference between PPC advertising and organic digital advertising efforts like SEO or organic social media marketing is how the cost is determined. Many small businesses believe that other digital marketing efforts are “free,” which is not necessarily true.

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While each click via PPC advertising has a fee, the cost associated with organic channels can be difficult to determine. Typically it’s the cost of time dedicated to creating content, as well as fees paid to host content.

PPC or SEO? — Which is better?

Ideally, you would leverage both PPC and SEO to bring traffic to your website. They each have benefits and drawbacks that work best together within a cohesive digital marketing strategy. If you have to choose between PPC and SEO, it depends on your business needs. If you’re a smaller business targeting local results, starting with SEO makes sense. But, if you’re an online store targeting competitive eCommerce search terms, leveraging hyper-specific PPC will help you gain exposure. However, most businesses will eventually use both and mix strategies when appropriate.

What are the benefits of PPC for small businesses?

Why should a small business leverage PPC? There are useful benefits that make it easier to manage, more effective for targeting customers, and less time-consuming.

Greater budget control

One notable benefit of PPC marketing is the amount of control you have over your budget. You can set a specific budget, control your target audience or keywords, and modify how much you bid per click. You ultimately control how much you spend and how you spend it.

Reporting and visibility into results

With PPC marketing, you get immediate, concrete reporting and visibility into how your dollars are spent. You can see locations and devices that perform optimally, demographics of users who engage with your ad, or high-performing keywords. These insights allow you to evaluate effectiveness and identify areas for improvement.

No content required

PPC advertising requires zero SEO or content effort. Instead, you indicate the terms or keywords you want to show for in a search engine and bid on those specifically. It serves as a fast track to growing your website traffic.

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Little to no barriers to entry

PPC marketing has fewer barriers to entry. Most platforms allow anyone to set up an account and begin building campaigns in minutes. However, it’s important to be well-informed about best practices and mistakes to avoid for each platform.

How does PPC work?

PPC advertising can be simple once you know how it’s set up. Let’s walk you through the process.

1. Setting your campaign goals

First, identify exactly what you’re hoping to achieve with your campaign. Your goal will influence every decision you make in the following steps.

2. Choosing the right platform

The notable PPC advertising channels are Google Ads, Microsoft Ads, and Facebook Ads. Typically, a small business will start with Google Ads or Facebook Ads. Google offers the greatest potential reach, while Facebook offers unique targeting options.

3. Creating your first search campaign

Log in to your Google Ads account to create a new search campaign. Choose your target location and daily budget.

4. Organizing your search campaign

Use ad groups to house similarly themed keywords. Add keywords and text ads to each ad group, and consider adding extensions to provide additional information.

5. Setting your bids

Set a bid, which is the maximum amount you’re willing to pay for a click. The auction-based system considers your bid, the quality of your ads, and expected performance to determine search results and rankings.

6. Putting it all together

When someone searches using keywords related to your ad, an auction takes place. Google Ads looks at bids, ad quality, and expected performance to determine who shows in the search results. You’ll be charged only slightly more than your competitor’s bid.

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What tools or services do you need for PPC?

As a small business starting with PPC advertising, you don’t need additional tools or services. Familiarize yourself with the platform you’ve chosen and leverage educational resources to learn about campaign setup and best practices.

How to develop your PPC strategy

Tie your PPC strategy to your current business goals. Consider your target audience, keywords, and the actions you want visitors to take on your website. Measure key metrics and adjust your strategy based on results.

Does PPC work for small businesses?

PPC advertising is great for small businesses. It offers a quick way to get traffic to your website, provides reporting and metrics, and offers a high level of control over your budget. It’s important to measure valuable actions on your website, leverage remarketing lists, and actively manage your PPC ads to find success. Don’t make the common mistake of "setting and forgetting."

Remember, PPC and SEO can work together to create an effective digital marketing strategy. Start with PPC and adjust your strategy based on results.

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