The Ultimate Guide to Search Engine Pay-Per-Click

24 November 2020
by Archie Williamson
5 mins
The Ultimate Guide to Search Engine Pay-Per-Click

Pay-Per-Click (PPC) is a method of online advertising that bypasses many of the complexities involved in other forms, to drive traffic directly from a search engine to your site.

It’s also one of the most efficient ways to advertise your business, provided you know what to look out for and with a little bit of strategic input. Today, we’re going to be explaining what PPC is, how it functions, and why it’s something any company looking to expand their audience should consider.

What is Pay-Per-Click?

As above, at the core, PPC is an internet advertising model. You’ve probably seen PPC ads almost every time you’ve used a search engine – maybe you just weren’t aware of what to call them. Searching on Google will list a few ‘sponsored’ results before the rest of the SERP listings, and those are the PPC ads in question. There are some variations, but if someone is discussing PPC advertising, this is often what they’re referring to.

Generally, companies will ‘bid’ on a particular keyword or search term. Some terms command significantly higher prices, depending on search traffic, the profitability of the item or service, competition and likely conversion rates. Every time you – the visitor – triggers Google to show an advert by searching, Google takes into account how much each ad has bid, the geolocational preferences of those bids, as well as external factors such as the time of day. It then automatically determines the winner of that bid – showing the ad from the winner to the visitor.

Multiple ‘winners’ may be declared, particularly on higher traffic keywords, where more advertising spots are available. The order these display in is affected first by the bid amount, and then by Quality Score – a metric used by Google, Yahoo! and Bing to ascertain the quality of adverts displayed on their platforms.

How do I set up Pay-Per-Click?

In a small-scale setup, a member of an in-house team can feasibly run your PPC campaign amongst other duties. It’s simple to create an ad account on all major search platforms – though of course, Google AdWords is by far the most popular option for search engines.

The next step is to choose which keywords you want to target. For a small-scale business, you likely only offer a small number of services – perfect for knowing where your strengths lie. 

Choose terms that are likely to generate conversions at good rates. More competitive terms may bring more traffic, but if they are considerably more expensive, it may not be worth it for you.

Additional insight is that often a buyer will begin with a generic search term before gradually narrowing their specifics down as they come closer to making the purchase, so try to be fairly niche in what you choose. Generally, you’ll also be able to select from ‘Broad’, ‘Exact’ and ‘Phrase’ matches for these. Fortunately, these aren’t too fearsome to work out:

Broad match will open you up to a wider range of keywords, by ensuring your ad is displayed as long as your terms appear anywhere within the search phrase. To give an example, if you were selling a ‘blue bridesmaid dress’ you’d use Broad match to also be matched on ‘dresses for bridesmaids in blue’.

Exact match is the easiest to figure out. It’s useful if you sell niche items or have a speciality. If you sell exclusively ‘wooden engagement rings’, it’s potentially a waste to have your ads displayed on searches for ‘engagement rings’. It’s worth remembering even exact match has a little leeway. Very close variants (such as regional spellings) will still trigger these ads.

Phrase match is a nice middle ground between the two. Your exact phrase, in your exact order, must appear in the search term, but can appear in addition to other words. ‘Chocolate wedding cake’ as a phrase would trigger on searches for ‘Chocolate wedding cake and flower delivery’.

With your keywords in mind, now all you need is to write the ad that the visitor will see. Fortunately, Google themselves have a helpful breakdown of what they like to see in their ads.

And with that, you’re all set to jump into the world of search engine PPC marketing. So why use it over other advertising methods?

Why use Pay-Per-Click over other methods?

Other more traditional strategies such as SEO, or cutting-edge forerunners like social media marketing absolutely have their places in the industry. What sets PPC apart, however, is its transparency and ‘catch-up’ potential.

All of your statistics based around PPC can be collected within the AdWords platform. Even your conversions, if you tailor what a ‘conversion’ means to you. No more having to try and manually attribute each possible purchase or user to a specific stream. No more relying on dreaded ‘where did you find out about us’ surveys, as if everyone is going to answer honestly, and will never paint a fully accurate picture. PPC allows you to see exactly what you made, from what you’ve spent – and changing what you’re targeting is as simple as a few keystrokes.

The other aspect is even more vital. If you are months, years, or in some cases possibly decades behind your main competition in SEO optimisation and link building, you may be choked out before you’ve had a chance to bloom. The advantages of PPC mean that irrespective of how large your competition is if you target keywords correctly and allocate budget wisely, you’ll always stand a chance of making waves.

One final thought, though. In larger-scale operations, the keywords may be of such volume and prone to so many different external factors, that using external agencies that specialise in PPC, who often have both human experts as well as incredible automated bidding machines, is a wiser choice.


Today we’ve looked at the basics of what Pay-Per-Click is within a search engine context. You should now have a basic understanding of how simple it is for a small scale operation to set up, and why you should seriously consider using the method if you’re not already making a habit of it. Harnessing PPC should be a vital part of any company looking to make their mark.

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