Using Google Pay-Per-Click Advertising

Using Google Pay-Per-Click Advertising


What is PPC?

Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising boosts traffic to your website by enabling you to display ads in the sponsored results section of Google’s search results page – simply, you are buying listings in Google’s search results.

You pay for traffic using the PPC advertising programmes provided by Google Adwords. It’s a website marketing method that involves bidding a rate you want to pay for every click on your ad, and then paying that fee whenever a visitor clicks through from your ad to your website. Bid the most and you have a chance of ranking number one in the search results.

It’s different from the time-intensive and complex process of search engine optimisation (SEO), through which you can build traffic for free by achieving high rankings in the natural search results.

 Is PPC for you?

Businesses that achieve great results from this marketing channel share common traits:

  •  Customers have a high lifetime value so it’s worth spending money to acquire them.
  •  It has high margins on a single purchase, such as a car, computer equipment or appliances.
  •  It sells products that are hard to find, like hobby supplies or rare collectibles.
  •  The business sells a vast array of products. Think Amazon or Kalahari.
  •  It’s seasonal or event-based, such as florists or wedding planners.
  •  The business is local, for example plumbers operating in Sandton.

Pros & cons of PPC advertising 


  • Quick results: You can set up a PPC campaign within a few hours.
  • Ad positioning: PPC ads appear in the ’sponsored links‘ section of search results. The conversion rate of shoppers who turn to buyers is higher than SEO because those who click on sponsored ads are more serious shoppers.
  • Big selection of words: PPC allows you to use words that you wouldn’t usually include in your website, such as your competitor’s name, so your ad appears when someone searches for that business.
  • Region-specific targeting: You can focus on regions where you conduct business so that your ads only appear to people in that area.
  • Settings are easy to change: You can easily change the budget, keywords, ads and landing pages of your website online.


  • Paying for every click: You have to pay for every visitor who clicks your ad, regardless of whether they buy or not.
  • Stopping the campaign: When you end the campaign, your ads will disappear. Be prepared for traffic to your site to drop.

Hiring a professional

Before you hire someone to manage your PPC account, make sure you ask the right questions.Find out who will manage your account and what level of experience they have.

  • Have they helped other companies to achieve success?
  • Beyond clicks and traffic, can they help to generate sales of your products or services?
  • Will they track conversions so you can determine the success of your PPC ads?
  • Will they test your ads from time to time to minimise cost and increase traffic?
  • What proven methods do they have to eliminate guesswork and get your campaign running smoothly, quickly?
  • How do they justify their costs versus the promised yield?
  • What is the budget required and can you afford it?

Lesson 1: Kick-starting your PPC ad campaign

What keywords will you use to reach your market? Answering that question the right way can spell the difference between your Google ad campaign’s success and failure. Ultimately you’re out to hunt down the top one or two keywords that will bring you the most paying customers, and tweak your entire sales process around that. That’s what the most successful advertisers we know are doing now.

AdWords displays related sponsored listings along with unpaid listings that result from a Google search. One of its huge advantages is that it links you with people who are already sold on the concept that you are promoting. You don’t have to talk them into anything — they’re already on Google looking for what you’ve got. You just need to figure out the keywords they use to describe what you offer so that you can connect with them.

 To answer this question, you need to describe what you’re promoting as clearly as possible — and identify who wants to buy it, in other words, your ideal customer.

Here are four tips that can help you get started building your own Google ad campaign.

1. Define your perfect customer

We recommend that you stop right now, pull out a piece of paper and write down a one-sentence description of your ultimate money-in-hand-and-ready-to-buy paying customer.

Those are the people who already know something about the type of product (or information) you sell or the service you offer. These people probably don’t know about you, but they do know about your product.

Often they have an immediate problem and have decided to go online looking for a solution. They may have already made up their mind about how they want to solve the problem. Now they’re searching Google trying to locate the product that fits their solution and then buy it.

Your description may look like one of these:

  • My best prospect is someone who already believes in non-pharmaceutical and natural remedies for migraines and is searching for the best one to buy.
  • My best prospect is someone who has already made up his or her mind to buy pottery via the web.
  • My best prospect already knows that pay-per-click management services exist and is proactively searching to hire one.

 Keep your customer description in front of you as you go through the keyword search process.

2. Identify the keywords that potential customers are using to search for your products and services

Head to Google’s keyword tool and enter some phrases that you think reflect customers who are in that mind-set.

Let’s take the migraine example. A starter idea would be ‘natural migraine remedies,’ because that would seem to specify people who are looking for a ‘natural solution’, something for ‘migraines’ as opposed to more general issues, and ‘remedies’ as opposed to facts or data or information.

Based on that search, Google gives a decent-sized list of keywords. We can now go through the list keyword by keyword and compare each to our written customer description, choose the keywords we feel are a fit and ignore the ones that aren’t. You may end up with no more than one to two dozen keywords. That’s perfectly fine.

3. Determine the number of people searching on those keywords

For your one to two dozen keywords, you can go with what Google’s keyword tool has already told you. Or you can take each one and do a further keyword tool search on it and add in totals from other variations that you believe would fully match your written customer description. Consider search volume when choosing your top keyword or keywords.

4. Determine how much money advertisers are making off a keyword

You can judge this by how much the keyword costs. You’re looking for the keywords where the money is. The market has its own way of answering this. The maximum cost per click that people pay represents the upper limit of the money available in that market.

Head over to Google’s traffic estimator to find this out. You can collect as many relevant keywords as you want, and then make an educated comparison to find the best fit for your customer profile.

You’re off to a great start when you’ve got six to 12 tightly matched groups of keywords. Ultimately, you’re best off with one, single bull’s-eye keyword.

Lesson 2: The most common PPC mistakes to avoid

Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising can be an effective way to drive traffic to your website quickly, but businesses too often make mistakes that undermine their campaigns.

Although PPC advertising may sound simple, plenty of novices have created campaigns that generate little click-through action because they target the wrong keywords or lack a compelling message. So, consider these suggestions for avoiding these mistakes that most new advertisers make:

1. Avoid ‘broad match’ keywords

One of the biggest mistakes is ignoring the difference between choosing specific keyword match types and setting all keywords as ‘broad match,’ which means that your ad will appear not just for your chosen keyword phrase, but also for any similar phrases or relevant variations your advertising programme deems appropriate. Although broad match placements can help increase your exposure, they can also attract irrelevant traffic that costs you money.

For example, a PPC ad with the broad match term ‘show ideas’ could be displayed for the search query ‘baby shower gift ideas.’ Even though the search query contains the broad match term, it isn’t a relevant match.

To avoid losing money on irrelevant clicks, focus on phrase or exact match keywords.

2. Separate search and content ad placements

Search network placement refers to PPC ads that appear in search query results, while content network placement means websites that display PPC ads as blocks within their pages.

Most new PPC marketers select both the search and content networks when they set up their first campaigns, and they usually use the same keywords, ad content and payment amount for each click.

But the specific queries and websites that trigger your content network placements can be significantly different than what yields results on the search network. Running the same ads on both networks, therefore, could cost you money in terms of irrelevant placements. Although customising takes more time and effort, it’s far more efficient to tailor your keywords, ad copy and keyword bids for each network.

3. Use negative keywords, too

PPC marketers often fail to use negative keywords, which allow you to specify where your ad should not appear. For example, in our ‘show ideas’ and ‘baby shower gift ideas’ example, the words ‘baby,’ ‘shower’ and ‘gift’ could be designated as negative keywords to help eliminate such irrelevant ad placements.

4. Efficiently target ad campaigns

Many advertisers aren’t precise enough in targeting their campaigns. To increase efficiency, take advantage of features in PPC accounts that allow you to specify who sees the ads.

Here are a few areas to consider in targeting your campaigns:

  •  Multiple countries. If you plan to advertise in several countries, set up an ad group for each. Otherwise, limit your ad to country-specific placements.
  • Micro-geographic focus. If you create an ad for a local business keyword — ‘Mexican restaurants in Pretoria,’ for example — use the micro-geographic targeting features in your advertiser account to select the specific suburbs in which your ad will appear based on your business’s delivery area.
  •  Time of day. If your ads generate the most conversions during a particular time of day, set them up to run only during those time periods.

5. Test ad copy

Writing effective ad copy can be difficult. Unless you test different versions of ads to see which perform best, you aren’t maximising the ROI of your campaign.

Most PPC platforms allow you to set up split tests that rotate different ads for each of your targeted keywords. To do the test effectively, adjust your setting so that ads will be served up randomly, rather than according to the platform’s formula of displaying the ad it determines will result in the most clicks.

 6. Track your return on investment

To effectively manage PPC campaigns and improve your ROI, you need to know exactly which clicks are resulting in sales. To generate this data for free, tie your PPC account to Google Analytics to track which ads led visitors to your page and which visits resulted in sales. Without this information, you can’t adjust your keyword bids or eliminate less effective ads and keywords. 


Say you’re running a PPC ad for the keyword ‘Nikon D90 digital camera’ — a product you sell on your website. You set up the ad to run whenever this keyword is searched for on your chosen engine, and you use a URL that redirects readers who click on your ad to your site’s home page.

Now, this user must painstakingly click through your website’s navigation to find this exact camera model — if he or she even bothers to stick around. In this case, you took an engaged, targeted visitor and forced him or her to work for the information you promised.

A better approach would have been a link to the camera’s product page, avoiding any frustration and bringing your visitors one step closer to completing their purchase.

Whenever possible, drive PPC visitors to targeted landing pages. If you don’t have a product-specific landing page to refer visitors to, create custom landing pages that provide the exact information the reader is looking for.

Eric Siu
Eric Siu is COO of of Single Grain, a digital marketing agency based in San Francisco. He also co-runs Storemapper, a store locator widget for e-commerce stores and other businesses.