Pay per click (PPC) marketing
Pay per click advertising (PPC), is where you pay an advertising publisher (like a search engine) to display an advert for your website based on a 'pay per click' charging structure. Each time somebody clicks on your advert you pay a fee to the publisher.
The most popular pay per click publisher is Google Adwords, where advertisers pay to display adverts at the top and right hand side of search results (known as the sponsored listings).
In the screenshot above we have highlighted the sponsored adverts in red.
Each time a user clicks on one of these adverts (subject to filtering out additional charges for multiple clicks from the same user) the advertiser pays a fee, depending on how much they have bid for the advert.
The position of your advert in the sponsored listings is dependent on a range of factors but is heavily influenced by the amount that you have said you will pay for the click (the 'bid'). If you bid more than other advertisers your advert will appear higher.
Some other factors that affect the position of your advert are:
• The historical click through rate (CTR) of your advert
• The historical CTR of your advertising account
• The relevance of the landing page of your advert to the keyword/keyphrase searched for
(The Click through rate is the percentage of users that click on your advert once it has been shown to them)
(The landing page is the website page that a user lands on once clicking on your advert)
Publishers often present a guide to the advertiser as to how well they are performing in terms of advert relevance and click through rates (known by Google as the Quality Score).
The main publishers
With a market share of around 89% in the UK, Google is the largest PPC publisher and you can setup your advertising campaign with them at www.google.co.uk/adwords.
You can then go through the process and setup your Adwords account, your adverts & keywords.
Google Adwords provide an excellent free service to help you get started if you are unsure of what to do. You can telephone them on 0800 169 0702 or request a callback.
Bing & Yahoo!
Microsoft's Bing Search Engine and Yahoo! merged their advertising network a few years ago so adverts you place with Bing Ads are displayed on both search engines simultaneously.
You can create your account at http://advertise.bingads.microsoft.com/en-us/sign-up.
Facebook launched a PPC advertising system several years ago but reported results from advertisers has been mixed. The main difference between Facebook and search engine adverts is that search engine visitors are specifically looking for a particular product or service, whereas Facebook adverts are displayed to users as they use the site, so they are said to be less targeted adverts. This is offset somewhat against the fact that Facebook allows you to target a specific demographic (e.g. you can show ads only to 'women under 30 who are engaged' if you are a bridal shop).
There are many other advert publishers that work on a pay per click pricing model including other search engines and content networks (where publishers gather a range of websites together under one advertising network and publish adverts across them all).
The key to any successful PPC campaign is comparing the cost of a conversion in comparison with the cost of your goods.
The cost of a conversion is defined as
The number of clicks needed to make a sale x the average cost per click
So if you were paying 10p per click and needed 100 visitors to your site to make 1 sale the conversion cost would be £10. That's fine if you are selling a £500 watch, but maybe not so good if the average price of your products is £5.
We'd always recommend giving pay per click advertising a try, but don't expect instant results and be prepared to spend at least £100 seeing whether it can work for you.
You should also try hard to increase the conversion rate on your site (which can have a significant impact on the overall profitability of any marketing campaign). Read our articles on increasing conversions.
Optimising your adverts
As with search engine optimisation, PPC advertising demands that you spend a significant amount of time optimising your advertising campaigns and adverts to ensure that you are paying the lowest possible amount of money for the highest possible number of clicks. You also want the highest quality of clicks possible.
There are many online resources which will guide you through what you need to do to optimise your adverts, and unfortunately the search engines don't give away all the indicators they use to determine how much you pay for your advertising.
• Google adwords help
• Bing ads help http://advertise.bingads.microsoft.com/en-uk/how-to
• PPC Hero http://www.ppchero.com/guides/
• SEO Book http://training.seobook.com/ppc-search-engine-marketing