What Is Paid Search Marketing: Guide To PPC Advertising

6min read

What Is Paid Search Marketing: Guide To PPC Advertising

The web is a large place, and most websites are destined to live in its dark alleys, where visitors rarely dare to go. For companies who would like to gain visibility on the web, paid search marketing has proven itself to be one of the most effective forms of digital marketing.

The goal of paid search marketing is to generate traffic by purchasing ads on search engine results pages (SERPs), and this guide explains everything you need to know before launching a smart pay-per-click (PPC) search marketing campaign.

What Is Paid Search Marketing and How It Works?

Paid search marketing is the process of advertising to consumers who are searching for a specific answer or product online. It has become synonymous with PPC advertising, which is an advertising model in which advertisers pay a fee each time their ads receive a click.

what is paid search marketing

Because of its cost-effective nature, PPC advertising is now the go-to way of driving website traffic for 74 percent of businesses with more than 50 employees and 45 percent of businesses with less than 50 employees. It’s estimated that businesses make an average of $2 in income for every $1 they spend in Google AdWords, the most popular PPC advertising platform in the world.

Clearly, paying for search ads pays off, but how does PPC advertising actually work?

Search engines like Google feature dedicated ad spots on their search engine results pages (SERPs), which are the pages displayed in response to a user query. Advertisers can participate in automated auctions during which ad spots are sold for specific keywords based on bid amount, ad quality, and ad relevance.

When an advertiser wins an ad spot, the winning ad instantly appears on the relevant search engine results page. At this point, the advertiser hasn’t yet paid any money for the ad. Only when the user clicks on the ad is the advertiser charged the bid amount.

what is ppc advertising

Glossary of Common PPC Terms

Ad: PPC ads have a headline, text, and URL. Their goal is to persuade consumers to take a certain action.

Audience: In PPC advertising, an audience is a method of targeting a specific market segment at which an ad is aimed.

Campaign: Multiple PPC ads can be grouped in a single campaign and share the same budget, location targeting, and other settings.

Conversions: The point at which a recipient of an ad performs the desired action.

Cost-per-Click (CPC): One of the most important metrics in pay per click advertising, CPC is the amount of money an advertiser pays for each click on one of their PPC ads.

Impressions: The number of times an ad has been displayed on search engine results pages.

Keyword: A word that triggers the appearance of an ad on search engine results pages.

Quality score: A hidden formula used by search engines to determine the quality of ads in order to maximize ad legitimacy.

Return on Investment (ROI): Determining the profitability of paid search advertising, ROI is a ratio between net profit and cost of investment.

Search query: A query based on a specific keyword that a user enters into a web search engine like Google.

Of course, there are many other PPC terms that all experienced advertisers encounter on a daily basis, but it would be beyond the scope of this article to list them all.

If you’re already finding PPC advertising to be confusing and would rather let someone else manage it for you, we recommend you partner with a paid search agency like ComboApp, which has a lot of experience and a proven track record of delivering first-rate results with PPC advertising.

Benefits and Downsides of Paid Search Marketing

Paid search marketing is just one of many forms of digital marketing, and it has its pros and cons. By familiarizing yourself with them, you will become able to decide whether paid search marketing is a good choice for you and your business.

Benefits of Paid Search Marketing

  • Quick results: It can take months for a website to gain a prominent position in search engines by relying on search engine optimization techniques alone. With paid advertising, you can instantly have your PPC ads displayed right on the first page, where consumers are most likely to see them. That way, you can start generating traffic from day one and quickly gain unstoppable momentum.
  • Precise targeting: The best PPC advertising campaigns precisely target the right prospects with the right message and at the right time. The extremely granular level of control provided by all major paid search platforms lets advertisers maximize their ROI by using proven paid search strategies, such as those described in the next chapter.
  • Measurability: PPC advertising campaigns generate a ton of useful data that advertisers can analyze in real-time. Not only can detailed data analytics help advertisers optimize their campaigns, but they can also inform businesses about their customers.

Downsides of Paid Search Marketing

  • Click fraud: Paid search platforms don’t like to discuss this topic, but all pay per click advertising leaves open the possibility of click fraud, a type of fraud that costs businesses money because the clicks their ads received are generated by bots—not real people.
  • Hard to master: As much as guides like this one try to make paid search marketing accessible, there’s no denying that its mastery can take many years. Because of how complicated paid search marketing is, some companies decide to partner with an experienced PPC agency like ComboApp.
  • Bidding wars: All experienced advertising experts know that it costs money to make money, and paid search marketing is no exception. Some keywords are so competitive that businesses with smaller budgets have no chance of outbidding industry giants, forcing them to target less frequently used keywords.

6 Effective PPC Advertising Strategies

Now that you understand the essence of PPC advertising, it’s time to take a closer look at 6 effective PPC advertising strategies that are guaranteed to help you maximize the impact of your ads and get ahead of your competition.

1. Optimize for Mobile Devices

Consider the following statistic: average daily media consumption on mobile devices was around 39 percent lower than on desktops in 2013. Today, more than 50 percent of traffic comes from mobile devices, and the number keeps climbing up.

According to MarketingLand, mobile advertising now represents around 70 percent of all digital ad spending in the United States, and 71 percent of marketers believe mobile marketing is core to their business.

Paid search optimization for mobile devices is all about getting into the mindset of mobile users. Ask yourself the following questions: Who are your customers? What are they searching for on their mobile devices that you could help them with? When do they usually search for information online? Are they at home or outside?

Mobile users tend to use different keywords than desktop users, so do your research and don’t be afraid to experiment with different keyword combinations and phrases. Negative keywords let you prevent your ad from being triggered by a certain word or phrase, and you can use them to filter out bad keywords that could compromise the effectiveness of your mobile campaigns. The click-to-call button is another great way to make your ads perform better on mobile devices because your business becomes just one click away.

2. Use SEO Tools To Optimize Your Paid Search Strategy

Using SEO tools is absolutely paramount for running a successful paid search campaign. One of such tools we can recommend is Keywords Explorer by Ahrefs. For example, you would like to run PPC ads for a video editing software to attract new customers, Keywords Explorer by Ahrefs can provide you with an average CPC price that should be paid when someone clicks on your ad in paid search results.

information about pay per click advertising in Ahrefs

Moreover, Ahrefs is currently testing an “Ads history” feature that shows the history of paid search results for your target keyword in a given country. By checking the “By domain” tab, you will see which websites have been competing for your target keyword over time.

paid search optimization with Ahrefs

Keywords that your competitors are consistently bidding on could be very lucrative, so you need to consider targeting them as well.

In the “By landing page” tab, you can also see the ad copy that appeared in the SERPs and find out which pages advertisers are sending paid traffic to. This is a great way to gain inspiration for your own landing pages.

PPC ads examples in Keywords Explorer by Ahrefs

3. Make Your PPC Ads Irresistible

In his book, “How Customers Think: Essential Insights into the Mind of the Market,” Harvard professor Gerald Zaltman claims that 95 percent of purchasing decisions are subconscious, influenced by our emotions. Of course, this is something advertising professionals have known since the days of David Ogilvy.

To make your PPC ads irresistible, you need to make them resonate with your target audience. First and foremost, make sure that your ads are relevant, which means that they align with their respective keywords and landing pages. Consumers typically don’t read ads word by word, so don’t bother with flowery prose—you’re not trying to make Shakespeare turn green with envy.

Your headline should convey your message in just a few words and instantly grab attention. You should always test multiple headlines and measure which of them performs the best. Sometimes, even the best headline isn’t enough to generate a click, which is where promotion extensions come in, making it possible for you to include monetary or percent discounts for your products or services directly in your ads.

Promotion extensions instantly grab the attention of all consumers who don’t want to miss out on a good deal, and you can use them both during seasonal events like Black Friday and during the rest of the year. Google claims that ad extensions can boost the CTR up to 15 percent, so don’t neglect them.

4. Remarketing

The average PPC ad conversion rate across all industries is about 3.75 percent for search. That’s not great. The reason why PPC advertising doesn’t convert better is simple: most people don’t care about your product or service, regardless of its relevancy or usefulness. Most but not all.

Do you know who cares about what you have to offer and is very likely to click on your ads? People who have previously used your product or service. Remarketing is a highly effective PPC advertising strategy by which online advertising is targeted to consumers based on their previous actions.

“It allows you to strategically position your ads in front of these audiences as they browse [the web], thus helping you increase your brand awareness or remind those audiences to make a purchase,” explains Google.

Remarketing typically relies on web browser cookies to track visitors’ browsing habits and target them at the best possible moment. Advanced remarketing ads can lead customers who have begun an online order back to their shopping card so they can finish it with minimum effort. If you decide to implement remarketing, don’t forget to require opt-in consent for the use of cookies.

5. Voice Search Preparation

It’s estimated that more than 66 million Americans now own a smart speaker, which is just one reason why 50 percent of all searches will be voice searches by the end of this year. Despite the rapidly growing popularity of voice search, most advertisers don’t optimize their PPC ads for voice nearly as well as they could.

Voice search queries tend to be more conversational than regular search queries, and their length is typically over 5 or 6 words. They correspond to the main question asking words (How, What, When, Where, Why?) and are highly localized. The following searches are good examples of how the typical voice search query looks like: What’s the best sushi restaurant near me? Which electronics store in Liverpool is still open? How do I recover data from an SD card?

When creating a voice search campaign, keep the main question asking words in mind and use them to hyper-target people trying to find. If you haven’t done so yet, create relevant and contextual landing pages and don’t forget to test their mobile performance because most voice searches come from smartphones.

6. Test New Channels

Most advertisers focus only on Google Ads, Bing Ads, and Yahoo Gemini, but there are many other marketing channels worth exploring when it comes to pay per click advertising.

For example, Facebook is used by over 2.5 billion users, which advertisers can target with incredible precision using a variety of ad formats. If you’re interested in professional and business ad targeting, your ads need to be on LinkedIn, the largest business and employment-oriented in the world. There’s also Pinterest, whose 200 million active users are constantly searching for the latest trends, creative ideas, and useful products.

When testing a new channel for PPC advertising, always make sure to measure its performance to determine whether it’s worth your time and money. You might find out that a channel that seems like a great fit for you doesn’t perform nearly as well as expected.


In this day and age, business owners should no longer be asking, “What is PPC advertising?” Instead, they should be embracing this effective tool as an integral part of their inbound marketing strategies no matter how large they are and which industry they operate in. If you’re still intimidated by PPC advertising even after reading this guide, don’t hesitate to contact ComboApp, an experienced PPC agency known for delivering customized and impactful digital marketing solutions that help businesses grow.

Simply call us at 773.305.0886 or click on the Contact Us button in the header of this site. Whether you need help with promoting a new app, website or an existing business, we look forward to putting our PPC advertising experience and expertise at your service.