Pay-per-click advertising (PPC) and search engine optimization (SEO) are like two sides of a coin. A steady stream of helpful, well-written content that’s optimized for the search terms you want your business to rank for can help your company’s online visibility a lot. But achieving first-page Google rankings can take time. Luckily, there’s a way to gain traction fast on Google, and that’s with PPC. Although you can also run paid-search campaigns on social platforms like Facebook, for now we’ll focus on Google’s PPC program, Google Ads (previously called Google AdWords).
When you go to a Google search results page, you’ll see two types of results. The ones at the top that say “Ad” are the PPC search results. Below those are the organic results — those are search results generated by SEO. Businesses pay to display their ads for certain online queries. When ads are served in this manner, that’s called an impression. And online advertisers also pay each time a user clicks on their ad.
Because the results are almost immediate, PPC is a great way to jump-start traffic to a new website, build brand awareness and promote seasonal campaigns. For example, you could use PPC to drive traffic during hurricane season to promote flood insurance. But what you really want when it comes to clicks is quality over quantity. And in the PPC game, that means you want clicks from people with higher intent to purchase, sign up for your mailing list or perform whatever conversion you’re looking for.
To start, you must first sign up for a Google Ads account, establish a budget and create your ads. You’ll also need to decide where all those clicks you’re buying will go —these will be your landing pages. You generally don’t want to land potential customers on your home page unless the goal of your campaign is simply to build brand awareness.
Before you launch your campaign, do your homework on the keywords or keyword phrases you want your ads to display for. Often, very high-level or general keywords (“insurance” for example) will have a lot a search volume and greater competition, making them much more expensive. These are often called head terms or trophy terms. And while it may sound like those are the keywords you really want to target, you may want to think again.
Consider the likely difference between someone who searches for “insurance” or even “homeowners insurance” versus “second home insurance in Miami Beach.” Which person do you think has greater intent to purchase or is further along the sales funnel? These more-specific search terms, called long-tail search terms, often better target those closer to making a purchase. That said, there’s also value in using PPC to cast a wider net to build the brand awareness that can translate into greater credibility and trust down the road.
When implementing a PPC campaign, it’s critical to track your results every step of the way. For example, if you’re getting lots of clicks but no leads, you may have ineffective landing pages. It’s very important to constantly run comparisons on the different ads you create (called split testing or A/B testing), to see which ads or landing pages work best.
Finally, never just “set and forget” your PPC campaign. Google adjusts its search algorithms regularly, which means the same ad that’s worked well before may be less effective now and in need of an update. But if you stay on top of your campaigns, take a methodical approach and track consistently, PPC can be a highly effective tool to drive visitors to your website and boost your book of business.