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The Small Business Owner Guide to PPC

White Shark Media

9 years ago



Pay per click or PPC is the form of Online Marketing in which you pay only for the clicks your ads receive. The most popular form of
PPC is Search Engine Advertising, referring to advertising on Search Engines like Google or Bing. This blog post will focus on PPC on search engines.

In it’s simplest form, Search Engine Advertising is comprised of keywords and ads. You select what keywords you want your ads to show up for. Essentially, it’s like saying “I want my ad to show up whenever someone types in the word plumber in Google.” That’s Search Engine Advertising.

All the major search engines use the PPC model, so for a lot of people, PPC equals Search Engine Advertising.

Why Should You Advertise with PPC?

If you are looking into digital marketing to advertise your business, then you must have stumbled upon PPC. After quite some time managing accounts at White Shark Media®, I can assure you that PPC can work amazingly well to turn your business around, but don’t take my word for it:

Push vs. Pull Marketing

The best way to describe Push Marketing is when you push a message onto consumers. They are not necessarily looking for what you have to offer, but you sell your offer to them anyway.

Pull Marketing, on the other hand, is when consumers are actively looking for what you offer, and you pull them towards your solution. They already know they need a service like yours, but hadn’t decided it had to be you yet.

A Real-Life Story

You are driving home and notice one of the many billboards across the road that urges you to take your dog to their grooming center. The thing is, you don’t even have a dog, so what did that billboard really do for you?

Nothing. It could have done something, but it did nothing, and who can assure the grooming center that everyone who sees the billboard is interested in having their dog groomed? This is the risk of push marketing.

On the other hand, with pull marketing, people are actively searching for your service, so the only thing you need to do is convince them to choose you. PPC falls into this category. We’ve all done it, searched for a place to eat, or a taxi to get you to the airport and clicked on one of the ads. You could be one of them and all the audience looking for your service could be at your fingertips.

It’s Not Just About Getting Visitors; It’s About Getting Relevant Visitors

The great thing about PPC campaigns is that you can target your most relevant audience and build tailor your PPC campaigns to have maximum effect.

For instance, if you sell office supplies and have a local store, you tailor your campaign to only target people in your local area. Or if you only open your store in the morning, you can run your ads only run at that time, so people don’t get to your store in vain.

In short, as long as your audience is searching for you, there is potential for them to find you with PPC.

Improve Your Ads While They’re Running

When dealing with traditional advertising channels like TV or radio, you work hard to produce the ad. You usually have to pay upfront and choose the time frame in which you wish for it to appear.

Changing your mind or making any changes to your finalized product is nearly impossible after you turn it in. Once you have decided the ad runs, it’s a done deal. You have to let the ad run until it’s over. You can’t test the messages or otherwise optimize it while it’s running.

With PPC, it is easy to make swift decisions or changes based on whether or not your message is converting clicks to users. So not only you can make changes quickly and painlessly, but also, you can test which ads to better than others in a cost-efficient way.

Testing is a crucial part of any advertising format and PPC makes it easy to find the right formula for your business.

PPC Is Efficient for Most Industries

Have you ever felt embarrassed about your Google search history? I know I have searched for some weird things for one reason or another. This means that people are searching for all sorts of things, thus industries – all the time.

I have seen successful campaigns for clients that breed dogs or make organic compost. For this reason, don’t think that PPC only works for huge industries like retail or hotels. PPC will work for most industries as long as you set reasonable goals.

Google and Bing are widely used today, and therefore, represent people from all walks of life. If you have a business and you’re getting customers, the chances are that you can find more of these customers by advertising with PPC.

Common Best Practices

If you want to learn more about diving in the PPC world, I’ll go over the absolute most important aspects when you run your PPC campaign:

Choose a sufficient budget

To choose the right budget for your industry, you need to ask yourself some questions first: Where would you like your campaign to run? The whole world? The United States? You local town?

Once you have established where you want your ads to show, you need to start analyzing the cost per click in that particular area. You can do this by using tools like the Google AdWords Keyword Planner. As a general rule, you should have a budget that allows you to get at least ten clicks per day. This way you will accrue sufficient data to be able to optimize your campaigns efficiently.

Read more:

The Only Guide to AdWords Bid Management You Need

Keyword Selection is Key

The selection of your keywords in your PPC campaigns is perhaps the most important task in your campaign creation process. Choosing the right keywords will determine the effectiveness of everything else you do since they are the ones that attract the right audience to your website.

First, you should start by recognizing the key aspects of your business that people could search for. For instance, if you repair computers, you need to make sure your keywords are aligned with that intent. You would use something like “computer repair” instead of just typing in the keyword “computer”.

You can do keyword research by looking at your site and services as well as your competitors. You can use tools like SEMrush or Spyfu. You can also use tools as the Keyword Planner found on the Google AdWords interface or MergeWords to come up with different keyword variations.

When choosing your keywords keep in mind the keyword specificity. Make sure your keyword is not too broad that you will get a lot of irrelevant queries or so specific that no one will search for it.

Learn How to Use Match Types Efficiently

By using match types, you can let Google know how aggressively you want to advertise for a keyword. Symbols are used to identify match types, and it is possible to include the same keyword with different match types in one campaign. AdWords help produced this helpful chart that explains each one:


Needless to say, it is not only about choosing the most effective keywords, but it is also about choosing the appropriate match type. As a general practice, you should avoid using broad match unless I find myself in a situation where traffic is limited. Because it includes related searches, it is easy to accrue a lot of irrelevant traffic if you don’t have a solid negative keyword list.

Read More:

 6 Things You Always Wanted To Know About AdWords Match Types (But Were Afraid To Ask)

Bid for your Brand Name

I know this sounds counterproductive, but there are many reasons to bid on your brand name. Imagine your type in your company name, and you appear organically, but your competitor appears in the paid ads section? Wouldn’t you be concerned your potential client goes for the other option instead?

Bidding for your brand name is usually very cost-effective since your company name most likely has a low cost per click. It will help you gain credibility and improve your branding efforts and your overall metrics because of the potential increase in clicks.

Pro tip: Build an ad group or campaign dedicated specifically for this branded term. This way, you can separate this data from the rest of your campaign.

Read More:

Should You Bid for Your Own Brand Name in AdWords?

Consider Search Volume When Selecting Your Keywords

Check how often people are searching for your keywords. You can easily find this out by using the AdWords keyword planner. It is important to know how popular the keywords you are planning to use are, and how relevant you consider them to be for your campaign.

By knowing this, you will get a better idea of what keywords to bid on and more or less how much that is going to cost.

Don’t Just Look for Low-Cost Keywords

I know it’s common to look for the cheapest alternative, and when doing your keyword research you might be tempted to just go with the cheapest option. Maybe less traffic, you may think, but the cost will be worth it. Wrong, actually, you might get a lot more clicks for far fewer conversions.

Sometimes your most expensive keywords can be the best ones because they work, so don’t settle for the cheapest option as it will get you cheap results.


Group Your Keywords in Relevant Themes (Ad Groups)

A common practice by beginner PPC advertisers is that they only use one campaign and one ad group.  If you only have one ad group in your campaign, then when someone searches for the best dentist near me, they might see your ad that offers orthodontics 50% off.

Why did this happen? Because the dentist didn’t have a separate ad group for “Orthodontics” and “Dentist Near Me”.

By not grouping your keywords in tightly knit ad groups not only will you not be able to get the right message in front of your potential customers. But also, you will get lower scores on important metrics like quality score and CTR that consequently will affect your cost per click and positioning.

To avoid this, created different ad groups for your keyword themes. Let’s say you have only one ad group with five keywords like this:

  • dentist near me

  • cheapest dentist

  • emergency dentist

  • Invisalign dentist

  • dental clinic in Miami


In theory, it may not seem like the ‘wrong’ thing to do to have them all in one ad group, but in practice, it is better to separate them into different ad groups. Once you do, your ad groups should look something like this:

  • Dentist Near Me

  • Cheap Dentist

  • Emergency Dentist

  • Invisalign Dentist

  • Miami Dental Clinic


Then you would add the pertaining keyword to each ad group, and create unique ads for each ad group that addresses the intent of each keyword in it.

Pro tip: Capitalize your ad group’s name and write all your keywords in lowercase. This will make it easier for you to browse through your campaign.

Direct Your Users to a Relevant Landing Page

Make sure that after you organize your keywords in themes, you match these themes with a relevant landing page. For instance, if someone searched for White Shark Media directly and triggered a branded keyword they should be directed to our home page. However, if they searched for white shark media ppc services they should be directed to our PPC product page.

Your website should be divided into a different section, therefore, make sure you direct your users to the section where they can most easily find the information they are looking for.

Quality Score, CTR, and Bidding Best Practices

You need to understand these three concepts to understand how PPC works. They are also the main metrics you should look at to measure your success with AdWords.

Click-Through Rate

Click-through rate is important because it is an indicator of how relevant people find your ads. It is calculated by dividing the number of clicks an ad received divided by its impressions.

What is a good CTR? You may ask, well the truth is that it will vary from industry to industry and even within an industry it can also vary from keyword to keyword. Therefore, there is no ideal number for a CTR per se, but I recommend you try to keep it at least above 2%.

Quality Score

In simple terms, quality score is the score that search engines assign to your keywords. The quality score has an enormous effect on the cost of your keywords as it is one of the factors that determine your cost per click.

It is not known exactly how different factors like a keyword to ad group relevance, ad text, and landing page relevance help determine the quality score. However, it is known that CTR is the most crucial factor.


The quality score is given on a 1-10 scale. A good quality score is considered to be anything above 7/10, however, the higher your score, the higher your chances of success with your campaign.

The Auction

However, quality score is not the only factor taken into consideration when Google chooses which ad to show, when and at what cost. To be fairer, they have a process or auction. The auction is best explained in this video by Google Ads Tutorials.

The Google AdWords auction gives you a CPC and positioning based on a combination of your maximum bid and quality score that determine ad rank. The person with the highest ad rank gets a higher position and a lower cost per click.

For example, if you have a quality score of 10 and a max. A bid of $2; and your competitor has a max bid of $6 and a quality score of 6; you would get a higher ad rank, and consequently, show higher and for less.

The Basics of Bid Management in PPC

You are the metrics that will probably see the most changes in your AdWords campaign. The reason for this is that you will most likely bid higher and lower depending on the performance of your keywords compared to your goal.

If you are just starting out and don’t even know how much to start bidding, I have to options for you:

  1. Andrew Lolk, White Shark Media’s CMO and PPC expert recommends doing this simple formula: 2% x Avg. Order Value = Bid

  2. Early in the day, set the bid for all your keyword to two dollars. Evaluate 8 hours later the performance and make changes according to the average position the keyword achieved.

Pro tip: It may be tempting to go for the option of ‘Automatic Bidding’ since you may think AdWords knows best. But in reality, you just lose too much control over your campaign and could end up paying way more than what you bargained for.

Read More:

AdWords Bid Management and Account Structure Mistakes to Avoid

The Importance of Optimization and Testing

After you finish creating your keywords, ad groups, and ads and your campaign is ready to go live, you may feel relieved and think: I’m done! think again, because it’s just the beginning.

Optimizations are changes you make to your campaigns to improve its performance. These changes are extremely important to continue improving performance and reaching target goals. The most common two optimizations I make on any campaign are adding negative keywords, and making bid adjustments.

Testing is a form of optimization; you can test different keywords, ads, cost per click, etc. Just make sure you do it consciously and keep track of the changes you make to see if they made a difference. Common (and useful) tests include adding or removing keywords as well as experimenting with different ad copy.

Make Sure You Analyze Your Data With Analytics

It is crucial to install analytics on your website as it will allow you to make informed decisions about your PPC campaigns and overall website performance. In it, you can find the performance of your landing pages, organic keywords for which your website is showing, the main devices people use to access your site, and many more important metrics.

Track Your Conversions

One of the main advantages of digital marketing is that you can track almost anything that happens in your campaigns. What’s the point of having 100 clicks a day if you don’t know exactly how many of those resulted in any business?

You could track phone calls made to your business, people who fill out a contact sheet or online sales. You are the one that defines what counts as a conversion for your business, but those are the most common.

Common Concerns

Now that you are convinced about going into PPC and its advantages, let’s tackle some of the things you might feel uneasy about still.

I Don’t Even Know Where to Start to Run a Successful Campaign

The beginning is usually the hardest part. I recommend that the first step you take is setting up SMART goals.


This way, everything else that will follow will come with a purpose. Here are a few simple steps to help get started:

  1. Choose your campaign type: There are several campaign types like Display or even the new Call-Only campaigns. However, I recommend you start with a Search Campaign.

  2. Take care of your most important campaign settings like location (where you want your ads to run), ad scheduling (when you want your ads to run), and budget (your monthly ad spend).

  3. Select your keywords and group them together in relevant ad groups

  4. Set your bids

  5. Write ads for each ad group.

  6. Don’t forget to fill in your billing information and activate your campaign

This is a good line of work, but after you’re done you need to keep your knowledge relevant by learning tricks and staying up to date. You can do this by reading the most trusted PPC resources and a lot of practice.

You can also hire a professional agency to take care of PPC for you. But even then you will still have more concerns you’ll want to address and that I’ll take care here below.

It’s a Financial Investment

Sure, it is true that you need to make an investment for a PPC campaign. But unlike advertising on any other medium like TV or print, you can track your results. Not only that, but you can also figure out exactly what it is you, and your company has to spend, and not be surprised with added overhaul costs.

In other forms of advertising, you get charged the same rate regardless of your industry or other considerations. On top of that, you can gather a lot of data that is useful for your overall marketing efforts.

How Can a Small Business like Me Compete against Bigger Companies That Have Set the Bar High for High CPC Keywords?

It is true that large corporations may have all the resources available to flood all mediums with a wide array of advertisements. However, I feel that small business owners have a very high competitive advantage that large corporations don’t: the ability to segment your campaign and stress the areas that are most beneficial for your business.

You may think: any company can do this! and that may be true, but small business owners can be reached easier by their customers, they can put give a face to their clients and address them directly.

This empirical information allows business owners to focus their campaigns in key areas where there is less competition. For instance, you can remove locations where there is high competition, high CPC, and low conversions and focus on the locations where you receive the most conversions.

You can also use your ad copy to highlight your competitive edge. What do you do that large corporations don’t stand a chance at doing because of their size? For more advice, I recommend checking out this article about how small businesses can compete with big brands.

How Can I Convey the Message I Want with so Limited Space?

AdWords ads have character limits. However, they are not the only way you to showcase what you want about your business. In fact, there are a lot of ways to make sure you get your message across.

One option is to create different ad groups with 2 -3 keywords that are related to each other. Once you have created your theme related ad groups, create different ads for each one that highlights that specific ad group’s purpose. You can even write 5-10 different versions and test two of them at a time to find and choose the right message that fits with your audience.

Another option is to opt for ad extensions. Ad extensions are greatly beneficial because they increase the amount of ad space in the search engine result pages, and allow you to add more ad text that highlights your business.

Ad extensions can be added manually or automatically as long as you meet certain criteria. I recommend always adding your site links and callout extensions for they are the ones where you will be able to have more control of what you need to showcase about your business.

How Can I Make Sure My Product Will Work with a PPC Campaign?

Research. That’s an easy answer. Like I mentioned in this post, PPC has proven successful with any industry because as people search for your product on a search engine, they are likely to have a demand for your service.

Luckily, they are ways to verify this. One of them if by going into Google AdWords keyword planner and searching for keywords about your industry and looking into their search volumes, cost per click, etc.

According to Wordstream, these are the industries that have contributed the most to Google’s revenue, so if you are a part of this, PPC is most likely worth a try:

  1. Finance & Insurance – $4.0 Billion

  2. Retailers & General Merchandise – $2.8 Billion

  3. Travel & Tourism – $2.4 Billion

  4. Jobs & Education – $2.2 Billion

  5. Home & Garden— $2.1 Billion

  6. Computer & Consumer Electronics – $2.0 Billion

  7. Vehicles – $2.0 Billion

  8. Internet & Telecommunications – $1.7 Billion

  9. Business & Industrial – $1.6 Billion

  10. Occasions & Gifts – $1.2 Billion

Another way is to check the amount of competition you have out there. Depending on your business you may or may not have a hard time entering the PPC world. For instance, if you want to sell a new unique type of running shoe to the market you may feel overwhelmed by the amount of competition.

In short, it is safe to say that almost anything will work with Google AdWords.  As long as you strategize and do your research.

However, you shouldn’t view it as your infinite source of sales or your only way to advertise your company. Some products/services will reach their limit quite fast, while others can even create multi-million dollar companies based on AdWords.

How Do I Know What Search Engine to Advertise In?

There is basically no right or wrong answer to this question. Both Google AdWords and Bing Ads have their benefits and drawbacks depending on your industry, business type, and goals.

My recommendation would be to explore the different strong points of both engines and make a decision based on that.

Places to Learn More

Finally, the biggest takeaway of this post is that whatever you do, you need to keep on learning. So here are a few recommendations for places where you can get more informed and dive in the PPC world:

Free Adwords Book