If you’re just starting out in the world of pay per click advertising, the bad news is you’ve got a lot to learn. Things were difficult enough when you only had Google AdWords to think about but the rise of social advertising has completely changed the way brands need to approach advertising online.
You can’t simply copy-and-paste your AdWords strategy onto a platform like Facebook and expect to get results. You need to start again with the very basics and create an advertising strategy that turns social users into partying customers – an entirely different prospect to capturing leads from Google Search.
So whether you’re new to PPC or looking to get better results from your social advertising efforts, this guide is going to fill you in on all the essentials you need to know.
What we’ll be looking at in this guide
Before we get started, here’s a quick run through of the sections you’ll find in this guide:
- What is pay per click advertising?
- What makes PPC an effective marketing strategy?
- Which PPC networks matter most in 2018?
- Do people really click on PPC ads?
- An overview of advertising on AdWords & Bing
- An overview of Facebook and Instagram
By the time we’re done with this, you’ll have an overview of the strengths PPC can bring to your marketing strategy and a good understanding of the differences between advertising on search engines and social networks.
What is pay per click advertising?
Broadly speaking, pay per click (PPC) advertising refers to any form of online advertising where you’re charged for each individual click on your ad, rather than every time it’s seen by someone. The idea is that you only pay for leads that have a clear desire to find out more about your message.
This is in contrast to traditional print forms of advertising or TV ads where you pay for your ad to be shown, regardless of who sees it or how they react. With PPC you don’t pay for your ads to be seen; you pay for people to react to them.
It doesn’t cost you anything for people to see your PPC ads
While pay per click advertising refers to any ad platform based around this model, when advertisers talk about PPC, they’re talking about Google AdWords and social advertising on networks like Facebook and Instagram. Google and Facebook dominate this arena while the likes of LinkedIn and Snapchat fight to compete and Twitter’s position in social advertising is on the decline.
Then we have Amazon, the eCommerce giant that’s building its position as a PPC platform and could be one to look out for.
“With PPC you don’t pay for your ads to be seen; you pay for people to react to them.”
What makes PPC an effective marketing strategy?
We’ve already mentioned the key benefit of PPC advertising: you pay for people to click on your ads, not simply see them. Which means you only pay when your message has an impact on people and they react positively to it. In other words, PPC advertising generates leads from people who demonstrate an intent to buy – or at least learn more about your message.
You’re not wasting ad spend on people who have no interest in what you’re selling (unless you’re doing something seriously wrong with your ad copy and targeting).
This strength of only paying for leads that show an interest in your ad has been reinforced over the past ten years – mostly by innovations from Google and Facebook. In 2018, pay per click advertising is a far more powerful marketing strategy than it was a decade ago.
Some of the demographic targeting options available on AdWords
This is mostly thanks to the targeting options Facebook and Google have developed over this time, allowing you to only show your ads to people of certain ages, genders, living in specific locations, showing specific interests online or even planning for key events like weddings, birthdays or babies. Now, a wedding photographer can make sure their ads are only seen by people in the local area who are planning for their big day. Insurance companies can target people who are looking to buy a new car and offer them promotional rates for switching provider. Online retailers can target their previous customers with follow-up messages and convince them to buy other projects that might interest them.
With PPC advertising you can pinpoint your target audience and create messages that speak out their consumer needs. You can capture leads just as they’re ready to hit the buy button or you can introduce your brand before they even realise they need it and nurture them along the buying process.
In the case of AdWords, where people are searching for specific products and services, you can grab their attention when they’re a few clicks away from buying and make sure it’s you they do business with.
“With PPC advertising you can pinpoint your target audience and create messages that speak out their consumer needs.”
Which PPC networks matter most in 2018?
Until Facebook moved into advertising, PPC was pretty much all about Google’s AdWords and, even now, it’s Google and Facebook who dominate the industry. However, there are other networks still worth considering and they all bring different strengths to the table, which will matter to some brands more than others.
AdWords is the undisputed king of search ads that appear on Google results pages. While Facebook is comparable to AdWords in terms of market share and advertising effectiveness, there are major differences between search and social advertising that can’t ignore. People turn to Google when they want to find something and your ads can provide the answer, meaning all they need to do is click through to find what they’re looking for.
Bing Ads is a pretty close replication of everything AdWords offers as an advertising platform although it comes with a much smaller user base. Even still, with more than 11% of all UK searches being made on Bing, you don’t want to ignore the millions of monthly users up for grabs on the nation’s second favourite search engine.
Facebook is as undisputed in social advertising as Google is in search. The key difference is Facebook users aren’t searching for anything; they’re scrolling through their News Feed and interacting with content or friends without any goal in mind. Which means you need to approach social advertising from a completely different angle to PPC for search.
The most important thing about Instagram is that it comes with all the same targeting options Facebook has to offer – and this is a huge deal. The next thing you need to keep in mind about Instagram is that its users are different to your typical Facebook crowd. On average, they’re slightly younger, even more trend-obsessed and primed for engaging with brands that offer something visually appealing.
Snapchat is the latest addition to the social advertising family and it comes with the youngest user base. The current state of Snapchat advertising is somewhat uncertain as it struggles to fight off aggressive competition from Facebook, which tried to buy Snapchat in 2013.
LinkedIn is still the network of choice for professionals and an essential tool for all B2B marketers. In terms of advertising, it’s all about tapping into LinkedIn’s niche of working professionals, business owners and industry leaders before you even apply any targeting options. If you’re selling to businesses or professionals, you’re almost certainly going to want to advertise on LinkedIn.
Twitter was supposed to be the next social advertising giant but it’s been going through an identity crisis over the past couple of years and this has stunted its growth as an advertising network. It’s still a powerful platform to connect with people, journalists, professionals and consumers but it hasn’t lived up to the expectations placed on it after Facebook reinvented social marketing.
Amazon is relatively new to the PPC game but it brings a different kind of pay per click system that could be huge for retail brands. Essentially, you pay for ads to show on the Amazon site as users browse for goods
Do people really click on PPC ads?
Absolutely, yes. It doesn’t cost users anything to click on your ads and tech giants like Google and Facebook invest huge amounts of money to create ad formats that are non-intrusive to their experience, making their PPC ads more clickable than the kind people usually associate with online ads.
Studies suggest 50% of adults who use search engines don’t even notice the difference between ads and organic listings when they’re browsing results pages. More to the point, if you’re crafting compelling ad messages and targeting the right audiences, users will click through to your site without hesitation.
If you need proof that PPC works, you simply need to look at Google where more than 95% of its income is generated via online ads. There’s a reason Facebook jumped into PPC and the likes of Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat and just about every viable platform followed suit: because billions of people click ads on popular platforms like Google Search, Facebook and Instagram.
“If you’re crafting compelling ad messages and targeting the right audiences, users will click through to your site without hesitation.”
An overview of advertising on AdWords & Bing
As we’ve mentioned a couple of times in this guide, there are important difference between advertising on search engines and social networks. So we’re going to spend the rest of this guide running through these differences – first by looking at AdWords and Bing before we move on to Facebook and Instagram.
When you advertise on a search engine like Google or Bing, everything you do revolves around the search queries users type in. When people turn to a search engine, they’re looking for information or a product/service and your aim is to intercept this intent with ads that capture their attention.
Here’s a quick overview of how things work.
Search queries & keywords
The first thing you need to do when you advertise on a search engine is determine which queries and keywords your target audience are going to type in. For example, if you’re selling garden furniture in Manchester and Leeds, some of your keywords might look like this:
- Garden furniture Manchester
- Garden furniture Leeds
- Garden chairs Manchester
- Metal garden tables
- All weather garden furniture
Naturally, your most valuable lead will be people who are looking to buy garden furniture in the areas you operate. Chances are they know what they want to buy or they’ve narrowed it down to product categories like garden benches or swing chairs.
They may even have specific brands like Newbury or Cannes in mind.
Queries containing these keywords are likely to be the most valuable to you because they show a high purchase intent but they’re also some of the most competitive and expensive keywords you’ll be bidding on.
So you want to find the right mix of high-intent keywords and something called long-tail keywords: longer search terms that are less competitive and less expensive but still hold commercial value.
- Garden furniture that doesn’t rust
- Garden dining furniture for small gardens
- Best outdoor furniture for wet climates
- Garden design ideas that create a sense of space
Identifying the right long-tail keywords to target on AdWords and Bing is crucial to any good PPC strategy.
To choose the right keywords for your PPC strategy, you need to understand the user intent behind the different searches people make related to your brand. For example, “how to treat garden furniture for the winter” could be a decent long-tail keyword for the example we looked at in the last section if treatment products are highly profitable for our imaginary brand.
However, if they’re purely focused on selling furniture itself, the query “how to treat garden furniture for the winter” might not be valuable as it suggests users already have garden furniture and would rather protect it than buy more.
It’s important to understand these nuances between search terms and what you’re selling. You want to bid on search terms that are likely to result in a sale and avoid spending money on clicks for keywords that don’t.
Link to keyword match types article.
Ad copy and impressions
Once you know which search terms you’re going to target and the user intent behind them, you need to create ads that capture people’s attention and inspire them to click through to your website. The more you understand the intent behind these queries, the more you can craft your message to meet the desires of each user.
Here are some tips from Google on creating ads that capture attention and inspire action:
- Highlight what makes you unique
Free shipping? Dazzling variety? Tell people! Showcase the products, services, or offers that make you competitive.
- Include prices, promotions, and exclusives
People often use Google search to make a decision about something. Give them what they need to decide. If you have a limited-time discount or stock an exclusive product, say so.
- Empower customers to take action
Are you selling something? Tell people what they can buy. Are you offering a service? Tell people how to contact you. Calls to action like purchase, call today, order, browse, sign up, or get a quote make clear what the next steps are.
- Include at least one of your keywords
Keywords in your ad text show your ad’s relevance to what people want. For example, if you’ve included digital cameras as a keyword, your ad headline could be “Buy Digital Cameras.” Learn how to build the best keyword list.
- Match your ad to your landing page
Have a look at the page that you’re linking to from your ad (the landing page), and make sure that the promotions or products in your ad are included there. People might leave your website if they don’t find what they expect.
- Appeal to customers on mobile
People seeing your ads on mobile are more likely to want to know where you are, or to call you. Show your location and phone number with location extensions and call extensions. Also, consider creating ads devoted to people on mobile devices, using the mobile version of your website as a landing page, and offering specials suited to a mobile audience. Keep in mind, your text ads can appear differently on mobile.
Source: Google Support
With your ads created, you need to make sure they’re seen by the right people. For this you’ll need to bid enough on your chosen keywords for your ads to show but you’ll also want to master the targeting options at your disposal to make sure your ads are only seen and clicked by the most relevant people.
Targeting ensures your ads are only seen by people who meet certain criteria. If your target audience is married men over the age of fifty who play golf at least once a month, you don’t really want teenage girls seeing your ads. Even though you only pay for ads once a user clicks on them, effective targeting brings a number of benefits:
- Allows you to create more specific messages to different audiences
- Prevents the wrong audience accidentally clicking on your ads
- Increases your click through rates (CTRs)
- Improves your impressions to CTR ratio (good for your Quality Score)
- Reduces your competition
Let’s go back to our golfing example for a moment. Simply creating ads for golfers over the age of fifty might could be a good place to start if you know this is your core audience – but you can take things much further. For example, you can use location targeting to create ads for golfers who live nearby certain prolific courses. You can also use demographics to target golfers who earn above a certain wage or based on the kind of property they live in, allowing you to promote products at different price brackets.
More to the point, you can use targeting to create ads for target audiences outside of your core demographic – let’s say teenage female golfers that are getting serious about the game.
When you master AdWords targeting, you can create campaigns for all kinds of audience, knowing they
As soon as users type in a query that matches one of your keywords, you’re entered into an auction and this where your bids come into play. Generally speaking, the more you bid on a keyword, the more likely your ad is to show for relevant queries and the higher it will appear. There are other factors that determine whether your ads show for a particular query and where they show:
- Your Quality Score
- Relevance of your ads and landing page
- Click through rates of your ads
- The targeting options you use
- Negative keywords
- Bid adjustments
Quality Score is a grade Google places on your ads to help it determine how suitable your ad is for specific queries. Your Quality Score is calculated by various factors, including the quality of your ad copy, click through rates, the relevance of your landing page and… Check what Quality Score consists of.
As a rule of thumb, the higher your Quality Score is, the better chance your ads have of showing for a particular query and you could even show above a rival brand who bids more than you if Google’s Ad Rank algorithm decides your ad is the most useful for a query.
Of course, your targeting options rule you out of auctions that aren’t relevant to you. If you’re only targeting people in the UK, you won’t enter any auctions for people typing in your keywords in the US and you won’t be competing against any companies that are targeting US users.
Negative keywords will also rule you out of certain auctions, allowing you to target keywords like “PPC advertising” but exclude queries that include terms like “learn,” “study” and “tips”. This allows companies like ourselves to target users looking for PPC advertising as a service without our ads showing for people looking to learn it for themselves.
Finally, your entry and performance in ad auctions will be impacted by your bid adjustments. If you set bid to increase for certain times of the day, then this is obviously going to have an impact on how you do in actions – this is the whole point. Likewise, if you use AdWords’ Smart Bidding features or automate your bidding in any way, this will largely determine how you perform in auctions.
Clicks, landing pages and conversions
As soon as someone clicks on your ad, you’ve paid money to bring them to your site and you need to convert as many of them as possible – otherwise you’re out of pocket. Which means PPC doesn’t start and end with your ads; it starts from the moment you select a keyword to target and it doesn’t end until the conversion goal for that query is achieved on your website or in-store.
“PPC doesn’t start and end with your ads; it starts from the moment you select a keyword to target and it doesn’t end until the conversion goal for that query is achieved on your website or in-store.”
When a user clicks through to your site, it’s because the message in your ad spoke out to them and the worst thing you can do is break this message on the page you send them to. Don’t send PPC traffic to your landing page or generic product/services pages. Create landing pages for every ad with a unique message and closely replicate your ad headline in the first piece of prominent text users see.
If your ad says “Save time and money with the best accounting software in the business”, make sure the main heading on your landing page says something like “Welcome to faster and cheaper accounting with [software name]”.
This way you reaffirm the key selling points that made users click through in the first place (time and money), which confirms they’re in the right place and tells them you’re about to deliver on your promise. This should be the first thing users see when they land on your page.
Next, your landing page needs to expand upon your initial offer and turn interested users into paying customers. This is more of an art than a specific science but you can use the following guidelines as general best practices:
- Match the heading of your landing page with the headline in your ad
- Stick to the same selling points that convinced users to click in the first place
- Avoid cluttered landing page layouts – stick to single column designs with vertically stacked divs and plenty of white space
- Focus on the benefits of your offer rather than features (eg: peace of mind vs secure encryption, looking younger vs anti-aging ingredients)
- Make your call to action (CTA) the most prominent part of your page
- Create a sense of urgency in your landing page copy to encourage people to buy now
- Put a secondary CTA further down the page for users who aren’t ready to commit right now
- Remove the navigation menu from your landing pages to reduce choice fatigue and keep users locked into your sales funnel
- Link to other pages for users who want to find out more information – eg: FAQs, product pages, contact page, etc.
- Use remarketing to show display ads to people who visit your landing pages but don’t buy
That’s a very quick run-through of what a good landing page should include but you can get more information from the landing page optimisation section of our blog. There’s a lot of good info in there so be sure to check it out.
No matter how good your landing pages are, the majority of your PPC traffic isn’t going to convert right away and this is where you need t have a follow-up strategy to convert these users later on. This is where AdWords remarketing comes in, which allows you to show display ads to previous visitors as they continue to browse the web. You can also build email lists and reach out to users via email at various stages of the consumer journey. With AdWords, Facebook and Instagram, you can also use your email lists to target users with remarketing ads and reach new, similar audiences with AdWords similar audiences and Facebook lookalike audiences.
Finally, if you’re using any sales automation platforms like Salesforce or Infusionsoft, you can manage leads as they turn from first-time visitors, into qualified leads, customers and repeat buyers – all from a single platform.
An overview of Facebook and Instagram
To help illustrate the key differences between paid search and paid social advertising, we’re going to focus on Facebook and Instagram in this section. While the basic concepts of creating ads, landing pages and conversion paths beyond ad clicks are essentially the same across all advertising platforms, there are fundamental differences between paid search and social that you need to understand if you want to get the most out of both formats.
The most obvious difference between search and social advertising is that you’re not bidding on keywords when you run ads on Facebook or other social networks. Instead, you’re simply bidding on ad placements and the only way to narrow down who sees your ads is by using targeting options (which are excellent on Facebook and Instagram, by the way).
In truth, keywords are simply another form of targeting anyway so it’s simply a case of different options being available on search and social.
However, this is symptomatic of a much bigger and more important difference between the two. People type search queries into search engines – allowing us to target specific keywords – while social users are simply scrolling through content.
In other words, search users are actively looking for something and you create ads related to this interest. They might have a problem your product can solve, be looking to find the best product in the same category or already be looking to buy what you’re selling. Either way, the gap between this user session and making a purchase is generally quite small because the purchase intent is already there to some degree.
This isn’t the case with social advertising. People are scrolling through their friends’ holiday pictures, trying to fin the best filter for a selfie or come up with another ironically hilarious status update. They’re not in shopping and the gap between them and making a purchase is much larger than it will be with most AdWords leads.
So, strategically speaking, advertising on social media is a world away from the kind of campaigns you’ll run on AdWords.
Campaign goals and strategies
Once you understand the different user intents people have when they turn to Google and Facebook, you’re in a better position to start creating effective ads for social. Your campaign goals are going to be different and the kind of leads you generate from a network like Facebook are going to be completely different, too.
Here are some campaign objectives that AdWords can’t really help you with but Facebook is ideal for:
- Branding campaigns
- Reaching a wider audience
- Capturing leads before they start searching
- Tapping into user interests
- Hyper-targeting users
Let’s say you’re releasing a new product in six months’ time and you want to build some early leads. With AdWords, you could bid on your competitors’ keywords for similar products and tell searchers there’s a new product coming but this does nothing for people who want to buy now. You’ll be much better off running a branding campaign on Facebook or Instagram and targeting people with a proven interest in products like the one your about to release.
Instead of the buy now mentality, you’re tapping into the broader interest that users are looking to engage when they turn to social media.
A more advanced social strategy is to capture leads before they even know they want to buy. With Facebook and Instagram, this is particularly effective for brands in travel, food, fashion and cosmetic industries. Imagine a user who has just spent the last hour looking at pictures of their friends in the Maldives and all the nice food people are eating. They’re stuck in the office on another miserable day, looking down at an equally miserable salad without a trace of carbs or flavour.
In this moment, every part of them is going to be craving some time in the sun and something to eat that doesn’t taste like wet cardboard. What a moment to target these people with cheap deals on flights or a free dessert if they book a table at your restaurant now.
When it comes to social advertising, always look at the reason people use a specific network and the kind of content they’re engaging with. Social media is all about looking at people who have things you don’t; things you want but don’t have. Make this the centre of your social advertising campaigns and you’ll be generating leads from people before they even realise they want to buy from you.
In the last section, we mentioned hyper-targeting users and this is where Facebook and Instagram really start to shine as advertising platforms. There are four main types of targeting on the two networks:
- Demographics: Reach people based on their age, gender, relationship status, education, workplace, job titles and more.
- Location: Target people based on where they live, where they are right now and people who are travelling in your area.
- Interests: Find people based on their hobbies, favourite artists, the kind of content they engage with and all kinds of other interests.
- Behaviours: Target people based on their recent purchasing behaviours, the devices and operating systems they use, plus a range of other online behaviours.
What makes Facebook targeting so impressive is that you can combine these different types of targeting to find incredibly specific audiences. With the amount of data people hand over to Facebook, there’s almost no limit to how much you can refine your target audiences.
What to target pet owners in your area who also have children? No problem. Want to refine that further and target those who also own their own homes and travel at least twice per year? Done. In fact, Facebook targeting options are so good that you have to be careful about becoming too specific with your target audiences and restricting the number of people your ads are seen by.
However, what this level of hyper-targeting allows you to do is create different messages for all of the target audiences. So, if your homeowner customers have different needs to people renting their property, you can create ads that address the unique needs of each audience and easily deliver them to the right crowd.
Facebook targeting allows you to create ad messages that resonate with the unique needs of each target audience and reach out to each of them with a more compelling offer.
“Facebook targeting allows you to create ad messages that resonate with the unique needs of each target audience and reach out to each of them with a more compelling offer.”
For more info on Facebook targeting and how you can use it to reach highly-specific audiences, check out our guide.
Clicks, landing pages and conversions
The crucial thing to understand about social advertising is that you’re going to be creating entirely different ads compared to what you’re doing on AdWords. When you target Google users with ads, they’re either looking for information or looking to buy something. Meanwhile, social users aren’t in shopping mode and your first task is to turn them from content consumers (baby photos, makeup videos, etc.) into potential customers.
This is why Facebook targeting is so important: because you can reach couples preparing for their wedding with deals on a honeymoon or wedding photos. Likewise, you can reach You can reach people who have just graduated from specific universities with job positions. Or you can target people travelling in your area to let them know your restaurant is a must-visit place before they leave.
The key is to create messages based on the interests of your target audiences and then make sure you get the message across to them.
This means your audience research needs to be spot on and your understanding of the targeting options available is crucial. Once you start creating messages that resonate with the needs of your target audiences and make sure your ads meet the right people, you’ll be turning casual social users into qualified leads.
After you manage this and you start getting those ad clicks, all the same rules apply with regards to landing pages, conversion paths and closing leads. Make sure you have unique landing pages for each core message and repeat the offer stated in your ad. Create compelling CTAs that convert users and follow up with secondary CTAs further down the page for people who aren’t ready to buy right now. Keep these leads engaged with your brand and continue to nurture those who don’t convert right away, until they’re ready to buy.