An In-depth Introduction to Paid Search (PPC)

November 3, 2022


Lately, the terms PPC and paid search have been used interchangeably—but do they mean the same thing?

Well, they’re similar. Paid search refers to all ads that you can place on Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). PPC (Pay Per Click) is just what it sounds like—you, the advertiser, pay every time someone clicks on an ad or other listing that leads to your website. No clicks equals no charge. 

Because you only pay for users who click through to your website, PPC can deliver strong results and ROI compared to other advertising methods. The most common platform for PPC is search engines—mainly Google and Bing, but you can also create and manage campaigns across social media channels and video platforms.

Pay Per Click Across Platforms

Search engines, social media, and video platforms—reach more people with targeted campaigns across multiple platforms to boost your ROI.

Search engines

Google Adwords is the king of PPC, and possibly the queen, prince and baronet too. The Google search engine is the most commonly used in the west, but don’t ignore other search engines, such as Bing and Yahoo. In this guide, we’ll focus mainly on Google, but also on Bing.

Video platforms

YouTube is the obvious place to start. Their most common type of ads are called TrueView—you know, the ones you always skip after five seconds. Don’t worry, you only get charged if the ad is viewed for 30 seconds. You can also choose in-display ads, which appear beside videos or in search results. Video ads are a great way to boost brand awareness as part of a wider marketing strategy.

Social media

Social media gives you the chance to get super-specific about who you’re targeting. Only males aged 24-29 who are interested in gadgets and football? No problem. Empty nesters who like taking city breaks? Ditto. Romulan warlords? Probably not. The point is you can get into the nitty gritty of who your most likely customers are and target them with ads. 

You can make it work for B2B too using platforms like LinkedIn. A properly executed PPC campaign can and should deliver real results for your business, like more sales, more engagement with your site, more leads or more requests for information. 

Paid Search

What is it and why use it

When you type something into a search engine, such as Google, you are presented with a list of organic results. Paid search ads are the results that appear above these organic results—a.k.a. companies bidding to appear in a premium, or featured position. As you can imagine there are some serious benefits to appearing in these premium positions.

PPC for start-ups

As a new business, it’s unlikely your website will naturally appear at the top of the search rankings—it takes time to build up the domain authority which makes this happen. PPC can be a great way for new businesses to reach users who are searching for relevant keywords. If you're on a tight budget, PPC is one of the best options to get you started, build your brand and find those early customers.

Search Platforms

The two main platforms for paid search are Google AdWords and Bing Ads.

Google AdWords

AdWords is the largest pay-per-click platform. It is run on the Google search engine, Search Partner sites, and Display Network sites. In 2021, Google's ad revenue amounted to 209.49 billion U.S. dollars.

Bing Ads

Similar to AdWords, Bing Ads shows ads on the Bing and Yahoo networks. The platform also utilises a network of search partners. 

Bing now has 34% of the desktop search engine market share worldwide—most importantly, Bing Ads reach 63 million searchers that aren’t reached with Google AdWords. So ignoring Bing Ads could be a huge missed opportunity.

Paid Search Account Structure Basics

Campaigns and Ad Groups

You begin by choosing the keywords you want to target, these are then grouped into themes, which eventually become your campaigns. For example, let's create the campaign “tables”. Within this campaign is subcategories, again themed, these are called ad groups. These groups contain your keywords: 

Campaign: Tables

Ad Groups: Coffee Tables, Dining Tables, Picnic Tables

Keywords (For Dining Tables Adgroup): Square Dining Tables, Round Dining Tables, Rectangular Dining Tables, Oval coffee tables on sale


"Picking the right keywords will mean you are targeting the right people and will result in a high click through rate and consistent traffic to your page," says Google.

Each keyword is assigned a match type. This defines the queries for which ads will show. There are seven keyword match types:

  1. Exact – Query must be typed in exactly
  2. Exact (Close Variant) – Query must be typed in exactly, but can include misspellings or other variants
  3. Phrase – Query must be typed in the correct order, even if there are additional terms before or after the query
  4. Phrase (Close Variant) – Query must be typed in the correct order, even if there are additional terms before or after the query. Query can include misspellings or other variants
  5. Broad – Query can be typed in any order and will potentially show ads for similar searches
  6. Modified Broad – Query can be typed in any order, but must include terms that contain a plus sign
  7. Broad (Session-Based) – A form of broad match that takes into account other queries from that user’s search session

Negative Keywords

These are keywords for which you don’t want your ads to appear. In relation to the above example, you may choose to add ‘free’, ‘bargain’ or ‘cheap’ to the list, to ensure you appear to high-intent buyers.

Ad copy

Once you created the ad groups and chosen your keywords, you can write the ad copy. Ads should include the targeted keyword theme, value propositions, and a call to action. AdWords text ad structure and character limits are as follows:

☞ Headline 1 – Up to 30 characters (including spaces)

☞ Headline 2 – Up to 30 characters (including spaces)

☞ Description Line – Up to 80 characters (including spaces)

☞ Path 1 – Up to 15 characters

☞ Path 2 – Up to 15 characters

For each ad group, we suggest creating two ads for testing purposes. Don’t forget that your ad will appear on both mobile and desktop.

Quality Score

Every paid search ad is given a quality score. The score is determined by a few key factors: the quality and relevance of your landing page, historic click through rates, and keyword relevance. A higher quality score means lower cost per click and better ad placement. In other words, it can cost you big not to have relevant ads and landing pages that compliment your offering.

Paid Search Account Settings

These are some of the settings you can apply to your activity.

Device Targeting

Ads can be shown across Desktops/Laptops, Tablets & Mobile Devices. Desktops/laptops and tablets are considered similar enough by the search engines that the same bid is applied. However, mobile devices have the ability to apply a bid modifier. For example, if the bid is £1.00 and the mobile bid modifier is set to -50%, the bid on mobile devices becomes £0.50. A bid modifier of 150% would set the mobile bid at £1.50. This can be very useful if you notice that particular searches/sales take place largely on one particular type of device.

Location Targeting

PPC across search engines can be incredibly granular—going all the way down to post code level. This is great if you are a local business or have a particular group of prospects you wish to target in a specific area. 


Each individual campaign is allowed a daily budget, which should reflect the account goals.

Delivery Method

There are two options for which ads are delivered: standard and accelerated.

Standard delivery—shows ads evenly throughout the day. Good if you have budget restrictions and want to ensure your ads show throughout the day.

Accelerated delivery—shows ads until the budget is depleted. Good if you don't have budget restrictions and want to ensure your ads are shown for every query.

Paid Search Ad Extensions

Extensions give people more reasons to choose your business and click on your ad and can increase the click-through rate by a few percent. AdWords selects which extensions to show for each search, so it’s best to use all the extensions relevant to your business.

✔️ Sitelink Extensions – additional links to help searchers navigate deeper into your website.

✔️ Location Extensions – perfect for brick and mortar businesses; show the business address and are available in Google and Bing.

✔️ Call Extensions – available on both Google and Bing; supplement ads with the ability to click-to-call, giving mobile searchers an easy way to call the business.

✔️ App Extensions – exclusive to Google, this extension works great for businesses looking to promote app downloads.

✔️ Message extensions - encourage people to send you text messages from your ad.

✔️ Price extensions – showcase your services or product categories with their prices, so that people can browse your products right from your ad. Great if you are competitively priced!

Bid Strategies in AdWords

Bid strategies are a form of automated bidding where control is handed to the search engine based on predetermined goals. Bid goals are set up within the shared library and the search engine changes the auction bids through algorithms. 

There are several different strategies that can be employed at the campaign and ad group levels.

✔️ Enhanced CPC - For the conversion-focused advertiser. AdWords will automatically increase or decrease CPC bids to drive most conversions. Bids can be raised up to 30% for clicks that are more likely to lead to conversions and are lowered for clicks less likely to convert.

✔️ Target Search Page Location – This is a flexible bidding strategy. Google changes bids so your ads can be consistently shown either at the top of the page or on the first page of the SERPs. Perfect if you want to maximize the number of people who see your ads.

✔️ Target CPA – Sets bids to maximize conversions at your target cost-per-acquisition. Aimed at keeping costs down while growing conversions. 

✔️ Maximize Clicks – Sets bids to help you get as many clicks as possible while maintaining spend. This strategy is useful when click volume is the primary goal.

✔️ Target Return on Ad Spend (ROAS) – Some businesses, particularly eCommerce, place higher value on certain conversions over others. It sets bids to maximize conversions within a target ROAS goal.

✔️ Maximize Conversions – An automated strategy which seeks to push your campaign budget to its maximum value.

Conversion Tracking

PPC is all about tracking and testing. You can create conversion goals in order to gauge the performance of campaigns and account performance. Both AdWords and Bing Ads provide code snippets that can be placed on your website. 

AdWords allows a range of conversion tracking: - Web Page- Mobile or tablet app- Calls from ads using call extensions - Calls to a Google forwarding number on your website - Clicks on a number on your mobile website - Imported goals (from third party platforms like Salesforce).

Google Analytics

AdWords can also be linked to Google Analytics accounts to provide information on pre and post click behaviour.

According to SearchEngineWatch, "When done properly, paid search can grow businesses exponentially. [...] Do remember that success will often depend on the quality of your website in relation to others who are also running ads on the same keywords. Conversion is king and sending traffic is only half the job.

Boy oh boy, we can't say this is a light read. But, in our defence, we tried to make it as comprehensive as possible while keeping it relevant. We hope you found it helpful!

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