What is PPC and why is it important for business growth?

If you’re starting a business or hoping to grow your current business you’re likely to be inundated with helpful suggestions about which direction to move in.

From one angle you’ll hear that the future is all about search engine optimisation – from another angle it’ll seem like establishing your brand should be priority number one, then another person will tell you… well, you get the picture.

In this world of frugal start-ups people often forget to talk about pay-per-click (PPC) advertising – so we’ll explain what it is, how it works – and most importantly, what it might mean to your growing business.

What is PPC?

Pay-per-click advertising is one particular model of online advertising in which advertisers only pay for the instances when a platform user actually clicks on their advert.

For example:

You search for Atlas Ceramics stock it on Google, the results that are returned are displayed on what’s commonly known as a SERP – or ‘search engine results page’ – and in this example, the people who appear at the top of the ‘organic’ listing will be people who are paying a huge amount of money to SEO experts to keep them there.

However, you’ll also notice there are 3 or 4 listings that appear above those organic results – you’ll see they have ‘Ad’ in green next to the URL that’s displayed beneath the company name and site title/page title. The companies have paid for this listing to appear where it does – almost always on a PPC basis.

How does it work?

So, if you pay per click – how do search engines decide what gets those top spots?

Well, generally with an auction. Google will look at how many people are looking to pay for advertising the relates to a specific set of keywords or phrases and if more than one person’s asking – an auction is triggered.

You’ll make a per-click bid on the keyword or phrase you like the look of – but, as Google is user experience driven, it’s not as simple as just making the highest bid. Google will also want to know how relevant the ad is that you’re planning on placing – so a highly relevant ad with a lower bid will often beat a less relevant ad with a higher monetary offering per click.

Now, the final PPC price you pay depends on a host of factors that relates to the other people who were bidding and the perceived quality score of your advert – but generally speaking you’ll pay a little less than your maximum bid – and from there, it’s all about the clicks…

Why is PPC important for your business?

PPC advertising can get you places that would take tremendous amounts of SEO or social media work to equal – hence, it’s a fairly unique and important part of your marketing plan – but what can it actually offer you in real terms?

PPC offers quick market traction

Establishing a name and reputation in your marketing place is where having an awesome brand comes into play. That said, your brand could be the most awesome there is – but if no one’s using your product or experiencing all the exceptional underpinning principles, it’s not worth the paper or iPad it’s written on.

As such, PPC gives you a chance to push to the front of whichever queue you desire – and when you’re there, you can focus on establishing rolling out that awesome product and brand.

PPC works to your budget

By now you’ve probably thought long and hard about your conversion rates – whether or not you’ve actually established any yet.

PPC gives you complete control over the spending part of the conversion funnel you’re working on – start heading toward your daily, weekly or monthly limit? No problem, you can step off the gas. Alternatively, if you like the way things are going, you can bump your spend and watch the converting traffic do the same.

PPC offers data, data and more data

You know people tell you that there’s no such thing as a mistake – only lessons to be learned? Well, PPC offers the best kind of lessons, whether you’re flying or making mistakes; data.

Every keyword and click that comes out of your budget has information about its performance that comes packaged in with the price – and this information lets you track what you’re doing, test new approaches and tighten the screw on things that are performing well.

What’s more, this is done in virtually real time – so when the market talks, you can respond.

Now, realistically (unless you’re in a seriously big money marketplace) you’re not going to be responding to the minute to minute changes of the market – instead, you’re going to be tweaking until you find something that works well. A word of advice though – keep track of everything you do, you’ll start to paint a bigger picture when you’re laying data over your calendar and marketing strategy.

PPC can be in the right place at the right time

If your site’s conversion rates are better when you’ve got real people in the office picking up phones or replying to emails and chat windows, then you can make PPC suit you and your audience’s requirements by optimising for the most appropriate times.

That said, it’s not just time that you can optimise for – start seeing location or device trends and you can adjust your PPC strategy to suit – once again, building masses of data in the meantime.

The bigger PPC picture

PPC doesn’t offer a marketing solution as such, instead, it’s a method that’s going to help you test the effectiveness of some keywords and audiences so you’ve got some red hot data to be working with on your longer term SEO plans.

In the short term though, PPC offers probably the quickest solution to the void that makes up marketing data for most new and small businesses – and it’s especially ideal if you’re planning some time-sensitive launch offers.

A word of advice though – planning on rolling up your sleeves and tackling PPC when you’ve got a spare half hour? Think again – PPC is no beginner tool – and it’s certainly going to take you more than a few spare minutes with a coffee to get your head around. If building your marketing strategy from the ground up is the plan, talk to someone who’s got a bundle of PPC experience to get up and running quickly…

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