How to Develop a PPC Strategy
With search engine marketing (SEM) only rising in popularity and influence, up-and-coming brands need a plan of attack. With In an era where 98% of global consumers shop online and Google churns out results for 3.5 billion searches per day, the stakes are simply too high to “wing it.”1,2
Businesses can’t come out on top in the world of SEM by just donning some chainmail and leading their ranks in a ground-shaking rallying cry. So how can they create strategies that work?
Let’s break down just one element of any SEM battle plan: PPC strategy. PPC (or Pay-Per-Click) advertising is just one critical tactic in a diversified digital marketing strategy, and nailing it can be the difference between online domination and crushing obscurity.
PPC in a nutshell
First, it is important to understand what PPC is. We recently posted an in-depth guide to the basics of PPC—for a super detailed brief on pay-per-click, check it out.
But since this guide is more focused on marketing strategy, we’ll start with a simple recap:
- Brands pay PPC platforms for every click or impression that an ad generates.3
- On Google’s platform, for instance, four paid ads appear as the top four results on the SERP (the search engine results page)—a coveted spot for brands looking to usher in new site visitors.
- Brands choose which keywords they want their search ad to appear in, pay a “bid” price for each keyword, identify the negative keywords they don’t want their ad to appear for, and review their impression share to see just how well their search ad is actually performing.
PPC is a super straightforward SEM strategy—and, done right, it can generate fast results, even on a shoestring budget.
Key elements of a killer PPC strategy
As magical as the outcome above is (a rapid increase in visibility with limited spending), it requires an airtight plan. Let’s break down critical elements that should inform brands’ PPC strategies.
#1 Bid optimization
There are three to four PPC spots at the top of each SERP—and scoring one of them is critical for brands that want peak interaction metrics (and the highest possible ROI).
However, ranking for the right keyword is arguably more important.
If a brand that sells political campaign management software is ranking for “campaign management,” but the users searching this keyword might be looking for something else. Perhaps they’re interested in career information or a sponsored product for a different kind of PPC campaign (like an ad campaign instead of a political one). For those searches, the brand’s software ad probably won’t generate very many clicks.
So, what are brands to do? Consult their impression share data, and make the following tweaks:
- If the software company above isn’t generating a positive ROI from the keyword “campaign management,” they should either reduce their bid or remove this keyword altogether.
- If the brand ranks third or fourth for the keyword “political campaign software,” they should increase their bid in an effort to increase their rank.
- If the ad ranks first for “political campaign software” but still doesn’t generate positive ROI, another factor might be at play. Maybe this ad isn’t positioned on the right ad platform, to begin with, or perhaps the ad copy could be snappier.
It’s not all about the bid—but for brands working on tight budgets, optimizing cost can help maintain longevity and fine-tune other elements of their PPC strategy.
#2 Placement choice
Google might be a household name, but it’s not the only platform for PPC ads. Other high-performing options include:4
- Microsoft Ads
To choose the best platform (or platforms) for their PPC campaign ad, brands should consider:
- A platform’s user base – Who’s using the platform (i.e., who’s going to see the ad)? What are those users looking for? While Google users might be looking for text-based intel, Pinterest users might be more likely to click on an image.
- Their budget – Each platform offers unique features, opportunities, and ad formats—naturally, their prices will vary. Brands must balance visibility and conversion with cost.
- Formatting – Instagram ads are photo- and video-based—if a brand sells a service rather than a physical product, it might make more sense to prioritize more text-focused platforms, like Google or Microsoft Ads.
- Ad volume – How many ads does a platform display per search? How likely are users to see a paid ad, even if they never use the search function (on a platform like Instagram or Pinterest, for example)? If a platform only sparsely shows ads, or if the competition is steep for highly coveted spots, brands should consider adjusting their bid (or their strategy) accordingly.
#3 Snappy ad copy
Depending on the platform, ads must meet certain formatting criteria. But copy can’t just survive in a format. It has to thrive and:
- Slow down fast-scrolling searchers
- Take advantage of ad extensions (more on this later)
- Provide the information that users are actually looking for when they search a keyword
It’s a tall order, especially for Google ads, where brands have to get their message across in a meager 270 characters.5<7suP>
In the last bullet of the bid optimization section, we suggested that if a brand’s ad is ranking highly, but their ROI is still in the red, there might be something else going on. Dull or generic copy is a possible culprit.
In the pursuit of the perfect paid ad, the SEO and content marketing teams should experiment with the copy to find out what gets clicks—striking the right tone, using the right vocab and painting the perfect picture in a confined box is tough, but it’s crucial to PPC ad success.
#4 Playing the long game
PPC tactics can create fast results—as soon as they pay, brands can post their ads, potentially ushering in new impressions and site visitors from day one.
But content marketing teams shouldn’t expect overwhelming popularity in a matter of days. Like any other digital marketing method, brands must be willing to spend time observing what works and what doesn’t.
Businesses should expect to spend time on the following in their long-term pursuit of PPC perfection:
- Analyzing impression share metrics, like:
- User demographics
- Time spent on the SERP
- Clicks vs. impressions
- Conversion rates
- Fine-tuning their keyword choices.
- Tweaking their copy.
- Researching new strategies, trends, and advancements in PPC industry-wide.
Of course, time is money. And PPC can have a steep learning curve, but to overcome it (and avoid spending money on ads that don’t convert), consider teaming up with a professional, like a digital marketing agency.
Know the angles: Explore these 4 PPC tactics
So, what’s new in PPC strategy? What practices have been around for a while but still seem to work for budding brands? Let’s break down some new angles for businesses to experiment with as they build (and adjust) their PPC strategy:
- Google responsive search ads – Instead of tweaking headlines and descriptions manually, opt for automation. With responsive search ads, brands can write multiple headlines and descriptions, and Google Ads will test each one, learn which combinations perform the highest and automatically adjust ads accordingly.6
- Remarketing – On Google and other platforms, brands use remarketing functions to specifically target users who have already visited their site.7
- Prioritizing mobile – Smartphone users are a critical demo—and 50% of smartphone users would rather use a brand’s mobile site than their app.1 When developing landing pages, businesses should invest in mobile-optimized content.
- Niche-ing down – High-intent, long-tail keywords can take time to unearth. But, they’re less competitive, searchers who use them demonstrate a higher user intent to buy, and they represent a massive portion of search engine queries.8
Between the basics of PPC, the major considerations explored above and the more specific ideas in this section, creating a strategy that produces a positive ROI takes significant effort. That’s why so many brands use professional PPC services—partnering with a marketing expert can give a company a massive leg up on the competition.
Breaking down the barricade to PPC superiority
Trying to implement PPC without a strategy in place is like heading into battle without a sword—or without an organized formation, an objective, or a place to meet up for turkey legs and run the victory lap.
But, the moat between digital marketing newcomers and PPC success is wide and full of crocodiles (or, at the very least, wasted money spent on keywords that don’t convert). Brands ready to breach the learning curve partner with the experts at Power Digital.
We’re already swashbuckling beside the likes of Casper, Dropbox, Square, and more. Our full-funnel, digitally-powered services can profoundly impact company growth—and its bottom line.
Discover digital marketing success, and reach out to us today.
- Think with Google. Marketing Strategies. https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/marketing-strategies/app-and-mobile/global-consumers-search-statistics/
- Forbes. Understanding Generation Data. https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbestechcouncil/2021/08/02/understanding-generation-data/?sh=3b705f7536b7
- Investopedia. Cost per Click (CPC) Explained, with Formula and Alternatives. https://www.investopedia.com/terms/c/cpc.asp
- Search Engine Journal. The 8 Best PPC Ad Networks. https://www.searchenginejournal.com/ppc-guide/best-ppc-ad-networks/
- Google. About Text Ads. https://support.google.com/google-ads/answer/1704389?hl=en
- Google. About Responsive Search Ads. https://support.google.com/google-ads/answer/7684791
- Google. Remarketing and Audience Targeting. https://developers.google.com/adwords/api/docs/guides/remarketing
- Search Engine Journal. Long-Tail Keyword Strategy: Why & How to Target Intent for SEO. https://www.searchenginejournal.com/keyword-research/long-tail-keywords/