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Your guide to profitable pay-per-click advertising

Getting your PPC (pay-per-click) ads profitable is critical - ads that lose money can quickly become an unaffordable financial drain. Google and Facebook bill you by the click for digital advertising whether you sell anything or not. And if ads fail to generate clicks, advertisers cut down on displaying your ads because competitors' ads work better.

This easy-to-follow guide to profitable PPC online advertising will help you understand PPC ads and avoid businesses' most common mistakes. You'll also discover proven strategies to succeed.

What Is PPC advertising?

If you've noticed ads that look like search results on Google, you probably already know what PPC ads are. It has a lot of different names that can often be confusing or interchanged. Paid search, SEM, PPC, Google Ads, Bing Ads, and search ads are all elements of the same thing.

Those cleverly concealed ads often appear above and below the organic search results that most people prefer to click on. They're called pay-per-click or PPC because you pay each time a person clicks on your ad.

How much you pay is determined by automatic bidding that instantly happens whenever a person enters the keywords into the Google search that you built your ad around. Google decides who wins the bidding and gets their ad displayed by considering two factors:

  1. Whoever sets the highest price for that keyword
  2. Whoever has the best Quality Score

Google determines your Quality Score based on how well your keywords, ad copy, and landing page work together to get results. So you can't simply pay more money to get your ad shown ahead of your competitors. You also must have the best-performing ad and landing page.

Scorpion can help you manage ad bidding and improve your Quality Score to bring ad costs down.

PPC in online advertising

When it comes to purchasing online ads, they typically split into three types: PPC, PPI (pay-per-impression), and PPV (pay-per-view).

  • PPC means you pay when people click on your ad.
  • PPI means you pay for every 1000 times your ad is displayed, whether people click on it or not.
  • PPV is when you bid for a view, and it mainly exists on YouTube. Views count as bids after a watcher sees your entire ad or the first 30 seconds. Google owns YouTube, so you can set up YouTube PPV ads through Google Ads.

Here are examples of the kinds of ads you can buy with PPC.

Search ads

These are the ads that usually appear at the top of search engines result pages, as in the example above.

You will generally see these paid ads with a Google or Bing search. Each network has different ad placement spots and different ad extensions, but they all relate to the same thing. Google and Bing will also let you know that they are paid ads by putting the word "sponsored" or "ad" next to them for people who prefer the organic results.

Running an ad campaign with search ads usually involves

Display ads

You buy display ads on an ad network like the Google Display Network to get your ad on millions of websites. You usually pay for display ads at a pay-per-impression (PPI) rate instead of PPC.

You will usually see the terms CPM (cost per thousand) or CPC (cost per click) when related to display ads. They are usually a high volume, but low converting form of online advertising. Think of it like a digital billboard.

Facebook ads

Don't overlook Facebook if you want to get the most out of your PPC campaigns. On Facebook, PPC ads appear in the right column and have “Sponsored” above them. They also appear in the Facebook feed. You can set up Facebook and Instagram PPC ads in the Facebook Ads Manager.

Facebook ads can usually be bought CPM or CPC as well. Many businesses find that social media ads actually perform better than search engine ads so make sure to do some testing to see what works for you.

Video ads

These are mainly on YouTube, and they usually before or during other videos. They can be either PPC or PPV (pay-per-view).


PPC and SEO (search engine optimization) are two different marketing strategies. They can both work well to bring potential customers to your website. Using PPC means paying for digital ads. Using SEO means creating informative content that people are actively searching for.

You could think about it like this: PPC ads hunt for customers, but customers hunt for SEO content. This difference is critical - people are tired of ads, but they're actively searching for information that presents solutions to their problems.

Another critical difference is that SEO can take months to get results. PPC can have customers buying your product in hours. However, with PPC, you have to keep paying for those ads. A piece of SEO content can send you customers for years if you update it once in a while.

By using SEO, you present the best information to become a trusted authority. People remember you and buy your products as a result.

Which works better, PPC or SEO?

The answer depends on your situation and whom you ask. A PPC enthusiast will say PPC and back up their claim with data. So will an SEO lover.

The truth is that both can work very well when done correctly. A deeper truth is that it's wise to use both PPC and SEO together.

Because SEO takes time, you can use PPC to get money rolling in while building an SEO strategy. And after your SEO strategy is working, you may discover that your PPC ads start working better because SEO builds your brand recognition and trust. People know what to expect when they click on your ad, so they're more trusting.

Seasoned marketers even keep on using PPC and SEO together when their blog article hits position one on Google search for a keyword. They'll run a PPC ad using the same keyword above the blog article that has reached the top of page one so that they own the first screen of search results and lock out the competition.

It may be more profitable to think about PPC and SEO working together rather than being pitted against each other. Talk with a Scorpion professional about developing the right mix of PPC and SEO for your situation.

Common mistakes in PPC advertising

Finding success with PPC ads is about more than finding a good keyword match for your product and building a high-performing ad around it. You need to set up your website correctly to handle the increased volume of visitors. To know what's working and what isn't, you'll need to crunch a few numbers - but you could also let Google Analytics crunch them for you.

Having a slow website

One of the fastest ways to lose the visitors you paid to get is having a slow website. People won't wait longer than two or three seconds for a page to load. Under one second is best.

To get a fast website:

  • Use dedicated hosting instead of cheap shared hosting.
  • Use the cloud in your geographical area.
  • Use a caching plugin like WP Rocket if you have a WordPress site.

Not using dedicated landing pages

It's nearly always a mistake to send visitors who click on your ads to your home page because visitors have to search your site to find what they want. Creating a dedicated landing page to match the ads using the same keywords, colors, images, and language used in the ads brings instant recognition.

Visitors know they've landed in the right place. Your bounce rate goes down, which increases your Google Ad Quality Score to give you cheaper ads.

Not optimizing your landing pages

Optimizing the page your visitors will land on after clicking on your ad will increase sales.

Google advises using these landing page tactics. Use:

  • The same message as your ad
  • The same terms
  • The same keywords
  • A call to action and buy button above the fold
  • Social proof

Your ad return on investment (ROI) may increase.

Not optimizing for mobile

Mobile ads now account for 51% of ad budgets, and 53% of PPC clicks on search come from mobile. Here are some best practices for creating winning mobile ads:

  • Keep ad copy short - less than two lines
  • Be sure the copy is not truncated by "Read More"
  • Use eye-catching images and GIFs
  • Be certain people in images and videos are looking directly into the camera when possible

Lastly, be sure to send visitors from mobile ads to mobile-friendly landing pages that display well on small screens.

Not measuring results

Measuring ad results may mean using metrics, which can sound confusing or complicated. But when you think of metrics as just numbers or percentages that measure ad performance, they become easier to understand.

Even so, if you don't want to go anywhere near something sounding as complicated as metrics, there are only two numbers you need to know:

  1. The number of visitors an ad sent to your landing page in a time period.
  2. The number of those visitors who bought something from the landing page in that time period.

Of course, you want to keep the ads that give you the highest numbers. With the ads yielding lower numbers, replace them with new advertisements in an attempt to beat your ads with the best numbers.

Fortunately, Google Ads Manager calculates many metrics for you. And Google Analytics tells you what pages people visited, where they came from, and where they went.

Not knowing your customer lifetime value (CLV)

You can figure out the value of a customer when you know how much money you can expect to get from them over the lifetime of their relationship with you. Hence, knowing how much a customer is worth helps you decide how much you can spend on ads to get that customer.

You can increase lifetime value by selling customers:

  • More of the same product
  • Similar products
  • Compatible products
  • Product accessories
  • A more expensive version
  • New releases
  • Subscriptions that renew annually

Figure your CLV by multiplying the average purchase value by the average number of purchases customers make over the lifetime of your relationship with them.

Now that you know how to avoid common, costly mistakes, we're ready to get deep into winning PPC ad strategies.

Winning with PPC digital advertising strategies

New startups and small businesses often receive recommendations to use PPC because content marketing takes time to develop. The tips below will help you succeed with a Google ad campaign.

Use multiple titles and text

When you create your Google ad using the new responsive search ad (RSA) feature, you have options for inserting different titles and text. Google will then display different combinations of these to see which gives the best results.

This Google feature makes split testing headlines and ad text easy. Then you can focus on creating and testing completely different ad groups to test against each other.

Do more split testing

It's critical to continuously refine your PPC ads through split testing ad groups and the landing pages your ads are sending visitors to. Savvy marketers don't just create one group of ads and let them run to the same landing page.

Professionals understand that their customers and marketing conditions are constantly changing. Split testing lets you try different versions when changes happen. You keep the best-performing version, then start testing new ads against it.

Use conversion tracking

Conversion tracking is a free tool in your Google Adwords account. All you need to do is set up a conversion event and insert a small bit of code called a tag on your website.

Putting a conversion tracker on your checkout or thank you pages tells you which ads work best. You can track:

  • Purchases
  • Subscriptions
  • Form fill outs
  • Tap-to-call actions
  • Shares

Tracking conversions let you figure ROI (return on investment) for different ad groups.

Use location tracking

Location tracking helps your ads get shown to customers near you. If yours is a local business, Google will show your ads to customers close to you before ads from more distant competitors appear.

Register in the “near me” feature so that your business will show up at the top of Google's local search.

Use negative keywords

Some keywords get clicks from people who will not become your customers. Putting those keywords in your negative keyword list will tell Google not to show your ad when people search for those keywords.

Let's say you have an upscale barbershop selling shaves and haircuts. You don't want to attract people looking for razors, discount haircuts, or free haircuts. Placing those keywords on your negative keyword list in AdWords stops clicks on them.

The result is that your ad spending goes down while the number of sales you get compared to clicks goes up. Google sees that your ad is performing better and starts showing it to more people without you having to pay a higher rate.

You may need to build up some data before finding all of your negative keywords.

Get the most out of PPC with remarketing

When people leave your site without buying after clicking on a PPC ad, you can use remarketing to remind them to come back and complete their purchase.

Remarketing means showing ads or sending emails to people who have clicked on one of your ads, visited your website, or taken action on one of your social media pages. As it turns out, this works quite well - you're advertising to people who have already shown interest in your business.

Retargeting ads follow people around the internet. Let's say you looked at a lovely pair of shoes on Zappos, put them in your shopping cart, and then got interrupted before you could complete your purchase. Suddenly, you start seeing ads for those same shoes on Google, Facebook, and other websites you visit.

You also get an email saying you left those beautiful shoes in your shopping cart. You might even see short video ads for the shoes at the beginning of YouTube videos. You finally find time to complete your purchase, and you stop seeing the ads.

How retargeting ads work

Retargeting ads work with a small snippet of code called a pixel. You get the pixel from the ad platform - usually Google or Facebook. Then you insert the pixel in your website's header or footer. On WordPress sites, you can use a simple plugin to insert the pixel for you.

Once inserted, the pixel allows the ad platform to target visitors to specific pages on your website and follow them around the web. The pixel is invisible, so visitors don't know the ad platform is tracking them.

Retargeting ads cost a little more, but they can be ten times as effective as standard search ads. They're worth the additional price. The effectiveness of remarketing is owed to the fact that it targets people who have already shown interest in your brand. They only need to be reminded to come back.

There are several remarketing strategies you can use to increase the ROI of your PPC ad campaigns.

Email remarketing

Most shoppers prefer to get information about your brand via email. And you don't have to pay for email like you do for ads. When shoppers leave products in their carts without buying, you can send reminder emails. For shoppers that did buy, you can send emails about similar products to keep sales going and boost customer lifetime value.

Display remarketing

Display ads are usually one of the first kinds of ads that come to mind with remarketing. Not only can you buy these ads on the Google Display Network, you can customize the display ads that potential buyers will see on different websites.

Search remarketing

Your search retargeting ads appear on search engine results pages on Google rather than on websites, as display ads do. Google calls this remarketing lists for search ads (RLSA).

Dynamic remarketing

Remember the shoe example above?

That's dynamic remarketing. You show display or search ads for the same product a shopper viewed but didn't buy. These personalized ads are highly effective.

Video remarketing

YouTube is the most common platform for video retargeting ads. You can set them up in Google like you do for display and search retargeting. Since you don't want to bore watchers and have them click away, keeping them short and sweet is good practice.

Facebook remarketing

You can show retargeting ads on Facebook to people who have visited your website or taken an action on your Facebook page. Actions include liking, commenting, sharing, or saving a post.

We're here to help with your PPC ads

For those who are new to the game of PPC ads, knowing where to begin can be a challenge. Most small businesses don't have money to burn experimenting with ads and landing pages, so when they get started, they need to do it right.

Even seasoned PPC advertisers often want a professional to manage ad campaigns and website setup. The help they provide with ongoing monitoring and tweaking is essential to staying ahead of the competition. This frees up valuable time for businesses to focus on providing their services.

Scorpion partners with local businesses to take care of all their marketing and website needs. Sit back and let us handle your:

  • Website development
  • Digital marketing
  • Search engine marketing
  • Content marketing
  • Social Media Marketing

Talk with Scorpion today.