How to Use PPC Advertising to Diversify Your Traffic and Protect Your Business
Written by Neil Patel on October 4, 2015
Are you looking for ways to grow your business faster?
Content marketing and SEO are both great ways to attract visitors to your site. The only problem is, it can take several months, even years, to build your way up to an impressive amount of traffic.
There’s another avenue to success that is much faster.
However, there is also some risk.
I’m talking, of course, about paid advertising. In particular pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, where you pay a network every time your ad is clicked.
With paid advertising, you get the opportunity to reach parts of your target audience that were previously unreachable.
Did you know that the top 3 paid ad spots on Google results get 41% of the clicks on the page?
If all you focus on is traditional SEO, it doesn’t matter how high you rank, those 41% of searchers will likely never see your content.
But I get that PPC might be scary.
Ads can get expensive, especially if you’re targeting high value terms.
On top of that, there are many misconceptions that scare people about PPC more than they should be.
Misconception – Margins are razor thin: Most business owners and marketers try PPC once and lose money or breakeven. They conclude that there’s no money to be made.
But there’s a steep learning curve.
Once you get past those initial hurdles and mistakes, you can still achieve solid profit margins.
In fact, paid search advertising (the most common type of PPC) is one of the best marketing channels when it comes to ROI (judged by professional marketers):
One of the main reasons that you can achieve such a good ROI with paid search, is because of being able to target keywords with a high buyer intent.
Consider that any query where a searcher is looking to purchase something usually has the maximum number of ads on it (e.g. “buy a toaster” will have several ads on it).
That means that for all the best keywords (from a revenue point of view), SEO results only get about 60% of the clicks. On top of that, those are the most competitive terms to rank for.
This is one of the main reasons why PPC visitors are 50% more likely to purchase something than those that go through the organic search results.
Obviously, there’s much more to PPC.
And that’s what I want to show you today.
By the end of this post, I don’t think you’ll be scared of PPC. Instead, I think you’ll be ready and excited to give PPC a proper try and grow your business.
I’m going to go over all the main concepts of PPC that you’ll need to know. Once you understand them, it’s just a matter of digging a bit deeper on each concept and actually trying them out.
Are you ready to learn something that could take your business to a new level of profitability?
4 Reasons to give PPC a try
How do you know if PPC is right for you?
Well, if you’re looking for what PPC can offer, you’ll know that you’re a good fit.
And in my experience, most businesses that are not growing as fast as they’d like can really benefit from even a small investment in PPC.
Reason #1 – It’s predictable: I often write about SEO and content marketing because they’re such great ways to drive website traffic (and capture leads).
But one of the major drawbacks of both strategies is that the results are largely out of your hands.
You may write a post that goes viral and gets tens of thousands of visitors. Or, you might write a post that gets 20 views. There are things you can do over time to minimize this variance, but it will always be there.
Alternatively, your search engine traffic could change drastically at any time. Maybe you get outranked for a few major keywords, or get hit with a Google penalty.
So while you can expect those sources of traffic to grow, you don’t know how much or how fast. And you also have to be prepared for setbacks.
With PPC, on the other hand, your visitors are directly tied to how much you spend.
Spend more, get more visitors.
If you want exactly 10,000 visitors, you can get exactly 10,000 visitors.
Reason #2 – You get results faster than inbound marketing: I’ve already briefly mentioned this. Even if you’re a good marketer, it’s still going to take 6-12 months to gain major traction with inbound marketing strategies.
With PPC, you can visitors to your website in hours, not months.
Reason #3 – It’s extremely easy to scale: How do you scale content marketing? You create more content.
But if you’re producing most of the content yourself, as well as doing promotion, there’s not a whole lot of extra time to do more.
You could hire someone to help you out, but then you need to worry about them matching your quality of content.
With PPC, if you’re having good results and want to scale up your efforts, all you do is raise your budget a bit (or target additional keywords/audiences):
Reason #4 – More time to focus on the product: Here’s an often overlooked aspect of PPC. It doesn’t take much time to run a PPC campaign.
As you’ll see, there’s a bit of setup time, especially when you’re new to PPC, but you’ll get much quicker as you get up to speed.
Once a campaign is running profitably, it takes far less than an hour a day to keep it running.
Therefore, you can spend the rest of your time either creating content, or improving your product, which directly makes you money.
There’s much more than just Adwords
If you’re not too experienced with PPC, you probably equate PPC with Google Adwords.
You’re not far off, because Adwords is by far the biggest advertising network.
Google makes over $100 million per day through Adwords:
You can get traffic in just about any niche because Google has so much traffic.
Additionally, Google is amazing for conversions, since you can target keywords with high commercial intent.
However, Google is not your only option.
Some businesses thrive on Adwords, while others struggle to make much of a profit. But when they try a different PPC network, they have great success.
The best network for you and your business will depend on your knowledge, niche, audience, product, and many other factors. The only way to find it is to give a few different ones a try.
So keep an open mind and consider other options.
Here are some of the other biggest networks that are fairly beginner friendly and might be worth a try.
Bing: Obviously Bing is nowhere near the size of Google, but by normal measurements, Bing/Yahoo! is still huge.
Its advertising network is also well-developed and offers many of the same benefits as Adwords.
However, Bing also usually has a lower cost per click (CPC), and often converts just as well. Obviously, this means that it’s easier to run a profitable campaign.
If you’re struggling with the high cost of Adwords, you might have a bit less competition on Bing, without any big sacrifices.
Facebook Ads: The giant social media site has its own advertising platform that is pretty simple to use.
You can place ads directly to your content, landing pages, or to get “likes” for any of your shares.
For this article, I’m going to assume that you’re looking to drive traffic back to your website.
Paid advertising on social media isn’t based on keywords. You can’t target someone at the exact moment they want to buy a toaster. However, you can look at their interests and demographic information to connect with your target audience.
If you combine content marketing with Facebook advertising, you can create a powerful funnel that will lead to sales.
LinkedIn Ads: While LinkedIn Ads work similarly to Facebook, the users act very different.
Since it’s more of a “professional” network, users often visit the site in the context of their jobs. They look for opportunities to network, hire, get hired, and grow their businesses.
Even though LinkedIn isn’t as big as Facebook, case studies have shown that LinkedIn is by far the best network to advertise on to drive B2B sales.
LinkedIn Ads provide a great and unique opportunity to connect with those in charge of purchasing decisions for other businesses.
Adroll: Finally, Adroll is a third party PPC network that specializes in remarketing/retargeting (which we’ll get to later in this guide).
Adroll gives you easy access to all the other major ad networks with their platform, which can save you a lot of time.
As I’ll go over, remarketing is only getting more important as more and more marketers understand how useful it can be:
Those are the “big” alternatives to Adwords, but there several other small networks that can also be great for specific businesses.
They typically don’t have the same volume of users, but usually charge much less.
I’d suggest getting started with one of the networks above, and then once you’re comfortable with PPC, you can try any smaller networks that catch your eye.
The art of PPC – Part 1: Channel your inner copywriter (or lose money)
Once you pick a network to focus your PPC efforts on, the next step is to set up your first project.
While it varies based on the network you choose, there are generally 3 parts of setting up PPC projects:
- Ads – In terms of your project scope, the individual ads are the smallest. You need to create the physical ads that will be shown to users.
- Ad groups – To keep things separated, you should create at least one ad group per product you sell. Within each ad group, you can test different ads to find the best one.
- Campaigns – A campaign can contain as many ad groups as you’d like. It encompasses your PPC efforts for all your products. For example, you might run a Christmas advertising campaign, and create different ad groups for each of your products.
It’s a simple hierarchy. Think of it like folders on your computer. You have one main folder for a campaign on your desktop, with multiple folders inside it for each product you have (ad groups), and finally the png files for each ad you create inside.
Start with campaign and ad group settings: When setting up any PPC project, you always start from the top and work your way down.
Again, it will depend on the network, but in general there are only a few simple fields that you will need to fill out here. And you can usually change them later.
First is your bid strategy, as well as the budget you’d like to spend (usually per day). Typically, you’ll want to manually bid for clicks, but you can also test built-in optimization settings (supposed to maximize clicks for your given budget).
I advise you to start really small at first. Even a few dollars a day is enough to get started while you learn the ins and outs of the platform.
As you try out different ads and create profitable ones, you can increase your budget.
Next up are the advanced settings, which not all networks have.
You can schedule a start and end date for the campaign (or leave it to continuously run).
In Adwords in particular, you also have the option of rotating ads within a particular ad group. You need to do this to split test different variations of ads, which I’ll talk about later.
The basic elements of most ads: There are usually up to 4 main parts of the actual ads you place.
- headline – The title of your content/landing page (doesn’t have to match exactly)
- description – Why the user should click on your link
- URL/link – Where are you sending the user when they click
- network specific elements – Things like sitelinks (#4 in below picture), likes, shares, etc.
Some ad networks are more text based, like search engines, while social media PPC networks are typically more image based (they get a better click through rate):
Your click through rate mainly depends on the headline and/or description of your ad.
There are 2 approaches:
- relevance – On search results, ads that are as relevant to the query will get the best click through rate.
- curiosity – On social networks, ads that invoke the most curiosity will get the best click through rate (can’t be relevant since users aren’t looking for anything in particular).
It’s not easy making great headlines and descriptions, which is why great copywriters are paid so much. However, you can learn if you practice writing powerful headlines and great descriptions over time.
Finally, you’ll often face limitations on how much space you have. For example, on Adwords, you’re limited to 25 characters for the headline:
Always look up the character limit of the network you’re using.
Money is made or lost in targeting: Okay, I kind of skipped a step. I know you’re thinking: “what happened to ad groups?”.
When setting up ad groups, there are 2 main components: giving them names, and picking who you’ll target with ads.
I’ll assume that you can think of names for your ad groups, but the targeting is a bit trickier.
If you target the wrong people, it doesn’t matter how good your ads are, you won’t make money.
For search engines, you’ll have to choose keywords to show your ads for. There are 3 main types of keywords (with a few variants):
If you pick the exact keywords you want your ad to show up for, you’ll have the highest conversion rate.
However, you might end up missing out on some great related keywords, which is why you might want to use phrase match keywords as well.
Phrase match keywords will show your ad anytime a query contains the keyword that you’ve chosen.
This can be bad, because you might show up for “buy coffee table cleaning supplies”, if your keyword was “buy coffee table”. Assuming your landing page sells coffee tables, this would never be profitable.
Here’s a tutorial to picking great keywords for PPC advertising on search networks.
What about social networks? Since there aren’t any keywords, you target users by their interests and demographics.
For example, if someone “likes” a page about coffee tables, they might be interested in buying a new coffee table.
Alternatively, if you’re selling driving training manuals, it might make sense to target those that are 15 or 16 years old, as they’ll be learning to drive soon.
On all these big social networks, it’s pretty simple to select demographics and interests:
While picking interests isn’t difficult, picking the right ones is. It will take you some practice to get good at it, but here’s a guide to picking demographics and interests to get you started.
The art of PPC – Part 2: Your ads are only half the battle
Alright, so you’ve set up a killer advertising campaign, all done right?
If you’ve done well in that first step, you now have people clicking through to whatever landing page you linked. Hopefully at a relatively low cost.
If you’re advertising on search engine results, you want to provide the searcher with their ideal landing page, which is often a sales page if you picked your keywords correctly.
For example, if you advertised on the keyword “buy coffee maker”…
It’s obvious that the searcher wants to buy a coffee maker. They’d probably appreciate a few different choices.
In this case, the landing page is perfect, because it’s a sales page for coffee makers. It’s going to convert visitors into buyers at a fairly high rate.
But as we saw earlier, users on social networks don’t really have any commercial intent.
If you’re selling coffee makers, you can’t really link directly to a sales page.
Instead, it’s best to combine social PPC with email marketing.
Offer some sort of lead magnet on your landing page to capture your target’s email address. Then, send them valuable content, before finally pitching them on your product.
There are 2 main approaches that you can test, both of which can be successful.
The first is to use a standard, simple landing page. Offer them a bonus in your ad and have them sign up for your list to get it. You should be able to get high conversion rates if your landing page is good and your targeting is solid (30%+):
The downside of this method is that many will unsubscribe right away or forget who you are.
The alternative method is to send them to one of your most popular posts. If you use content upgrades, you might have a post that converts at 10-20%, which would be perfect for this.
Since they’ve already read your content, they will likely convert better later on.
However, you should try both, since either approach can be better depending on your specific audience and business.
The dream of “set it and forget” is a myth
Some marketers aren’t scared of PPC at all when they hear about it.
In fact, they’re the opposite – they’re too excited about it.
They hear that all you need to do is create a profitable campaign, and then increase your budget and you’ll make millions.
The truth is, it’s not that easy (even though those results might be possible eventually).
ROI always comes first: The fact is, unless you have a profitable ad, you can’t ever scale up. If you’re spending a lot on an ad that has a poor return on investment (ROI), you’ll just end up losing a ton of money, quickly.
Getting a profitable ad is one of the hardest parts of the process. Many never get past this stage.
All networks have some sort of reporting dashboard that will show you how much you’re paying per click, and possibly per conversion.
That includes both search and social PPC networks:
To determine your ROI, you need to divide your return (profit per sale), by the cost of getting that sale (conversion).
If you make $10 off of a conversion, and can get a conversion for $5, you’re in great shape and should spend as much as you can on that campaign.
But it takes $15 per conversion, you can’t run it profitably. Your goal for your first ads should be to get around breakeven ($9.5-10.5 per conversion), and then optimize it further (more on that soon).
Once you have a profitable campaign, there’s a catch. You can only scale up to a degree, because there are only so many people searching for something or with a specific set of interests.
From there, you’ll have to pick new keywords and interests to target. As you go further away from your optimal keyword/interest groups, your conversion rate will decrease (users are less targeted).
At a certain point, increasing the number of clicks you get will no longer increase your overall profit. That’s why you can’t just scale up and make millions.
Split testing is not optional: When it comes to PPC advertising, reducing the cost of your clicks by even a few percent can make a huge difference.
What split testing will do is help you do is optimize your click through rate (CTR). Most advertising networks consider your CTR into how much you pay per click. For example, it is one of the factors in an Adwords’ quality score.
On top of split testing your ads, you should also split test your landing pages.
When a visitor lands on your page, you want to have the best chance of converting them into a subscriber or customer.
If you’ve never done split testing before, it will take a bit of time to learn, but the results will be worth it.
Once you know what you’re doing, this ongoing split testing won’t take much time. If you plan well and work efficiently, you’ll only have to spend a few minutes a day (on average).
All ads go stale: Say you optimize an ad as much as you can, and are making a healthy profit on your advertising campaign, are you set for life?
What happens over time is that your PPC campaign will become stale, and your ROI will decline.
The main factors behind this are that competitors will catch up to you (sometimes even copying your ads), and that you often have a limited pool of target users. As you start advertising to the same users over and over, your ads become less effective.
There’s not too much you can do to combat this, other than to proactively create new ad campaigns as others appear to be getting less effective.
How to use remarketing to explode your business
What kind of conversion rate have you achieved on your website?
If you’ve done a good job at conversion optimization, you might achieve a conversion rate (ending in a purchase) of up to 10% (which is excellent).
The problem with that is that 90% of visitors, who are interested in what you sell, leave your site and never end up buying.
Wouldn’t it be great if you could specifically advertise to these 90% who are already familiar with your brand and products?
That’s what remarketing is. You put a pixel on your website that tracks who visits it. If they don’t end up buying something, you can use that tracking information to show them targeted ads on a PPC network (Adwords, Facebook, etc.).
And when I say targeted, I mean it. If you had a sales page about coffee tables, you could target visitors to that page who didn’t buy with ads about coffee tables.
Some businesses are able to achieve an obscene ROI using remarketing. For example, Watchfinder had a 1,300% ROI using remarketing in their first campaign. That’s not a typo – 1,300%.
The next time you’re browsing flights and hotel deals, and you see an ad for hotel deals in your Facebook feed, this is exactly what’s happening.
You basically have 2 options. You can create a remarketing campaign on the PPC network of your choice, or you can create a remarketing campaign through a network like Adroll to target several networks at once.
The benefit of the second option is that all your visitors don’t use Facebook. But it’s very likely that they use Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn or…you get the picture. Since time is an important factor, casting a wide net can be effective.
Let me walk you through the basics for remarketing on Adwords and Facebook so you can get an idea of what’s involved.
Remarketing on Adwords: While the term is often new and scary to advertisers, it’s actually pretty simple.
In Adwords, click on “shared library” in the left sidebar, and then select “audiences”. Click the blue “set up remarketing” button to get started:
When you click the button, your first instruction will be to install the remarketing tag (the tracking pixel). Just copy and paste this on every page of your website like your Google Analytics script.
Once you’ve done that, you can then set up specific ads to portions of that audience (i.e. people who have viewed a certain page).
Remarketing on Facebook: Facebook is one of the best platforms of remarketing due to how many users it has.
Many businesses get great results with Facebook remarketing. For example, a cosmetics company increased their PPC ROI by 2.5 times overall with remarketing.
Facebook has a fantastic walkthrough for setting up a remarketing campaign.
Start by going to your Ads Manager as usual. Then, click the “audiences” tab on the left side menu and create a custom audience. This will let you create an audience on Facebook composed of people who have visited your site.
Again, you’ll get a tracking pixel that you’ll have to put on all the pages of your website that you’d like to track.
Once you’ve done that, you can create your custom audience. You can pick just the people who visited a specific page, or even didn’t visit a specific page.
Once you have an audience you can create your ads as normal to target them.
One final feature that is really cool is being able to create “lookalike audiences.” Basically, Facebook can look at your custom audience and see that they have a lot in common with other users (interests and demographic information).
Then, Facebook can make new audiences that will also be interested in your products, so that you can advertise to them. Essentially, it’s a near limitless supply of new prospects.
I understand why PPC advertising can seem scary at first, but it’s really not.
Using PPC to drive business to your website is a great way to diversify your traffic sources and protect yourself from any variance from SEO or content marketing.
If you’re excited and ready to get started with PPC, I suggest starting with one network for now. Get familiar with it and do some research so that you avoid common PPC mistakes that cost you money.
Finally, be patient.
Being able to create profitable ad campaigns is a skill. It will take time and practice to develop, but it can be well worth it.
If there are any parts of PPC that you still don’t quite understand, let me know by leaving any questions in a comment below.