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Digital Marketing Strategy: Breaking Down Pay-Per-Click Marketing (PPC)

Last updated on February 13, 2020
18 minute read

Skill Level

Beginner, Intermediate

When you purchase a product or booking a service online, where do you typically start? Chances are, you start with a search. Today, 93% of online experiences begin with a search engine (imForza). This is why SEM (search engine marketing) is so important to your business. You want potential customers to be able to find you when they’re typing in a search for the types of tours and activities you offer.

PPC (pay-per-click) marketing is an effective SEM tactic that allows you to capture potential customers at this first touchpoint. PPC is a form of digital advertising where you pay a fee each time your ad is clicked. If you’re not sure whether you need PPC marketing, here are a few of its benefits:

  • It’s a quick way to start seeing results: Improving your site’s SEO organically can take time and trial and error. PPC marketing using tools like Google Ads gives you quick results that you can start seeing immediately.
  • You can align it with your business goals: Whether you’re looking to gain brand exposure, increase site traffic, or gain conversions for a particular tour or activity you offer, you can use PPC to achieve these goals.
  • You can measure and track your results: Using Google Ads in conjunction with Google Analytics, you can track all the important data related to your PPC campaign, including impressions, click-through rate, and conversions. You don’t have to wonder how your campaign is doing, because all the data is readily available! This data can also help you understand your audience and see what keywords are working well for you, which you can use to influence your SEO strategy and other marketing tactics.
  • It’s flexible: Throughout your PPC campaign, you can determine how much you want to spend, make edits to your ads to increase performance, and test out different ads to see what works best for you.
  • You can target your audience: PPC offers you the flexibility to get in front of your target audience, whether you want to define that by past behaviors or demographics.
  • It increases brand awareness: By putting you in front of searchers who are looking for the types of services you offer, PPC brings in new customers that might not have found your company otherwise.
  • It moves customers through the sales funnel: Through targeted ads, you can meet your customers wherever they are in their journey to booking, moving them from encountering your brand to booking a tour or activity with you.
  • It drives qualified traffic: By using keywords and other forms of targeting, you can make sure that your PPC ads are driving the right traffic to your site — people who are looking to book the types of tours or activities you offer.

Think that PPC marketing is for you? This guide will walk you through setting goals for your PPC strategy, different types of PPC, and making the most of your digital ads.

Important Terms To Understand:

Before we dive head-first into the world of PPC, let’s go over some terms (and their definitions) you’ll see throughout this guide and will encounter as you start your PPC tactics.

Ad Position: This is the order in which your ad appears on a page in relation to other ads. So an ad position of 1 means you’re at the top of the page.

Ad Rank: This is the value used behind the scenes to determine your ad position, and it’s calculated based on your quality score and bid (more on both of these later.)

Bid: This is the-predetermined maximum amount you’re willing to pay for your ad results (clicks, impressions, etc.).

Clicks: A click is registered every time someone clicks on your ad.

Click-Through Rate (CTR): In a PPC ad, this is measured by dividing the number of clicks on your ad by the number of impressions (each time someone sees your ad).

Conversion: This is the desired action you want people to take based on your ad (booking a tour, signing up for a newsletter, etc.)

Conversion Rate: Similar to CTR, conversion rate measures the rate at which your ad impressions turned into conversions.

Cost-Per-Click: This is the cost of each click on your ad that brings a visitor to your site.

Cost-Per-Lead: This is the amount you pay your ad publisher for each lead generated by your ads.

Long-tail Keywords: These are the keywords that contain more than two words and are more specific, targeting a niche audience.

Determine Your Goals Before Investing

PPC can be used for a variety of goals and in a variety of ways. Before deciding on your PPC budget and launching a campaign, it’s important to determine what goals you want to achieve with these initiatives. For most businesses in our industry, the goal is to drive qualified traffic to your site and increase online bookings. Other goals could include increasing brand awareness or creating leads. Before starting your campaign, make sure you have a clear, measurable goal. (Check our digital marketing strategy guide for more on setting measurable goals.)

Different Types of PPC

PPC is often misclassified as just ads that pop up on the SERP (search engine results page), but it also applies to paid ads on social media networks, search networks, display networks, and more. For example, PPC could take the shape of campaigns on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. Determining which channels you want to focus your marketing efforts on usually happens when you’re creating your overall digital marketing strategy.

Google tends to be the most commonly used PPC network due to the amount of search volume that comes through it. According to Statista, Google currently owns 88% of the search market share, so let’s look at how you can make the most of PPC on Google Ads.

Google Ads

There are two types of PPC ads you can create on Google, search ads and display ads. What type of ad you choose depends on your marketing goal and where you want audiences to find you.

  • Search: These ads appear on search-related websites and apps and target active searchers based on keywords. These are the ads you might see right in the SERP. When it comes to increasing brand awareness, search ads have a positive impact on recognition. Even if a customer does not click on your ad, your business is still visible at the top of search results. This positioning makes your brand memorable and increases the likelihood that a consumer will consider your tour or activity. In fact, PPC can help boost brand awareness by 80% (Disruptive Advertising).

  • Display: These ads appear on Google sites like YouTube and Gmail, plus thousands of partnering websites. The benefit of display ads is that customers see them across multiple different sites, increasing awareness of your brand. Once you have selected the type of ad you want to create, there are various factors to think about that will influence where and when your ads appear.

Factors That Impact Your Placement on Google

  • Bid: Google Ads works on bids, meaning you bid on how much you’re willing to spend per result, whether that’s clicks, impressions, conversions, or views. When there’s a space for an ad, Google essentially runs an auction for that space, and your bid puts you in the running to get that ad spot. Your goals should determine your bidding strategy. For a better understanding of how to bid, check out Google’s guide.
  • Quality Score: Google’s Quality Score is how the search engines determine the quality of your ads, keywords, and landing pages to ensure they’re providing a good ad experience for their users. This score helps Google serve up ads that are relevant to the keywords searchers are typing in, and it helps ensure that the landing page the ad leads to directly addresses the searcher’s query. You can add this score to your ad reports on Google Ads to help you diagnose some ways in which you can improve your ads.
  • Ad Format and Extensions: Formats are the visual enhancements to your ads that display information about your business, like address, contact information, and links. The most common type are extensions, which allow you to include a location or link in your ad. This helps you highlight the relevant information that will help your ad perform and meet your goals.

Optimizing Your Landing Page

When people click on your ad, they’ll be taken to a page on your website. Most commonly, this will be your homepage. Depending on your PPC goals, you might also send people to a specific activity page, a newsletter sign-up page, etc. You might have a few different landing pages depending on the target audience of each of your ads to ensure you’re catering the content specifically to that audience.

Your landing page experience is a key factor into your Google Quality Score. It’s important that your website follows best practices and you create synergy between your ad copy and the copy on your website to give visitors a consistent experience wherever they encounter your business. The landing page should be an answer to the search intent that led visitors to your website. To achieve this:

  • Think about who your searcher is and what their wants and needs are.
  • Ensure your ad copy meets those needs.
  • Take them to a landing page where they can take the logical next step in their journey.

Important factors on your landing page include headings, user experience, content, images, and more. Check out our guide that breaks down the 8 elements of a website that ranks for tips on how to make the most of your landing pages.

Finding Keywords and Writing Copy

As we mentioned earlier, another factor taken into consideration when assessing your Quality Score is the keyword relevance. Not only will you be bidding on these keywords, but they will likely also be used on your ad copy, so it’s important to ensure your ad and the landing page match the search intent behind these keywords. (For more on search intent, keywords, and keyword research tools, check out our SEO guide to keywords.)

Easy ways to find keywords:

  • Listen to your customers: When you interact with them in person or online (via surveys, newsletters, social media, etc.), what are some of the things that matter to them? Use that information to identify some relevant keywords.
  • Paid SEO tools like SEMrush: If you have the budget for them, paid SEO tools can help your strategy with features like keyword research, analytics reports, advertising research, traffic analytics, and more.
  • Free tools like Google Keyword Planner: Already integrated with Google Ads, Keyword Planner helps you discover keywords relevant to your tours or activities, providing insight into the search volume and more. It can also help you plan your budget for advertising.
  • Existing social media content, Google Analytics, etc.: Take advantage of existing insights within your social media platforms and Google Analytics to gain a better understanding of the keywords that resonate with your audience.

Equally as important as defining the keywords you do want to target is determining the words that do not describe your business, tours, or activities well. You want to ensure you identify these words so that your ads DO NOT show up on these searches. These are calld negative keywords. For example, if your Denver food tour business visits well-known restaurants, but doesn’t offer options for gluten-free guests, you could add “gluten-free” as a negative keyword for your ad so it won’t be visible to searchers looking for gluten-free Denver food tours. Negative keywords are a useful way to help reduce costs, to help ensure that search intent, ads, and services are best aligned.

Once you’ve determined what keywords you want to bid for, it’s time to start writing your ads. Google Ads give you a 30-character headline and an 80-character description, and you want to use those characters wisely. Aim to get as close to the character count as possible to ensure you include key elements in your ad.

Tips to ensure you’re making the most out of your ad copy:

  • Speak to your audience and address what they want: We’ve mentioned your target audience a couple times in this guide, and that’s because it’s incredibly important to understand who your ad is intended for and what will resonate with them.
  • Use emotional triggers to make your ad more engaging: Think about what motivates people to book a tour or activity. For example, you can capitalize on FOMO (fear of missing out) to encourage potential customers to book with you today, or you can get them excited about spending quality time with a loved one to encourage them to book a date night activity.
  • Use numbers: We tend to put a lot of faith in numbers, so use this to your advantage by adding some numbers to you ad, whether that’s statistics about the number of people who have given you five stars or highlighting a reduced price that you’re only offering for a short time.
  • Stand out from the rest by calling out what makes your business unique: Has your company been in the family for three generations? Are you the only company that provides tours in a certain area? Tell your clients what makes you special!
  • Be specific and keep it local: In the travel and tourism industry, people are generally looking for unique local experiences, and if your ad copy is too broad and vague, it might not capture their interest.
  • Use creative CTAs that drive conversions: Your call to action is an opportunity to be specific and engaging. Check out our CTA guide for more on how to craft great calls to action.
  • Use A/B testing to refine your copy: You probably won’t get perfect ad copy the first time around. A/B testing allows you to test two variants of an ad to determine which one will earn more conversions. Test your ads regularly to make sure you’re always putting out the copy that will get you the best results.

Pro tip: When using numbers, it’s best to be exact. For example, people trust “we have 2,135 five-star reviews” more than “we have more than 2,000 five-star reviews.”


Launching Your Campaign

Once you have determined your goals, done your keyword research, and written your ad copy, it’s time to launch your campaign. Here are some steps to take to get ready to launch:

  • Determine your monthly budget: Google aggregates your budget on a daily basis. You can use the Google Keyword Planner to identify the variance on bids for the keywords you’re targeting. If you’re new to PPC and Google Ads, you can use Google’s Automated Bid Strategies, which decides on the bid based on your budget to achieve your goal.
  • Select the location and languages: If you have multiple locations, it’s a good idea to create specific ads for each location so they can be unique and personalized.
  • Enhance your targeting: Using tools like Google Analytics, you can determine what specific audiences you want to target based on demographic information or behaviors.
  • Segment your keywords into Ad Groups: The Ad Groups function allows you to organize your ads by segmenting them by keywords. For example, you might target couples for your romantic sunset cruise, and you would use specific keywords for that audience in this ad.

For more on segmentation and launching your PPC ads, check out our webinar on how to grow your business with PPC and our video on getting started with PPC Marketing

Measuring Success

To truly understand the impact of your campaign, you need to set KPIs, or Key Performance Indicators, quantifiable goals that help you measure the success of your ad campaign. What you want to measure will depend on your goals. If you want to increase online visibility, you might set a goal related to impressions. If your goal is to increase online sales, you might set a goal related to click-through rate or conversions.

Create a schedule for checking the results of your campaigns. One of the benefits of digital marketing is that you’re getting data in real-time. Set a reminder to review performance and analytics in a timeframe that works for your campaign, whether that’s weekly, monthly, or quarterly.

For more on setting measurable goals, check out our digital marketing strategy guide.

There’s a bit of a learning curve when it comes to PPC, but it is and will continue to be a relevant tool for your business. If you’re dipping your toe in PPC marketing for the first time, start small and test out a few different ads to figure out what works best for your business, budget, and goals. If you’re ready to continue to learn more about digital marketing, check out our other guides on the topic!

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