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PPC (Pay Per Click) and Google Ads are often thought of synonymously and used interchangeably. Yet PPC is an umbrella term for ALL digital advertising, the clue in the name being – pay per click. It covers social media ads as well as display, search engine ads, and YouTube. To be absolutely crystal clear:

  1. YouTube Ads
  2. Facebook Ads
  3. Linkedin Ads
  4. X (formerly Twitter) Ads
  5. Bing Ads
  6. Bidvertiser
  7. RevContent
  8. AdRoll
  9. BuySellAds

Yet Google remains the MVP of PPC, even with so many options. For the most part because Meta, Pinterest, TikTok, and LinkedIn are often clustered under ‘social media advertising’ as their own discipline. Google is supreme when it comes to search, as of January 2024, it accounted for 91.4% of search traffic. It’s even a ‘brand verb’: I’ll Google it, or JFGI (if you know, you know ).

PPC in a nutshell

Search engine advertising (SEA) is one of the most popular forms of PPC, and the focus of this best practice guide. You can find more on social media ads here.

The premise of SEA is to bid for ad placement on a search engine’s sponsored links, based on a collection of defined, relevant keywords to your business, service, or brand.

For those unfamiliar, the ads show up with Sponsored above them so that it’s clear for users to know if they’re being served an ad. They can take the form of text-only snippets or products via Google Shopping:

A screenshot showing Google search results for Garden Perennials UK, with Sponsored products at the top

Is PPC worthwhile?

In short, yes. 

Longer answer: yes, provided that you know the audience you want to target, your campaign is well thought out, and your website or landing page is optimised. In essence, it’s technical, requires experience and an investment in time which can be a little off-putting. 

What types of SEA campaigns can I run?

Another longer answer. As SEA is an umbrella for multiple networks, there are different ad types available depending on what you’re serving and where. Let’s start with the available networks:

  1. YouTube
  2. Search (e.g. Google, Bing)
  3. Display
  4. Remarketing
  5. Google Shopping (e.g. Products on search results)
  6. Social media (e.g. Meta, TikTok, Pinterest)

Let’s dive in:


YouTube. There’s nothing quite like it, except for maybe TikTok… But we’re talking about YouTube. It has 2.49 BILLION monthly active users, half of ALL social media users worldwide. This makes it the second-largest social media platform. 

From streaming your favourite shows, watching shorts, tutorials, to wild conspiracy theories, it has everything you could ever want. The lion share of its users are 25 – 34 year olds (21.3% in fact), and according to research, consumers say YouTube ads are more relevant than traditional TV adverts.

An added bonus of YouTube being part of the Google family means videos hosted there are better optimised to appear in search. As well as this, you can run campaigns (pre-roll etc.) through Google Ads.


These are the ads you’ll see at the top of the search engine. They’re simple text ads, labelled clearly, and look like a standard search result, example here:

Screenshot of Google search results for Garden Perennials UK with three Sponsored PPC links at the top

These ads are targeted based on keywords (search terms or phrases). It’s the most popular form of PPC due to how effective it is. Not only this but the positioning is favourable as it can bump above the top organically ranked pages for that search.

Display ads vs Search ads

Display ads are driven by cookies and delivered across ad networks and exchanges. You can define the target audience based on demographics, shopping signals, as well as people who have previously looked at your website. 

It’s worth noting that some remarketing ads (those that target people who have been on your website before) are powered by third-party cookies. Although Firefox and Safari have already depreciated cookies, Chrome has a market share of around 64%, which meant it was still possible to utilise them. As it stands, the anticipated Google cookie depreciation has once again been paused. But it’s worth future-proofing your marketing strategies ahead of this so it’s not a huge hit for your advertising return.

Display ad example, banner of shopping items

There’s this *thing* you really want, and you’ve been scouring to find out if it’s worth it, best prices, colours etc. Then you notice you start getting *random* ads for it across unrelated websites. That’s remarketing.

It can be a really effective way to get people back on your website to complete a purchase, a bit like abandoned cart emails but before you’ve even added it to your shopping cart.   

There’s also the option to create a series of ads that change over time, which is called sequential remarketing.

How remarketing works: prospect > goes on your site > your site drops a cookie > they leave > see a remarketing ad > click and go back on your site
PPC Remarketing Ads:

Remarketing PPC ads are made to target past website visitors who have already expressed an interest in your goods or services. These advertisements are designed to re-engage potential clients and persuade them to visit your website again or to complete desired tasks, such as submitting a form or completing a purchase.

PPC Retargeting advertisements:

On the other hand, retargeting advertisements concentrate on connecting with customers who have interacted with your brand through various digital touchpoints, such as visiting particular websites, clicking on ads, or engaging with your social media accounts. The idea is to stay in front of these users as they browse the web more, reminding them of your services and nudging them towards conversion.

Google shopping

Seen under the ‘product’ tab on Chrome search results, you can showcase your products as well as pay to sponsor them, like this:

Google Shopping example featuring product carousel from multiple online retailers
Social media ads

Take advantage of the wealth of data social media channels collect on their users! You don’t even need a highly active, wildly successful social media presence to run these ads, just a business account. There are many different ad types you can run, with the emphasis being on visuals – so it’s important you get that right. You can read more about social media advertising here.

Our Top 5 PPC Best Practice Tips

Your PPC success all comes down to following best practices. We’ve broken it down into five core areas here (in addition to the proper set-up and creation of your ad accounts, ad groups, and ad sets):

#1 Keywords: as with SEO, your keywords are everything. Creating a well-thought-out list of relevant keywords, phrases, and negative keywords is crucial. 

#2 Landing page quality: Your ads are only as good as the landing page they drive your leads to, so make sure you’ve optimised it for your campaign, that it renders correctly across devices, and has a clear call to action. 

#3 Creative: Anyone can feel like a designer with the shedloads of free editing tools and software available, but having an eye for what works in ads is important. If you don’t have a designer who is experienced with digital marketing or ads, we know a few

#4 Quality score: you’ll need to follow Google’s best practices to get a good quality score. This is based on the relevance of your ads and keywords, your CTR, and your landing page experience. You want to shoot for the stars with a high score, as you’ll pay less for clicks (and get more conversions!).

#5 Split Ad Groups: as usual, quality over quantity. You’ll benefit from creating smaller, relevant segments for your ad groups and optimising your ad content and landing pages. Your quality score will improve, which will influence your CTR.

Our Top 4 Factors for Effective Keywords

Keywords instigate all campaigns and therefore are the cornerstone of your strategy. Spend time on this to get it right! There are four factors that make your keyword list effective:

#1 Relevant: Here’s the big one. Make sure your keywords list is relevant. It’s a no brainer but you’d be surprised. Many brand managers ( sorry for calling you out!) will want to focus on keywords that are relevant to them, but not necessarily to your audience. When you think of your keywords, analyse your reports to see how you’re found and look at the traffic quality. Some great tools will also help plan keywords based on relevancy, traffic, and cost. Also note that the better your keywords list, the higher your quality score. 

#2 Exhaustive: it’s not just your most obvious keywords that make a difference. Look at the more niche keywords, longtail keywords, key phrases, and full queries too! These are often less expensive as they’re less competitive and more specific.

SEMRUSH visual explanation of longtail keywords

#3 Thorough: back to gardening analogies, you need to continuously nurture, water, and watch your campaigns. You’ll watch with regular reporting, nurture with optimisations, and water with new content when appropriate.

#4 Negative keywords: cut through the noise and filter out the irrelevant traffic by having a list of negative keywords. These will be terms or phrases that are similar to your actual keywords, but irrelevant.

The KPIs you need to watch in your PPC campaigns

Bad reports feel like death by spreadsheet. A good report leaves you feeling informed, inspired and energised by your campaigns. But unless you’re a data-lover, you might feel overwhelmed by what you need to know. 

The KPIs that you really need to watch on your campaigns are:

  • Clicks
  • Click through rate (CTR)
  • Quality score
  • Cost per click (CPC)
  • Cost per conversion/acquisition (CPA)
  • Conversion rate (CVR)
  • Average position

Still confused? Don’t be afraid to ask! If you’re working with an agency, they’re meant to be an extension of your team and not a squad guarding Area 51.

PPC: the summary

As you’ll see, PPC is so much more than Google ads. And while this blog barely scratches the surface, hopefully, it has helped bolster your understanding of what PPC is, best practice tips and the KPIs used to measure the success of your campaigns.

Keep in mind that PPC works best as part of a digital marketing ecosystem. Ideally making sure you are on top of your SEO game and have some kind of regular email marketing (or marketing automation) program in place.

If PPC campaigns are something you want in your marketing plan, but simply don’t have the time or expertise to do it yourself, leave your details below and we will be in touch to help you!

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