Continuing with trying to simplify things a little bit and explaining some of the basic terms we use in the search engine marketing (SEM) world, I want to address PPC here. PPC stands for Pay Per Click, and is the paid side of the search engine results pages, often referred to as SERP’s.  PPC is sometimes incorrectly referred to as SEM as well, which though incorrect technically, is used often enough, you should be aware of that.

The typical SERP will have a few different sections. The top and bottom of the page will include paid listings, or the PPC ads we are talking about now. Then there is sometimes a section that includes a map and pins for local businesses. This is often referred to as local search. Lastly, there is the list of unpaid links that shows up that is due to SEO tactics and is sometimes called natural or organic rankings.

PPC, or Google Adwords is mostly defined by the acronym, PPC. At the most basic form, you pay for each click someone makes on your ad and comes to your site. There are other versions of paid search where you pay by number of times your ad shows up or in video, pay by video views, etc. but essentially it comes down to the same concepts.

At the most basic level, PPC is an auction.  Each time someone searches, there is an immediate auction, and if you have an active campaign, you are a part of that.  The highest bid tends to show up the highest on the page, though there are quality factors involved.  In close calls, Google will give the edge to pages it feels performs better or matches the search better.  This is why when doing PPC, it is good to have a specific page on your site that matches the user search.  This isn’t just for Google, it is also a best practice to keep your user on your site and happy.

If someone searches for a specific service and lands on your home page and doesn’t see what they searched for, right away, they are going to leave.  Working on your landing pages to make them convert visitors to customers at a higher rate is often called landing page optimization (LPO) or conversion rate optimization (CRO). This can be an important part of all search engine marketing. Delivering the best page to convert those visitors into customers and is becoming more and more important as there are more and more choices out there.


When doing PPC, you get to pick what keyword searches you want to advertise for and then decide how much you would be willing to pay for that term.  You typically have a daily budget and then a maximum you will pay per click.  If your daily budget is $10 and you are willing to spend $2 per click, you will typically get 5 clicks per day, or more, as you won’t always use your maximum bid. This is just set so you don’t overspend.  People worry about spending too much, but you can put budget constraints on everything. The risk of wasting budget is more in chasing the wrong keywords.


When setting up PPC campaigns, you have what are called keyword match types. The default type is called a broad match and it means that the search engine will show your ad for anything it views as relevant to that word, not necessarily just that word.  This is where people make the biggest errors from my experience.  I would almost tell small business owners they should never use a broad keyword match. If you are a mold inspector and you put the broad term mold, your ad is going to show for “what is mold”, “cake molds”, “moldy clothes”, etc.  There will be lots of waste in there. Potentially thousands of dollars if you aren’t watching closely. I have seen this far too many time.

You want to be as specific as you can with keyword matches.  Check out how they work at Google here. I often use the broad modifier because it forces specific words to be in the search phrase, but it doesn’t have to be so specific that they have to write it in an exact order. Other types include exact, where the searcher has to type exactly what you put in there.  Such as an exact match “mold testing” would trigger your ad if someone typed “mold testing” but not if they typed “best mold testing company”.  This raises the idea of phrase match, which is similar to exact match, but forces a phrase to be in the search. In the previous example, if you had a phrase match for “mold testing”, it would have triggered the ad, because that phrase is in the search. However, if someone typed “testing for mold in NYC”, it would not. This is where a broad modifier helps, because using “mold” and “testing” in the search, it would trigger your ad here, because it can be anywhere in the phrase.


Each campaign allows you to choose a geographic target area.  This is helpful and flexible. If you only want to advertise in a five mile circle around your business location, you can do that.  You can choose to advertise only in 5 target cities or whatever you want. PPC programs are very flexible on where and when you want to advertise.


Much like your landing page, you typically want your ad to match the terminology that the searcher is using.  Campaigns allow for separate sub-groups called adgroups that allow you to target specific concepts with different ads.  If you are a law firm, you may want to have an adgroup for “defense attorney” searches, as well as another for “business lawyer”. Each adgroup should have ads that match that concept.  You should be as specific as possible and have a nice smooth transition from searh to ad to landing page. I often see small businesses use the same general ad for everything they target. This tends to be very ineffective.