PPC: A 2-Minute Introduction

Pay per click advertising Indigo Media Labs, Inc.
Definitely more effective than nailing an ad to a tree

PPC stands for pay-per-click, a model of Internet advertising wherein brands only have to pay a fee each time one of their ads is clicked.

Put simply, pay-per-click advertising is a way of buying visits to your site instead of earning those visits organically.

There are several terms the industry uses to refer to PPC. These include:

  • Paid search
  • Paid search ads
  • CPC (cost-per-click)
  • CPM (cost-per-thousand impressions)
  • SEM (search engine marketing)

SEM used to be a blanket term that referred to all Internet marketing activities. Over time, however, its use evolved to refer solely to paid search.

PPC and SEO are sometimes confused for one another, especially by those new to Internet marketing. Basically, the difference is that SEO, or search engine optimization, is an overall strategy for getting visibility for your site. PPC is just one component of this. The goal of SEO is to bring organic traffic to your site, while PPC drives paid traffic.

On SERPs, or search engine results pages, organic results and paid ads look very similar, except for a few differences. Organic results only appear in the middle of the page, while ads appear at the top, in a sidebar, or at the bottom. More importantly, the ads sections have a small yellow button next to them that says “Ads”.

This distinction is important because, depending on your audience, most people will trust organic results more than ads.

With SEO, your positioning in organic results is earned slowly over time, and dependent on many factors. Usually, your goal is to be one of the top three results, because the overwhelming majority of searchers will only click on that top three. Easier said than done, as even getting on page one (aka in the top ten) can be a huge task.

PPC Indigo Media Labs, Inc.

You can use PPC advertising as a shortcut for this, as it is basically a guarantee that your ads will appear on the front page. Again, however, the catch is that people are still more likely to trust organic results over ads, so it’s still not a guarantee that you’ll get clicks.

With that said, PPC does work. You have high visibility because you immediately show up on the front page.

Another advantage is that the traffic you get will always be relevant — meaning, there’s a high probability that these people are already looking to buy your product. How? Ads can be incredibly well-targeted. Google Adwords allows you to pick locations, age range, and several other demographics. You can also target behavior using search terms. 

With SEO, there is no need to pay Google (or any other search engine) whenever somebody clicks on your link. This doesn’t mean that it’s free, however: whether you did the work yourself or paid an SEO agency to do it for you, there was still a cost to obtain that click.

On the other hand, you do pay a fee whenever somebody clicks on your ad. The good news is that you can set a budget in advance — your ad simply stops running when your budget runs out.

Planned well, PPC is an extremely effective (albeit expensive) way of boosting visibility, driving traffic, and obtaining conversions for the short-term.