What Is PPC in Digital Marketing and How Does It Work?

How PPC works in digital marketing

In the digital world, one term stands out amidst a sea of marketing jargon and tactics: PPC or Pay-Per-Click. 

But what is pay-per-click in digital marketing? 

PPC has emerged as a potent strategy at its core, helping businesses to propel straight into the limelight. Its significance lies in its ability to pull in targeted traffic at the click of a button. 

This article will unpack the layers behind PPC, revealing how it stands apart in the vast world of digital marketing.

What is PPC?

When it comes to online advertising strategies, the question often arises: what is PPC marketing? 

In simple terms, PPC or Pay-Per-Click means advertisers pay a set fee every time someone clicks on their ad. It’s similar to buying visits to your site rather than attempting to earn them organically. This strategy, often associated with first-tier search engines like Google, offers immediate visibility and is the opposite of waiting for organic SEO strategies to bear fruit.

Benefits of PPC

PPC has skyrocketed in popularity within the digital search marketing landscape, and for a good reason. PPC offers hope as businesses constantly grapple with establishing a strong online presence amidst ever-evolving competition. 

Here are several benefits that PPC campaigns bring to the table.

Immediate Traffic

Unlike organic SEO, which can be a slow, long-term strategy, PPC offers near-instant results. While SEO is vital for sustained online presence, PPC can quickly position a business at the top of search results. This immediacy is especially beneficial for promoting time-sensitive offers, launching new products, or leveraging current trends, allowing businesses to seize fleeting opportunities effectively.

Targeted Audience

PPC’s precision enables campaigns to target specific demographics, locations, or devices. Beyond first-time engagements, PPC’s remarketing tools allow businesses to reconnect with previous visitors, serving customised ads based on their prior interactions, thus amplifying conversion potential.

targeting the right audience through PPC advertising

Measurable Results

PPC platforms like Google Ads provide rich analytics, enabling businesses to adapt campaigns based on click-throughs and conversions. With the ability to track each dollar’s impact, companies can discern their ROI, optimising budget allocation for maximum efficiency.


In PPC, businesses pay only when a user clicks, ensuring spending aligns with actual engagement. With granular budget settings and keyword bid adjustments, PPC offers a balanced blend of expenditure control and maximised returns.

Brand Visibility

Even without clicks, PPC ads bolster brand awareness, embedding the brand in users’ minds over time. Furthermore, PPC democratises online space, enabling emerging brands to stand alongside industry titans in search results, offering a competitive edge in visibility.

While the digital marketing landscape offers many strategies, PPC stands out for its immediacy, precision, and transparency. For businesses seeking to carve a niche in the digital realm, PPC not only provides a pathway but illuminates it, guiding them towards measurable success.

How Does PPC Work?

How PPC works in digital marketing

What is PPC, and how does it work?

One must delve into its mechanics to understand what PPC is and how it works. Central to PPC is an auction-based system. Platforms like Google Ads invite advertisers to bid on keywords. When users initiate a search query containing these keywords, ads are displayed. 

However, it’s not a straightforward “highest-bidder wins” system. The auction takes into account ad relevance, quality, and bid amount. This intricate system ensures that users receive relevant ad content, thus enhancing their browsing experience.

Types of PPC Advertising

What is PPC advertising?

While a singular term, PPC advertising is a multifaceted beast, branching into various methods tailored to diverse marketing objectives. As we unravel “what is pay-per-click in digital marketing,” it’s paramount to understand its many faces.

Search Advertising

When people query a search engine with terms like “best smartphones 2023” or “summer dresses online,” the ads appearing on top or beside the organic search results are courtesy of search advertising. Advertisers bid on keywords they believe their target audience uses to search for relevant products or services. 

Search advertising offers brands the golden opportunity to appear when potential customers are actively looking for services or products they offer. It directly responds to immediate needs, setting the stage for high conversion rates.

Display Advertising

Beyond textual content, display ads are the colourful, dynamic banners you encounter on websites, blogs, or mobile apps. They combine imagery, text, and sometimes even video to present a message compellingly.

While search advertising aims for direct conversions, display advertising often focuses on brand awareness. By appearing on various online platforms, these ads imprint a brand’s image on potential customers’ minds, ensuring long-term recognition.

An intriguing feature of display ads is their ability to be contextually relevant. Platforms can place ads based on the web page’s content, making them more pertinent to the reader’s interest.

Social Media Advertising

Given their vast and engaged user bases, social media platforms hold massive data. From likes and interests to behaviour patterns, advertisers can use this data to make highly targeted ads.

Ads on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn aren’t just static entities. They invite engagement – likes, comments, shares, and more. This interaction amplifies the ad’s reach and boosts brand engagement.

Whether it’s a story on Instagram, a carousel ad on Facebook, or a sponsored post on LinkedIn, social media platforms offer varied ad formats catering to different marketing goals.


Have you ever browsed a product, only to see ads for it everywhere subsequently? That’s remarketing in action. Advertisers can “follow” them across the web by placing cookies on a user’s browser, showing ads tailored to their past interactions.

Not every user converts on their first visit. Remarketing serves as a gentle nudge, reminding users of their previous interests and pushing them closer to conversion.

The beauty of remarketing lies in its customisation. Depending on where the user dropped off, whether they abandoned a cart or just viewed a product, ads can be tailored to address their specific stage in the buying journey.

The Key Components of PPC

We see various essential components working together in the world of PPC advertising. While beginners often wonder, “What is PPC and how does it work?”, experienced marketers recognise the importance of each element in a campaign’s success.


Keyword research in PPC

At the heart of PPC lies the keyword — a word or phrase users input into a search engine, seeking information, products, or services. It represents the intent, the very purpose behind a user’s query.

“What is pay per click marketing without precision?” one might ask. To ensure ads are visible to the most relevant audience, meticulous keyword research is indispensable. Tools like Google Keyword Planner aid advertisers in identifying high-traffic and low-competition keywords that resonate with their target audience.

Keywords range from broad (e.g., “shoes”) to highly specific long-tail keywords (e.g., “women’s red running shoes size 8”). Depending on the strategy, advertisers target a mix of these to balance reach and precision.

Ad Copy

Ad copy is the textual representation of a brand’s offering. It’s the first thing users notice and must instantly capture their attention.

A stellar ad copy informs and entices. By highlighting unique value propositions (e.g., “Free Shipping” or “Limited Offer”) and incorporating clear calls-to-action (CTA) like “Shop Now” or “Learn More”, the ad nudges users towards interaction.

Beyond being compelling, the ad copy must also be relevant to the keyword and the user’s intent. This ensures a seamless user experience, answering their query directly.

Landing Pages

Think of the landing page as a brand’s virtual storefront post-click. It’s here that the user’s journey continues, and the page must align with the ad’s message.

A well-designed landing page minimises distractions, provides clear information, and has a defined pathway leading to conversion, whether a purchase, a sign-up, or any other desired action.

Savvy advertisers continually A/B test landing pages, experimenting with elements like CTA placements, imagery, and text to ascertain which version garners the best results.

Bidding Strategies

Behind every PPC campaign lies a strategy dictating how much an advertiser is willing to spend. This could be for a click (CPC), an impression (CPM), or a defined action like a sale (CPA).

Bidding isn’t static. Given the auction-based nature of platforms like Google Ads, advertisers constantly adjust bids based on competition, desired ad positioning, and budget constraints.

Modern PPC platforms offer automated bidding strategies, where machine learning algorithms optimise bids in real time, aiming for maximum ROI. The harmonious interplay between these components determines the efficacy of a PPC campaign, influencing its reach, engagement, and ultimate conversion.

PPC Keyword Research

The success of a campaign is often rooted in precise keyword research. This involves identifying the terms potential customers might use—aided by tools like Google Keyword Planner—and discerning the intent behind those searches. 

Key considerations include selecting the appropriate match type, be it the default ‘broad match’, which captures a wide range of search variations, the more specific ‘phrase match’ targeting exact phrases, or the ‘exact match’, which narrows down to specific search terms. 

Additionally, incorporating negative keywords, like adding “cheap” when selling luxury items, ensures ads don’t appear for unrelated or undesired searches. Effective keyword research in PPC is a balance of reaching the right audience while avoiding irrelevant clicks and optimising both reach and budget.

Quality Score

In Google Ads, the Quality Score is a vital indicator of your ads’ relevance and efficiency. Essentially a diagnostic tool, this score evaluates the quality and pertinence of your keywords and associated PPC ads. Google relies on the Quality Score in tandem with your bid to determine your ad’s position or Ad Rank. 

An ad with an excellent Quality Score can occasionally outpace those with heftier bids but subpar scores. This mechanism ensures that users consistently encounter ads that resonate with their search intent. Additionally, a superior Quality Score can reduce costs per click, offering more bang for your advertising buck. On the other hand, a diminished score might inflate your costs. 

Factors like the Click-Through Rate (CTR), keyword relevance within its ad group, the quality of the landing page, and the ad text’s alignment with the search query collectively influence this score. 

Ad Auction

PPC advertising operates on a unique mechanism known as the ad auction. 

When someone searches on Google or interacts on Facebook, an ad auction quickly decides which ads to show. Advertisers offer bids, but it’s not just about the highest price. The ad’s relevance to the user’s action is crucial. 

Google checks how well the ad matches the search and the quality of the linked page. Facebook looks at how relevant the ad is to a user’s interests—the type of ad and the experience it offers also matter. In short, the ad auction ensures users see relevant ads, and advertisers get a fair chance to reach their audience.

Ad Rank and Positioning

Ad Rank, a crucial metric in digital advertising on platforms like Google, determines an ad’s placement in search results. While one might think the highest bidder claims the top spot, it’s more nuanced. Ad Rank considers the bid amount and the Quality Score, which gauges the relevance and quality of keywords and ads. 

Additionally, ad extensions—extra information like phone numbers or links—can enhance visibility and relevance. An ad’s position isn’t just about spending power but also its quality and added value.

Ad Copy and Landing Page Optimisation

Components of a good landing page

In digital advertising, the initial hook is your ad copy, but the real conversion battleground is the landing page. Compelling ad copy is essential to entice users to click; it should be relevant, concise, and carry a strong call to action. 

Using persuasive language, highlighting unique value propositions, and ensuring alignment with search keywords can make your ad stand out. However, clicks are just half the battle. Once a user arrives at the landing page, its design and content play pivotal roles in conversion. 

A well-optimised landing page should load quickly, be mobile-responsive, have a clear and singular focus, and echo the promises made in the ad copy to maintain continuity. High-quality visuals, concise and engaging text, and strategic placement of call-to-action buttons can further enhance conversion rates. 

Together, an enticing ad copy paired with a meticulously optimised landing page can significantly amplify the success rate of digital campaigns.

Ad Extensions and Ad Formats

Customisation is key within the landscape of PPC advertising, and ad extensions and formats provide the tools to tailor ads to specific needs. Ad extensions, like site links, allow advertisers to link directly to various parts of their site, guiding users to relevant pages faster. 

Callout extensions offer brief, additional information, spotlighting unique selling points or offers. By using these extensions, ads gain increased real estate on the search results page, enhancing visibility and providing users with more avenues to interact, potentially boosting engagement and CTR. 

Diverse ad formats cater to various campaign goals, whether to drive website visits, promote app downloads, or encourage calls. When paired with the right extensions, each format can craft a richer, more informative ad experience, aligning more closely with user intent and driving desired actions.

Budget and Bidding

Navigating the financial waters of PPC campaigns requires careful budgeting and strategic bidding. Advertisers can set daily or monthly budgets to cap spending, ensuring they don’t overshoot their allocated funds. This framework allows funds to be apportioned to high-performing keywords or ad groups, ensuring maximum ROI. Bidding isn’t just about outspending competitors; it’s a balance of maximising visibility while optimising costs. 

Effective bidding strategies align bids with specific campaign goals, such as cost-per-acquisition or target return on ad spend. As campaigns evolve, manual bid adjustments can become complex. 

Here, bid management tools come to the fore, automating bid adjustments based on real-time performance metrics ensuring ads remain competitive while adhering to budget constraints. In essence, budget and bidding form the financial backbone of PPC, and leveraging tools and strategies in this domain is paramount for sustainable success.


effective PPC management

At its heart, PPC is a dynamic, flexible, and potent digital marketing tool. Its strength lies in its ability to deliver targeted traffic promptly. Proper PPC management ensures campaigns are effective and optimised.

As businesses continue to vie for online visibility, PPC stands out as a strategy that can yield immediate and measurable results. 

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