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Pay-Per-Click Glossary of Terms

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Using pay-per-click advertising is one of the best ways to pick up a quick flow of traffic to your website. While organic SEO is a great digital marketing play for the long term, there is nothing quite like turning on a PPC ad campaign to bring in immediate visitors and hopefully get some conversions. It’s no wonder why PPC ads have been popular for many years and show no signs of slowing down. 

With that said, getting started in the PPC world can be a little intimidating. There is a lot to learn for someone who has never run an ad previously, and the competition is fierce. To help you hit the ground running, we are going to use this article as an opportunity to present a list of important PPC terms that you are sure to come across as you start to build and run campaigns. Just knowing what all the terms mean won’t immediately make you an expert, but it is a good start. 

It makes sense to start this article by covering the basic terms that you are likely to encounter when first getting started in PPC. This first section won’t have everything you should know, but it will cover the foundation and you can build up your knowledge from there. These terms are in no particular order, so just take a moment to read through the list and start getting familiar with this type of digital advertising. 

  • Pay-per-click. We might as well start with the term that is the basis for this entire article. PPC stands for pay-per-click, and the name describes exactly how this type of advertising works. When you run a PPC ad, you pay when someone clicks on your ad. It’s just that simple. If you run a campaign and no one clicks on any of your ads, you wouldn’t pay a single penny for the ads (and you’d probably be quite frustrated with the time you wasted). Compared to other forms of ads where you pay simply when they are displayed, regardless of clicks, PPC ads are attractive because you know for certain that your investment is bringing some people to your website. 
  • Keywords. This is a term that you are probably familiar with from other digital marketing pursuits – specifically, search engine optimization. If you have done any SEO work on your site, you have already used keywords as a core component of that task. While keywords are a pretty easy concept to understand – they are just search terms used by people who are looking for the products or services you sell – there is one common point of confusion. Despite the fact that the term is “keyword”, this can actually represent more than one word. In fact, it almost always does – search terms are rarely just a single word in length. So, keywords are typically phrases rather than single words, but either way, you’ll need to know which ones you want to target so you can calibrate your PPC campaigns properly. 
  • Click-through rate. The percentage of the time that your ads are clicked on by the people who view them is termed as your click-through rate. So, as an example, if your ad is displayed 100 times, and 5 people click on it, that would be a click-through-rate, or CTR, of 5%. It’s worth noting that even good CTRs might seem rather low to the untrained eye. Getting results around the 5% mark is often quite good, depending on the niche. 
  • Cost per click. Another common term and metric that is used in the PPC world is cost per click, or CPC. As the name suggests, this is the price that you wind up paying for each of the clicks you receive on your ad campaigns. The goal is always to drive your CPC down as low as possible while still getting quality clicks that serve your goals for the ads. While CPC can somewhat be managed by targeting the right keywords and avoiding putting your ads in front of the wrong people, a big part of your CPC will just be determined by market forces. Some market niches come along with sky-high click prices, while other areas offer businesses the opportunity to collect clicks for just pennies a piece. 
  • Landing page. This is the page on your website where your visitors will “land” after they click on the ad. Many of those new to digital marketing make the mistake of thinking that they should just point paid traffic to the home page, but that is usually a mistake. You are going to want to encourage your visitors to take a specific action, and the page they land on should move them in that direction. Also, the page should be tightly correlated to the ad that you presented in the first place. If your ad was about a specific product, the product page on your website would make an obvious choice as a landing page.
PPC basics

These five terms already give you a pretty good picture of the PPC landscape. Take some time to be sure you clearly understand each of these five and consider taking some additional time to read about each of them in further detail to give yourself the background knowledge necessary to succeed in this arena. 

A Little More Advanced

The list above is a good start, and even if you only know those terms, you’ll at least be conversational on this topic. But why stop there? Let’s use this section to take a peek at a collection of more advanced terms that you might want to know as your PPC journey starts to pick up steam. 

  • Conversion. After you get someone to click on one of your ads, the next step is to get them to successfully take a desired action. That might be making a purchase, or it might just be signing up for your email list. Whatever the case, a “conversion” is counted whenever one of your leads takes the action that you had in mind when setting up the ad campaign. By tracking conversions and experimenting with different variables, you can improve your conversion rate over time and turn more visitors into customers. 
  • Ad extensions. In some cases, you might want to use ad extensions as a way to make your ads more functional and hopefully drive up metrics like click-through rate and conversion rate. When you run your PPC ads on Google, some of the available extensions include things like inserting a product price into your ads, including ratings from past customers, and more. 
  • Bounce rate. This is another term that you might have seen elsewhere in the digital marketing world. Bounce rate is a measure of how many people arrive on your landing page and then immediately leave without taking any other action. Obviously, you want to keep your bounce rate down as low as possible, since the goal is to keep visitors on your site and show them as much of what you have to offer as possible. Reasons for a high bounce rate can include a low-quality landing page, poorly targeted ads that reach the wrong customers, and more. 
  • Geotargeting. For businesses that are local in nature, it might be necessary to use a geotargeting feature to only show your ads to potential customers in a specific geographic area. This is a powerful tool as it will eliminate wasted spend on ads that people outside of your area click on before they realize you can’t serve them.

A General PPC Discussion

We didn’t want to wrap up this article without taking some time to simply go over the things you should know about PPC as you think about entering this arena. For this last section, we’ll leave the terminology behind and just engage in a broader discussion on how PPC works and why you might want to use it. 

The primary use for PPC is to bring people to your website quickly. On a per-visitor basis, it tends to be far more expensive than standard SEO, as organic, unpaid traffic is the ideal source of visitors to a site on an ongoing basis. However, SEO can be slow to produce results and isn’t going to give you a sudden, timely burst of traffic like you can get with a PPC campaign. 

So, when would you use PPC to drive traffic? Most likely, when you want to promote something very specific. For instance, if you have a big sale coming up and want as many people as possible to see your special offer, PPC is a great choice. You can time the campaign precisely, set how much you are willing to spend, and determine which keywords are right for these ads. As long as your conversion rate is decent, you should see a nice return from this kind of campaign. 

General PPC discussion

You might also want to use PPC ads as a way to test ideas or new products. If you make a page on your site to promote a new product or service that you are testing out, you could quickly set up a PPC campaign to push some people to that page and see what happens. Then, you can base your future decisions on the results of that effort – if the people who land on the page respond positively and are interested in this new offering, that’s a great sign that you should continue with the project. 

With so much to like about PPC and so many great use cases, you might find yourself pretty excited about this opportunity – only to watch your first campaign fall flat. It’s critical that you don’t get too frustrated early in the process, as there is a learning curve with this just like everything else. Your first campaign likely won’t be your best one, and that’s okay. Chalk it up as a learning experience and be committed to continual improvement until your results start to line up with your expectations. 

Jump Right In

Don’t be intimidated by the world of PPC and the path you’ll need to take to get comfortable with this form of advertising. While it is competitive, it’s also not quite as difficult as it appears at first. One step at a time, by reading these kinds of articles and by experimenting with some small ad campaigns, you can build your familiarity and confidence in this area. Good luck with your PPC adventures!

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Kate Falconer
About Kate Falconer:

For over a decade in the digital marketing industry, Kate Falconer’s primary focus has been on PPC while also learning the basics of SEO. Kate manages PPC execution and informs PPC strategy, which involves display, remarketing, video and shopping campaigns on Google Ads and Bing Ads.

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