Demystifying PPC for small business owners

Desk with laptop screen saying Pay per Click on it

What is PPC advertising?

PPC or pay per click advertising is a way of generating traffic to your website by paying a third party to display ads. Typically when people mention PPC they’re talking about Google Search Ads, which are the text ads that appear when someone searches in Google.  For small businesses, they provide a way to reach new customers that are searching for related goods or services.

However there are many other forms of PPC advertising. Social media ads are technically PPC as well as display, Google Shopping, YouTube Ads & Bing Ads.

By far the most used PPC platform is Google which is broken down into four categories:

1. Google Search:

As mentioned these are the ads that appear on the Google Search Results page. Advertisers choose the keywords they wish to appear for and enter a bid. When that keyword is searched by a user, all of the advertisers who are bidding on that term go to an auction and the winner secures the top spot.

Google Ad - demystifying PPC for small business
Search Ad for FITnFLOAT

2. Google Shopping:

Google Shopping ads are similar to Google Search in that they appear on the Google Search results page based on a users search. These ads comprise of product image, product title, and merchant. Advertisers do not choose the keywords their ads show for. Instead Google pulls information from the product description.

Google Shopping Ads - Demystifying PPC for small business
Shopping ads for Wild For Dogs

3. Google Display:

The most similar to traditional print advertising. Display ads are shown on sites while users browse, like an ad in a magazine. To run display ads an advertiser can either create an audience (the people who they want to see the ad) or placements (websites they want their ads to show on).

Search Ad - Demystifying PPC for small business owners
Search Ad for Slam City Skates

4. YouTube Advertising:

Advertising on YouTube works very similarly to display, in that advertisers choose either an audience or topic. Depending on an advertisers objective, ads can either be at the start, or during a video. They can also choose to make non-skippable ads that force users to see the whole marketing message.

Managing your own Google Ads

Beginning Google Ads can be daunting, especially for a small business with a tight budget. Starting with Google Search is the easiest way to grasp the concepts of Google Ads and PPC advertising. Google will often ask you to start an “Express campaign”. This is highly advised against as it gives you very little control over your ads and keywords.

Caleb Wynne, Digital Marketing Consultant from Wynne Digital explains “You should look to contract a Google Ads specialist as their full time job is to manage accounts”.

If you do choose to try yourself you should be aware of the following:

Conversion tracking:

The single most important part of running successful Google Ads campaigns is to setup conversion tracking. This is typically done by linking your Google Ads account to your Google Analytics account and importing your conversions. Without importing conversions you will not know if your ads are making sales or converting leads and I wouldn’t be demystifying PPC if I didn’t mention this important element.

Campaigns & Ad Groups

Campaigns are the top level look at your account. A campaign should match with a specific business goal. For example, increasing sales of men’s shoes.

Campaigns are where you set your daily budget. Google will sometimes spend up to twice your daily budget in a single day, however it will reduce budgets on subsequent days to ensure your monthly spend is not over.

Campaigns are also where you set your location and schedule.

Within a campaign you can have multiple ad groups. Ad groups are broken up into “themes”. For example within your men’s shoes campaign you could have one ad group for dress shoes, one for running shoes and one for casual shoes.


Then within Ad Groups you have keywords. Keywords come in 4 different categories, using the example of men’s dress shoes:

Broad Match: Broad match keywords are input exactly as a regular phrase, men’s dress shoes. A broad match style keyword will trigger your ads when those words are used in a search query. A user searching “dress shoes for men” would trigger the broad match keyword men’s dress shoes. Broad match also takes into account common misspellings such as mens vs men’s.

Broad Match Modified: Broad match modified are entered into Google Ads with a +sign in front of each word in the keyword. +Mens +Dress +Shoes would signify it is a broad match modified keyword. These work in the same way as broad match as but it includes variations and synonyms of the words in the keyword. Therefore a search for “formal footwear for men in their thirties” could trigger the broad match modified keyword.

Phrase Match: Phrase match is entered into Google Ads with quotation marks around the keyword. “Men’s Dress Shoes”. All of the words in the keyword must be present in the search in that order to trigger an ad. For example “black men’s dress shoes” would trigger the phrase match keyword.

Exact Match: Exact match keywords are entered into Google Ads with square brackets around them, [Men’s Dress Shoes]. In order for an exact match keyword to trigger an ad the search must exactly match the keyword so only a search of “men’s dress shoes” could trigger an ad.


Contained in Ad Groups are also your Ads. Currently there are two types of ads you can have running in Google. Text ads which consist of three headlines each of 30 characters, two descriptions of 90 characters and a destination URL.

Google also has responsive search ads which have unlimited descriptions and headlines, after you have entered as many as you like Google will rotate through various combinations to provide the best results.

Negative keywords

Negative keywords are extremely important for the ongoing improvements of a campaign. With the exception of exact match keywords sometimes a user can search for something that, while it contains your keywords is clearly not relevant to your business. For example “How to repair men’s dress shoes” would trigger a broad match, modified broad match or phrase match keyword. We know from the search phrase, the user is not currently looking to buy. We can tell Google that we don’t want to enter the auction when a negative keyword is used in the search. For the above example it would be best to negative both “how to” and “repair”.


Your bids are set at a keyword level. You might think it is worth bidding £2.00 for “men’s dress shoes”. When a user searches “men’s dress shoes” you go to auction against two competitors, competitor A bids £1.80 and competitor B bids £7.00. Competitor B would pay £2.01 to secure top spot, you would pay £1.81 for second. Your cpc is the cost per click you pay, which is the minimum amount more than the next highest bidder.

The difference between impressions & clicks:

Every time your ad is triggered by a search and shown, an impression is counted.  Whereas the number of times your ad is actually clicked, are clicks.

CTR (click through rate)

The percentage of times your ads were clicked when they appeared, e.g. the percentage of clicks from the total impressions.

Quality Score

Google rewards campaigns that perfectly answer user queries by manipulating bids. If your ad that displays for “men’s dress shoes” takes a user to a page of men’s formal shoes in a variety of styles you could be rewarded with an increased bid meaning your £2.00 could enter the auction as £3.00 (note this does not increase your cpc). Conversely if your “men’s dress shoes” takes users to women’s running shoes your £2.00 bid could become £1.00

Impression share

Sometimes it is hard to know if your ads aren’t showing because you are not bidding high enough or your budget for the day has run out. Impression share is the percentage which your ads make an impression when they are available to. You can check your overall impression share, and impression share lost to rank (not bidding enough) or budget (running out of budget) at any level, account campaign or ad group.


Lots to remember, but feel free to refer back to this article about demystifying PPC for small business owners or share the link.


Guest post from Caleb Wynne