Back in November, we filmed a Tech Thursday video about advertising online  (when it’s a good idea, as well as a brief sample of the more common types you may encounter). As we started filming, we realized, Hey, there’s kind of a lot to online advertising. Maybe we should give our people more info. Thus, Online Advertising 101 was born. There’s an overwhelming amount of information out there about advertising online, so we’re going to spend some time over the course of the next few weeks looking at the different types of online ads (and some best practices).


One of the ad types we discuss in the video is Pay Per Click ads. A pay per click ad is exactly what it sounds like: whenever someone clicks on your ad, you pay the publisher. A common example of PPC ads is Google AdWords (note: we don’t work with Google AdWords, but our friend Colin totally does).

How does it work? Say you’re a business and you want your ad to display on a certain website (also called the publisher). Here’s what you want to do:

1) Create an ad based on whatever you’re offering. For the sake of this exercise, you are a clothing store selling a bright pink woman’s polo shirt. The publisher will probably have some display guidelines (image requirements and size recommendations, allotted character restrictions, etc.), so keep this in mind as you construct your ad. Remember, make it pretty, but not obnoxious- your ad shouldn’t be the inflatable arm waving tube man of the internet. Take a look at your landing page (the page people land on after clicking your ad). Is there a clear call to action here? If not, do some tweaking. Once a person has reached this page, you want to keep him there to follow through with a purchase.

2) Research keywords. With PPC ads, only the people who type in certain keywords (in Google, for instance) will be shown your ad. Think about what words a person searching for your product would use. Keywords are in some ways the keys that unlock your ad, but you do want to choose them wisely. It’s not a “the more, the merrier” situation. Remember, you’re paying each time someone clicks on your ad. The more you specifically target it, the better your chances of turning that click into a sale. In our example, for instance, the word “shirt” is probably a terrible keyword. Thousands of people search for shirts online, but only a small percentage of those people are looking for your shirt. So, how do you know which keywords will work best? There are some free tools out there- if you have a Google AdWords account, for instance, you can use their free Keyword Planner tool.

3) Publish your ad. Again, Google AdWords is a common option in terms of publishing. With AdWords, you set up your campaign for free and indicate your budget (because, let’s face it- money is a finite resource and not all businesses have hundreds of thousands to toss into an advertising campaign). This also keeps your ad from running indefinitely. Of course, Google AdWords isn’t your only option for PPC. If you’re working with a different publisher, there may be a few differences with payment. For instance, flat rate agreements involve the publisher and advertiser agreeing on a set rate of cost per click. There is also bid based pricing, which gets a bit hairier in terms of competition and pricing (it’s based on an auction system, so if you’re a small business trying to keep up with a multi-million dollar company, this isn’t your best bet). You can watch the analytics and see how well your ad is performing (which is always recommended) to determine whether or not PPC is a good investment for you.


The most common PPC (to date). For more information or help with AdWords, can help!

Why choose PPC advertising? One reason is that customers are more likely to not only see your ad, but actually pay attention to it. They are also less likely to be annoyed by it. If I’m in the market for a pink polo shirt and see an ad for that very shirt in my Facebook sidebar, I’d probably be stoked. It’d be as if Facebook read my mind! (Although, I’m slightly convinced that it does this anyway).

Another reason: it’s effective. As a business, you have to spend money to make money. Of course, money is (for most of us) a finite resource, so you want to invest it in the smartest way possible. Rather than tossing out a super expensive ad and crossing your fingers that it’ll somehow stand out from the horrific mosh-pit crowd, PPC allows you to display your product directly to interested people. The odds of people clicking on your ad and, as a result, making a purchase, are theoretically higher (as this article puts it, if you make a $300 sale on a $10 ad, you’ve more than made your money’s worth). As with any ad, the idea is that it will eventually pay for itself.

Next week, stay tuned for Online Advertising 101: Display Ads!