Find out all about pay per click and what it is with this helpful guide.

What is pay per click?

If you’re new to advertising your business or yourself online then you might not know about SEM or PPC (or pay per click). This useful guide will give you an overview of what PPC is about and how it can benefit your business.

PPC is a digital marketing medium that lets you pay for relevant or interested users to come to your website after they have seen your adverts displayed on a search engines results page (think Google or Bing results pages). You don’t pay to have your adverts displayed and seen by the user, but only pay when someone clicks on the advert and goes to your website or mobile app.

You can select search terms or ‘keywords’ that you want to make sure your adverts appear for and then you can set the maximum bid you are prepared to pay for someone who types in that keyword and clicks on your advert. This means you can control the traffic to your website. What they searched for and the cost of getting them to your website.


You are a company who sells a specific type of car. You only sell red sports cars.

You can choose to bid on keywords such as ‘red sports car’ or ‘best sports cars in red’

You might not want to appear for ‘cheapest sports cars’ or ‘blue sports cars.’

How does the pay per click auction work?

Once you have selected your keywords and your maximum bids, as well as created your adverts then you’re ready to go.  Each time a user types in a keyword that you are bidding on, then you will be entered into an auction with every other company who is also bidding on that same keyword. Remember your top bid is the maximum you will pay for that keyword.

The results of the auctions for pay per click on search engines like Google and Bing are not just based on whoever bids highest. Bidding the most on a keyword does not guarantee first position. Instead search engines use something called ad rank to decide who is position 1, 2, 3, etc….

Ad rank is a calculation based on your maximum bid (also known as maximum CPC or cost per click), as well as something called a quality score. Quality score is made up of many things, which we will not go into it here (as this is just about the basics). However we can say that quality score is designed to make sure that whoever bids most is not automatically first in the paid ads results. Rightly, this is because whoever pays most might not be the best thing for the user themselves and gives every company from the largest to the smallest a fairer opportunity to market their products or services.

So the search engines will take your maximum bid and your quality scores and use a calculation to create you ad rank (max CPC x QS = Ad Rank). You have the highest ad rank for that one search at that one time to that one user and your companies advert will be position 1 in the paid ads results.

The search engines run this pay per click auction in the fraction of a second it takes for the user to type in their search and click the enter/search button.

What is Adwords?

Google Adwords is the PPC platform created and owned by Google. It provides the opportunity for companies to market their products and services using Google’s search engine, Display network and You Tube video sharing platform.  While there are more platforms available such as Bing Ads, private ad exchanges and for overseas marketing

Pay per click in the modern age.

Pay per click marketing has evolved beyond this basic premise of bidding on a keyword and a user clicking your advert in a search engines results pages (also known as SERPS). Now there are so many more opportunities to connect with your target audience and not all are based on a pay per click model, albeit they fall under the paid search umbrella.

For example you can pay per thousand impressions of your display adverts (image banner adverts you see on other people’s websites). An impression is where a user see’s your image adverts or display adverts, but do not have to click on them. If they click on them then you do not pay for the click as you are already paying per thousand impressions.

You can pay for people to view your videos, whether its informational videos, product adverts or anything else.

Paid advertising on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter all fall under PPC.

We have not begun to discuss opportunities like remarketing, retargeting, behaviour bidding or some of the other more complex aspects of pay per click marketing. PPC is not to be confused with SEO, which is the art of improving a website or mobile apps online visibility in organic search results, where you do not pay per click.

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