PPC 101 – Introduction to paid marketing

This is a layman explanation of the basics of Pay per click advertising. It is written by Zino Fapohunda, a Performance Marketing Specialist at Humi

What is Digital Marketing?

This term has been in all my job descriptions since 2012. I am going to be honest with you and say I just started understanding it.

To me, Digital Marketing is simply using online channels/platforms to promote your brand or business. I would also say that the components of DM are:

  • Website Management 
  • SEO
  • Content
  • PPC Advertising 
  • Email Marketing
  • Social Media Marketing

The complex part of DM is that each of these channels and platforms have their own specific rules and blueprints that you need to learn. In fact, each of them are career paths on their own. For today, let me focus on introducing you to PPC Advertising.

What is PPC Advertising?

According to Search Engine Journal, Pay-per-click (PPC) is an advertising model that lets marketers place ads on an ad platform and pay the host of that platform every time their ad is clicked. The goal of a PPC ad is to lead the person viewing it to click through to your company’s website, landing page or app, where that visitor can complete a valuable action, such as booking a demo, sharing their contact details, etc. This is dependent on the goal of your company, but there should be a valuable action to be taken on your website, landing page or app.

In general, there are two main types of PPC Ads and they are: Display,  Search and Shopping Ads. Honestly, I think Shopping ads could fall under display and search, but let us leave it as one of the 3 options first. It also has a very different setup. 

Search ads are the ads that show on search engines above your organic search results. They are usually clearly labelled ‘Ads’. Display ads are the ads that show up on websites you visit. 

Display ads adopt a push tactic and are typically used for awareness creation. They have wider reach and are typically less expensive than Search. Search ads, on the other hand, employ the pull tactic. They are intent-based and are typically lower-funnel campaigns because these people doing these searches are already looking to buy. If you are a startup or young company, I strongly advise that you spend more of your budget on Search than on Display. Then, as you scale, you can start introducing huge Display campaigns.

The PPC Marketer Role

PPC Marketers are typically called Performance Marketers, Paid Marketers or Growth Marketers. From experience, your role as any of these is basically increasing lead volume or revenue growth, whilst also efficiently managing cost. These two things make up the key metric most performance-driven companies are interested in, as it relates to marketing – Return on Ad Spend (ROAS). We will talk more about this later.

The real work is now in the strategies and tactics you employ to ensure you bring in leads to the company and at the same time stay efficient with cost.

PPC Advertising Tools

You cannot achieve these without tools. As you would imagine the first set of tools needed are the ad management platforms. These mostly include:

  • Facebook Ad Manager (Covers both FB and IG)
  • Google Ads
  • Linkedin Campaign Manager
  • Microsoft Advertising (Bing Ads)
  • Twitter Ads 
  • Programmatic Ad platforms – There are several platforms for this but AdRoll and Criteo are the most popular
  • Snapchat Ads
  • TikTok Ads

After we have set up the above and launched the best campaigns on them, we still need to optimize them, track performance and do reporting. This is the segway into the next set of tools needed:

  • Google Analytics – Actually, this should be up and running once your website is built
  • Google Data Studio – This helps for visualization and reporting your performance
  • Google Tag Manager – This helps with tracking everyone who has clicked on your URS
  • Unbounce or other landing page builders – This is for building landing pages for your ads
  • Google Optimize or any website optimization platform –  
  • SQL 

Your ability to know how to use these platforms to help you achieve your goals is what makes you a Paid Marketing specialist. To do this, you need to understand how to create a Paid Marketing Strategy.

PPC Advertising Strategy

When anyone mentions PPC strategy to me, these things come to my mind:

  • The company’s goals at that point
  • The marketing funnel
  • Who is the target audience? What are their needs and how can I meet them?
  • Where do I find them? What online channels are they on?
  • How do I craft my messaging to meet their needs? Ad creatives, Ad copy and even your landing page/website messaging
  • How do I track performance that can help me optimize

Let me dive into a few of these for now. We will still touch on the next in future training.

First (and this should always be first), know and understand the goals your company is trying to achieve for that period. This will drive your own goals as a Paid Marketer. For example, if your business is small and their goal is to get as many leads as possible, your goal could be ‘Contribute to overall lead volume by 60%’.  If your company wants a bit more scale and is looking for more awareness, your goal should be something like ‘Increase awareness by 80%’. Every other tactic or strategy you come up with has to be in line with achieving this goal.

Second is the Marketing Funnel. It describes the customers’ journey with you – from awareness to conversion.  There are several stages of the marketing funnel, but I have come to realise that each company has its own. However,  to keep it simple, let us just start with the easiest one:

  • Top of funnel – This is all the awareness you create to send your target audience to the website
  • Middle of funnel – All the tactics you employ to get them to carry out the required action (book demo, share contact details, etc) on your website or landing page 
  • Bottom of funnel – All the tactics you employ to get them to convert to paying customers and become loyal customers

Please note that some funnels are more complicated than this, but this is the easiest way to begin thinking about it. 

Third is identifying your target audience. This is one of the oldest marketing rules. If you do not know who your target audience is, understand their needs and plan your marketing activities around it, you would have failed. These ad platforms make it easy for you to select demographics and psychographics of the people you want to target. The platforms have so much data on us, and that’s why they easily target you with ads related to things you literally just spoke about. Lol. There are other advanced targeting options like the Lookalike Audience, which targets people similar to the ones who have taken actions on your site. Or even the Custom Audience, where you upload a list of email addresses to the platforms and tell the platform to target only those people. I will speak more on Audience targeting in my next session.

How to build a career in PPC Advertising

The first advice I typically give is to get a Digital Marketing certificate from digital-focused institutions like Brainstation. Whilst doing that, begin writing the Google and FB certifications. Once you are done, begin to apply to all types of DM jobs, including asking for internships. This is because the true best way to learn Digital Marketing is on the job, with real life situations.

A couple extra questions I got from people:

  • What type of companies need paid Ads specialists? Companies of all industries and sizes whose goal is to generate more revenue need Paid Marketers.
  • How much do paid specialists earn? Now this one depends on the company and the industry. For startups though, Paid Marketers earn anywhere above $70k to $80k per year.


As a Paid Marketer, your goal is to ensure your company is realizing revenue for their spend, using these tools, skills, knowledge and tactics mentioned above. 

What next?

In our next session (PPC 201), we will talk about Facebook Advertising  :

  • Setting up a FB campaign
  • Audience targeting
  • Tracking performance

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