A Guide to Pay-Per-Click Advertising for Complete Technophobes

Green typewriter with the word "marketing" typed in a bold font.When you’re starting out with digital marketing, organic channels are always a great place to start. In marketing, “organic” refers to the free ways you can optimise your site for search, or the posts and information you can freely share over social media.

If you’re a bit of a digital marketing newbie, organic channels are a great place to start learning more about online promotion. They’re free and accessible, helping new users to get a good grasp of how companies make themselves known online without being too overwhelming.

But because they’re free and accessible, everyone is marketing organically. This means that competition for highly ranking search positions and social visibility is quite high, even in niche industries.

Organic social media presence and/or organic search optimisation can also be quite limited – there’s only so far you can go. If you feel you’ve reached your organic peak and you want to take your marketing further, you may want to look at pay-per-click advertising – otherwise known as “PPC”.

But what exactly is pay-per-click advertising? And how does it work? Let’s dive right in.

What is Pay-Per-Click Advertising?

When searching through Google, chances are that you’ve seen sponsored results appear from time to time. These generally sit above and below the organic results, distinguished from the rest by a small “Ad” icon. Alternatively, you may have seen ads show up in your social media feeds, similarly indicated by an “Ad” or “Promoted” icon. In order to appear in these spots, the company being advertised is using some form of PPC advertising.

Pay-per-click is a method of paid online marketing wherein a company who wants to advertise themselves submits display or text ads to a publisher (such as a search engine or social media platform) and pays a fee every time one of their ads are clicked.

Here are a few examples of commonly known PPC advertising platforms:

How Does Pay-Per-Click Work?

To explore how PPC actually works, we need to break it up into two essential factors: bidding and targeting.


Pay-per-click advertising usually operates on a private auction/bidding system. The company being advertised either sets up an account with the ad publisher (or enables an existing account to run adverts) and enters their desired ad copy and/or graphics. Once your ads are entered, you state the maximum you would be willing to pay for someone to click on a particular ad placement – your “maximum bid”.

This is where the technical bit takes over. Whenever a visitor triggers an ad to be displayed – whether that’s by searching for a keyword that’s being bid on or by scrolling down their social feed – an automated private auction begins and is carried out in a split second as the page loads.

If there is a single ad spot to show (as within a social media feed) the company whose ad is shown is generally the highest bidder. In the case of search engine PPC, there may be two or more sponsored search results that display; in this case, these ads are likely to be from the top, second, third, (and so on) highest bidders.

Sidenote: Bidding is never a “set it and forget it” thing; it’s easy to be outbid! So always keep an eye on how many “impressions” your ad is getting (i.e., how many times it has been shown) to make sure you’re still in the running.

Another Sidenote: Most PPC platforms allow advertisers to set a cap on their daily or monthly spend – usually called a “budget”. We strongly recommend you use budget functions so you don’t overspend.


As with any kind of marketing, your ads need to be shown to the right people in order to be effective. PPC ad publishers generally provide extensive targeting options to ensure that your ads are being displayed to an appropriate audience, minimising wasted ad spend.

Depending on the information that the advertising platform collects on its users, their PPC functions will usually enable you to target people based on general demographic information such as age, gender, location, and family status. However many platforms allow for far more granular targeting; some even allow you to target users based on things like job title, interests, income bracket, and much more.

The ad targeting functions on social media platforms generally focus on the above kinds of criteria – the type of user you’re looking to target. Search engine PPC can include elements of this, but their targeting generally focuses on which keywords each user is searching for.

This is where keyword research comes in – you need to make sure you’re selecting popularly used keywords that are accurate to what your company offers. Tools like Google’s Keyword Explorer can help you identify popular keywords and show you some general information about how much people are potentially bidding on each keyword.

If this all seems a bit much to get your head around – we assure you, PPC advertising really is worth it! If you’re wondering why you should bother, then keep ‘em peeled for our forthcoming article in which we explore 7 awesome reasons why you should use pay-per-click advertising for your small business. Stay tuned!

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However, if you’d much rather leave your PPC advertising to the experts, Yell have you covered. We are one of the largest resellers of Google Ads in the UK and are a Bing Elite Agency Partner. As of 2018, we’ve managed pay-per-click campaigns for over 14,000 companies and we have a “Great” rating on Trustpilot. Check out our PPC page for more information or call us for a friendly chat on 0800 777 445.