Pay Per Click Ad Campaigns Getting More Complex – DIY or Outsource?

Pay per click advertising used to be a lot easier to do.  But in the past 24 months it seems to have gotten more competitive and complex. Some small business owners are discouraged about it.

There’s a new PPC Strategy Flowchart just out that walks you through the considerably more complex process of running pay-per-click ad campaigns today.  Created by Giovanna Wall at the PPC Blog, it illustrates the kind of strategy, testing and tweaking that you have to bring your advertising campaigns.

PPC flow chart

(click image to jump to interactive flow chart)

How PPC Ads Got More Complex

For anyone who doesn’t know what I’m referring to, “pay per click ads” or “PPC ads” are those little ads you see down the right side of the page in the Google search results, labeled “Sponsored Links.”  Sometimes you will also see them in a shaded box right above the natural search results.  As the advertiser, you may also choose to display your PPC ads on content sites (sites like Small Business Trends). 

They’re called “pay per click” because in most cases you are charged by the click.  You pay XX cents or XX dollars each time someone clicks on your ad.  

In order to place your ad where qualified prospects are likely to see it, you need to place your ad only on those pages where people are looking for what you offer.  Otherwise, your ad budget would just be wasted.  You do that by bidding on keywords related to your site or offering.  When someone goes to a search engine and searches on your keyword, your ad is displayed.

It used to be that the more you bid on a specific search term (keyword), the higher up on the page and more frequently your ad would appear.  However, that’s only partly true these days.  Now other factors have a bearing on how visible your ad is — or even whether it’s displayed at all.  One of the factors affecting PPC ads is how relevant your ad is to the keyword you bid on.  Google euphemistically calls relevance factors your “Quality Score.” 

If Google deems your ad to have a “low Quality Score” (i.e., not very relevant) your bid on a term may be rejected altogether unless you pay some outlandish amount, like $5 or $10 a click for a term that otherwise goes for $0.85.  It wouldn’t take long before a small business went broke throwing that kind of money around. 

That’s why I say that PPC advertising has gotten more complex and competitive, especially for smaller businesses without in-house PPC expertise.  Today, you really have to know what you’re doing with pay-per-click advertising, or you could lose your shirt. Or you may find that your ads hardly ever get displayed and you end up with paltry results like 2 clicks a day.  In other words, it takes a lot more knowledge, time and attention to run a pay-per-click ad campaign today than it did a few years ago.  And that complexity and competitiveness is only increasing over time.

The Choice: DIY or Hire it Out

You have two choices today: outsource your PPC campaign management, or do it internally.

More and more businesses I know are hiring out the management of their pay per click ad campaigns to search marketing professionals or to Google AdWords Certified Professionals.  For businesses that regularly run PPC ad campaigns of 4 to 5 figures monthly, paying someone a fee to manage the campaigns can in the end save you money and get you better results.

On the other hand, if you feel reasonably confident in your ability to do it yourself with pay-per-click ad campaigns,  or if your ad spend is still small, you will probably opt to keep it in-house. 

That’s where the PPC Strategy Flowchart above comes in handy.  It gives you the strategic context for your ad campaigns.  But the flowchart is more than just a concept.  It also points you to resources about each step in the process.  On the flowchart, if you click each box, it leads you to an article or resource on the Web where you can learn more about each step.

Regardless of which choice you make, PPC advertising is still one of the fastest and most trackable advertising methods for bringing traffic to a new small-business website, pumping up holiday sales, or otherwise getting found quickly online.  Just be smart about it.  Either make the effort to educate yourself, or hire somebody competent.

11 Comments ▼
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Anita Campbell - CEO


Anita Campbell Anita Campbell is the Founder and Publisher of Small Business Trends and has been following trends in small businesses since 2003. She is the owner of BizSugar, a social media site for small businesses, and also serves as CEO of TweakYourBiz.com.

11 Reactions

  1. Adwords. An extremely complex subject. My approach to everything has always been try, tweak and iterate. Same thing with Adwords. it is so amazing how the numbers sometimes seem to make sense – you think you know what’s going on – and then a few days later everything has changed. Conversion rates drop. CTR goes up or down, dramatically. Pretty much the only thing I’m sure of is that you need lots of data. A few clicks don’t mean a thing. Now I’m only looking at the numbers about once a week or so. You can’t turn it on, check the next day and think you’re going to know what’s going on. Patience is key here.

  2. This is a such a comprehensive flowchart. This defines a process that most SEM consultants actually charge money. If you can execute a campaign on your own, I strongly encourage you using this chart. I am.

    As for the other key point in this post, it is good to hear that we are not alone and other advertisers are also finding PPC Ad campaigns tough to execute right. After trying to do it for two months on our own, we hired a consultant to help us with:

    1. Making sure our site is optimized well and our quality score is better
    2. Launch, test, measure, analyze PPC campaigns and help us understand how we can do it going forward.

    We are in the beginning stages, and I hope the consultant will work out. I would love to hear what others are doing and whether we should be doing more or something different.

  3. It is a challenge but PPC campaigns have a significant reach that enables businesses to get to their targeted market (aka keyword). Great flowchart – very useful in terms of understand the workflow for PPC.

  4. I’m not actually a PPC advertiser nor publish google ads on my site and so this is why I did not expect this to be too complicated. And yes, you’re right–spending dollars for a single click is quite too much and I think I have to educate myself on this so I no longer have to hire somebody to do this.

  5. Good to have a chart for future PPC campaigns. Could you mention some alternatives to PPC ads?

  6. Great value in this post. Thanks for putting this together Anita. As one learning PPC by fire, it is great to have a bigger picture, and this article puts it together nicely.

    I recently experienced the benefit of a good quality score by making some improvements to my landing page for a recent campaign. Makes it more relevant (good for Google searchers), and more affordable (good for advertisers like me).

    Thanks again.

  7. Indeed its a very good way to boost up traffic, but how many users read what they are clicking, many of them just click to earn some money.

    Otherwise, great chart, very usefull information

  8. This has always been confusing to me. I appreciate you taking the time to try and guide us along this road. Between your article and the flowchart, I have a little more grasp on the subject.

  9. I also found the “Google Advertising Professional” link you mentioned filled with useful information, even if you don’t plan on becoming a professional. Check out the “Learning Center” section at http://www.google.com/adwords/learningcenter/index.html

    Great topic. Thanks.

  10. It’s a very complicated beast. You have to have an understanding of it and yes, patience is key here. The chart is extremely helpful to begin to develop an understanding of it, too. PPC requires a lot of time and focus, too.

  11. I don’t really know and understand before what and how this PPC works. And I think, with the flowchart you shared, it will give me more grasp to the subject. Just a significant amount of time to study it is needed.

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