May I Take Your Order? Choosing the Right Approach to PPC

by Diana Galloway

Last updated on December 21st, 2017

Promoting your website is a lot like staring at a menu with everything from salads to steak and finally deciding you want pasta.

Deciding which tactics and channels to use is a victory in and of itself. But having made those decisions, you aren’t done yet…

Do you want fettuccini alfredo or penne with marinara? White or wheat pasta? Tortellini or ravioli? Do you want to add chicken or shrimp?

So many choices.

Choosing the right kind of PPC for your audience is like ordering off the right pasta off the menu.

Choosing the right kind of PPC for your audience is like ordering off the right pasta off the menu. Image from Flickr by Stevendepolo.

So you’ve decided to go with pay per click advertising. That’s the pasta on the menu. Now it’s time to go deeper and decide between the white or red sauce, cavatappi or radiatore. Let’s explore the options!

Types of PPC

The first decision to make when starting up a PPC advertisement is what kind you’ll use. This all depends on both who your audience is and who your customers are, but we’ll discuss that more later. First, let’s get the options out in the open.


As might be implied in the name, search ads pop up when people use search engines. They’re the four-line ads to the right side of the regular list of sites that are displayed when you type a keyword into Google, Bing, or any other popular search engine.

Businesses bid on keywords, with the best and most relevant ones going for higher prices. Potential customers type in keywords like “massage therapists in San Francisco,” and get something like this…

google search ads 2

If you’re running a massage therapy school in the Bay Area and have a good enough keyword, your ad will pop up on their screen. Simple enough.

This is one of the most popular and well-known types of PPC advertising, and the one that all of the other types get lumped into when people talk about PPC.

But there are other kinds out there, and they might just be better for your specific needs.


This has a few different names, such as Google Display Network, Content Network, or contextual ads. But they all boil down to the same idea: Content PPC advertisements pop up in articles, blog posts, and other third-party sites. Like this one…

screenshot of content ad

Content ads have two distinct advantages over search ads:

  • Greater flexibility. Instead of just text, these ads can be banners, images, or even gifs. This gives them a better chance of catching a reader’s attention and earning the click that may lead to a profit.
  • Ability to reach a more specific audience. With search ads, you reach a broader audience that may or may not be looking for your specific service. With content ads, you’re reaching out to a group of people who are sure to be interested in the product you’re offering.

To continue the pasta motif: Content ads ensure that “Authentic Italian Pasta” ads are shown only to customers looking for an authentic local pasta restaurant. Content ads cater directly to people who will be most likely to click on your ad.


Also called Paid Social, this is a commonly-overlooked type of PPC. It is used mostly on social network sites like Facebook, and allows the advertiser to show his or her ad to a specific demographic.

They look like this…

facebook sidebar ad

And they work for all types of businesses, including college textbook suppliers or wrinkle-removal product lines, because they can be targeted to your specific audience. (Being able to show your ad only to college-age students or women over 50 can bring more focused and relevant results.)

The Customer is Always Right

Let’s talk about how to choose between these types of advertising. The most important thing to remember is who you’re advertising for. Who are you hoping to reach? Where are those people most commonly found on the web?

Customers Looking for Options

Small local businesses will do best with search ads. People looking for local shopping options or restaurants will be more likely to click on links that advertise local attractions.

The same goes for local dentists and doctors—people looking for medical services won’t necessarily want to filter through a Google page of options, and having the local listings in PPC format on their Google sidebar will be appealing.

Other ideas for search-based PPC include unusual products not commonly found in stores or products that people like to research before they buy (such as a new car or vacuum cleaner brands).

Customers Looking for Solutions

This was touched on earlier, but businesses looking to offer solutions to problems or answers to questions (like “what are the health benefits of homemade pasta?”) will do best with content-based advertising.

These are customers who have a specific problem they want to solve—the advertiser’s job is to be the best answer. They are more specific, more targeted, and generated to bring in more focused results because they are there in relevant articles and blogs—exactly where customers need them, not floating around in a general Google search.

Customers in a Single Category

If your product or service is catered to a specific group of people, don’t bother just throwing it out on the web. You’ll only be hoping that some of the right people see it and are interested enough to click on your ad.

Instead, determine your audience and pay your advertiser to only allow that specific audience to see your product. (Showing wrinkle-remover products to sixteen-year-old girls is a waste of time.)

Demographic advertising will let you use your time and space most wisely when what you’re offering is not for the general public.


Hopefully you now have a better idea of where on the web you want to place your ad. The question now becomes: What do you want it to say?

Adam Krietman compares a few golfing ads in this article, which might be a helpful place to start.

After you’ve finished reading that article, here are three basic characteristics of a successful PPC ad.

Ask people to do something more than hop on your site and window shop.

  1. A Call to Action. Ask people to do something more than hop on your site and window shop. Ask them to make a phone call, place an order, or compare their prices with the competition.
  2. Numbers or Symbols. These will make the ad stand out. Imagine you’ve just searched for “best London hotels,” and now Google has pulled up a list of hotel websites with some pay per click ads on the side. Which are you going to click on first? The one with all the text asking you to shop around or the ones with some concrete figures in the title?
  3. Specificity. Be as specific as possible. This can be difficult when the ad is only four lines long, but including some concrete, specific details will make all the difference, (and will attract a more targeted audience).

That about sums it up. Choose the type of PPC ad you want to use based on your target audience, then write a killer ad that gets their attention.

Or, to continue our metaphor, the waiter is here, and it’s time to order. You’ve got the information you need to create a compelling PPC ad. Now go out and be successful.

By the way, the chicken cannelloni looks good. 😉

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Diana Galloway

Diana Galloway studied marketing and political science and now likes to write articles about politics, the coolest new technology around, and marketing practices Pure PPC She also likes learning new marketing vocabulary terms and writing about them to inform other beginners about what they need to know.


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  1. abubakri says:
    February 1, 2014 at 3:14 am

    Nice blog post and really teach a lesson……. ,but when looking for one of the best PPC site,i will recomendthis site for everyone

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