What Is PPC?
Alex Nuttall
Blog Dental Marketing Online Marketing Paid Ads Pay-Per-Click PPC Remarketing

Navigating the world of digital marketing can be challenging for a small business – there’s a lot to it, and it’s changing at a dizzying rate. With so many ways to market your practice online, it can seem overwhelming. The many options include PPC, which stands for pay-per-click. What is PPC, and is it right for your business?

Defining PPC

PPC is a form of online marketing where businesses pay Google (or other search engines) for clicks to their site. Essentially, you’re bidding to get your ads in front of your target market. If a user clicks on the ad, you pay for that traffic to your site.

PPC is different from SEO, where you attempt to drive traffic to your site organically. SEO can take a lot of time, effort, and great content to get to the top few spots on Google’s first page. With PPC, you bid on those top spots that appear in search results when potential patients are looking for your services.

How PPC Works - Search Advertising

  1. User searches a term targeted by advertisers
    This is where it’s crucial to nail down what services you want to target, and more specifically, which keyword terms are popular. This way, your ads display for your target market. To put it another way, this is the process of getting your ads to show up for your target audience. If your ads are targeting dental implants, we want to make sure anyone within a defined radius Googling anything about that service sees your practice front and center!
  2. Let the bidding begin! Google assesses the advertisers quality scores and bid caps to determine ad rank.
    Once a user has searched for something on Google, it’s time for the bidding to take place. This is how Google decides which ads will display for a given search and limited ad spaces. Google is trying to find the most relevant ad for whatever the user is looking for. One of the most important things Google looks at is your quality score which, according to WordStream, is defined as “Google's rating of the quality and relevance of both your keywords and PPC ads. It is used to determine your cost per click (CPC) and multiplied by your maximum bid to determine your ad rank in the ad auction process. Your quality score depends on multiple factors including click-through rate, relevance of each keyword to its ad group, landing page quality, relevance of your ad text, and your historical AdWords account performance.”Your quality score is Google’s way of deciding which ads make the most sense for the given search result. Unfortunately, only Google knows the weight of each factor so it can be hard to pinpoint exactly what causes a low-quality score. It is generally assumed that the click-through rate has the most significant impact on your quality score. A solid rule of thumb with most digital marketing efforts is to make sure you’re going after the right target audience with content and ads that actually match what they’re looking for.
  3. BAM! Your ads are displayed to the user
    If your quality score is high enough, Google will post your ads at the top of the search results. At this point, users will either click on your ad and be directed to your landing page or will scroll past your ads and go straight to organic search results. This is where having a successful SEO strategy comes into play.

Other Forms of PPC


We’ve all seen these ads before, have you ever clicked on a product at Walmart.com, decided you don’t need that adult-sized Slip ’N Slide and leave the site? Then, after going to a new website, you notice an ad for the same Slip ‘N Slide?

This is called remarketing, and it’s a form of advertising you’ll generally see from companies that sell physical products. Therefore, if you go to their product page and navigate elsewhere, they’re able to place what’s called a cookie on you, which allows their remarketing ads to show up on other sites or social media platforms you visit later.

Display Advertising

Display advertising is simple; choose your demographics (men, age 25-35, works in tech, etc.), pick where you’d like to advertise, and voila! Display campaign!

Similar to remarketing ads, you’ll often see these over to the right on specific web pages. This type of ad is not always effective for small businesses, such as a dental practice. In most cases, you’d be better off buying ad space on local sites that you know your target market frequents.

Important Terminology

  • Click-Through-Rate
    Click-Through-Rate, or CTR, refers to the number of clicks relative to the number of impressions of an ad. CTR is an important concept to understand, as it is a useful metric of the efficacy of an ad. We consider a two percent CTR decent, though ideally, we’d like the highest CTR possible.
  • Impression share
    Impression share refers to the number of search queries in which an ad was eligible to appear relative to the number of times it appeared.

    • Early warning sign of deeper issues - If your impression share is low, it’s likely that you’re targeting keywords that are too competitive. For example, if you’re targeting “dentist,” it’s likely that many other practices are doing the same. So, it’s better to target more specific keywords like “‘your neighborhood dentist.”
    • An impression share may be low if the market is very competitive, the bid cap is too low, the quality score is too low, we are targeting super-high volume keywords, we are targeting too large of a region, and many other reasons can cause a low impression share.
  • Pacing
    Pacing is a fairly simple concept; it is the amount of time spent in a budget cycle relative to the amount of money spent. Pacing is an important indicator of how well a campaign is spending money and how an automated bidding algorithm is performing its job. Using pacing data, we can tell when the most profitable times are to advertise and whether we should be managing bids manually or via automation.
  • Quality score
    Quality score is Google's rating of the quality and relevance of both your keywords and PPC ads. It determines your cost per click (CPC) and is multiplied by your maximum bid to determine your ad rank in the ad auction process. In essence, the quality score is a letter grade of the targeted keywords, ad copy (relevance), and user experience. We want this to be as high as possible.
  • Other noteworthy terms:
    • Average position - This refers to where the ad displays on SERP, on average. This number can be misleading, as it’s usually between 1-3, but the report does not stipulate which page of results it’s on.
    • Leads - Leads are any click that is followed up with either an email or a phone call.
    • Conversion rate - This is the number of leads that convert into patients. For example, if 30 leads results in 15 patients, our conversion rate is 50 percent.
    • Cost per acquisition - This is the number of patients they acquired in a month divided by what they spent. If they got 10 new patients and spent $1000 on their campaign, their CPA would be $100.
      Goal completions - This refers to contact form submissions on your website.

Part of a Greater Whole

There’s no doubt that with a well optimized PPC campaign you could see more new patients coming through your door each month. For some, a PPC campaign could be all you need to create a steady flow of new patients; however, it’s important to remember that digital marketing is usually most successful when diversified. Optimizing and targeting multiple channels will typically yield the highest results.

So, before going all in on PPC, consider other channels that you may need too and try to create a well-rounded or balanced digital marketing campaign. On top of that, there’s something to be said for a mix between digital and traditional marketing channels as well. A tandem between online marketing and community engagement marketing is a reliable approach.

Alex Nuttall
Alex is a native of Colorado. He was born in Denver and grew up in Fort Collins. He graduated from the University of Northern Colorado with a degree in business marketing. In his free time, he can be found playing guitar and producing music, cooking a delicious meal, or heading outside to enjoy all that Colorado has to offer.

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