PPC for Beginners

By jameszol
Published on June 9, 2009


Students have been dropping by the office more and more as the year moves along…they are looking for internships, jobs or simple career advice. Some of the best questions that have come up so far are: What can I do right now so that you or somebody like you would hire me? What do you look for in a job candidate? What can I read or where can I learn more?

Most of these students are absolute beginners when it comes to pay per click advertising and web marketing in general. I am a fan of learning directly from a blog post, but I think a beginner needs to go out and DO instead of just READ…so the following thoughts are action oriented (or I am lazy…) I want and expect people to leave this page to learn directly from a source.

Here are my thoughts on what a person should know and/or do as a beginner:

The lay of the land

Study the writing, the placement and the style of the ads you find in the search engines, on regular websites or on social media platforms.

Natural/Organic vs Sponsored/Paid

Investigate the search results at a variety of search engines. Learn how to spot the paid vs the organic results. Some of these aren’t obvious believe it or not! Dogpile comes to mind…do you think a normal user can tell the difference there? Yahoo has paid inclusions scattered throughout their ‘organic’ results too. Go check it out!

Content Networks, Image ads & Social Network Ads

Explore a variety of websites and pay attention to the banner ads, text ads and their locations in the website. The publishers (the people that own and operate the website) typically put ads in the most visible, highly trafficked areas on their websites. You can learn a lot from these placements…here are a few very popular places that host content ads, image ads and/or social network ads: Facebook (duh!), MySpace, Gizmodo, New York Times, Digg and MSN.

Know The Basic Acronyms and their Definitions

PPC = Pay per click. You pay when somebody clicks on your ad! Yes! Basically, every time your ad appears it is free. When somebody clicks to see your website, you pay. Simple, right?

SEO = Search engine optimization. The marketing behind a website’s natural organic/natural ranking ability. SEO is NOT PPC and PPC is NOT SEO. Please do not confuse the two.

SEM = Search engine marketing. Search engine marketing is any marketing on the search engines. ;) It is not just PPC and not just SEO. It can be both…

CPC = Cost per click. The amount you pay for a single click. I listed this here because there are several iterations of this metric out there. You might see eCPC which means effective cost per click. eCPC simply divides your total cost for the run of the ad divided by the number of clicks you received. Example: You buy a flat fee ad on a local chamber of commerce website for $250. The ad was live for 30 days. You received 78 clicks from that ad; therefore, $250 divided by 78 clicks gives us your eCPC of $3.21.

CPM = Cost per thousand impressions. An impression is simply a single instance of your ad being displayed on a website. There are several banner ad networks out there that still charge based on impressions. Or you get the choice: you can buy based on impressions or clicks. The industry standard is to price or bid based on a per one thousand impressions basis. You may run into CPMM which is cost per thousand thousand impressions – or cost per 1 million impressions.

CPA = Cost per action. Advertisers pay a publisher or a company based on a desired outcome. This can be for a lead, a page view, a sale, etc. The most common CPA model is the affiliate marketing model. Google ‘affiliate marketing’, you’ll learn a lot. :)



Go search for good keyword research tools. I recommend Google’s keyword tool, Keyword Discovery has a free one – Wordtracker does too. Use them all, compare and contrast them and get familiar with them.


There are a lot of good articles on the intent of a search query. I think students and beginners that read this are smart enough to determine what the intent of a keyword is…is it transactional? Will it lead to a sale? Does the word lean more towards discovery and research? Is it a branded keyword? Think like your target. What will they search for when they’re ready to buy? What will they search for if they are just starting to discover the product or service you offer?


Sales copy

I require at least 3 writing samples from each prospective employee. Why? Because writing is essential to success in this industry. If you can’t get a thought across with few grammatical errors or spelling mistakes, then this is probably not the right place for you at this time.

Learn to write well, learn to communicate quickly and efficiently. You are working with severely limited space to convince somebody to visit a website. Attention spans are shorter than ever, so you need to learn to write powerfully, simply and effectively.

Get Experience

Experience is one of the biggest requirements that I am interested in when I am hiring somebody. If you have your own skin in the game, and you can prove it to me by showing me your account/your website/etc, you are much more likely to get hired. I will not accept anybody that hasn’t spent at least $100 advertising something – anything!

Use your own money

Using your own money proves that you are dedicated to learning the trade. You have your own skin in the game, that takes dedication and courage.

Use your own website

If you have a website already or a marketable skill, it is nice to see that you have taken the initiative to do it yourself – it means that you are further along the learning curve than almost every new applicant or student that I meet with.

Use your mother’s uncle’s best friend’s website and money

If you don’t have a website or your own money, at least start working in a relative’s account or a friend’s account with your own user ID so you can see and measure the changes you make on the account via change reports, etc. Being able to show me that you know your way around is better than anything – and the ability to show me the changes you have made is a good sign that you are willing to try things out.

Just do it for at least 30 days on your own and on a tiny budget

A beginner can learn soooo much by doing exactly what they want to learn. Just make sure that you are working on a daily budget, not monthly when you start. If you can afford $3 a day, then make sure everywhere you see ‘budget’ that it shows $3 per day. Don’t lose your shirt with this, just experiment with it.

Don’t get certified


Getting certified used to be cool. It’s not anymore. If you can show a business owner or a website owner what you have DONE, show them your work, then you are showing more competence than one who simply learns the material to take a certification test.

For me, seeing a certification on a resume is meaningless. I. don’t. care.


Start by reading all of the offical blogs and learning centers. Go google ‘AdWords Offical blog’, ‘Yahoo Search Marketing blog’, etc. Find the offical blogs and subscribe to them. Read through the official learning centers to get a basic background of best practices, search engine editorial guidelines and more. Here’s a freebie…I’d start with the Google AdWords learning center.

PPCHero is an excellent pay per click blog…you’ll accumulate more blogs to read as your knowledge grows. I don’t want a beginner to get paralyzed with too much reading.

This is about DOING. Formulate your own opinions – every piece of advice you read may or may not be true, so test it out yourself if you can.

Show me, don’t tell me

If you can’t tell, the bottom line is that I want beginners to show me what they have done and what they can do. Don’t tell me. Show me. Showing me is more convincing than telling me. The account doesn’t have to be clean or employ 100% of all the best practices out there. What’s important is that you simply know your way around a little bit and that you have the initiative to DO it.

Ok! Get out there and get ready to start at an internship level with PPC…it should take you 30 to 90 days minimum. Good luck!

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8 Responses to “PPC for Beginners”

  1. Sommerhus Danmark (1 comments.) says:

    Wow! This is an excellent starting point for aspirants in the world of PPC and blogging. Fully-informative and wonderfully-detailed. I hope you can maybe trim down a bit on the technical terms terms because some people who are yet starting may not find the content simple. But over-all, it’s a great source of information. Thank you for taking time to make it.

  2. Rob (1 comments.) says:

    When running a campaign for the first time, work it like every click counts, and only make small changes.

  3. Ronnie Sullivan (1 comments.) says:

    Yeah perfect points mentioned .

  4. Puneet (1 comments.) says:

    I remeber when I was a beginner learning my ways around the world of search engine paid advertising. It seems daunting at first, but sooner rather than later, you realise that no matter what budget is put in front of you, the basic principles apply and with the right technique and a bit of innovative ad copy, you’ll be producing returns you or your clients could only dream off from traditional advertising methods.

  5. Stacyfaye (1 comments.) says:

    I am one of the ones you are describing here. I am a beginner and a student and by just by playing around with search engine optimization, I’m learnign more and more. I’m glad I came across you’re sight, thanks!

  6. John (3 comments.) says:

    I’m totally a beginner and this helped me to get going on PPC. Great article man.

  7. Zach Zimmerman (1 comments.) says:

    Yeah, I got certified for Google Adwords. And it really does not mean all that much. It did force me to learn a little bit more about the content network. But I do not think that is impresses any business. Many companies do not even know what the certification means. The adwords learning center is actually a good place to learn everything. So I second that thought. Also remember that even if you find success with PPC advertising, don’t stop learning. Keep your eyes open for new tricks. The market constantly changes. So keep up with the trends. Keep an eye on your competition too. Sometimes I like to do the exact opposite of the competition. Sometimes that is the only way to beat the big dogs..Thanks for the article here!

  8. adLanding (1 comments.) says:

    Nice overview of PPC for beginners. I agree that the experience is the most important part with PPC.

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