What It Really Takes to “Try” PPC

Anyone who has been working in the paid search sector for a while has certainly come across a client (or internal decision maker) who expresses an interest in “trying” PPC. At first blush, that sounds great! PPC can be such an effective tactic for so many different type of organizations. Woo hoo – let’s get started!

This is the most critical part of any project – the setting of the expectations. I’d like to try to do that in this post, which will hopefully be helpful to businesses and organizations considering PPC and also for other PPC pros who might struggle with putting into words or finding the right way to explain to new or prospective clients what is required to really “try” PPC.

Element #1 – Time

One of the most pervasive myths out there is that somehow PPC is completely instantaneous. Build a campaign targeting your top keywords in your main geographic zone and then just sit back and watch the cash roll in. If only that were true… PPC is much faster to results than other types of internet marketing, that is definitely true. It does have the element going for it that once you turn it on, it starts working for you immediately – in that your ads begin displaying without any kind of delay. But, and this is a gigantic but – campaigns take time to really get humming. Even the best and most talented PPC professionals lack omniscience (despite what their Twitter bio might say!). We do our very best to gather as much data as possible before launching campaigns – competitor research, keyword research, client product or service data dumps, target audience personas, etc. We take all of that information and use our experience to put together the best possible versions of campaigns that we can – with that limited data.

Then, we wait. We put our hypotheses into the wild and see what happens when actual people interact with them. That’s what new campaigns essentially are – really educated hypotheses. It takes the real world interaction of our terms, ads and landing pages with actual searchers for us to be able to start to hone the campaigns toward ultimate conversion success and profitability. All of this takes time. Clients need to have some patience during this phase and understand that when a PPC pro tells you that we “have not reached a statistically significant level of data yet” that means that we cannot or at least should not make decisions about what is working and what is not.

How long might this take? The answer to this question is a PPC pro’s go to reply – it depends. But as a rule of thumb, we advise our clients to be prepared for a minimum of a 6 month commitment to the program before evaluating its success or failure. For some, especially highly seasonal industries, it may take even longer. Know this going in and don’t bother “trying” PPC if you’re going to quit after a month or two.

NOTE: Of course there are times when you might get tangible results fairly quickly. It all depends on the pace of the volume of impressions and clicks your particular campaigns generate. So you can see, it really does depend on quite a lot of independent factors.

Element #2 – Money

It should be plainly obvious that running PPC campaigns requires spending money, but it is important to take into account ALL of the expenditures required to truly “try” PPC. First and foremost, you will obviously pay for those clicks. How much will that cost is probably the most common question we get when talking with new or prospective clients. The answer again, unfortunately, is it depends. How competitive is the industry you’re targeting? How large of a geographic area are you targeting? Some industries have clicks that are in the several dollar per click range (or even less) while others have clicks that are in the hundreds of dollars per click and everything in between. How much it will cost you for the actual clicks is not a question we can answer for you easily. Sometimes, if we have already worked in your industry, we can give you a fair idea of what clicks generally cost and recommend a monthly budget level.

But, know this – PPC is not something you throw a few hundred bucks at and “see what happens”. I know Google is all over the place suggesting that setting up AdWords is a snap – especially if you let one of their reps (sales people) help you set up the account. Let me try to save you some frustration and wasted money – don’t bother with this. I’ve written about this what feels like a million times, but Google’s interests and advertisers’ interests are not aligned. If this is your only option at the present time to “try PPC” let me suggest you wait until you have more resources available. I mean, unless you like throwing away money? In that case, proceed.

In addition to the spend with the actual platform (AdWords, Bing Ads, Facebook, etc.) if you hire a PPC pro to set up and manage your campaign, there will obviously be costs associated with that work. Pricing structures vary wildly, as do providers’ skill and experience. Do your homework. If a company is charging you next to nothing, I wouldn’t expect great results or customer service. You should expect to pay for the initial discovery and strategy work as well as the account set up. Ongoing management time will vary based on the complexity of your account. Some accounts require more monthly management time than others. But all accounts require ongoing management.

You should also expect the management in the initial launch period to be more intense. As I outlined above, it takes closer management in the beginning (or after major changes in the client’s desires or the platforms themselves) to get the account and campaigns therein to the point where they are what we like to call “baseline optimized”. Optimization is an ongoing process, for sure, but management usually settles out into a more regular rhythm after the first few months or so (again, barring any significant changes to the scope of the account or major changes in how the platforms function).

 So, Are You Ready to “Try” PPC?

I might be a little biased as a PPC professional, but I love to try to figure out how to make PPC work for organizations. Is it always the right fit? No. And when it’s not, we say so quickly and move on to other paths that might be a better fit for that client at that time. I hope this post can help shed a little light on this common question and save pros and clients alike some time, frustration and wasted dollars.

Just Remember :

  1. PPC is not “set it and forget it” by any stretch of the imagination.
  2. If you want to actually “try” PPC in a way that has a chance of true success, patience & commitment are a must.
  3. It takes big money to displace big money – don’t expect to start out ranking Amazon or Target with a miniscule spend.
  4. Google/AdWords is not your friend or team member – their goal is revenue which comes from advertisers.
  5. Have fun! A well run AdWords campaign can do amazing things for your organization.

Pros – How do you respond to a client that says they want to “try” PPC?

Businesses & Organizations – what are your questions when you think about trying PPC?

We’d love to hear your thoughts!


  1. Only just spotted your post from January this year but I could not agree more with your comments. I would also like to point out that whilst PPC is primarily introduced for lead generation it also supports an organisations SEO strategy and the promotion of an organisations brand. Before starting a campaign a good PPC professional should ensure they have a full understanding of the organisations overall digital strategy to educate the client on the overall benefits of PPC in the online ecosystem.

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