Ever thought about using the power of Google Adwords or other pay-per-click (PPC) channels to grow your business? It can be daunting and you may have had your fingers burnt in the past as PPC can be pretty tough if you do not know the basics. Yet it can also be very beneficial.

Having averaged 100% ROI from PPC campaigns over the past decade, I have learned many lessons that I am now passing to my clients. Here is my step-by-step guide for newbies looking to get into PPC.

1. Optimise your website for PPC

With PPC you are paying for potential customers to visit your website. So you need to turn as many of these as possible into real sales of your product or service. The best way to do this is to create a dedicated landing page (or pages) for your PPC campaigns.

This landing page should be designed in a way that eliminates distractions (e.g. top navigation to irrelevant pages of your website), adds social proof to your product or service, and quickly leads visitors down the buying path. If you are using PPC to generate applications you should keep the form as short as possible and have it on the landing page. DO NOT START A PPC CAMPAIGN BEFORE OPTIMISING YOUR WEBSITE FOR PPC.

2. Choose which PPC platforms to use

For me, Google Adwords and BingAds are the best places for your PPC budget. Your ads appear on their search engines and only for keywords that you choose. The beauty of paid search is that your ad is only shown to someone who has actively searched for what you are selling, so they are pre-qualified to a certain extent. Social media PPC is very different.

Think about why people are on Facebook – to have a moan about something or to find out what their friends are moaning about. You can show very targeted ads on Facebook in terms of age/gender/interests etc, but there is no active search taking place so you have to grab their attention with an extraordinary advert, and you had better be backing this up with an extraordinary product or they won’t be converting into sales.

I am not saying Facebook ads are not worth trying, but I regard them as (generally) inferior to paid search ads on Google and Bing.

3. Research keywords

Google Adwords and Bing Ads require you to create a list of keywords which you want your ad to show for. Write down a list of keywords that you feel your potential customers are most likely to search for. It is important to think outside the box here – put yourself in the shoes of your ideal customer.

What kind of phrases will they be searching for in order to find you (or similar companies)? Keyword research is one of the most important parts of a successful PPC campaign as it can give you an advantage over your competition if you can find words and phrases that your competitors are not bidding on.

Most companies (and their PPC agencies) will use Google Keyword Planner to generate a list of related keywords. It is a useful tool, but you should also use your brain to figure out keywords that this tool will not pick up.

In addition to creating a keyword list, you should have a negative keyword list – a collection of words and phrases that your ideal customer would not be searching for. For instance, if you are a life insurance broker who does not cover over 50s, you should have ‘over 50’ as a negative keyword, so your ad does not show for searches like ‘life insurance for people over 50’.

Your negative keyword list should be longer than your keyword list, and you should always be adding to it based on what your site visitors are searching for to find you.

4. Create AdGroups

Once you know what keywords you are going to bid on, you need to group them into AdGroups. I only create campaigns with a few keywords per adgroup as it allows you to create highly targeted and relevant ads, which gives you a good quality score and a good click through rate (CTR).

It can be time-consuming, but worth the effort as it can mean the difference between profit and loss from your PPC campaign. Set maximum bids for your keywords in each adgroup. I will usually bid a tenth of the commission you are earning per sale/application, but this can be altered once the stats come in.

5. Create your Ads

Make your ad as relevant as possible to the keywords in each adgroup. You do not have much space to work with, less than a single tweet, so make sure that you get your message across clearly and concisely. Include the keyword in the ad (in the main ad text  and display URL) for a quality score boost.

Do not promise something in your ad that your website cannot deliver or does not mention – your aim is a smooth and consistent customer journey from initial ad impression through to sale. Amazing offers and incentives will give your ad a great CTR, but will waste your budget unless you can back this up on your landing page.

My advice is to not get overly worried about CTR – conversion rate from click to sale should be at the forefront of your mind.

6. Add conversion tracking to your website

Tracking is crucial to the success of a PPC campaign. You need to know which keywords are producing sales or applications, so add the conversion tracking code to your website before you go live with your PPC campaign. Add the Google Analytics code for more detailed reporting on visitor activity.

7. Alter your campaign settings

Google and Bing want you to spend as much money as possible, so things like location settings are set to cover a wide area by default. Depending on your business you may want to restrict ad delivery to certain times of day or certain days of the week.

Once you have amassed some data you will probably find that you are getting more conversions at certain times or on certain days, so you will want to change your settings at a later date. Use campaign settings to create your daily budget, and limit by device if you do not have a mobile version of your website.

I highly recommend mobile PPC, but do not do this unless you have a dedicated mobile site which is optimised for conversions. The rules for mobile PPC success are very different to traditional/desktop search.

8. Double-check everything before going live

Make sure all your destination URLs are directing to the right place. This may seem an obvious point but even Google can get this wrong sometimes.

Sign up with a service like Uptime Robot to ensure that you are notified every time your site goes down so you can pause your PPC activity. Check the spelling in your ad text, and check any forms/checkout processes on your landing page. Check how it looks on more than one browser.

9. Set your campaign live

Congratulations! By this stage you have done the bulk of the hard work involved in a PPC campaign. Now is the time to set your campaign live and see what happens. Google Adwords will give you an initial position boost to see what kind of CTR your ads generate, so do not be disheartened if you see great results initially followed by a sharp drop in traffic.

Your CTR will be good as long as your ads contain a unique selling point (USP) and, most importantly, are relevant to the keywords you are bidding on.

10. Tweak until profitable

Use the stats generated by the tracking to find out which keywords are converting to sales for your business. Try not to look at the stats from day to day – over a week or month will be more accurate.

If a keyword does not convert into a sale or application after 100 clicks, delete it. You have to be ruthless here. Add new negative keywords once you find out exactly what your visitors are searching for. Add any new keywords you can think of. Adjust your bids based on your ROI from each keyword.

Once your PPC campaign is profitable, do not mess with it too much!