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A small business introduction to PPC advertising

Search marketing is a great way to bring customers right to your digital doorstep, but online advertising can be a tricky business. With “Google” now serving as a synonym for search, you’d be forgiven for thinking that PPC (pay-per-click) advertising begins and ends with that search engine – but what about Bing Ads?

The Microsoft advertising platform is similar to Google’s with one main difference: its range extends across the Yahoo! and Bing networks. And while Google has the lion’s share of traffic (about 90% of the UK’s search engine market share), Yahoo! Bing is used by 530 million unique searchers around the world, and about 22 million in the UK – an audience not to be sniffed at!

If you’re thinking of advertising online for the first time, you might ask yourself, What’s the difference between Google AdWords and Bing Ads? And how do I actually make an online ad? Well, here’s a little overview of both platforms to help you find your way.

Google AdWords vs Bing Ads: the pros and cons

First off, you should get to know the differences between platforms. We got some pointers from Glyn Britton, managing partner at Albion, a creative agency that helps businesses grow through strategic brand, product and communications development, drawing on data insights from its data arm,  Albion Cell. Glyn says: “Google AdWords and Bing Ads work in a similar way – there is not much difference between them when it comes to keyword selection, keyword match types, ad formats, ad editorial guidelines and targeting settings. In fact, you can import your pre-existing campaigns from Google Adwords into Bing and start advertising as soon as you fill out your Bing billing profile.”

He continues: “Google Adwords has a lot of excellent tools to make your work easier and has a huge reach  with almost 90% of the UK market. It also has a more extensive collection of ad formats and extensions to choose from, with the benefit of being able to advertise on the Google Display Network and Youtube!

“The only real ‘con’ is that the Cost Per Click (CPC) for generic keywords is higher due to the large number of advertisers bidding on them. Bing Ads may be a cheaper solution, but it has a much lower reach and some of the ad formats (e.g. mobile app download ads) are not available on its platform. However, Bing has partnered with Yahoo!, making it easier to advertise on both platforms. Small businesses with the budget might want to do both for maximum reach, but I’d recommend Google AdWords if you can only use one.”

The anatomy of an online ad

The basic makeup of a PPC ad is pretty standard: a headline, the webpage clickers will land on, and a line or two or copy that describes your product and calls the viewer to act.

Google AdWords

Google Adwords

Bing Ads

Bing ad

As you can see, there’s not much to distinguish the two platforms at this stage, and copy is pretty interchangeable – but note that on Bing you can have your copy flowing, whereas on Google it must be split between the two available lines. If you’re transferring an ad campaign from Google to Bing, make sure to double check that you don’t go over character limits. For tips on writing killer Google PPC ad copy, check out this blog post. And here’s a resource on writing effective Bing ads.


Enhance your ads by including additional information such as phone numbers, locations and links to pages within your website. Check the options for the types of information you can add to extension in Google and Bing – it’s definitely worth taking advantage of this, as not all of your competitors will be using this feature yet, and it will differentiate your ad.

Further reading:

Google AdWords extensions

Bing Ads extension

Structuring your campaigns

Spilt your ads into strategic sets so that you can control the way you promote your business, i.e. one set with ads promoting your shop in general; one promoting your main product; and one showcasing some a special offer you’re running. That way you can also monitor your ad spend and the performance of your ads, so you can tweak the copy and budget for maximum impact.

Choosing keywords to target

Think about the kind of search terms people might use to find your services online, and use these to build a list of keywords for inclusion in your ad copy. You can use the Google Keyword Planner tool to research the best terms to target. When designing your ad campaigns, the keywords you select will dictate who your ads will ultimately be visible to, so it’s important to think carefully. And don’t forget negative keywords, which you can set to disqualify searches that contain them. For example, you may wish to disqualify searches with the word “Free” in them, as these searchers are not likely to turn into paying customers. For more on keyword research check out this post on the WordStream Blog.

Setting your budget

You can set limits on the cost per click as well as the daily cost for your ads, and on Bing you have the added ability to set a monthly budget. There are suggested figures to give you an idea of where to set your budget, but you can tailor these yourself. For example, if you are a sandwich bar then you’ll probably see most of your custom between noon and two in the afternoon. You can set your keyword bids to increase automatically for searches made at lunchtime on mobile device within walking distance of your shop.

To PPC or not to PPC, that is the question

We asked one entrepreneur to tell us about his first-hand experience getting to grips with search marketing. Here’s some advice for small business owners considering making their first forays into PPC advertising, from David Bird, director of marketing at onlinemortgageadvisor.co.uk:

“In my experience, Bing can be a better alternative to Google for small businesses starting out in competitive niches with lots of searches and high bids. Because Bing has a much smaller user base than Google the same ads can often be a lot cheaper. Its downfall comes with much smaller and more specialist niches though. It just doesn’t tend to have enough users to generate any significant traffic. It’s also important to bear in mind that, although it is often far cheaper, CTR is higher with Google on average than it is with Bing.

“If you’re new to search, focus on very specific search terms. Rather than aiming for as many clicks as possible, start out with a laser focus, measure a campaigns profitability and then improve it. From there you can apply this model and branch out into wider areas. When improving an ad campaign, change one variable at a time and keep the variables that work.”

Some pro tips

Here are a few key takeaways from Glyn Britton and the guys at Albion Cell:

  • The most important thing to do with your PPC campaign is to constantly test it. Create multiple campaigns around generic terms, brand terms and specific products. This will allow you to see what results in a conversion and what you can tweak or leave out.
  • Bid high enough on keywords that convert to maintain a high average position and make sure you’re tracking your conversions.
  • Online search advertising will only get more prolific with time. We’ll begin to see more mobile friendly formats – most people would rather search a term on Google and expect to find what they’re looking for within the first few results than remember a website URL. A growing number of people already do this on mobile devices, where things like image ad extensions and geotargeting are becoming increasingly important.
  • But only geotarget where it’s relevant to you. If you are a London-based business, do not target the whole of the UK: you can go as granular as targeting a five mile radius around your postcode.
  • With online search engine advertising, it all comes down to testing and using your insights to constantly improve your strategy. What worked for you last year will probably be costing you lots of money today.