Paid Media

5 Things You Should Know When Starting to Learn PPC

4 years ago

Whether you are new to PPC or not, there are a few things you should know when it comes to learning. Below are 5 important points that helped to speed up my personal learning and growth with PPC during my first year working at an agency.

1. Doing is effective for learning

It may sound obvious, but having a ‘jump-in’ mentality is important when learning PPC for the first time. There is a huge range of amazing training resources out there to broaden your knowledge, but putting this theory into practice is often the best way to learn.

I remember opening up our Google Ads manager account for the first time and being blown away by the amount of information on the platform. There is a huge range of tools and navigation buttons, and at first, it was easy to get lost in the platform. It can be a lot - but just navigating through one section at a time really helped get a deeper understanding and also sped up my training progression.

Getting hands-on with PPC isn’t just great for retaining information, but also vital in building confidence in your ability. It’s fair to say that the first campaign I ever built took a long time to create and I was nervous to publish it in case I’d missed something. By the second build I already had a ton more confidence and fast forward to today, it feels like second nature. Increasing confidence in your ability isn’t possible from just reading learning materials.

Getting straight into the practical work helps you get familiar with your accounts. You need to be able to notice the trends in the data for two main reasons:

  1. To spot problems in the account and swiftly resolve them.
  2. Analyse performance and discover opportunities.


The quicker you get into an account and learn it’s behaviour, the better the service you provide to the client.

2. Understanding business goals (leads and revenue) as measurements of success 

At Aira we optimise everything to the client’s business goals. This means focusing on the metrics in the account that really matter, typically either revenue or qualified leads. A common mistake when measuring performance is to get caught up in secondary metrics such as impression, clicks, CTR and even quality score.

These types of metrics can of course indicate positive or negative performance, however, without the context of other metrics such as revenue or leads alongside, they often only tell half of the story - which isn’t what you want if you’re optimising or looking to scale.

For example, a drop in clicks, can be a positive thing in some cases. If fewer clicks are still achieving a similar volume of conversions (or more) it means your ads are targeting more relevant users. This is something we often see when we implement smart bidding.

Staying focussed on business goals as a measurement of success and then tracing back to indicative metrics when required, keeps you focussed on driving a great return.

3. Old vs new - learn the old to help understand the new

Learning the roots and older practices, such as segmenting by match type, is a great way to understand how paid search developed to where it is now. 

Older methods of PPC are also useful for when you receive a new client account. Not all accounts will be set up for success in the current day. It’s important to be able to recognise these campaign layouts to help understand the process of modernising the account to give the client the best service possible. 

An example of a legacy PPC method is separating different keyword match types into different ad groups or campaigns. This was a common practice in PPC that allowed more control over bidding, budgeting and targeting in an account. It allowed us to write copy based on the user's intent. For example, someone who searches ‘buy a computer’ is likely to have more intent to purchase than someone who searched ‘why should I buy a computer, as this could imply that they are still discovering their options. 

An exact match keyword of this search term would be able to target lower funnel users that have a higher intent to purchase. You can then tailor your copy to the specific audience. Your phrase match keywords for ‘buy a computer’ could pick up higher funnel users who searched for things like ‘where to buy a computer’ or ‘why should I buy a computer’. In this case your copy would need to be targeted towards users who are still in the consideration stage. This is beneficial as if you were to put an ad in front of a user who’s unsure whether they even want your product or service saying ‘buy now!’ you are more than likely to scare them off. 

After this, close match variants came into practice meaning we no longer needed to worry about misspellings, plurals, similar variants and function words. This saved a lot of time when building out a new campaign with fewer keywords whilst still picking up all the relevant traffic. It also tidied up the platform, making it a whole lot easier to look through all the keywords to monitor the performance of each.

Fast forward to today and how we use keywords has taken one step even further. Google’s algorithm has collected tons more data and is advanced enough to know which users have the highest intention to convert on your website. This is almost to the point in which an insurance company could have a keyword of simply ‘insurance’ without having to specify whether it's for a car, a house or even a pet whilst still reaching users with high intent.

Understanding the historical uses of keyword match types is useful as you are likely to come across accounts that still use the legacy methods today. This knowledge can help you evaluate the current keywords and discover if they are truly necessary. You may also discover new keywords that are much broader that could possibly become the highest converters in your account.

4. The importance of keeping up to date with the latest changes in PPC 

The most interesting thing about learning paid media is that you never really stop learning, due to the fast pace of changes within the industry. As technology and machine learning advances, it is our job to stay up to date. These changes happen a lot, and just when you think you've mastered something, things change. 

A great recent example of this is Google Ads update of ‘the search terms report to only include terms that were searched by a significant number of users’.

It came as quite a shock to the PPC community where many became worried about having less control over their accounts. But if you think about it, this update could be beneficial. How useful is it to spend large amounts of time sifting through hundreds of search terms to find that one irrelevant term, which has a good chance of never being searched again? 

We can now focus on the more creative and competitive attributes of our ads, such as adding in USPs or product features/benefits to ensure the brand's differentiation comes through when a user is in-market and ready to buy.

The focus on creative and strategy is becoming more and more prominent with the introduction of new campaign formats. Learning and experimenting with these new formats allows the advertiser to present brands in new ways with content, copy and strategy to give a competitive edge to the business and resonate more with different user types. Keeping up to date with new formats and tools allows you to provide the best service to your clients and discover new methods that benefit business goals.

5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Another obvious point - seriously don’t. Since starting at Aira, the amount of help and support in my learning journey has been incredible. Being surrounded by not just experts, but those that are passionate makes a huge difference towards progression. 

There isn’t an instruction manual to PPC to tell you which campaigns and strategies are going to be the most beneficial to each individual business. Devising the correct approach to reach business goals is near impossible with little experience. Asking for help and opinions on how the different campaign formats have performed in the past is a great first step to discover your options and build a successful plan.

Blindly copying and implementing ‘best practices’ is stupid – nothing scientific about it. You’re essentially using somebody else’s solution to their problems for your problems. There is often no one size-fits-all approach to PPC and using the same strategy repetitively could jeopardise an account's full potential.

6. Defeating fear of failure

Sometimes in life, things can get thrown our way that we didn’t expect. Like this 6th point in a ‘top 5’ blog post. Although this is only a small tweak, when bigger changes happen it can put you off guard. This is similar to the nature of PPC with the fast changes in the industry. You think you know how something is going to turn out but it doesn’t always happen that way. 

It’s only human for us to feel nervous when faced with new challenges. You’ll never be able to produce your best work if you fear failing. Learn to have the confidence and creativity to experiment with new ideas, but the strategic skills and technical ability to monitor and adapt for best results.

Your role isn’t just to increase revenue, but to consult on the best practices to improve the performance of a business through paid media, and honesty is always the best policy. With the unpredictability of search, it’s not always possible to give accurate predictions for certain expectations. You can eliminate fear of failure by being honest and open. 

The most important thing you’ll need to succeed in PPC is an openness to learn and adapt, and you’ll notice through each point mentioned above this mindset is used. Some campaigns may thrive and some may flop. At the end of the day as long as you have the client’s interest at heart and can validate your ideas with data, there is no use in worrying about it - test and learn!

Good luck with your learning and feel free to read some of our paid media blog posts for more industry insights.

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