Master Pay-Per-Click Advertising in 6 Steps

Originally published
Originally published: 5/1/2010

How to reach the right prospects more often whilr contolling the cost of your pay-per-click program.

Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising is a Web-based search-engine marketing program in which you create a short classifiedstyle ad, but pay for it only when a user clicks on it.

PPC ads appear in two places when Google returns search results. Up to three ads appear on a beige background at the top of the results pages. These are the top PPC results. A second set of PPC ads — up to eight — appear vertically along the right side of the results pages. You can be sure you’re looking at PPC ads if you see the heading “Sponsored Links” at the top of each section.

HVACR marketers love PPC because they have a good amount of control, can measure success easily and accurately, and pay only when a consumer shows interest by clicking.

What about consumers? As a rule, consumers prefer organic, or natural, results (these typically appear below the Google map). But a well-executed PPC campaign often will have a higher conversion rate than organic search results. This is because PPC shoppers usually are ready to buy, a well-written PPC ad can be very enticing, and brilliantly conceived landing pages are designed to convert.

PPC is different from other marketing efforts, though. The biggest difference is that the media vehicle, which is Google, wants you to succeed. If your ads aren’t getting clicks, Google isn’t making money. And if your ads don’t make money for Google, they’ll find other ads that perform better, and give them your positions.

This is a surprise to many marketers because they believe that money determines PPC ad position. This is true only when you’re getting your PPC campaign up-and-running; after that, Google assigns each of your ads a Quality Score. (See “What is a Google Quality Score?” page 18.) This score determines where your ads will appear and how much you’ll pay. If you create a winning PPC campaign, Google will not only reward you with premium positions, they’ll charge you less than your competitors will be paying for less-favorable positions!

Step 1. Carefully and Thoughtfully Select Keywords

Everyone uses different terms to search for what they want, so select hundreds, even thousands, of keywords. If you start with the word “heating,” you’d probably select keywords like these:

heating company

home heating

oil heating 

Make sure to select plurals, such as:

 heating repairs 

heating systems 

heat pumps 

Then localize your keywords with city, county, state, and other geographical terms people might use in your area, such as: 

Minneapolis furnace service 

Nassau County boiler repair 

Allentown PA heating contractor 

Next, select exact match keywords. If you choose a broad set of keywords, such as “central air conditioning,” your ad may show for searches such as: 

central vacuuming car 

air conditioning

 leather conditioning 

You’ll get lots of impressions (your ad will appear lots of times), but you’ll get low click through because your ad often won’t be relevant. If, however, you select the exact phrases some searchers will use, in the exact order they’ll type them, your ad will show fewer times, but it will be highly relevant for those searchers. Your click through and conversion rates will be higher. 

Examples of exact match keywords would be “zoned comfort control” and “geothermal heat pump.” Finally, select negative keywords, which specify when you don’t want your ad to appear. For example, select “employment” as a negative keyword, because you wouldn’t want your ad to show for those who are job hunting. 

Step 2. Write a Successful PPC Ad 

PPC ads are incredibly short. Your headline can be no more than 25 characters (including spaces), your description can be no more than 35 characters per line, with a maximum of two lines, and your display URL can be no more than 35 characters. So you need to: 

Focus. For example, if you offer heating and air conditioning services, write separate ads for each. This will help your ads be more relevant. 

Highlight what makes your company different and better. Don’t say “Contact us for heating or furnace service.” Instead, say “7am-7pm, 7 days a week, same-day service.” 

Don’t forget your keywords. You should have keywords in your headline, description and display URL. Keywords improve relevancy and click through, which improves Quality Scores. 

Include a call to action. This is weak: “Our technicians are experienced. Please call us today.” This is much better: “Fast 24/7 service. Call now: $30.00 off April special.” 

Enhance your display URL. Your display URL is the last line of your PPC ad. Many companies just write their Web URL, but Google lets you add keywords, as long as you accurately capture your destination URL. For example, if my Web URL were www.EdsHeatingAC. com, I could present my company as: or

 Step 3. Create Landing Pages that Convert

 Your landing page should be an extension of your ad. Let’s say your ad says “Upgrade your AC. Up to $1,500 in tax credits.” When a user clicks, they should be taken to a landing page that repeats and builds on the ad. For example, the landing page might open with “Save more than ever. Up to $1,500 federal tax credit available when you upgrade your AC.” If your landing page doesn’t reflect your ad, consumers might think they’ve been tricked, or they might fear they’re going to work too hard to find the information from your ad. Either way, most people will bounce. 

Your landing pages should also have your phone number and other conversion options (e.g., “Schedule Your Own Appointment” or a link to your main Web site) in a prominent place. Don’t make it hard for consumers to do business with you.

Step 4. Save Money By Bidding Carefully 

As noted earlier, the best way to save money is to have an excellent Quality Score. The other way to save money is by bidding carefully. Don’t open your bidding aggressively. Rather, bid conservatively, and see where your ad is placed. Slowly increase your bids until you find the position you seek. Success Story: Feehan Plumbing, Heating & Cooling of Broomall, Pa., has done a great job with PPC. Working with Training for Success, which specializes in PPC marketing, Feehan has created PPC campaigns for plumbing, sewers, drain cleaning, water heaters, heating, and more. The campaigns generate an average of 100 calls a month and between $40,000 and $50,000 in revenue. The cost per call is under $20. 

Step 5. Test for Success 

Your goal is to continually outperform your own success with a better PPC ad. This is called A/B Testing. You test one ad (A) against another (B). Run against each other until a winner is declared. Use the free tool at to determine if your ads have enough clicks to declare a winner. Once a winner has been crowned, begin again. Test and find the winner. Then begin again…and again…and again. 

Step 6. Track It 

PPC is one of the most trackable marketing tools available. Marketing vendors should be able to provide click-through rate and cost per click. If you run your own PPC campaign, you can get this information through your Google Adwords Account. The Google Report Center also will provide your keyword performance, including your Quality Score, your ad performance, and more. At your end, you should be tracking your conversion rate and ROI. 

Final Thought 

A successful PPC program is an ongoing process of testing, tracking, and refining. You should never stop improving your keywords, ads, and landing pages. Success requires careful, ongoing management. Before deciding to run your own program, ask yourself: “How much time will this take, and can I afford to take that much time away from other parts of my business to manage this part of my marketing program?” If the answer is “My time is better spent elsewhere,” find a good PPC agency. Ask how they’ll manage your program, request examples of their work and their results, and talk to some of their customers.

 Ed Cerier is the Marketing Strategist at Nexstar Network®, a business-development and best practices organization that provides business training, systems and support to independent home service providers in the plumbing, electrical and HVAC trades. For more information, visit

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