Jumping Into Paid Search? Here’s a Primer on 20 Top Terms to Know Before You Begin

Most marketers consider paid search, also known as PPC (Pay-Per-Click), to be among the most effective forms of digital advertising. This is largely thanks to the marketing tactic’s ability to generate extremely high-quality leads by reaching consumers just when they’re looking for what the advertiser is selling. Further, when done right, paid search can deliver a consistently high ROI on ad spend. For example, according to Google estimates deemed “conservative” by the search-engine giant, each dollar a business spends on Google Ads brings an average of $8 in profit through Google Search and Google Ads — representing a 700% ROI.

20 Top PPC Terms to Know

It’s clear to see that PPC can be good for business. But for beginners just getting started with paid search, the array of acronyms and other important terms that come with the turf can be a bit overwhelming. So, to help ease the entry into paid search, the search marketing team at Brandon has put together this short list of 20 of the most important terms you’ll encounter when launching your first PPC campaign:

1. Ad Group

When advertisers create a PPC campaign, most include a series of ads associated with a specific set of keywords. These ads can be divided into subdivisions called Ad Groups, which can be segmented by keywords, theme, product type, etc.

2. Ad Position

The spot on the search engine results page (SERP) where an advertiser’s ad appears. The ultimate goal for PPC advertisers is to land in the highest Ad Position possible, as the higher up the ad on the SERP, the more likely it is to get noticed by consumers.

3. Ad Rank

This is a value that the advertising platform (such as Google) uses to determine which Ad Position an ad will receive on a SERP. It is determined by multiplying the advertiser’s Maximum Bid by the ad’s Quality Score.

4. Campaign

The highest division of an advertiser’s CPC account, Campaigns are typically composed of Ad Groups meant to convey the same message or theme. Within each Campaign, advertisers can control the keywords, ads and targeting methods used to reach the right consumers at the right time.

5. Conversion

This is the desired action that an ad is intended to drive. It could be a phone call, the completion of a form, the purchase of an item, a website visit, etc. Whatever it is, it should be a strategic goal that serves to advance the consumer along to the next stage of the marketing funnel.

6. Conversion Rate

This is a figure used to measure the performance of a CPC campaign, ad, keyword or landing page. It is calculated by dividing the number of conversions associated with the campaign, ad, keyword or landing page by the number of clicks needed to produce the conversions.

7. Conversion Value

This is the amount of revenue produced by a single conversion. The figure can be used to help determine which campaigns, keywords, etc. are the most lucrative for the advertiser.

8. CPA (Cost Per Action)

This is the cost of the campaign divided by the number of times the campaign’s desired action is completed. Example: If an advertiser spends $150 for 10 conversions, then the CPA would be $15.

9. CPC (Cost Per Click)

This is how much paid search campaigns are charged for each click they receive. This is displayed as an average, and CPCs can vary wildly depending on the industry and competition.

10. CTR (Click Through Rate)

This is the number of clicks an ad receives divided by the number of times the ad is shown.

11. Daily Budget

This is the maximum dollar amount that an advertiser is willing to spend on a CPC campaign in a single day.

12. Default Max CPC

This is the maximum dollar amount an advertiser is willing to spend on a single ad click.

13. Impressions

This is the number of times an advertiser’s ad has been placed on a web page (or web pages) for consumers to see. In CPC advertising, impressions alone carry no cost for the advertiser. But the figure is used as part of the equation that determines the Click Through Rate, which is helpful in determining an ad’s effectiveness in attracting consumers’ attention.

14. Keywords

These are the terms and phrases that consumers use to find what they’re looking for via search engines. PPC advertisers place bids on the specific keyword usage they want to target with their advertising.

15. Landing Page

An important piece of an advertiser’s PPC strategy, this is the web page to which consumers are directed when they click through on a paid search ad. It can be a dedicated webpage, a website’s homepage, a product page on a website or another page — but whichever is chosen, it should include copy and images that work together with the ad to drive the consumer toward conversion.

16. Negative Keywords

These are keyword choices used to let the advertising platform know the words and phrases for which advertisers don’t want their PPC ads to appear. They can be employed to keep irrelevant visitors from being attracted to your site via your paid search campaigns, thereby preventing wasted ad spend.

17. Optimize

This is the (often gradual) process used to improve an ad or ad campaign’s performance. Tactics used to accomplish this can range from changing ad copy and headlines to revising keywords, landing pages, bid amounts, targeting details, and more.

18. Quality Score

This is a score that PPC advertising platforms give to advertisers’ ads to help ensure that ads are taking consumers to web pages that are relevant and helpful to them. Also used in determining an advertisement’s Ad Rank, the Quality Score is calculated based on an ad’s Click Through Rate, keyword relevance, landing-page quality and past SERP performance, among other things.

19. Search Engine Results Page (SERP)

The page a search engine produces after a user submits his or her search query, with the websites the search engine determines to be most relevant to the user’s search appearing at the top of the listings that appear. A SERP typically includes both paid and organic search results.

20. ROAS (Return On Ad Spend)

An especially important figure for e-commerce and direct-to-consumer campaigns, this is the amount of revenue earned for every dollar spent on advertising.

Other helpful paid search resources

Looking to learn more about PPC for beginners before diving into your first paid search campaign setup? Check out these additional PPC tips and resources from the team of professional marketers at Brandon:

Hesitant to tackle your first PPC campaign on your own? When you’re looking for guidance from the pros, the team of data-driven search-marketing experts at Brandon is at the ready and eager to offer its assistance — and its members have the experience and know-how needed to launch a successful first PPC campaign or elevate the results of your existing ones. To get started with help that can boost the effectiveness of all of your marketing campaigns, contact us today.


Nick McNeill

Interactive Director

Nick uses his talents in computer science and graphic design to grow the online presence of brands such as Santee Cooper, Southern Tide, frogg toggs, Farmers Telephone Cooperative and Blue Force Gear. A serial marathon runner, his steely determination shines through every brand he grows. As lead user interface designer of the GuestDesk software suite for online hotel reservations, he watched it explode from $1 million in reservations to over $400 million annually.

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