PPC for Startup Marketers: An Introductory Guide

Marcel Pirlich
Marcel Pirlich



For startups looking to get going with PPC, it can be overwhelming. There's so much data that can be used and so many factors to consider when setting up PPC campaigns, not to mention the cash concerns that come with any startup.

But with careful consideration, thoughtful planning, and the right hacks, PPC advertising can be a helpful resource investment to get startups off the ground alongside their other marketing campaigns.

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I'll break down five core aspects of PPC that startups can focus on when putting together campaigns so they can develop more impactful ads as you're building your new business.

1) Define your goals as specifically as possible.

Starting at the end might sound counterintuitive, but it's the most logical place to begin. After all, you need to figure out what you hope to accomplish with your PPC efforts and how they align with your overall business goals.

To create your advertising plan, ask yourself:

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  • Questions About Your Startup: What do we offer? What makes us special? Where do we offer our product?
  • Questions About Your Prospects: Who is our target audience? Where are our potential customers? What do we want our prospects to do (e.g. to buy, to sign up)?
  • Questions About Your Spending: What is our budget? How much do we want to spend monthly on PPC? How much do we want to pay for one new customer, sign-up, etc.?

The more specifically you can answer these questions, the more effective your PPC advertising will be. So invest some time before actually getting started with a campaign and selecting keywords.

2) Develop a comprehensive keyword list.

When it comes to keyword selection for startups, long-tail terms are great ones to go after. They're highly targeted, and may be more cost-efficient than more competitive terms.

The best way to do this is to understand the questions above about your business and audience. Once you know broad terms related to your business, do some research to figure out some of the popular long-tail searches related to those terms. For instance, if you're in mortgage lending, long-tail terms your audience might be searching could include "how to get a mortgage" or "where I can get a mortgage."

To determine which long-tail terms are best for your PPC campaigns, you can use tools like Google's Keyword Planner or, if you're a HubSpot customer, you can conduct research with the Keywords tool.

3) Know your competitors like your best friend.

After identifying your goals and a solid keyword list, complete a competitive analysis -- not so you can obsess over the, but so you can identify opportunities.

Do other startups offer a benefit for which you offer a strong differentiation? Are they bidding on keywords you've missed? How are their ads and landing pages different from yours? Asking yourself these questions can provide clarity regarding who else is in your market and what their acquisition tactics are.

When looking at the competition, keep in mind to differentiate harmless competitors from dangerous ones. Don't waste time and money with competitors that aren't your primary ones. Instead, focus on the ones that are thriving in your market and industry (and that people are actively searching for online).

4) Track your conversions right from the start.

One of the keys to optimizing a PPC campaign and measuring its success is implementing conversion tracking. Doing so can help you determine what expenditures led to conversions -- and which ones didn't, so you can optimize your spend. Bonus: Knowing which ones led to clicks, leads, and customers can give you a clear picture about the success not only of your PPC campaigns, but also about your target audience and how you can adjust your messaging across all your marketing assets.

If you can't attribute actual leads and customers to your PPC activities, you can't make intelligent decisions about where to cut spend (or increase it). So use a conversion tracking tool like Google AdWords Conversion Tracking or Google Analytics Conversion Tracking right from the start and never run your PPC campaigns blindly.

HubSpot Customers: You can track PPC conversions in Sources through the Paid Search bucket, which grabs any tracking tokens related to PPC.


5) Continue to fine-tune your PPC campaigns -- and skills.

The best business concept is worthless if you don't know how to promote it online. Being successful with PPC requires becoming a real pro. How do you start? Learn from experts, and never stop informing yourself, because the truth is this: PPC is highly dynamic and constantly has new updates and features.

You could also try a bid management tool that optimizes your PPC campaigns automatically and concentrate on the optimization of your ads, landing pages, etc. Some bid management providers offer a free trial during which you can test whether you feel comfortable using the solution.

Just know this if you begin working on a PPC campaign: It requires some close attention to ensure your ad dollars are being used effectively. So don't start it with a set-it-and-forget-it approach; your budget and results will benefit from close attention.

Thinking of using PPC in your startup marketing? What questions do you have regarding best practices for getting a PPC campaign started?

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