How to Learn PPC from the Ground Up

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During the start of my professional career, I stubbornly favored SEO and never entertained the idea of picking up some PPC skills in my free time. As time went on, the sands began to shift and I was asked to do some “light” work in paid advertising. I quickly became overwhelmed by the complicated user interface that had enough options to keep you clicking for days.

The flaw in my approach is obvious now, but hindsight is 20/20. I tried to jump into the middle of an intricate setup and understand it by clicking around, which was ineffective and a waste of my time. It was then that I realized I had to learn PPC from the ground up.

I learned the most and the fastest by planning, creating, managing, and tweaking my own AdWords account. These are the three most insightful things I learned from building a paid search account from the ground up:

1) Have a Plan

It’s easy to get excited about creating your very own paid search account. You may feel like diving in right away and making it up as you go. Don’t do it.

I started by working offline with a pen and paper. Jot down the top goals you wish to achieve with your account; may they be a light for you in dark places, when all other lights go out.

Next, start drawing out some simple account structures. How will you arrange your campaigns and ad groups, and the keywords within them?

It helps to begin with a smaller list of keywords, but if you have a larger account to build, consider starting with a silo of your organization to aid the learning process. You may go through many ideas before you find the right layout for your new account. It’s vital to keep in mind how budgeting and targeting are managed across the account during this planning phase, as well. 

2) Make it Simple

Simplicity will keep you, your coworkers, and anyone who manages your account in the future sane. As part of your plan, make a clear and concise naming convention for your account. Don’t personalize campaign names. Make them objective and obvious. For example, if you have a campaign advertising t-shirts, don’t name it “ts” because it makes sense to you. Name it “t-shirts” because it makes sense to everyone!

When deciding how to structure your account, start simple. Don’t feel the need to create a new campaign for every keyword you have, it will only overwhelm you and reduce your effectiveness as an account manager.

Remember that you can always break out keywords into their own campaigns and ad groups later. Most settings and changes are not permanent. Building your account while keeping simplicity in mind will help you learn the core concepts of PPC sooner, in turn enabling you to grow it into something much more complex down the road.

“Truth is ever to be found in the simplicity, and not in the multiplicity and confusion of things.”

-Isaac Newton

3) Keep Growing

growingstrong-smallOnce you’ve successfully carried out your plan and the account is finally built, you’ll get those satisfying feelings of accomplishment. It will be tempting to click Enable and never look at the account again, but you’ve only just begun. You must keep growing the account, exploring the countless options available and learning as you go.

At this point you’ve only planted the seed. Soon, it will begin to grow and if you don’t take proper care it will waste your budget.

Maintenance should begin by building negative keyword lists from query data in your search term reports. Negative keywords are nearly as important as the keywords you bid on themselves as they will reduce wasteful spending in your account.

Next, look for opportunities to upgrade the effectiveness of your account. These opportunities would include: add new keywords, ad extensions, automated rules, advanced campaign settings, improving targeting using dimensions tab, auction insights reports, remarketing, and more.

There’s always ways to improve your PPC account. Keep growing strong!


Understanding PPC, and Google AdWords, requires time and research. Google every and any question or idea about PPC that pops into your head during the learning phase. Use Google AdWord’s excellent help section as a learning resource.

Not interested in teaching yourself how to use AdWords? Learn more about LunaMetrics’ nationwide Google AdWords, Google Analytics, & Google Tag Manager trainings taught by certified experts.

Chris is a former LunaMetrician and contributor to our blog.

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