What is PPC advertising?
PPC is an acronym for Pay-Per-Click advertising.
PPC is an advertising method that allows an advertiser (such as yourself) to only pay when your ad is actually clicked, rather than the "CPM" method where you pay a fee every 1,000 times your ad is shown.
This type of advertising is usually offered by Search Engines such as Bing and Google and uses keyword targeting. The advertiser will bid on the keyword(s) he/she is targeting, but must be competitive in order to get their ad displayed. This means that the ad will only appear if the bid on the keyword(s) is high enough to be considered amongst the comeptition (other advertisers bidding on the keyword).
History of PPC
The PPC advertising industry can thank it's founder, Goto.com. In 1998, Jeffrey Brewer of Goto.com (purchased by Overture, which was acquired by Yahoo! later) presented the first PPC engine at the TED conference.
In 1999 Google started advertising on their search engine, although Google Adwords wasn't introduced until October of 2000, although it wasn't actually a PPC engine until 2002. In the beginning it started out as a text ad system that charged by CPM (cost per thousand impressions).
These days you will see Google Adwords, Bing AdCenter (which, at the time of this writing, is what Yahoo! is running), Facebook, 7Search and various other engines around the web.
How do PPC Engines Work?
While not all PPC engines function the same, most rely on a bidding model (based on Flat-rates) that allows the advertiser to bid their clicks based on the value of keywords. This means that some keywords are more expensive than others due to the popularity and competition that drive the prices up. This could include Seasonal keywords that get driven up in price during times when they're most popular.
PPC engines such as Adwords use a quality scoring system that allows them to score entire campaigns based on the quality of the ad, keywords and site. This helps with keeping everything more relevant and of higher quality.
The higher the quality score and the higher the bid means that you will be more likely to earn a higher spot.
What are the best PPC engines?
The best pay-per-click search engines are listed below, in order of popularity.
Yahoo! - Yahoo is currently in a contract to run Bing Adcenter ads. If you wish to run ads on Yahoo!, see Bing.
Facebook - Facebook offers CPM and PPC
7Search - While it's not popular, it can be a great source for some sites.
There's many tools that you can use for ppc campaigns, including platform specific tools (ie, tools just for Adwords or just for Facebook). While I won't recommend any of those, I will encourage you to try out a free tool for tracking called Prosper202. This is an excellent tool that will show you what keywords are working and what you may need to work on.
Practice makes Perfect
As with any traffic source, always start small and scale up when you see positive results coming in. Rigorous testing and optimizing is always a plus when you run paid campaigns, as it will save you money and even time in the long run.