Learn how to build a strong PPC marketing plan (and how to pivot your PPC marketing strategies when necessary) to see maximum ROI.

Here, you’ll find: 

  • How PPC can help you reach your digital marketing goals
  • The main components of a PPC plan
  • Strategies and expert tips for maximizing your return on ad spend (ROAS)
  • Five case studies that showcase effective PPC marketing strategy results

Most brands want to improve traffic, reduce ad spend, and up their revenue. 

One proven solution? An effective PPC marketing plan.

This involves keyword research, competitor monitoring, and ad template testing, among other tasks. And while it can be a big undertaking, with the right strategy, the results are worth the investment. 

Want proof? Our PPC strategy improved 686’s revenue by 562%.

hawksem: find an sem specialist

A PPC marketing plan is a strategic outline for running ad campaigns on online advertising platforms. (Image: Unsplash)

To see similar results, you’ll want to start with a robust search engine optimization (SEO) strategy to maximize PPC efforts. 

Then, flesh out customer personas, unique selling points, and performance objectives. From there, you can launch informed PPC search campaigns that attract your target audience and the most qualified leads.

These are the fundamentals of a winning PPC marketing plan. Keep reading as we walk you through every step, and share real-life PPC marketing strategies and case studies.

What is a PPC marketing plan?

A PPC marketing plan is a strategic outline for running ad campaigns on online advertising platforms (like Google Ads and Bing Ads). Typically, a PPC marketing strategy involves:

  • Identifying target keywords
  • Determining a budget
  • Creating a plan for ad copy
  • Selecting appropriate landing pages (and planning to create new ones where needed)
  • Optimizing campaigns

Google Ads is the most prominent of all the PPC advertising platforms, though marketers also execute PPC campaigns through Microsoft Bing Ads, Amazon, and social media (Facebook Ads, LinkedIn Ads, etc.). 

A PPC marketing plan highlights selling points for products and services, revenue and metric goals, A/B testing plans for ad campaigns, audience personas, and budget plans. 

But most importantly? 

Effective PPC marketing strategies tell you what success looks like and how to interpret your results. 

Ready to roll? Let’s get started. 

Step 1: Determine performance goals

The first order of business when building a PPC marketing strategy is to clarify your goals.

Document tangible metrics for success before you get into the nitty-gritty of budgets and campaign structure. Think about your overarching marketing goals and how PPC can help you achieve those desired outcomes. 

It’s easy to jump to “more revenue, please,” which a PPC plan can certainly accomplish. But you should get as specific as possible with your performance goals. Think about smaller areas of your business that you’d like to improve. 

For example, are you looking to sell more of a product with excessive inventory? Or maybe you’re itching to tap into a new target audience

Other common performance goals include: 

  • Increased brand awareness
  • New customers or remarketing to leads
  • Reduced ad spend
  • Improving niche authority
  • Getting new leads

Still, these goals are pretty broad. To achieve a specific outcome, you have to set specific goals.

How to create marketing goals

We like using SMART goals for our PPC marketing strategies: smart, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound goals. For example: 

We can reframe the goal of “getting more leads” to “achieving 50% more leads within three months.”

This is exactly what we achieved for our client, California State University, Northridge.

You can even take it a step further and distill “leads” into “sales calls,” “newsletter signups,” or “more web visitors.”

It’s also helpful to determine where you are at the start of your ad campaigns. A clear path from your baseline to success helps you stay motivated while serving as useful training material for your staff.

We consulted with Ian Dawson, SEM manager at HawkSEM, who shed some light on how goals should evolve as you gather campaign data.

“As Google Ads continues to hide more data behind the curtain, like limiting search query data, it will become more important to keep goals fluid. Goals can change based on success, too.”

Bottom line? Set clear goals, but be willing to adapt and change them as needed.

Next up? Figure out your target market and audience. 

Step 2: Clearly define your target audience

Your target audience comprises the main demographics and searchers who would most benefit from your product or solution.

They have a specific pain point or problem that your offering helps them solve. But to get their attention, you need to be specific about who they are. That way you can tailor your PPC strategy to best reach them. 

For example, let’s say you started a parenting SaaS platform and your main audience is moms of newborns.

What else do you know about them? How old are those moms, and where do they live? What’s their household income like? How do they spend their time (if they’re able to carve out an ounce of free time while the baby’s napping)?

On top of that, maybe more than just moms could make use of your service. Perhaps babysitters, educators, dads, and grandparents could use it, too. 

Create audience personas for your largest demographic, but be careful not to get too broad. Google cautions against the “everyone” audience, as you could end up appealing to “no one.” Yikes. 

To find a healthy balance, carefully review all of your audience data to create groups. Then, see which ones give you more traction and engagement.

You might prioritize the “grandparents” as a relevant target if you receive a lot of inquiries and subsequent subscriptions from this audience. But if you have one or two daycare providers calling for info, making up a tiny percentage of your audience, you might not include them in your target audience. 

Use these details to build your personas: 

  • Age: You could have a range here, such as moms aged 25-39, or have a cap. For example, men over the age of 45. 
  • Relationships and family: Are they married? Single parents? Do they have other kids?
  • Income: Your marketing strategy and language will vary depending on if your audience makes $30,000+ versus $120,000+.
  • Occupation: If you can determine your audience’s careers and professions, that’s great.. If not, focus on general fields i.e. healthcare, hospitality, arts, or law.  
  • Education: High school diploma, bachelor’s, master’s, trade school? This is important information to inform your strategy.  And if you can figure out majors, that’s a bonus. 
  • Location: Is your audience local, or do you ship products overseas or across state lines?
  • Hobbies and interests: Sports, crafts, tech, fitness, and fashion are a few examples. But get even more specific. Would they attend a yoga class on Saturdays? Are they in a book club? Part of a community volunteer program?
  • Political and social values: Think about what your audience believes in. This isn’t limited to political party affiliation. What social issues do they care about? What are their values and ethics?
  • Pain points: What problems do they face, and how does your product or service solve those problems? 
  • Buyer behavior and spending habits: Do they buy from you or your competitors? In either scenario, what do they buy, and how much do they spend? You could also include buying factors that influence their purchases, such as price, convenience, or sustainability. 

When you’re finished, your audience personas should look something like this excellent example from Semrush: 

semrush target personas

Source: Semrush

Methods for gathering this intel:

  • Focus groups
  • Interviews 
  • Surveys
  • Customer interaction data and feedback
  • Product reviews
  • Competitor analysis
  • A customer journey map

So, you have audience personas and performance marketing goals. Now it’s time to research your competition.

3. Scope out competitor PPC campaigns 

Who are the leaders in your industry? 

Pay close attention to the specifics of their campaigns, including landing pages, short- and long-tail keywords, ad copy, and strategy. How can you mine these vital kernels of info? 

Our proprietary tech, ConversionIQ, collects and organizes all of this data. Still, an afternoon of scrolling will reveal important insights about your competition’s approach and why it’s attracting your target audience. 

Start with keywords

Keyword research is intertwined with competitive analysis because you want to know what they’re ranking for. 

Search Engine Journal recommends scouring the “top of the food chain.” These are the competitors that come up first and second place in the search engine results pages (SERPs) when you manually type search queries into Google. 

From these organic results, analyze the  ad copy, snippets, and homepages. Then look at the search ads up top. Take note of the keywords, language and writing style of the ad copy – if they’re up top, they’re doing something right. 

Get ideas from landing pages 

If they look flawlessly aligned with their respective ads and seem personalized, they likely achieve more conversions. 

But don’t narrow your sights to just the top results. Zoom out a bit and seek competitors that might match your company size and unique attributes, even if they’re a bit lower on the food chain. 

Then, target the same keywords they’re using, and research unique keyword opportunities as well. Note all this in your PPC strategy and see if you can fill any gaps.

When gathering competitor inspiration, a SWOT analysis — strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats — is a great approach. 

Dawson elaborates:

“Competing on the same keywords means having to differentiate yourself in the ad copy and the landing page. It is vital to educate the user, via your ad copy and landing page, of your company’s USP, a unique selling position. Even if you are bidding on the same terms as a competitor, your unique solutions or benefits will help your ad compete in search results.” 

Ian advises marketers to review competitor ads in both search results and third-party tools like Semrush or SpyFu. 

Don’t forget to examine the types of ad campaigns your competitors gravitate toward. Do they use more display ads or shopping ads than text ads

And don’t forget to brainstorm negative keywords. The last thing you need is to rank for pop star Madonna when your ecommerce shop sells Renaissance Madonna art prints in the style of Da Vinci or Botticelli.

That’s a great example of where exact match keywords come in handy over broad match.

4. Set a total (and daily) budget 

Alright, it’s time to talk numbers. A budget is vital for your PPC marketing plan since search engine marketing (SEM) costs can really add up. The consequences of not having one are: 

Money matters, and having a realistic budget gives your PPC marketing strategy the direction it needs to reach its goals efficiently. So, how should you break down your budget? 

Here are factors to include:

  • Total budget: Consider your overall marketing budget, and flesh out what you can reasonably allocate to PPC marketing campaigns
  • Daily budget: This is the amount of money you’ll spend each day on a PPC campaign
  • Cost-per-click (CPC): Research competitive figures in your niche to gauge what your PPC ads will cost you. Then, fine-tune your budget to fit your goals and strategy. Need a helping hand? ConversionIQ aggregates that data at lightning speed!

Dawson says that budget estimates align with keyword research and competitive reviews, especially for the high click costs of competitive keywords. 

“Are you looking for leads, and if so, how much does a lead currently cost your company,” he asks. “How much value does a lead, and ultimately a customer, bring to your company? These will be important figures to be aware of as your budget will dictate the number of leads you can get.”

And remember: the right budget for a small business will be different from that of a Fortune 500 company.

“Ecommerce accounts will have similar considerations for sales, including the cost of goods sold and profit margins for each product campaign,” says Dawson. 

If you’re a startup working with a limited marketing budget, consider ad scheduling. This makes your ad campaigns active on certain dates and times throughout the week, eliminating non-optimal periods when your target audience might not be online. 

Another great budgeting strategy is to leverage Google’s Keyword Planner. It shows you your target keywords and the average CPC for each one. Decide whether you want to spend more on expensive keywords or maximize the less popular ones.

On one hand, keeping up with competitors helps you access a larger audience. Conversely, focusing on less competitive keywords gives you the chance to tap into a niche audience, giving you better rankings for those terms.

5. Review results and tweak your PPC plan 

You’re rocking your strategy so far with audience personas, keywords, budgets, competitor analysis, and performance goals. Sounds like your PPC marketing plan is ready to roll! 

As you get going, keep perspective that your first ad campaigns won’t be perfect in the beginning. But the insights they provide will undoubtedly shape your efforts to be more focused and effective.

We recommend doing A/B testing to determine which keywords and ad groups generate the most traffic, or which times of day are busiest for landing page hits. Other items you could compare with split tests include: 

  • CTAs (calls to action)
  • Quality Scores
  • Conversion tracking
  • Ad copy
  • Landing pages
  • Ad extensions

Google recommends running tests for two weeks and focusing on one to two items at a time. This will provide the most accurate insights so you can easily identify results. Try not to evaluate too many PPC items in your A/B tests, or you risk diluting your insights. 

Dawson shares that A/B testing results can be confusing since the results could come from the experiment itself, or chance. The key is to give yourself enough time to collect sufficient information. 

“In order to cross the threshold into statistical significance, your experiment will have to record enough data,” he says. “An A/B test that gets hundreds of clicks in a day will reach significance on the shorter side of the testing time frame, while an account that records 100 clicks in a month will be on the longer side of the testing time frame.”

Adjust or eliminate bids

Remember those original performance goals you set? Go back and revisit them to see how you’re tracking along your path to success. What needs to change in order for you to either maintain, or improve results? 

Ian sees change as the only constant when working with performance goals and new PPC insights. Meaning? Goals and what success looks like for those goals can change. 

“Some campaigns, even with extensive research, can have surprising results that require further analysis or even outright pivoting to another strategy,” says Ian. 

Keeping goals and strategies fluid is vital, especially as Google Ads limits search query and other data.

Paid search campaigns deliver so much data that you might feel confident shifting some of your goals and making them even more ambitious (or realistic). 

Say you aimed for a conversion rate of 90% but achieved 80% and doubled your revenue along the way. It’s possible 90% wasn’t an achievable goal to begin with, and you might adjust to a new goal of 85%. The same goes for other metrics like click-through rate (CTR) keyword rankings.

Maybe your goal was to sell 300 subscriptions of your latest SaaS tier and actually managed to convert 400! You could note this in your PPC plan and set the bar higher. The key is to take the data and use it to make educated pivots.

Sample PPC marketing strategies: 5 success stories 

We’re making headway — now you’re well versed with all the ins and outs of a PPC marketing plan. But even though you have all the steps memorized, you might still have trouble putting your plan in motion. Moreover, you might not know which PPC marketing strategies suit your business best. 

That’s why we’re adding a few real-life examples of PPC marketing strategies that we’ve used for our clients — strategies that worked

Let’s dive into some successful strategies and results to inspire your next PPC marketing plan.

1. Scaling ThriftBooks’ marketing plan to keep up with fast growth

Every big brand starts out as a solo or mom-and-pop operation—but what happens when you start to soar? Media ecommerce shop ThiftBooks had this question for their previous marketing agency amidst serious company growth. 

Those small-scale campaigns and old daily budgets weren’t working anymore. Neither was the ad copy dedicated to one niche audience. With more money and more people wanting their products, ThriftBooks needed to adapt its marketing plan to fit the needs of all its new customers. 

Our first step was understanding what their latest customers were interested in. After a bit of A/B testing and multi-touch attribution (assessing every point of the conversion journey), we discovered a product niche with a 50% higher average order value (AOV). 

We also noticed a shift in the conversion window, meaning we had a specific new timeframe to market to and capture new leads. 


  • Multi-touch attribution to gain insights into the conversion window and customer journey
  • More engagement and audience research to discover more profitable product niches


  • 50% higher order value for one niche product revealed
  • Maintain internal target ROAS
  • Increase YoY clickthrough rate by 35%

2. Researching and speaking to Peer Software’s target audience

You’d be surprised how common it is for even the most recognizable companies to have trouble identifying and reaching their target audience. 

Think of it this way: 

If you don’t understand the people who would most benefit from your offerings, you may struggle to create the right content for them.

That’s an issue our data management software client Peer Software faced. 

For example, they assumed their target audience only hung out on Google. Our audience research revealed that they also spent time on Bing—meaning we needed to create ad campaigns for both search engines to reach Peer Software’s audiences. 

Plus, their existing ad copy wasn’t speaking directly to their audience’s pain points. 

After some surveying and data analysis, we found the audience’s main problem was file collaboration challenges. So we revamped their ad, description, and landing page copy to reflect that pain point and present Peer Software as the obvious solution. 


  • Cross-platform advertising for Google and Bing
  • Ad copy that directly speaks to audience pain points


  • 128% increase in conversions
  • Over 46% decrease in cost per conversion
  • 126% increase in website clicks

3. Constant performance monitoring to inform California State University, Northridge’s marketing plan

A PPC marketing plan must always be adaptable to the insights you learn as new data becomes available. 

For example, you might have a daily budget in mind for ad bids—but what if the data reveals your ad campaigns are performing poorly on certain days of the week? 

You need to tweak your plan to eliminate those ineffective periods and protect your ROI. 

This is a non-negotiable for every single one of our clients, including California State University, Northridge.

We noticed they were spending way too much money (high CPA = total nightmare) on marketing for programs that weren’t even seeing much enrollment. 

So we knew we had to make a few changes. Still, we touched nothing without the green light of the data. Every single change we made—from new ad copy and ad campaign schedules to remarketing and negative keywords—was informed by the data we collected through our proprietary tech, ConversionIQ

Reduced CPA, doubled lead volume, and a 50% increase in YoY revenue were just a few of the fab results we generated after only 2 to 3 months. 


  • AB testing for ad copy
  • Robust keyword and location monitoring to rein in CPC and CPA
  • Audience behavior tracking to eliminate non-converting audiences


  • 50% reduction in CPA
  • Nearly 2X conversion rate
  • 50% increase in YoY revenue 

4. Optimizing keywords via competitive analysis for Verizon Media


verizon digital media

(Image: Unsplash)

Anyone in the telecoms niche? If so, we don’t have to tell you just how competitive that market is. But competition allows brands to learn from successful competitors and create space to offer something new. 

That’s what we helped Verizon Media accomplish with a revamped keyword optimization strategy. We noticed competitors at the top of the food chain, like AT&T, were killing keyword rankings and landing higher in the SERPs. 

So we took what worked for them and expanded Verizon’s ad extensions to generate more leads. Then, we carved new opportunities to build brand awareness by optimizing keywords with high-rank potential from single-keyword ad groups (SKAGs). 


  • Keyword optimization via SKAGs and competitive analysis
  • Expanded ad extensions


  • 3,200% more conversions
  • 50% decrease in cost per conversion
  • 37% decrease in cost per click

5. Remarketing for 686’s winter apparel ecommerce store

686 needed help identifying the most qualified leads within their vast target audience. The product? Winter apparel. But the thing is, not everybody in the US (hello, sunny Southern California) has much of a need for that. 

So we had to retarget search campaigns to only those locations in the US that made sense. While most of that audience was in areas where snow is common, that wasn’t true for everyone. 

That’s where remarketing came in. Let’s say someone in Arizona had spent time on 686’s website looking at a specific product—perhaps a winter jacket because they were planning a trip to Telluride! We gathered that data and carefully re-optimized 686’s Google Shopping campaigns to make sure that Arizona customers saw those product photos and prices later. 

And guess what all this data gave us? Prime material to update 686’s audience personas and better market their products to them. 

We did something similar with Facebook Ads, and all these remarketing tactics turned into greater reach and subsequent conversions. 


  • Remarketing to qualified leads on Facebook and Google Shopping Ads
  • Optimized product feed with high-res images
  • Location-based targeting


  • 562% increase in YoY SEM revenue
  • 303% increase in return on ad spend (ROAS)
  • 67% reduction in cost per conversion

Interested in reading about more real-life PPC marketing strategies? Check out our complete roundup of PPC case studies!

The takeaway

A solid PPC strategy should document your target audience, performance goals, budgets, keywords, competitor analysis, and detailed success metrics. The legwork involved can feel tedious, but it’ll save you time—and headaches—because you have the data to inform your strategy. Plus, you’ll see tremendous ROI when executed effectively.

But as incentivized as you are to create a winning PPC marketing plan, it requires patience, attention, and analysis. We wouldn’t tackle PPC management any other way

That’s where we step up to bat. We’ve helped countless clients create winning PPC marketing plans that help reach—and exceed—their revenue goals. 

Ready to get started? Let’s chat!

Christina Lyon

Christina Lyon

Christina Lyon is an entrepreneur and writer from sunny SoCal. She leads Lyon Content, a tight-knit team of bold creatives, and crafts engaging written content that helps brands sparkle and scale.