Pay-per-click ads (PPC) might be the bulk of your marketing budget — but if you know the right PPC platforms to use, the ROI is worth it.

Use this list to find:

  • The different PPC platform options available
  • How PPC platforms help generate leads and conversions
  • Best audiences and ad formats for different PPC platforms
  • How brands can adopt an omnichannel approach 

That sponsored Amazon post, Google Shopping product, or in-stream YouTube Ad that just popped up? They all have one thing in common: They’re all PPC ads, just on different platforms. 

Brands pay for every click, which is why a tailored PPC strategy is crucial for brand awareness, conversions, and sky-high ROI for each campaign. 

But you can’t approach each PPC platform with the same goal or strategy. To guide us through your options, we tapped Sam Yadegar, CEO at HawkSEM. He’s a longtime PPC expert who has helped brands across all niches skyrocket their PPC campaigns. 

Let’s walk through the pros and cons, ad formats, audiences, and omnichannel approaches for each PPC platform

Top 13 PPC platforms:

  1. Google Ads
  2. YouTube
  3. Meta (Facebook)
  4. Meta (Instagram)
  5. Microsoft
  6. Amazon Ads
  7. Pinterest
  8. Quora
  9. Reddit
  10. LinkedIn
  11. TikTok
  12. Snapchat
  13. Apple Search Ads
    1.  Google Ads

      google ads ppc platforms

      Image: Google

      Obviously, we can’t talk about search engine marketing (aka SEM) without putting the spotlight on Google. Sure, you have other search options like Bing and DuckDuckGo, but Google makes up about 92% of the search engine market shareThat’s why, if you ask us (or most digital marketing pros), Google Ads is a staple for any PPC marketing campaign. It’s just a matter of deciding which additional PPC platforms are worth complementing a Google Ads strategy. 

      Google Ads allows for three ad formats: 

      • Search ads (text only): These are the “sponsored” search engine results at the top with ad snippet text under the headline (like the image above). 
      • Display ads (images): These are photo-based ads that appear as banners in the header, sidebar, or footer of various websites your audience browses through. 
      • Video ads: These are video ads that appear on YouTube (more on that below). 

      Google Ads pricing and considerations:

      Pricing, also called cost per click (CPC), varies greatly depending on your industry. 

      For example, insurance-industry brands have the highest CPCs at $20.12, while electronic products have the lowest CPCs at $0.77.

      So while every audience is on Google and worth tapping into via Google Ads, this PPC platform becomes way more expensive if you’re in certain industries. 

      But Yadegar says the investment pays off for specific industries: “It’s typically worth it when advertisers have a product or service with high lifetime value — think SaaS, legal, real estate, etc.”

      One serious perk? Google Ads offers some of the most robust targeting options across all PPC platforms, helping you reach audiences based on: 

      • Demographics
      • Location
      • Retargeting (people who have already interacted with your brand)
      • Audience similarities with CRM
      • Audience interest
      • Life events

      But Yadegar says there are instances where you should sidestep high CPCs:

      “It’s usually not worth it for some brands that are just entering the space [to go] up against behemoths that already dominate and can absorb high acquisition costs, like insurance companies.”

      • Best for: Targeting hyper-niche audiences
      • Ad formats: Search, display, video
      • Typical CPC: Typical $2-$5 but varies across industries

      Bottom line? Google Ads is essential for the average brand’s digital marketing strategy, but you need a seasoned PPC expert to handle competitive bids and targeting options effectively. 

      (Good news: HawkSEM can help with that.)

    2.  YouTube

      youtube ad - ppc platforms

      Image: YouTube

      Are you looking for a way to demo your new SaaS app or platform? Or maybe you’re an ecommerce biz looking for prime real estate to show off your latest launch with a product unboxing video. YouTube Ads are a solid choice. HubSpot says millennials trust YouTube the most, but you can use the video platform to reach pretty much any audience. 

      Here’s what YouTube Ads look like: 

      • Skippable in-stream ads: Skip in 5, 4, 3, 2…even if your audience skips your in-stream ad, the exposure still supports your brand awareness. Those few seconds build brand recognition over time.
      • Non-skippable in-stream ads: Here, you pay for more screen time and visual space to demonstrate your product’s highlights and value proposition. 
      • YouTube search feed ads: When you type in search queries for product reviews or songs into YouTube’s search box, you’ll notice search feed ads that redirect you to the full video when clicked. 
      • Masthead ads: You’ll see banner-type ads that automatically play on the top of the YouTube homepage (these are, understandably, on the pricier side).

      What’s great about YouTube as a PPC platform is its powerful personalization capabilities and storytelling.

      Sure, you can showcase a product or service in action, but showing humans enjoying those services taps into your audience’s psyche. They imagine themselves benefitting from your brand, and the visual promotes brand trust. 

      One last pro? Retargeting potential, just like Google Ads

      • Best for: Millennial audiences
      • Ad types: Skippable in-stream, non-skippable in-stream, YouTube search feed, masthead ads
      • Pricing: $0.10-$0.30 per view
    3.  Facebook

      parachute home facebook ad

      Image: Facebook

      Facebook (owned by Meta) used to allow advertisers to target ads using personal details like religious and political affiliations. While they’ve since removed those options, the social media giant offers comprehensive audience targeting and retargeting capabilities through its PPC platform.

      • Custom audiences: Retargeting based on web visits to your site or app installations
      • Core audiences: Targeting based on demographics like location, interests, job titles, hobbies, likes, and connections
      • Lookalike audiences: Similar profiles of people who have already interacted with your brand

      Then things get real granular with layered targeting, helping you direct ads to custom groups of audiences that fit multiple subcategories. 

      For example, you can target a mother in Louisville who also celebrated a child’s birthday recently. We know; it’s kind of creepy how much those Facebook algorithms know about us. 

      But it’s one of the reasons why Facebook generated over $113 billion in ad revenue last year. Money well spent, like with our apparel client 686, who we helped see a 562% increase in year-over-year revenue via Facebook retargeting

      The only downside? A higher-than-average cost-per-click at $0.94 — but you can still turn that near-dollar spend into 4.5x ROI with expertise from the right Facebook Ads agency

      Meta also makes omnichannel PPC campaigns a breeze for Facebook and Instagram, allowing brands to review real-time performance metrics for both platforms in one user-friendly dashboard. 

      • Best for: Millennials and Gen X
      • Ad types: Image, carousel, story, mobile leads, instant experience, Messenger, video, slideshow ads
      • Pricing: Average $0.94 CPC
    4.  Instagram

      instagram ad - ppc platforms

      Image: Instagram

      Instagram is also owned by Meta. As a PPC platform, Instagram advertising is relatively more expensive, with an average CPC of $3.56But if you’re hitting a 70% conversion rate like Mexico-based restaurant Naga Sushi, it’s 100% worth it. This business used Instagram Ads to direct potential customers to their DMs, encouraging people to order food or even ask questions about the menu. Talk about interactive! We love the customer engagement here. 

      Brands can appeal to their audiences via stunning product photography and videography with different ad formats. You might be set on your weekly Stories ad, but stats show that Instagram Reels video ads have the highest audience reach

      • Best for: Fashion and ecommerce for millennials and Gen Z audiences
      • Ad formats: Story, photo, video, carousel, collection, paid partnerships, Explore, Reels
      • Pricing: Average $3.56 CPC
    5.  Microsoft

      microsoft ads - ppc platforms

      Image: Microsoft

      Microsoft Ads (previously Bing Ads) is often overlooked in the search engine marketing world. Why? Because Google casts a pretty big shadow. Still, we leverage Microsoft Advertising for many of our clients. 

      Many Americans still use Bing. And these users tend to have higher incomes. Perhaps the most attractive aspect of Microsoft Ads is the competitive pricing. 

      Our advice? 

      Check your Google Ads campaign results and look for any blind spots showcasing poor performance. Maybe it’s high competition from a saturated market? Microsoft Ads campaigns might mitigate that obstacle, since you’ll pay less for the same keywords and reach more of the search engine’s audience. 

      Plus, you can almost export Google Ads into Microsoft Ads in your sleep. This makes it easy to experiment and compare performance metrics.

      • Best for: Marketing to higher-income audiences, small businesses with smaller PPC budgets
      • Ad formats: Expanded text ads, multimedia ads, dynamic search ads, app install ads, Bing Smart Search ads, product ads
      • Pricing: Average $0.84 CPC

      Next up: if you have an ecommerce biz, you’ll definitely want to focus your efforts on Amazon.

    6.  Amazon Ads

      amazon ad toilet paper - ppc platforms

      Image: Amazon

      When people browse Google for information on products and niche topics, they’re in the “awareness” stage of the customer journey. Once they land on a product comparison article, they’re in the “consideration” stage. 

      But if they’re already on Amazon adding items to their shopping cart? They’re ready to convert. And that’s one of the biggest selling points for using Amazon Ads: your target audience is already looking to buy something.

      You have two options: 

      • Amazon search feed ads: These come up as “Sponsored products” and target keywords when your audience searches for products on Amazon.
      • Product display ads: These are a direct response to competitor products, as you’ll land ads on the “related products” section of their product page. Just make sure your product page meets your ad’s promises by learning how to optimize your Amazon ads

      You can target ads automatically or manually through Amazon, similar to Google Ads. Both platforms work well together in an omnichannel approach, with Amazon catering to more potential customers closer to conversion. 

      However, managing the two of them together could be tedious (and expensive) if you’re not keeping track of performance metrics.

      Amazon PPC experts shave off precious time and money in your marketing budget by managing and maximizing your campaigns for you. 

      • Best for: Conversion-ready and bottom-funnel audiences
      • Ad formats: Sponsored products or product display ads
      • Pricing: $0.89 average CPC

    7.  Pinterest

      pinterest ads - ppc platforms

      Image: Pinterest

      Cue the blender demos and lush interior design slideshows. If you offer products or services with visual appeal, Pinterest Ads is an effective PPC platform to wow your audiences. 

      You can target audiences based on many criteria, including location, gender, hobbies, and interests. We also love Pinterest for newer businesses because the no-commitment stop function helps prevent you from blowing through your budget. 

      Pinterest attracts many of our clients for its budget-friendly CPCs, but the platform won’t serve you well unless you have visual offerings. 

      Yadegar sees Pinterest Ads as a great tool for B2C businesses that offer an immersive experience people can see, touch, and feel, such as clothing, candles, lighting, and food. 

      • Best for: Lifestyle, food, travel, and fashion niches
      • Ad formats: Standard image, multi-image collection, video, carousel, shopping, idea ads
      • Pricing: Average $0.10-$1.50 CPC
    8.  Quora

      quora ads - ppc platforms

      Image: Quora

      Calling all brands with academics and curious cats in their audience. This segment of potential customers has likely spent some time on Quora.

      Let’s say you’re an ecommerce store selling environmentally friendly stationery, and a budding daycare business owner types the question: 

      “Where can I find zero-waste kids’ stationery?”

      A bunch of answers show up below, but your brand takes the top place in a PPC ad. And if you opt for a promoted image ad, you’ll get to display your name and brand logo, too. 

      Now, how did you know potential audiences would ask that question? Quora made it easy by inviting you to plug in relevant keywords, as it searches for potential questions through its advertising platform. It even shows you how many views each question receives, which helps you prioritize questions based on reach. 

      Yadegar says that Quora mainly captures mid- and top-funnel audiences with informational intent —i.e., they might need to see your ad and brand a few times before they’re ripe for conversion:

      “Quora allows advertisers to enter super relevant conversations that their product or service solves. It’s [more focused] on targeted and quality readership.”

      The downside? Search volume and scalability are lower than on other PPC platforms. 

      • Best for: High-income and university-educated audiences
      • Ad formats: Promoted answers, image ads
      • Pricing: CPC average $5-$7 
    9.  Reddit

      reddit - ppc platforms

      Image: Reddit

      Reddit’s ad platform is relatively new, launched in 2019. But it harnesses the vulnerable, raw audience sentiments and pain points deep in the platform’s millions of subthreads. 

      People who post on Reddit are usually truthful, contributing to the 90% of people who trust product info on Reddit.

      But can that trust expand to Reddit Ads, too? We think so

      Reddit covers pretty much every niche. You’ll see each one highlighted in individual subreddits with highly engaged users diving deeper into a given topic than they would on other social media platforms. So you can bet they’ll click your ad, and you don’t even have to pay per click

      This PPC platform bases bidding primarily on cost per action (CPA). We’re talking app installs, video views, and even completing a purchase — cha-ching

      • Best for: Highly niche audiences
      • Ad formats: Sponsored posts, video ads, banner ads
      • Pricing: Competitive — Search Engine Journal cites Reddit’s average CPC at one-quarter of Facebook’s

      Can you think of another social platform where people are this engaged? 

    10.  LinkedIn

      linkedin ad - ppc platforms

      Image: LinkedIn

      SaaS B2B brands have their work cut out for them in finding their target audience.  You’re not just looking for a niche brand; you’re looking for the decision-maker who works for that brand. 

      And if 4 out of 5 LinkedIn professionals are those decision-makers? LinkedIn Ads are your new digital marketing secret weapon for leads. 

      LinkedIn Ads helps you target people based on industry, interests, company, job title, and previous interaction with your brand. Similar to Facebook, LinkedIn also helps you expand your audience with lookalike targeting (people who resemble those who have interacted with your brand). 

      • Best for: B2B audiences and decision-makers
      • Ad formats: Sidebar text ads, in-feed sponsored content, direct message ads
      • Pricing: Average CPC $8-$11
    11.  TikTok

      tiktok image - ppc platforms

      Image: TikTok

      TikTok has taken the world by storm — especially Gen Z. Even HubSpot agrees that if your brand’s forte is video ads, you can’t limit yourself to just Google and YouTube. 

      TikTok video ads are great at sparking conversations and engagement with their interactive format, making this PPC platform deserving of a place in your digital advertising strategy. 

      What’s effective about TikTok ad formats is that they resemble organic (unpaid) content. Meaning? They’re super relatable and help brands forge a personal connection with their target audience.

      AdRoll shares that TikTok charges brands a $1 average CPC, or an average of $10 per 1,000 views, a.k.a. cost-per-mille (CPM). 

      But new businesses might want to wait a few months before diving into TikTok. The platform requires a minimum $500 campaign budget, which you might have trouble allocating properly as a beginner marketer. 

      • Best for: Ecommerce and lifestyle brands with younger audiences
      • Ad formats: In-feed video ads
      • Pricing: $10 average CPM, $1 CPC

      What platform serves as a nice middle ground? 

    12.  Snapchat

      snapchat image

      Image: Snapchat

      Say you want to appeal to younger audiences but aren’t ready to shell out TikTok’s high campaign minimum. Snapchat is a budget-friendly alternative, with a small minimum budget of $5 per day. 

      Plus, brands can leverage one of our favorite PPC bidding strategies via Snapchat: goal-based bidding. This means you’re paying on a CPA model, which goes further than just a click. 

      Snapchat Ads is a solid choice for ecommerce businesses as well, especially in the fashion or home niches. 

      Collection ads give you creative reign to indulge in 180 seconds of striking videography, closeups, and storytelling for your products via click-through slideshows with a persuasive call to action (CTA). 

      • Best for: Brands with audiences under 30
      • Ad formats: Story, single-image, single-video, collection
      • Pricing: $5.53 average CPA
    13.  Search Ads

      apple search ads

      Image: Apple

      Does your brand have an app available on iOS mobile products? Then you can’t skimp on Apple Search Ads, the only PPC platform that gives you ad space on the App Store. 

      The best part? Every dollar spent can correspond directly to someone downloading your app. Oh yes, Apple Search Ads offers the CPA model, along with CPT (cost per tap). Even better, you can toggle a maximum budget and stop ads anytime to avoid blowing through ad spend

      Not sure where to start with ad copy and keywords? Don’t worry. Apple makes keyword research a breeze with daily suggestions on its analytics dashboard. You can also leverage in-depth performance insights for every tap, install, and impression with custom reporting. 

      • Best for: Tech audiences and businesses with apps
      • Ad formats: Text and image ads on product pages, search feeds, “Today” tab 
      • Pricing: Average CPA of $2.40

      Voila! From discussion forums to trendy social media apps, there’s a PPC platform for every brand. The secret to success lies in aligning your campaigns with your audience demographics, and where they spend time online. Do that and watch your campaigns soar.


Why you need PPC platforms

PPC platforms might sound like a headache for your marketing budget. After all, brands spent about $164 billion on search ads alone in 2022 — that doesn’t even cover all the social media PPC platforms!

And when you consider the concept of pay-per-click, you might wonder whether it’s worth it to pay for every click that might not even lead to a sale. What if you have a high bounce rate? Or what if someone clicks your ads and doesn’t even buy your product?

Sounds like a lot of dough to spend, but brands reportedly earn an average of $2 ROI for every dollar spent on PPC ads

Additionally, the ability to retarget ads makes PPC platforms extremely effective for growing brand awareness and generating leads. After all, 79% of customers are more likely to complete a purchase if they’ve already interacted with a brand before. 

A PPC platform can tell you whether a person has seen your ad before, allowing you the opportunity to shift your marketing strategy — maybe with more persuasive ad copy or a unique deal — to close the deal with that particular person. 

FAQs about PPC platforms

What are PPC platforms?

PPC platforms are digital marketing spaces, including certain websites or social media channels, where brands can create ads and share them with their target audiences. Ads could look like text-only posts on search engine pages, product photos on Google Shopping ads, YouTube video ads, social media slideshow ads, and many more ad formats

Brands pay the ad platform every time someone clicks on their ad. No click combos here, and specific CPCs vary across different PPC platforms and keyword niches.

Your target audience can see PPC ads across search engine results pages (SERPs), Google Shopping, Amazon, certain apps, and social media platforms as they’re scrolling the web.  

How much does it cost to advertise on PPC platforms?

PPC platform costs vary greatly depending on the platform and your niche. For example, Quora, Instagram, and LinkedIn advertising ranges from $3 to $11 average CPCs, while Google Ads and Bing have relatively cheaper CPCs. Most PPC platforms help you manage costs with a maximum daily budget. 

Which is the best ad network for my brand?

“The most effective way to determine the best PPC platform for your brand is to put yourself in your target consumer’s shoes. What platforms do they use when they’re researching, learning, and shopping?” Yadegar says those are the obvious, quick answers—but recommends a marketing expert for the best advice on identifying niche platforms. 

What’s better for generating conversions, PPC or SEO?

It depends. Content marketing via SEO and search, as well as social media marketing via PPC, both generate traffic, engagement, brand awareness, and conversions. SEO usually takes a little longer to generate results and requires less up-front investment, while PPC generates faster results at a higher price tag. We recommend a well-rounded digital marketing plan that encompasses both SEO and PPC efforts.

The takeaway

Are you eyeing a platform that sounds great for your audience, but lack the bandwidth or expertise to leverage it in your online advertising strategy? 

We get it. And our PPC experts can help. 

We use our proprietary tech, ConversionIQ, for unparalleled insights into your brand’s marketing performance to inform your PPC campaigns. Then, we assign a dedicated PPC expert to your brand to keep tabs on every bid, keyword, and campaign—and fully maximize your ROI. 

Is your head spinning from all these PPC platforms? We’re here to help. Let’s talk about generating serious ROI for your PPC campaigns.

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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.