Introduction to Pay Per Click Advertising

Posted on February 6, 2012

If you are looking for a fast and proven way to generate new business, there are few options that can provide results comparative to Pay Per Click (PPC). Dentists have been one of the largest benefactors of this form of advertising, spending more on PPC than almost every other market segment (second only to law firms). In this guide we will cover the uses and benefits of PPC, as well as the basics of setting up a campaign. The main providers of PPC are Google, Yahoo, Bing, and Facebook, but the topics of this article will focus mainly on Google AdWords, since they currently dominate the market with 65.9% of search engine users1.

What is Pay Per Click?

Pay per click is a form of Internet advertising that allows small to large-sized businesses to directly target their prospective clients.  Your ads appear at the top or side of search results on Google, Yahoo, or Bing, and (as the name infers) you only pay when someone clicks on your ad.  They are then linked to a destination web address (generally your website) where they will hopefully find the relevant information or services they were searching for and contact your practice.


One of the most attractive aspects of PPC is the versatility it offers.  With a minimum of only $50 required to set up your first campaign, it is accessible to even those with limited marketing dollars to spend.  You also have the option to set daily spending limits and the length of a campaign, so your budget is rationed evenly over a period of time.

Additionally, since you pick they exact keyword(s) and/or keyword phrases that trigger it, it is guaranteed that the people viewing your ad will have an interest in your service and very likely be a prospective patient.  And, by picking more specific keywords, you can target very specific procedures or specialties that your practice offers.  You basically have complete control over how patients find you and what information they are presented with.

Measurable Results

Traditional forms of advertising such as newspaper, phonebook, or even radio ads are very hard to measure effectiveness.  Unless your office staff is very diligent in asking new patients how they heard of your practice, you probably aren’t getting any accurate statistics.  Even other forms of Internet marketing like Search Engine Optimization (SEO) requires that your website be enabled with an analytics program like Google Analytics in order to interpret any meaningful results.

Pay per click, on the other hand, gives you hard statistics on how many times your ads were viewed, clicked, and even the average cost you are paying for each click. You are also able to track phone and email inquiries since you can send the paid traffic to a customized landing page or some other trackable location.

How Pay Per Click Works

Choosing Keywords

With an AdWords campaign you pick the keyword(s) and/or keyword phrases that your prospective patients will be searching for, and there are several strategies to choose from.  The general rule of thumb is that broad keywords will have a greater potential audience where more specific keywords will be shown to a smaller, more targeted audience. Choosing more specific terms like ‘cosmetic dentist San Francisco’, or even specific procedures like ‘dental implants San Francisco’ will generate less overall impressions and clicks, but the clicks that you do receive can be considered more valuable since the person is showing a very targeted interest in one of your practice’s specialties.  You can even further narrow in on your market by limiting the geographic area for which your ad appears.  This ensures that only people in your market will be able to view the ad, saving you money on erroneous clicks and allowing for more spend allocation towards only the most valuable prospects.


There are two main bidding models for pay per click advertising. Cost per click (CPC) and cost per 1000 impressions (CPM). For the sake of this article being an introduction on pay per click we will only cover the CPC bid model.

Cost per click refers to the method of payment, in this case you pay every time someone clicks on your advertisement. This model is generally based around a keyword auction that takes place in milliseconds after a user has searched and before they get presenting with the search results.

The amount you are going to pay for a specific keyword is based off the total amount you are willing to spend on that keyword, and in most instances multiplied by other factors such as ad quality and relevance. Google’s term for this multiplier is Quality Score.

If you are advertising with a limited budget, chances are you will want to have the advertising platform automatically determine your budgets. This will ensure that your clicks are distributed evenly. If you are a more advanced advertiser and have performed the due diligence for each keyword then manual bidding might be the right solution for you.

Creating the Ad

When creating the actual text of your ad there are fields to enter a headline, two description lines, and destination and target URLs.  There are many effective ways to word your ad, but in general there are three aspects that you will want to include.  (1) The keywords they would have searched for to help catch their eye, (2) a value proposition, and (3) a call to action to encourage a click or call.  At this point you can also create multiple versions of your ad (split-testing), and this is definitely advisable since different people will always respond differently to certain aspects of an ad.  This also gives you a basis to compare the performance of each version once you have received some clicks.

Evaluating Results

Once you’ve acquired some clicks and impressions you can view the data by logging into your Adwords account.  For each version of the ad you can view the vital statistics such as how many times your ads were viewed (impressions), how many times they were clicked, average cost per click, and numerous other data points (dimensions).  Take note of which ad variants have the greatest ratio of clicks to impressions (clickthrough rate) and delete the poorest performers.  Next, make new versions using the exact wording of best performing ads, and only make a single adjustment.  Now you simply wait and collect some more data, then repeat this process.  By weeding out the poor performers and making adjustments to the best ones, you will begin to show continuous improvement and you are well on your way to a successful campaign.

Landing Pages

Even though a pay per click campaign may be successful in terms of getting clicks, it is meaningless if those click do not translate into new patients for your practice.  A great way to increase the conversion of visitors from paid traffic is to set the destination URL to a custom landing page.  This is a special page on your website that is specifically tailored with content related to the keywords you are targeting and includes visible calls to action. For example, if your keywords are very general such as ‘San Francisco dentist’, then your regular homepage is fine, and probably what the visitor expects to see.  But if your keywords are more specific like ‘teeth whitening San Francisco’ then the page they land on would be more likely to convert if they see your special on teeth whitening, as well as a contact form and phone number prominently displayed.

Pay Per Click Providers

The three major search engines (Google, Yahoo, and Bing) are the main providers of search-based PPC advertising.  Google currently has 65.9% of the search!engine market share, and their AdWords platform is the largest provider and is definitely the place to start to reach the most potential patients.  Yahoo and Bing, however, are not to be discounted as they both have a dedicated user base and make up a combined 29.6% of the search market.  Their programs are called Yahoo Search Marketing and Microsoft adCenter.  A sound strategy is to start with Google, while expanding to Yahoo and Bing once you have discovered an ad campaign that has had proven successful with the larger share of the market on Google.


Facebook could be considered the ‘odd man out’ in the world of pay per click because, unlike Google, Yahoo and Bing, they are not a search engine.  So instead of targeting keywords you are targeting the specific demographic of people that may be your potential patients.  You choose who sees your ad based on age, gender, marital status, education, and even interests.  You then of course narrow in on your exact geographic region to ensure they are potential patients.

Because people who see your ads have not performed any search related to dentistry, they may have limited interest in your ad at that time.  The result is often many more impressions before anyone ever clicks.  Because results may not be seen as quickly, some believe that Facebook ads are not as effective.2 However you still are not paying until someone clicks, so there is little downside if you view it as a longer termed investment.  Furthermore, this can be seen as a benefit because with more time being spent on Facebook that any other website, the brand recognition from seeing your ad everyday could be the difference maker when a potential patient really is ready to find a dentist.

Final Thoughts

Pay per click has proven to be an effective way for dentists to advertise and one of the few that can provide immediate and measurable results.  As the world of local-based search engine optimization continues to increase in competitiveness, PPC will always remain an accessible option into the realm of online advertising, and this guide should provide a good handle on starting your campaign.


  1. Koozai
  2. Salesnexus

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