The Innovative Marketer's Blog

My Darkest Secret: I’m An Inbound Marketer and I Love PPC

Larry Jefski
Posted by Larry Jefski



I have a confession to make: I’m an inbound marketer and I’m in love with pay-per-click advertising. My co-workers at my inbound marketing agency would run me out of the office if they knew the truth, but before you reach for your pitchfork, let me tell you about my love affair with PPC.

It all started when I was fresh out of college and found myself working for a major silicon valley company that now sold Internet ad space. The industry was red hot at the time, and there was a lot money to be made. PPC advertising, it turns out, is a whole lot like Wall Street. The programmatic buying and real-time bidding systems operate just like a stock exchange. PPC marketing had everything I liked: sexy numbers, bell curves, instant gratification. Really, how could a young boy not fall in love?

Fast forward a few years, and the bloom is definitely off the rose. It’s become almost trendy among inbound marketers to bash on PPC, and I understand why. It’s very easy to burn through a ton of cash with nothing to show for it.

But unlike most inbound marketers, who have declared war on PPC, I still keep in touch with my old flame occasionally, and I think that if we work together, it can be a sane, fruitful, and mutually beneficial relationship.

Here’s the real deal, honest answer, straight from a guy who’s seen both sides of the story.

The Targeting is So Good, It’s Downright Creepy

The biggest shocker to me when I started working in Internet advertising was just how much data is out there. This is probably the #1 selling point of PPC as a whole: just how granular you can get.

If I wanted to reach male engineers, age 45-52, who live in the ZIP codes 02120, 02110, and 02140, earn between $90,000 and $120,000 a year, and I wanted them to see ads only between 6 and 9 p.m. on Saturdays on the Popular Mechanics website, I could make it happen. The data is seriously that good.

As inbound marketers, it’s important that we embrace how that level of granular data can make our jobs so much easier. When else have we had so much power to single-handedly control prospects getting the right content at the right place at the right time? If you were a fisherman, it’d be like having fish jump right in the boat!

Still not excited? No problem, I’ll tell a story then.


PPC in Action

Imagine you worked for a car dealership that sells high-end sports cars, and your target market was a demographic not unlike the one mentioned above. You’ve spent the better part of a month making a killer piece of content that is very specific to this buyer persona, “The Ultimate Checklist for Buying a New Sports Car” and threw it up on your site in the helpful resources section, to little fanfare.

Thankfully you read this article and remembered that with PPC, you can put that content in front of those very same individuals in a related place outside of just your homepage. Realistically, someone in the market for a sports car is probably not hanging out on your dealership’s website, but instead reading Consumer Reports or, considering reviews and trying to learn more before they buy. With PPC, you can reach them at those sites, too.

Everyone’s happy at this point. The consumer has a great piece of helpful content. You’re thrilled because you’re seeing results and got a big fat raise. And even your normally grumpy boss is happy because all the time and money you spent creating “The Ultimate Checklist for Buying a New Sports Car” isn’t going to waste. All this was possible because you used PPC to strategically cast a wider — yet still very targeted — net.


How PPC Works in the Real World

Here’s a great real world example of targeting in action, brought to you by the sharp marketers at Bentley University:



No doubt highly targeted using a wisely chosen platform (Facebook) , I’m sure this ad was shown to potential applicants who closely fit Bentley’s buyer persona. If you’ll excuse the lame pun, I think this is one example of using PPC advertising to promote content has “A+” written all over it!

Takeaway: Learn to use PPC across the right channels to act as a teaser or advertisement for the great content you want prospects to access, so it’s easy for them engage with it.


My #1 Golden Rule for Using PPC with Inbound Marketing:

When it comes to Inbound and PPC, poorly chosen redirects are the one mistake you need to avoid at all costs. I don’t care if you’re advertising free quotes, Black Friday coupons, discount handbags, blog content, webinars, podcasts, or premium content — as long as you have them arriving on a specific (landing) page with a form or call to action on it.

If you leave it up to visitors to find what they need, trust me, they will bounce. Unless you are running a CPA (cost per action/acquisition) campaign, where you are getting paid for conversions (which, by the way, are becoming harder to come by, and prohibitively expensive if you do work with a company who allows this) you’re just going to be wasting your money by sending people to a homepage and expecting them to find what they need on their own. There’s a reason car lots and high end stores have attendants there to help guide people to a decision, it works, so make sure to help your visitors, spoon feed if you have to, but get them to the place you want them to go.


Final Thoughts:

Successfully merging inbound and PPC doesn’t have to cost a lot of time or money. It’s one area of marketing where you can still limp in and start testing out strategies you think might work, and there are even plenty of free tools from companies like and available to help out. You’ll probably find that you go overboard with the targeting the first few times, and the cost becomes prohibitively expensive; that’s only natural when you get your hands on that kind of information.

When that happens, take a step back to collect your thoughts, and remember that more expensive doesn’t always mean better results, so if adding tons of demographic or behavioral targeting makes things too expensive, or limits the impression pool too much, feel free to try something else. In fact, I’d strongly encourage it.

So go ahead, set a daily budget with an auto stop, let it run for a few days, test results continuously, and I’m confident you’ll quickly have one more killer content amplification tactic to add to your marketing toolbox in no time.

As always, thanks for reading, and if you have any questions or would like to know more about this or a related topic, please feel to reach out directly or post in the comments section below.

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Topics: Inbound Marketing, Lead Generation