You’ve decided that you want to try your hand at pay-per-click advertising.  You like the sound of immediacy, transparency and the ability to test and adjust easily.  But where do you begin?  Here are six steps to get you started with your pay per click campaign.

1. Develop a pay per click campaign keyword portfolio

Decide which search terms you want to use to trigger the appearance of your ad in the search results. (Note: The capitalization of search terms doesn’t matter.) If you’re a dentist in New York City, you might settle on terms like dentist in Manhattan, teeth cleaning in midtown, and dental office NYC open Saturdays (assuming, of course, that you are open on Saturdays).

2. Write ad copy

When people type one of your keywords, your PPC ad shows up, but it needs to contain more than just your Web address. Use this ad copy space to create a c0mpelling call to action and communicate something of interest about your business.

The available space here is limited, so your copy must be concise and meaningful — and therein lies the challenge.

3.  Decide whether to use targeting options

Most search engines offer all sorts of nifty add-ons to help you target the right people with your pay per click campaign. For instance, you may want to target people who search for dental office NYC (potential patients) but not those who search for dental office jobs NYC (potential employees).  (Again, the capitalization of search terms doesn’t matter.)  You can also target a certain radius around a particular zip code, and that’s just for starters. The search engine you want to use can give you a full list of the targeting options it offers.

4.  Bid and budget

PPC (pay per click) ads are usually auction based, so you have to bid the amount you’re potentially willing to pay for each click, which is your max bid. Note: The max bid isn’t how much you necessarily will pay (your final, accepted cost-per-click will often be much lower), it just represents your personal ceiling — and it gets the process started. For example, say the most that a competitor is willing to pay for a click on a particular keyword is $1 whereas your max bid is $2. You get the top spot for $1.01 per click (not $2 per click).  Although the top bids usually win the auction, your quality score, which essentially is your relevance to the keyword, is also taken into consideration.  When you have your cost per click nailed down, search engines also usually let you determine the maximum amount you want to spend per day — which is really handy if you’re on a strict budget.

5.  Get it live

This is the most exciting — and commonly the scariest —part of PPC. After you get your ad together and your CPC nailed down, it only takes a mouse click to make your ad go live. That’s right: One teensy little click, and you’re out there for the whole world to see. The immediacy that’s baked into today’s technology may give you a split second’s worth of yikes just before you go live. But then you’re done.  For now.

6.  Measure, learn, optimize, repeat

Always test what you’ve done to figure out the best way to market and advertise your business. All the preconceptions, opinions, and intentions you might have are liable to get blown to pieces when they come up against real, hard data. You have to prepare for that — and to be willing to accept what the data tells you. Maybe a keyword you thought would be a surefire traffic-builder turns out to be a total dud. Maybe you’re getting a fair number of clicks, but not getting any business. Don’t worry, this happens to even the savviest marketers. Even if your campaign’s working great and bringing in leads hand-over-fist, you always have room for improvement. And one of the best, most immediate ways on the whole wide Internet to sharpen your marketing skills is to step into the PPC advertising arena.