As the internet continues to become a growing source of leads for many businesses, you may be wondering about getting into Pay Per Click advertising, commonly known as PPC Advertising. The road to PPC success has lots of potholes and bumps you should know about before you dive in.

PPC Advertising is exactly what it sounds like: your ads are put in front of an audience and you pay the platform serving your ad (Google, Bing, Yahoo, Facebook, Instagram, etc.) for each instance that a user clicks on your ad. This can be a great way to advertise because these platforms have A LOT of a data about their users. Which means they can serve your ad directly to whomever you would like to see it.

Google, for example, is very good at understanding and learning more about what people want when they type in a search query and hit enter on their keyboard. Because they can serve you high quality clicks (clicks from users with potentially high purchase intent or with very high interest in the topic mentioned in your ad), it means they often charge more for them.

PPC may sound simple on the surface, but one can quickly find that it’s a complicated concept that requires a great deal of optimization. As a purchaser of PPC ad space, it is up to you to choose the keywords you want associated with your ad. Depending on how users search for those keywords, it can be quite difficult to turn a profit without having a high level of expertise and ideal conditions in the market.

Here are the three biggest obstacles to be aware of before you consider entering the PPC realm with your ad campaign.

1. Competition for the right keywords associated with a particular product or service can drive up the price of PPC marketing.

As I mentioned before, Google, Facebook, and other PPC platforms are great about giving you clicks from the users you ask them for.

Because they are so good at this, they can demand a high price for these clicks. It also means that competing companies can get into a major bidding war and drive up the price of these clicks so that that it becomes unprofitable for other companies to buy them. This can sometimes mean the cost of the click is greater than you would make on the sale, even if the user clicking your ad went through with the purchase. (Keep in mind that each user who clicks won’t necessarily make a purchase and you need to factor that into your PPC marketing costs.)

2. The target audience for your PPC ad campaign could be too narrow.

PPC platforms sell ad spaces for specific keywords. But what if users simply aren’t searching for those keywords? Imagine you’re trying to sell ice chests, but it’s the middle of winter. It’s going to be a tough sell because very few people are searching for ice chests when it’s cold outside. They aren’t going to the lake on the weekend or having barbecue parties this time of year. This makes these clicks more rare and, again, more expensive to purchase because they are so sparse.

The moral here is that PPC works best when there is already a large demand for something. If it’s the middle of summer and people are having lots of outdoor events, there’s going to be a lot more search traffic for ice chests. If this is a reason that PPC isn’t a good fit for your business, then it would make sense to spend your ad dollars finding a way to creating greater demand for your product or service.

3. Your PPC ad is served to someone in the wrong context.

If your PPC ad comes off as interruption marketing, it could be a real turn off to a user. Let’s again use the example of selling ice chests in the middle of winter. Perhaps you figured out all the right keywords to bid on in your PPC campaign. Maybe you’re  advertising to users who searched for terms such as ‘beer,’ ‘cold,’ ‘ice,’ or any other number of words that could be associated with using an ice chest. But the users could be searching for a new micro-brewery in their neighborhood, ways to warm up when it’s cold outside, or places to go ice skating.

In all of these instances, the ad for an ice chest is following the user around the internet when they don’t want or need an ice chest. Have you ever clicked on product or even seen a seemingly random ad, and it followed you around on the web for a month or two? It can be annoying, creepy, and can alienate your brand image with potential customers. For a PPC campaign to work well, you have to be serving the right ads to the right audience in the right context at the right time. It’s not something that you would want to spend money on without being a real expert on which keywords to pay to associate with your ad.

So the next time you’re thinking that PPC sounds like the cool new thing you should be doing, consider if the rewards outweigh the risks. Even those who are successful at PPC marketing often spend a lot of money before figuring out how to make it profitable and constant adjustments are needed to stay profitable. Your marketing budget might be better spent on other projects.

As an alternative, you might consider a traditional awareness campaign or even review collection. With review collection you can build a broad base of references that potential customers will consider when shopping. Reviews establish a level of trust with potential customers because it serves as a verification of your positive track record as a company. It also gives you an opportunity to address negative responses and show that you are working to fix them. Customers like a company with a good reputation almost as much as they like a company that’s willing to improve themselves. Connecting with potential customers who are further down the sales funnel is a better way to spend money than acquiring clicks.