For a long time, there was disdain towards PPC from those professing the inbound marketing methodology. PPC is necessary for, at least, accelerated inbound marketing success. The biggest signal perhaps being HubSpot’s release of their PPC Add-On.

Why is Adwords a good fit for inbound marketing?  

Budget control, ability to track everything and ease of use are just some of the reasons why millions of companies advertise on Adwords:

1. Targeting - With 90% of the world's internet users seeing Adwords ads and the ability to target by not only keyword intent but also people’s geography, videos they watch, content they consume on your site - you can be sure to reach your target personas.

2. Testing - There are a lot of elements to test with inbound marketing. There is nothing worse than meticulously planning your email automation only to sit and wait months for your organic efforts to kick in and provide you with that statistical assurance of effectiveness (or not). PPC can be used to drive traffic to these assets, pretty much instantly, to find out their rates and run subsequent tests for improvement.

3. Traction - Inbound marketers live in a slow burn world; we are always building for the future, looking 6 months ahead. But your boss, and therefore your own targets, more than likely have a short-term element. Adwords can provide you with the quick wins needed to get your boss off your back & allow your organic inbound to mature, ensuring no-one pulls the plug early.

How Adwords and inbound marketing align

The buyer's journey

The buyer's journey, below, is the cornerstone of inbound marketing - allowing us to plan and target content for the prospect’s context.

Adwords can be used across this funnel, but some of the Adwords ‘products’ are more suitable to certain stages than others - let's take a look...


At the awareness stage, you want to hit the largest database size at the cheapest cost, while still having control who sees the ad so it can be targeted to your persona. The two best options to do this are Display ads (video, image and rich media) and YouTube ads.

With these options, you can choose to pay on a cost per thousand impression rather than per click. You can also use your persona research to target the correct people and context, drilling down to the types of sites and video these personas engage with.


At the consideration stage I recommended bringing in search ads (text ads and extended text ads). As you will know from your buyer's journey research, your personas at this stage tend to compare, a lot, but aggregate sites are difficult to displace in the SERPs organically so you can target these (and other key phrases) via PPC.

If you have a strong creative team you can also continue to use YouTube at this stage, but you really do have to create solid, educational content to answer the considerations your personas will have.

Remarketing via display (video, image and rich media) is your final weapon of choice here. You want to target those who have engaged with your awareness content and show them consideration content pieces, thus driving them down the buyer's journey.


Finally, the decision stage. Decision-based PPC is likely to be the one everyone has dipped their toe into, attempting to attract people who are ready to buy.

At this stage the key is being able to precisely target intent, knowing they are in fact ready to buy because the cost per click at this stage will be by far the most expensive.

I would recommend using search ads (text ads and extended text ads, and, where applicable to your business model, shopping, maps and call-only ads) alongside Gmail ads, as these give you the best intent targeting options.

On the display side, remarketing can again drive those who have engaged with your consideration based content to show them a decision piece, again driving them further down the buyer's journey.

In summary…

Before you go away and start (or increase) your Adwords activity alongside your inbound marketing, a word of warning - we are still inbound marketers, we want to do things the ‘right’ way, so make sure your ads are inbound-y.

PPC + inbound = Inbound-y ads!

The ad is shown to the right people, at the right time. The ad presents a direct solution to a search query/problem. The ad moves the searcher further down the buyer's journey.

At least two of the above must be true for the ad to be considered 'inbound-y'. Add all of this together and it’s easy to see why PPC is no longer the black sheep of the digital marketing family in the eyes of many inbound marketers.


By Rikki Lear, director at Digital 22 

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