PPC stands for Pay-Per-Click and is generally used when described paid search engine results. There are plenty of other per click payment metrics, such as CPC (cost-per-click) banner advertising, and even some affiliate programs. However, despite similarities in payment structure, when someone says PPC advertising they almost always mean paid search engine results.
There are three major PPC programs out there, Overture, Google, and Looksmart. While there is no rule saying that you can only use one, and in fact many people use all 3, what if you want to get the most bang for your buck? Which do you choose? This article isn't going to answer that question for you, but it will give you the information you need to answer that question for yourself.
All of these programs provide tools for monitoring your listings, for picking good listings, and all around campaign management. So instead of focusing on those features I'm going to be focusing on effectiveness and cost.
Overture is the grand daddy of PPC search engines. They started out as Goto.com and after spending millions of dollars branding themselves they relaunched as Overture a couple years later. This change make a shift in their main promotional efforts. Previously, as Goto.com, they wanted to get surfers to visit their site to perform their searches. In other words they were competing with other search portals. Now, as Overture, they are more focused on providing their services to search portals that they once competed with.
One thing that is true about running a PPC search engine is that it is a great business model and so Overture has flourished when many Internet companies floundered. They have recently purchases AltaVista and Lycos, two former heavyweights of the search engine world. In addition to those two they also have distribution deals with Yahoo, MSN, and Infospace among others.
Overture works by allowing you to bid on a keyword, and whoever has the highest bid gets listed first, the next highest gets listed second, and so on down the line with the minimum bid being 10 cents. Usually Overture's partners only show the first 3 or so results. This bidding can create bidding wars and in general advertising on Overture is more expensive than it is on Google or LookSmart. Additionally due to how the listings look and because partners often only take the first few being a high bidder is important if you want to drive a lot of traffic. Because of these reasons Overture is the most expensive option for a long term campaign.
There many tricks to optimizing your performance with Overture, for instance you can bid on say 200 less popular terms rather than 2 or 3 very popular ones and while your overall traffic will be the same your overall cost will not. However pound for pound Overture is just more expensive. On the upside they also do not charge a setup fee (unless you opt for their premium service), though they do require an initial deposit of atleast $50.
One more downside with Overture is that they're partnered with Gator, which is an infamous spyware company that most honest webmasters do not want to be associated with. They also can take awhile to approve your listings and they require a minimum expenditure of $20 a month.