Cost per click (CPC) is the amount of money an advertiser pays search engine and other internet publishers for a single click on its advertisement that brings one visitor to its website.
In contrast to the generalized portal, which seeks to drive a high volume of traffic to one site, PPC implements the so-called affiliate model, that provides purchase opportunities wherever people may be surfing. It does this by offering financial incentives (in the form of a percentage of revenue) to affiliated partner sites. The affiliates provide purchase-point click-through to the merchant. It is a pay-for-performance model: If an affiliate does not generate sales, it represents no cost to the merchant. Variations include banner exchange, pay-per-click, and revenue sharing programs.
Websites that utilize PPC ads will display an advertisement when a keyword query matches an advertiser's keyword list, or when a content site displays relevant content. Such advertisements are called sponsored links or sponsored ads, and appear adjacent to or above organic results on search engine results pages, or anywhere a web developer chooses on a content site.
Although many PPC providers exist, Google Adwords,Yahoo! Search Marketing and Microsoft Adcenter are the three largest network operators, and all three operate under a bid-based model. CPC varies depending on the search engine and the level of competition for a particular keyword.
The PPC advertising model is open to abuse through click fraud, although Google and others have implemented automated systems to guard against abusive clicks by competitors or corrupt web developers.