The Fundamentals of Paid Search

Paid search, also known as SEM (search engine marketing) and PPC (pay per click) is a highly effective online marketing channel.  Once in a while, I come across individuals who insist that AdWords is dying because they find the ads to be annoying and they don’t click on the ads.  And, because they don’t click on the ads, no one else does.  If you happen to be one of those individuals, please take a moment to look at the chart below:

Statistic: Advertising revenue of Google from 2001 to 2018 (in billion U.S. dollars) | Statista
Find more statistics at Statista

What is Paid Search?

Paid search advertising is often referred to as pay-per-click or PPC advertising. It’s a marketing model in which you pay a fee every time someone clicks on your ad to navigate to your website. This is in contrast to someone clicking through to your website from what is called the “organic” search results. Those clicks are completely free. So, in essence, paid search allows you to “buy” more website traffic and the potential for more sales/leads.  Paid search can be a very powerful addition to your marketing toolkit. And, since you only pay when someone clicks on your ad, it can be a very cost-effective strategy as well.


Google AdWords: The PPC Leader

While there are many providers of PPC advertising services, Google is the biggest name in the game. Using the Google AdWords platform, you can create ads that are displayed on Google search results pages.

Now, of course, every business is motivated to get their ad displayed in the top position. Google, however, has a different motivation. It wants to produce the most positive user experience possible so that people continue to do their web searching through the Google search engine and the company continues to bring in billions in ad revenue.

That “positive user experience” is one where a person is looking for a particular product or service, performs a search, sees and clicks on an ad, and is taken to a web page that perfectly meets their needs. In order to motivate advertisers to help Google achieve that goal, the company has a system in place that rewards businesses for taking steps to make web searchers happy.

The Adwords Auction Format

With millions of advertisers using the Google AdWords platform, how does Google decide which ads to display for a given search? There are a number of factors, but in summary, it comes down to two primary numbers: cost-per-click bid (CPC) and Quality Score. The two are multiplied to produce what is called your Ad Rank: CPC x Quality Score = Ad Rank (highest rank “wins”). You can read more about Ad Rank.

The result is that advertisers who help produce a positive user experience can pay less per click while earning a better position for their ads. The key to the equation is, of course, Quality Score. Google looks at a number of things in assigning Quality Scores, including:

● Does the ad match the keyword that the searcher used?
● Does the website landing page match the ad that links to it?
● Is the information on the landing page in sync with the keyword and ad copy?
● Does the landing page have a clear “call to action” that motivates visitors to perform a specific task (make a purchase, sign up for a newsletter, etc.)?

Check the box on all of the above and bid wisely, and your ad can get a premium placement at a reasonable cost.

Read more about Quality Score.

The Art and Science of PPC Campaign Management

PPC advertising is definitely not a “set it and forget it” kind of marketing tactic. One of the challenges is that with your competitors continuously changing their bids, improving their landing pages, etc., you must do the same if you want to keep up (or better yet, stay ahead!).

So, PPC campaign management is an ongoing process that involves:

● Growing your keyword list to cover changes in your product line and your market
● Adding negative keywords that tell Google when not to display your ad (you sell only hiking boots and someone searches “ski boots”)
● Evaluating the return on your keywords, and eliminating those that aren’t producing but still costing you money
● Improving your landing pages in everything from their content to their layout

There are a number of 3rd party AdWords management tools out there and several are great.  However, don’t overly rely on automation and become lazy.  I believe the combination of these tools and your own intellect will produce a better result than if you were you rely on one over the other.

Putting Paid Search to Work for You

While some marketing tactics are “all in” endeavors, paid search is one where it’s easy to dip your toes before you dive in. Come up with a small list of keywords, a single ad, and a landing page, and you are officially a “PPC advertiser”! From there, you can look at your results and decide if you want to allocate more time, effort, and budget to this initiative.

I hope this puts paid search marketing into perspective for you.  Expect more on this topic, too! If you have any questions, feel free to reach out.

Julian Barkat