If you run a business or market for one, it’s likely that you’ve heard of paid search advertising, also known as search engine marketing (SEM) or pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. However, it is also likely that you aren’t clear on exactly what it is and how it can help your business. If this is you, read on to learn about what paid search advertising is, how it works, and how it benefits businesses of any size.
To understand paid search advertising, you must first understand a search engine results page (SERP). When you type something into a search engine (like Google), the search engine responds with a list of web pages (their title, links, and description) that are relevant to your query. This is your SERP. The bulk of that list is comprised of organic results: web pages that the search engine algorithm determined were the best match for your search.
PPC ads are the results (web page names) that appear at the top and bottom of your SERP. While we often think of ads as visually distinct elements, SEM/PPC ads look similar to the organic listings between them, but are labeled in some way to distinguish them as an ad. Here’s an example of an Adwords ad, which is the paid search ad for Google.
While display ads are also a form of pay per click advertising, they are different from paid search ads. Display ads show up on web pages themselves (which you arrive at by clicking on one of the results of your SERP or by typing the address into your browser. They typically take the form of a box or banner, and have an image/graphic and distinct call to action button.
Paid search ads may happen on search engines, and search engines may be huge, but you do not have to be a big business to use them. Businesses of any size can use and benefit from paid search ads—in particular, businesses whose customers have a high lifetime value (such as dentists or colleges), or those who provide high margin products or services (such as lawyers or car dealerships).
Paid search ads cost the advertiser a defined amount each time someone clicks on that result. Cost per click can range from 50 cents to several dollars per click, depending on various factors and the search engine’s algorithms. When setting up your paid search ad campaign, you will be asked to identify the maximum amount that you want to spend per click (bid), and the maximum amount you’re willing to spend for the campaign (budget).
Paid search ads can increase your visibility on search engines and traffic to your website, and ultimately sales. Sound familiar? Search engine optimization (SEO) also yields these benefits, without spending a dime. So why pay to rank on search engines when you can do so freely and organically?
The answer is that increasing your search rankings organically isn’t entirely free. You may not be paying money, but you do need to invest thought, time, and effort into creating maintaining quality content. Furthermore, good SEO doesn’t happen overnight. It takes a few months for you to accumulate content, and for search engines to gather enough user data on your content to rank it accurately.
There is limited real estate for the top positions in organic search results, and despite your best efforts you may never get there with all the competition. If you’re a new business or an existing one just starting to build your online presence, search ads can get you in front of highly targeted customers in a matter of minutes!
With paid search ads, users will see that you have paid to be on the first page of Google. However, this will not reflect poorly on your business reptutation. Just like with organic rankings, search engines have a set of requirements and factors in place for paid rankings, to ensure that the ads it puts in front of its users are relevant and trustworthy.
Your ad rank is not solely based on how high you bid. Google and other search engines also look at your quality score, which is a measure of how relevant your keyword is to your ad text and to what a user is searching for.
People who see your paid search ads are those who are searching for your product or service. They are most likely doing so because it is something they want to obtain now or in the near future. Since paid search ads target’ specific search queries, you can be sure that anyone who clicks on your ad is not arbitrarily surfing the web, but rather, is highly likely to buy your product or service.
Search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing provide marketers using their advertising platform with free real-time data and analytics. With this information you can learn quite a bit about those who click on your ad, including:
• Where that person is located
• How much time they spent on your site
• What pages they visited on your site
• What type of device they were using (mobile, tablet, laptop)
This detailed data allows you to see exactly what you’re getting from every paid search dollar you spend. Use it to be more efficient with your advertising, to continuously improve your campaigns, and to get the results you want.
Paid search advertising is a great way to leverage the widespread use of, and trust in, search engines to grow your business. If you’re not confident in the management and metrics, it might be worth using a professional for your first campaign.