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paid search advertising: what is it and why you should use it

With more than 3.5 billion Google searches occurring daily, it has become more important than ever for businesses to be easily found online. Appearing on search engine results pages, paid search ads gain exposure over your competitors and drive relevant traffic to your website.

Paid search advertising has rapidly evolved and with so much information available, understanding exactly what paid search advertising is and how it can help you triumph in the online world, can be tricky.

what is paid search advertising?

Paid search advertising involves placing pay-per-click (PPC) ads on search engines such as Google and Bing. When using paid search ads, businesses bid on ad placement to appear as a sponsored link on the search engine results page (SERP). If a user searches for relevant keywords that relate to the business, the PPC ad will appear at the top of their SERP increasing the chance of a user clicking through to the website.

So, what do these kinds of ads look like? If a user searches “four seater sofa” on Google, it returns this results page:

The paid search results show at the top of the SERP marked with ‘Sponsored’ are commonly known as Google Shopping ads and are displayed when a user searches for a product. However, paid search ads can also be used for non-product searches too. Here’s a Google search for ‘web development’:

Unlike the product carousel displayed in the last search, Google displays a list of regular ads which can be distinguished by the subtle ‘Ad’ listed next to each one.

how does paid search advertising work?

Every time a user clicks on your ad, the search engine is paid a small fee. Advertisers are rewarded by Google for relevant ads that strategically target their audience and meet the user’s needs. In other words, when paid search ads are done right, you’ll find this fee is minimal as the visit is often worth more than the click. By creating relevant campaigns, the search engine will charge you less per click.

An advertiser’s CPC is determined by a combination of factors:

  • The competition for the keyword

  • The bidding strategy

  • The Quality Score for the keyword

Your keyword bid is based on a maximum CPC bid model that you can set, but your Quality Score is affected by an ad’s CTR amongst other factors which, in turn, affects your ad’s relevance and rank. Most key metrics are significantly affected by the presence of competitors, whether it be through seasonality or new entrants to market. These changes force advertisers to adjust their own bidding strategy to maintain strong ad visibility.

Although advertisers don’t have control over external factors, you can lower CPCs and increase campaign efficiencies by optimising your campaign structure, choosing the right bidding strategies, and improving keyword relevancy on ad copy and landing pages. That’s why it’s important for businesses to be strategic about their paid search campaigns, either learning to manage them effectively or using a specialist agency to take care of the hard work.

why should you use paid search advertising?

Paid media advertising has become commonplace thanks to its transparent costs and ability to target specific audiences that drive relevant traffic. It may not be right the choice for every business and the pros and cons, business objectives and target audience for your business should all be considered before investing. There are a few instances where a business may choose to avoid PPC. For example, if a company is not in a position to handle a rise in potential leads or customers due to limited resources and stock levels. Another important consideration is whether the website where PPC traffic will be driven is fully optimised ensuring landing pages are designed to effectively convert traffic.

Here are the main benefits of using paid search advertising:

drive immediate and consistent traffic

Paid search marketing is one of the fastest platforms for running ad campaigns and gaining immediate traffic to your website. These ads have the potential to drive consistent traffic fast, generating quick and qualified results.

qualified results

As paid search ads use precise targeting through keywords, interests and demographics, you can strategically target consumers who are most likely to be interested in your brand. This is achieved by making sure your ads are displayed to the right audience at the right time with the right messaging to help generate real, relevant leads.

measurable results

Paid search advertising provides extensive analytics and measurable results including the number of clicks, the CPC, sales from these clicks and, in the case of eCommerce accounts, the exact ROI of your investment. This will help you make better use of your ad budget, finding ways to further improve your results over time.

improves brand recognition

Not every user will click on your ad when it appears in the SERPs but the more your ads appear in the results for highly relevant searches, the more your target audience will be exposed to your brand name. This helps increase trust and brand recall with consumers, increasing the likelihood of them converting with you.

cost-effective and budget controlled

Paid search advertising can be a budget-friendly form of advertising with no hidden costs. For smaller businesses, advertisers with small marketing budgets and for certain periods of the year, setting clear goals and prioritising becomes even more important. In these cases, each element of your PPC account should be reviewed and prioritised. This helps to determine the strategy that will help you achieve your objectives within budget.

flexibility to optimise

Every aspect of a paid search ad can be controlled including the keywords, ad copy, ad extensions and the landing page it links to. This is a huge benefit as many opportunities are provided to optimise performance. For example, a particular keyword may be more expensive than others, but users who visit the site through that keyword may not be engaging with the website well. This keyword can be turned off or the bid can be decreased to focus spend on keywords that will bring engaged traffic to the site. These types of optimisations can also be applied to different ad copy and different landing pages, presenting different A/B testing options for advertisers.

combine with other channels for even better results

Combining PPC with SEO can optimise performance. Your paid and organic listings can both appear at the top of the results page, allowing you to double your real estate and exposure in the search results. This increases the chance of a user clicking on one of the two listings. Furthermore, PPC is a great tool to support and inform your SEO strategy, it can be used to discover high value keywords that can be implemented to help your website rank organically.

what are the different types of paid search advertising?

  • Search ads:

    Among the most common ads you’ll see in the search results, search ads appear at the top and bottom of the SERPs. You’ll see them tagged with the word ‘Ad’ to indicate paid content. The example below shows Cruise have taken (the ads displayed directly below Absolute Top).

  • Remarketing ads: Many people will visit your website, learn about your brand, products and services but won’t convert. When this happens, it may seem like you have lost a lead, but that’s not always the case. Running a remarketed ad can reengage your audience and lead to a conversion.

  • Google Shopping ads: Deemed the ‘digital shopping shelf’, Google Shopping should be a prominent part of your paid search strategy if you have an eCommerce business. A carousel found above the main search results; Google Shopping can help get your products seen by the right people at the right time. It also provides the user with products and prices before even clicking through to a website, allowing for quick product comparisons to be made.

Paid search advertising ensures you capture relevant consumers during the right stage of their buying journey. When done effectively, these campaigns have the potential to perform exceptionally well for many businesses. There’s no denying maintaining, testing and optimising paid search ads is a time-consuming process which requires expertise. As a Google Premier Partner and Accredited Bing Professional Partner, we have the know-how and experience to meet your business goals. Interested to find out more? Contact our paid media experts today.

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