Paid search marketing means you advertise within the sponsored listings of a search engine or a partner site bypaying either each time your ad is clicked (pay-per-click – PPC) or less commonly, when your ad is displayed (cost-per-impression – CPM).
- All PPC News & Articles includes verified product features and announcements from the major search advertising platforms covered by our editorial staff, plus expert analysis and real-world advice from our contributor network.
- How To: Paid Search is our section that is devoted to practical tips and tactics about paid search ads.
Search engine marketing (SEM), search engine optimisation (SEO), pay-per-click (PPC), cost-per-click (CPC), cost-per-impression (CPM) search engine advertising, sponsored listings, paid for placement, and that’s before you get to services provided by the search engines themselves – Google AdWords, Yahoo Bing Network.
It’s a lot to wade through.
Paid search marketing (PPC) success factors
The main disadvantages of paid search that need to be managed for success are:
- 1. Competition. Since Pay Per Click has become popular due to its effectiveness, it is competitive and because it is based on competitive bids it can get expensive. CPC/bid inflation has led to some companies reducing PPC activity. Some companies may get involved in bidding wars that drive bids up to an unacceptable-level “some phrases such as ‘life insurance’ may exceed £10 per click.
- 2. Higher costs than other media. If SEO is effective it will almost always deliver a lower CPC.
- 3. Favours larger brands. For companies with a lower budget or a narrower range of products on which to increase lifetime value it may be not possible to compete. In the past large players have got deals on their media spend through their agencies through, for example, Google Best Practice Funding.
- 4. Complexity of managing large campaigns. PPC is deceptively simple to setup. But to compete effectively, particularly for a large campaign, requires knowledge of best practice which changes as Google and other engines introduce new facilities – see the official update blogs from the search networks to gain an idea.
- 5. Limited reach. Not all searchers will see your ads, since the majority scan and click on the natural listings. Your ad will only reach those who are proactively looking for a product or service, but not those who are unaware of a need. Here display advertising can be used, but the paid search content networks can help here.
- 6. Click fraud. Common in some sectors where competitors or advertisers click on ads when there is no intention to buy.
Paid search marketing has many names, wears many guises and works alongside many other nebulous terms.
Keywords Are Key in Paid Search Marketing
The first step in any search marketing campaign, including paid search, is keyword research. In paid search, bidding on the wrong keywords is like throwing your advertising budget out the window. This is why specialized keyword tools can be so useful. Here are a few things to keep in mind when building your paid search keyword list:
- Use negative keywords to your advantage: Negative keywordsenable you to filter out search terms that aren’t relevant to your products and services, so your ads won’t show up for those irrelevant searches. In the long run, this can save you a lot of money in wasteful clicks!
- Don’t go too broad: It’s also worth paying special attention to the long tail of search—that is, the longer, less frequent keyword phrases that actually add up to a greater volume of visits than the few most common keywords. Long-tail keywords tend to show a high degree of intent, so they can be excellent candidates for your paid search campaigns. For example, it’s a good bet that someone who searches on “organic dog food free shipping” is later in the buying cycle than someone who searches on “dog food” alone.
- Stay relevant always!: Another useful tip is to make sure your keywords match the text of thelanding pages you’re linking to. Google keeps a close eye on that sort of accuracy (as they should) and keeps the least honest marketers from earning links to their carpet-cleaning service with ads reading “Lower Your Mortgage Today” or “Pictures of Brad & Angelina’s Wedding Here!”
The Road to Paid Search ROI
Bidding on the right keywords is only part of the paid search marketing battle. You also need to create relevant, compelling text ads. This will ensure that your ad shows up in the first place—kind of important!—but also that search engine users are drawn in to click. A high click-through rate (CTR) makes for more cost-effective paid search campaigns. You’ll lower your cost per click while improving Quality Score and earning better ad positions.
TIP: The most clickable, Quality Score friendly ads for paid search are:
- Highly relevant to the user’s search query. Be sure your ad addresses the query directly and leads the user to an appropriate landing page on your website. For instance, if the keyword is “natural dog food,” use those specific words in the ad and don’t lead the searcher to a general pet food page.
- Eye-catching without being spammy. Include a call to action(entice them to buy your product or sign up for a free trial, for example) but don’t use all caps, multiple exclamation points or phrases like “Click here.” Such tomfoolery is better suited to the comments fields of political blogs.
When designing a winning paid search campaign, you’ll want to ask yourself other questions as well, of course, like exactly which pages are underperforming in “natural” (i.e. unpaid) Google searches and exactly what content it’s most crucial to win attention for. As time moves forward, you’ll want to periodically review your campaign too, to make sure your original goals are being met and to weigh exactly which phrases are earning you the most love from customers. And if the keywords you originally selected aren’t working as well as you’d hoped, then it will be time to run some new ones up the flagpole and see who salutes.
It takes care and a little practice, but once you get the hang of it, paid search marketing can be one of the most cost-effective and revenue-generating pieces of your marketing strategy. Why not get started today?
Use The AdWords Grader to See How Your Paid Search Measures Up
Once you’ve established your paid search campaign, you can use WordStream’s AdWords Performance Grader to check your progress. The Performance Grader is a comprehensive free tool that helps you evaluate how your AdWords paid search campaigns are performing in key areas such as:
- Quality Score
- Text Ad Optimization
- Impression Share
- Click-Through Rate
- Use of Negative Keywords
The AdWords Performance Grader’s expert analysis shows you where and how to make improvements that will improve your performance and save you money. Following PPC best practices have never been easier – it’s fast, secure, and free.
What are the drawbacks with using Google AdWords?
AdWords works so well that one study found that 40% of consumers are unaware that Google Adwords are adverts. The faint cream of the paid search box means that users may easily ignore organic search results further down, depending on the quality of their screen (or eyesight).
Google updated AdWords in February with Enhanced Campaigns. This means advertisers can now target people based on time of day, location and the device they’re using.
The positives of this are that if you know you have higher traffic at certain times of the day, an ecommerce site whose conversion rate increases between 6pm-9pm, that site can increase its maximum bid amount specifically for those hours.
Unfortunately advertisers can no longer run tablet only campaigns, as Google ‘believes’ tablets perform exactly the same as desktop devices. You can increase or decrease separate bids for mobile and desktop, but no longer for tablets.
Does this reflect the true nature of conversion on tablets? Not really, being as conversion rates from tablets are four times higher than smartphones. Surely this is a massive oversight on behalf of Google?
Yahoo Bing Network
Adwords’ nearest rival is the Yahoo Bing Network (YBN). It claims to be a ‘combined advertising marketplace’ made up of Yahoo, Bing and many syndicated partners such as Facebook, Amazon and Monster.
In the US, this network accounts for 29% of online search, and according to its own data, searchers on the YBN spend 23% more in the same sites found on other search engines.
Worldwide there are 489m unique searchers on the YBN, 94m of who don’t use Google. These searchers spend 137% more than the average searcher and 76% more than Google searchers worldwide. YBN isn’t suggesting you need to run campaigns on Google AND its own network, its suggesting that you run your campaigns solely on its network because users spend more money there.
According to AdGooroo, AdWords dominated most areas in Q3 2012 (shopping, travel, education, computing and B2B) in terms of impressions, however YBN displayed more impressions for financial services.
In fact 9.5% of the financial service companies who used both AdWords and YBN achieved higher click-through-rates (CTRs) on YBN. 5.7% of companies in the shopping category who used both search engines also had higher CTRs.
These aren’t exactly mind-blowing stats, but it does prove that there is justification in weighing up whether to advertise on either or both.
CPCs are generally lower on YBN than AdWords. Advertisers pay a premium to take advantage of AdWords’ higher traffic and CTRs. There’s also less competition on YBN, in fact there’s 36% fewer advertisers on YBN to bid against.
Why should you use paid search?
The most important positive here isyour company’s appearance at the top of the SERPs. With organic results decreasing rapidly further down the screen, it’s vital that your company appears within the top five results in order to stand a chance of click-through.
If you have enough investment, PPC is the fastest way to get to the top.
If you know your way around the platform, you can set up a PPC campaign in less than an hour, and appear immediately in the sponsored results.
Tracking is a lot easier using SEM. You no longer have to take a gamble on ads you’ve paid for in advance in other media, with little way to measure how successful they are. With SEM every ad, keyword and penny spent can be tracked, allowing for a more accurate ROI. This also means it’s a lot easier for an advertiser to test campaigns too.
All of this, along with access to the respective search engine’s network sites and platforms included in its packages, and the ability to schedule ads and target them to specific locations and times, means that paid search is an almost essential part of your marketing strategy.
You can do things organically. If you run a small business, that either has a tight marketing budget or if you just don’t want to jump into bed with the major search engines, you can still do many things to raise your profile and compete with the big brands.
Make sure you have the very best product or service available, use social media, create evergreen content, engage, personalise and be relevant to your consumers. It does work.
Check out this success story involving the London restaurant Hawksmoor and the future of small business.
Things that I still don’t know…
Here’s a few questions raised by the above research that I’m still unclear on, that maybe you could help me out with:
How transparent is the bidding process?How do companies know that the money they’re spending is worth their while? Is this just done with trial and error, with companies raising their maximum bids incrementally than checking the SERP to see how they’re doing?
What about non-ecommerce sites? Is there anything stopping me from spending loads of money trying to raise the profile of my own music blog by bidding on ‘new music reviews’? Does this seem perhaps underhanded, is the integrity of my non-ecommerce site more important than traffic?
How prevalent is click-fraud? (Where a competitor artificially clicks through on your link, therefore raising your costs, eating into your revenue and pricing you out of competition.) Can search engines monitor against this?