What is paid search?
Paid search advertising is a type of digital marketing strategy that allows companies to pay search engines to place their ads higher on relevant search engine results pages (SERPs) with the goal of driving traffic to their site. Pay-per-click — or PPC advertising — is the most common form of paid search. Using a PPC campaign means companies don’t pay anything until someone clicks on their ad. This makes it an affordable way to advertise and ensures your ads reach users who are actively searching for your company’s services or products. There are a few different considerations that determine where your ad will be placed on Google SERPs. These include:
Bidding. Businesses can bid on phrases or keywords that are related to their company, products, or services. The highest bidders can get higher rankings on the search results page.
Ad extensions. Companies can include phone numbers and web page links to pages such as contact pages or other relevant information on their website. Your ad placement on SERPs can be determined by the impact of these extensions.
Quality of ads and landing pages. Google will assess and assign a Quality Score for ads, and assess how useful and relevant your landing pages are.
Keywords. The use of several keywords in your ads as well as the frequency of use can determine the ranking on SERPs.
Other considerations. Some other factors that are taken into consideration include the term that is searched, as well as the time, location, competing ads/other search results, and device type.
What are the benefits of a paid search campaign?
Search engines, like Google, Yahoo, and Bing, are some of the best ways for businesses to reach customers online. Every day, Google alone handles over 3.5 billion searches — meaning that search engines and search engine marketing will likely stay relevant for many years to come. Organic SEO may land your website on the first search engine results page, but the biggest benefit of paid search marketing campaigns is your business appearing at the top of the results page. Here are some additional benefits of using paid search campaigns and online marketing.
Keyword research can help businesses target potential customers and searchers who are in the market for their services or products. For example, if a health food company targets a keyword phrase such as “healthy snacks” and uses paid search ads for that keyword, they are more likely to reach customers who are looking for healthy snacks. Bidding for keywords that are most relevant to your company is the best way to reach your target audience.
With paid search, you have control over how your advertising budget is spent. You could spend $1,000 or more for a billboard, but you don’t have any control over who drives past it, or if they have any need for your services. Instead of spending $1,000 for the billboard, you could be using that budget to advertise directly to consumers in your target market who are actively looking for your services and products online.
In addition to being cost-effective, and because most search engines use a bidding format, the market will dictate the price of ads. If you set a maximum bid for a keyword at $4 and the next highest bid is only $2, you’ll only pay $2.01. Businesses will often pay less than their maximum bid price and have the option of changing their bid at any time. It’s also estimated that businesses make an average of $2 for every $1 they spend with Google Ads. This means that paid search marketing is a great option for every company from small businesses to worldwide corporations.
Efficient and immediate results
It can take a substantial amount of time to see results from many other SEO strategies, but with paid search, businesses can see measurable results rather quickly. The targeted strategies of paid search ads filter out consumers who need to be persuaded to make a purchase and reach out to those who are looking for your specific offerings. This leads to shorter customer journeys and more consumers who are interested in your products. SEO can take weeks or even months to get the results you want, but paid search ads can make your company appear on the first page of Google immediately after launching the ad.
Steps to set up your PPC campaigns
If you are ready to use paid search, here are the steps you need to follow to set up your paid search campaign.
1. Location settings
Location settings allow you to choose where your ads are shown, including the countries, zip codes, or cities where you want your ads to appear. These settings are typically set to where your company is based or where customers can get your products.
Choose the keywords that are most applicable to your business and brand awareness. Performing keyword research will tell you what keywords consumers in your market are looking for, and which ones are of the highest importance. Tools like Google Keyword Planner can help you learn what keywords people all over the world are searching for to find services and products similar to yours. Keyword Planner will show you a list of possible keywords, how many people are searching for them every month, what your competition looks like, and how much each keyword will cost per click.
3. Match types
Before bidding on keywords in your PPC ad campaigns, you have to choose a match type. The match type you choose tells Google's algorithm how precise you want your ads to match to user searches. When advertising with Google Ads, there are three different match types to choose from:
Exact match is the most specific match type. In the past, using exact match meant your ad groups would only appear to users when they searched your exact keyword phrase. However, Google has made recent changes to its metrics to make this type of match less specific. When using exact match, your ads might match searches that contain plurals, synonyms, or other variations of your keyword or phrase.
The best thing about using exact match is you’re reaching an audience that is interested in your specific offerings. If consumers click on your ad after searching that specific service, they are more likely to be interested in your offerings, which keeps conversion rates high and reduces unwanted costs. However, you will likely have less traffic when using the exact match type, as more specific searches often have a lower search volume.
Broad match is the match type that will reach the widest audience. If you choose a broad match, your ad may appear whenever a search includes any of the words in your key phrase, in any order. Your ad may also appear in searches containing synonyms to your keywords.
The broad match approach is great for driving lots of clicks, but it’s important to keep an eye on search query reports to make sure you aren’t paying for traffic that is irrelevant and won’t convert. Negative keywords can be set up and used to prevent your ads from appearing in searches that are unrelated to your company.
Phrase match is a combination of exact match and broad match. It offers some of the flexibility of broad match with the control features that are similar to exact match. Your ad appears only when a user has a search that includes your keywords in the exact order you enter them, but other words can be included before or after the key phrase. Google AdWords has recently expanded phrase match to include searches that contain plurals, synonyms, and other close variations of your keywords and key phrases.
4. Create your ad
The next step is to create an ad with ad copy that is engaging to your target audience and will guide them to choose your ad over other ads or organic listings that appear on the page. Good ads contain the following features:
One or more calls-to-action (CTA)
Words and phrases related to your keywords
Distinctive and engaging content
When creating your ads, there are a few things you cannot include. Some of these are:
Trademarked words or phrases
Headlines containing exclamation points
Unnecessary spacing (e.g., F R E E S H I P P I N G)
Symbols that are used to make your ad more noticeable (e.g. **Free Shipping**)
Words in all caps (e.g., FREE SHIPPING)
You want your ads to work for your business, not against it. So, be sure to include the right information and steer clear of the prohibited content to create profitable paid ads.
You decide and set the amount you want to pay for each click on one of your ads, including your keywords. This is known as a “Bid” or “Max CPC.” You can set a different bid amount for each keyword and keyword phrase. Paid search platforms will give you a guide on the amount you should bid for each keyword, but the choice is still yours. For example, if Google recommends a bid of $4 but you only want to bid $3, you can still bid the $3. However, bidding lower than the recommended amount could mean your ads will show up lower on the page or appear less frequently in the search engine.
6. Ad extensions
Ad extensions can be used to provide more information about your company and can be shown with your ad on different search engines. These can not only provide a better user experience, but they can also help increase your ad’s quality score, in turn helping your ads reach the top of the search page. Some ad extensions that are available include:
Pricing: provide costs of different services and products you offer
Call Outs: this includes any additional information about your business
Location: provide your company’s address
Site Links: links to other pages on your site
Phone Number: provide your phone number and give mobile users the option of click-to-call
7. Ad launch and payment
Ads typically start showing within a couple of hours, allowing you the ability to view the results in your paid search accounts in a shorter amount of time. You also have the ability to pause your ad campaigns at any time to accommodate new promotions or discontinue old campaigns. While every paid search platform is slightly different in terms of billing, you are likely to have a similar experience with all of them. In most cases, when you create your account, you will add a credit or debit card to the account. From there, you will then be charged after achieving a certain threshold, or every 30 days, depending on which comes first.
How do search engines determine ad rankings?
Any time a consumer enters one of your keywords in their search engine, your display or text ads are entered into an auction. Your quality score and bid are then taken into account to define where your ad will appear on the search page. The combination of these factors will give you an ad rank, and the business in the auction with the highest ad rank will appear as the first search result.
As we’ve mentioned above, your bid is the amount of money you are willing to spend for every click on your ad. If your bid is the highest, your quality score will determine your placement on the search engine page. When you have a good quality score and bid higher, you are going to rank better on the page.
The quality score is a score from one to 10 (10 being the highest) that every keyword in your account is assigned by paid search platforms. This is calculated based on a combination of three factors:
Expected clickthrough rate (CTR): how likely it is that users will click on your ad when it is shown.
Ad relevance: How relevant your ad is to the user’s search.
Landing page experience: How useful your landing page is to users who click on your ad.
The quality score was made with the intention to stop advertisers from paying the most amount of money to appear at the top of pages where search terms weren’t relevant to their website. Paid search platforms now reward advertisers with higher quality ads, rather than those with the most money to spend.
PPC vs. organic SEO
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of increasing your website’s rankings without paying search engines to increase your ranking. This involves researching the best keywords, appropriate word count, etc., to appear at the top of the organic search results.
SEO may sound like a better option because once your website ranks high on SERPs, all of the clicks you get are free, and a lot of consumers prefer to click on organic search results than paid ones. However, while there may not be an immediate monetary cost to the clicks you receive, SEO often takes a lot of time and more money in the long run. If your website is new, it can take months or even years of work before your website will rank in the top 10 search results. It costs money to put all of that work into SEO, so it's important to compare the costs of organic SEO and PPC to determine the best options for your business.
Google has its own advertising network known as Google Ads. It offers CPM and PPC/CPC advertising. Using Google Ads allows your ads to be shown on one or both of Google’s advertising networks.
Google Search Network includes all ads that appear on Google search results pages, including Google Shopping, Maps, Google Search, and its many search partners.
Google Display Network includes all websites that partner with Google, as well as other Google sites such as YouTube and Gmail.
If you choose CPC or CPM, you set a maximum bid amount and set your bid to be manual or automatic. Manual bids involve choosing a bid amount, while automatic means Google chooses a bid amount for you that is within a budget that you have set.
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