Why Paid Search

Back in 2012, Google released figures stating that its search engine handles over 100 billion searches per month. While the search engine giant hasn’t released any further data since then, it is safe to say that today’s figure is higher. Even on these 2012 numbers, Google is handling over 3 billion searches per day and for any business that wants to attract customers this is a platform that cannot be ignored.

Even better, because of the words that people type in to Google and other search engines, their intentions are usually easy to interpret. These words that people type in, usually referred to as ‘keywords’, qualify them in a way that no other platform can – barring someone running up and down a street shouting ‘I want to buy tickets for a Caribbean cruise’!

This qualification of people’s intentions when they use search engines means that search traffic to a website can convert well, often extremely well and give a great return on investment.

In addition, if you setup a brand new business tomorrow with no previous customer list, the one online marketing strategy that will get qualified traffic to your website tomorrow is paid search. In addition, the amount of money you spend on paid search is totally up to you – you can control the amount you are prepared to pay for a particular keyword and also the total amount you are prepared to pay per day. This means there will be no surprises when it comes to balancing the books at the end of the month.

In summary, Paid Search is a great strategy for most businesses because it:

  • Drives qualified traffic to your website
  • Achieves immediate results
  • Allows businesses to work within a particular budget

Google makes over $2M AN HOUR in net profits (correct for Q4 2014), fuelled primarily by the paid search part of its business.

What Is Paid Search

Paid Search is an online marketing term that encompasses a number of specific platforms, the most well-known being Google Adwords and Bings Ads. Paid Search is also referred to as Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising and Search Engine Marketing (SEM).

While clearly labelled as adverts, using the little orange background ‘Ad’ graphic, the prominence and placement of these ads means that a lot of people do click on them and, therefore, they work very well as a means of getting qualified traffic to a website.

Paid ads are triggered by a combination of the keywords that people search for (and that you then bid on) plus any location constraints that you put on.  In this way, businesses can

The order of the ads is largely determined using an ‘auction’ or ‘bid’ system (detailed below in the section ‘How Does Paid Search Work’), although this isn’t the entire story as an ad that gets more clicks can often outrank another ad that has a higher bid because of its higher quality (the fact that it also makes Google more money is nothing to do with it, of course…

Let’s explore the mechanics of paid search.

How Does Paid Search Work?

Essentially, every time that someone does a search on Google, a computer program looks up a database of the keywords that have been searched to see which advertisers have bid on those keywords. It then, every time a search is conducted, decides the order of the ads based on their Ad Rank – not just bid.

Ad Rank = Max CPC Bid x Quality Score

The quality score is made up of a number of different factors:

  • Expected click through rate (CTR)
  • Landing page experience – relevance, originality
  • Ad relevance
  • Ad formats/extensions (e.g. phone number, site links)

The amount you actually pay (per click) is, however:

Your Price = The Ad Rank of the Ad Below Yours / Your Quality Score + $0.01

Getting listed on Google using its Adwords program typically doesn’t cost anything, it’s only when someone actually clicks on one of your ads that you pay – hence the term ‘pay per click’. While you may bid a particular amount, you only pay as much as it takes to beat your nearest competitor. It is important to note that Ad Quality does impact price.

While Google’s Adwords program is certainly the best known of all paid search platforms, and Google’s own search engine drives the majority of all paid search traffic, you can also get your ad displayed on other smaller search engines such as Ask and Aol via Google Adwords. In addition, using paid search via Bing Ads will also get your ads displayed on Yahoo as well as Bing.

For all those interested in how Google decides ad rank, do checkout this excellent video from Google themselves:

As well as traditional PPC paid search advertising, there are a number of other options.

Display Networks

The first is paid advertising on Google’s (and there are other options) Display Network. In this strategy, instead of appearing on search engines, the ads get shown on websites who have opted in to Google’s Display Network. You can then choose the sites, or genres of site, that you would like your ad to be displayed on, decide on your daily budget and off you go.

Unlike the search network, however, there are a number of ad type options to consider:

  • Text
  • Image
  • Rich media
  • Video

So, depending on the type of ad you wish to run, there may be more work required to setup your Display Campaign of you are doing anything other than a text ad.

Do also note that the results from advertising on the Display Network are likely to be considerably worse than advertising on the Search Network. People’s intent is much less clear on the Display Network than when they use the Search Network.


Having spent time and effort (and often cold, hard cash) getting people to your website, it’s frustrating when they leave your site without taking your desired action – but the vast majority of people will. There is one further thing that you can do, however, and that is to reach out to them as the browse the Internet and are on sites that are opted into the Display Network.

A Remarketing campaign enables you to target people who have previously visited your site and reach out to them again on the Display Network, typically with some sort of image ad.  The criteria you use are totally customizable and, if you have an ecommerce store, you can even get these ads to display the specific product(s) that the visitor looked at in your store and encourage them to come back and buy it.

Remarketing campaigns can be very effective and often get great results and, therefore, are something that most businesses should consider setting up.

Product Listings Ads (PLAs) and Shopping Campaigns

If you do have an ecommerce store, then one particular type of campaign that you should absolutely setup is a Shopping Campaign. Once setup, the image, name and price of a particular will get shown at the top of a search results page, if the search term is relevant to one of your products. These ads are called Product Listing Ads or PLAs

As these PLAs are very visual and should only get triggered when someone searches for a specific product, the searchers intent is very clear and will result in excellent click through rates and conversion rates.

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