Paid search is a controllable, measurable, and scalable form of digital marketing that consists of search engines (Google, Microsoft Advertising, etc.) allowing advertisers to show ads on their websites or search engine results pages (SERPs).
Paid search can be valuable for a business due to its ability to match searcher intent.
Google is known as a powerhouse in the paid search realm, earning significant amounts of volume and awareness. However, Microsoft Advertising is still a contender in the race, allowing for cheaper CPCs and reduced competition compared to Google.
Ad platforms and use cases
Paid search campaigns target an active searcher—someone who may already have intent to buy. Search ads also allow supporting links to additional website resources, phone numbers, and locations.
Paid search works best for marketing teams that are budget conscious, have an idea of target audiences, and sell a product/service that people are looking for (e.g., plumber, urgent care).
Display Network campaigns help gain brand awareness. Relative to search, Display traffic is typically much cheaper. Similarly, Display can help keep products/services top of mind for those with longer purchase cycles.
Since these campaigns revolve around image ads, those with a visually appealing product/service are a good fit for Display.
Shopping campaigns are best fit for ecommerce companies with a product to sell. Shopping ads can help promote online/local inventory, boost traffic to a website or local store, and find better-qualified leads.
Similar to display campaigns, YouTube is best to increase brand awareness. Sharing most of the benefits of display (targeting, cost-effectiveness), YouTube is best for meeting awareness objectives for visually appealing offerings.
Facebook is typically best for those offering a leisure product/service. Unlike paid search, which helps businesses find new customers via keywords, Facebook helps users find businesses based on the things they’re interested in and the ways they behave online.
Facebook can serve as a hybrid between search and display, but is still largely meant for brand awareness.
Typically the best solution for B2B companies, LinkedIn has robust corporate targeting options, performs well with gated business resources, and can expand a business’s professional network.
While clicks are typically a bit more expensive (usually ruling out the budget-sensitive) conversion rates are also typically higher, allowing for a greater return in the professional space.
Auctions and bidding
- A keyword bid is a monetary value assigned to targeted keywords in an attempt to secure ad space for terms relevant to a client's business.
- Search Auctions are hosted by Google/Microsoft to determine the top ad placements. When someone searches for “red shoes," all eligible advertisers bidding on this term are entered as participants in an auction. Each advertiser is evaluated on keyword bids, associated Quality Scores, a few other factors, and are ultimately given an Ad Rank. Those with the highest Ad Ranks secure ad placements at the top of the SERP.
- Smart Bidding, or automated bid strategies, is a relatively new concept to PPC. This bucket of bidding methods utilizes machine learning and confidential behavior signals to optimize for conversions/clicks/etc. in each and every auction.
- Account Structure: Account > Campaign > Ad Group > Keyword
- Campaign: A set of ad groups that share a budget, targeting, etc. Often used to organize categories of products/services.
- Ad Group: An ad group contains one or more ads and keywords that share a similar theme.
- CPC: Cost per click. The maximum CPC is the most you'll typically be charged for a click, but depending on the other auction participants, you may spend less. You will spend only $0.01 more than the next-best advertiser.
- Impression: How often an ad is shown on a SERP/other network.
- Impression share: The percentage of impressions that your ads received compared to the total number of impressions that your ads could have received (based on several factors).
- Ad Rank: A value that is assigned based on various factors (bid, quality score, search context, etc.) to determine ad position or whether ads will show at all. Ad Rank is recalculated each time an ad is eligible to compete in an auction, so ad position may fluctuate.
- Quality Score: Comprised of ad relevance, expected click-through rate, and landing-page experience, Quality Scores are indicators of the quality of your ads, keywords, and landing pages. Higher quality ads can lead to lower CPCs and better ad positions. SEO can help improve Quality Scores through content refinement, site improvements, etc.
Tools and reports
- Auction Insights Report: Compares your account performance to other advertisers who are participating in the same auctions.
- Search Terms Report: Shows the actual searches that triggered your ads. This report helps identify new terms with high potential and adds them to your keyword list; it also identifies terms that aren't as relevant, which you can add as negative keywords. This can also be found in Google Analytics under Acquisition > Google Ads > Search Queries.
What's the difference between "prospecting" and "remarketing"?
Prospecting helps attract new audiences, sometimes with similar characteristics of existing customers, who are likely to convert. Prospecting campaigns typically include lookalike audiences/similar audiences.
Remarketing is a way to re-engage with people who previously interacted with a website or mobile app. It allows you position ads strategically—in front of audiences as they browse, helping increase brand awareness or remind those audiences to make a purchase.