What do we want as web users? We want information at our fingertips and we want it now. A Pew Internet survey shows that search is one of the most performed internet activities, conducted by an overwhelming 92% of all users. Another study shows that 93% of all internet traffic comes from a search engine. Those are big numbers. Big enough to confirm that using search engines to attract visitors is vital for your business.
One way to utilize this is through the use of Paid Search or Pay-per-click (PPC); the question is, what are they and do they work?
What is Paid Search?
Paid Search Marketing (also known as cost-per-click (CPC), cost-per-impression (CPM), pay-per-click PPC, and sponsored links) is intended to make your website, services, and/or products highly visible on the search engine results page (SERP). Essentially, sponsored links are paid advertisements. Your paid search ad--which is directly linked to search queries--will appear at the top of the SERP. These ads are often found directly above or to the right of the organic results (see example below).
CPM vs CPC
Whenever a person clicks through your paid search ad to your website, you pay the host (i.e. Google, Bing, etc) a predetermined amount. This is approach is known as Cost-per-click (CPC) advertising. You bid on the search term that you would like to trigger the appearance of your ad. For example, using the keyword “discount tennis rackets.” from the image above, you can see that Target, Midwest Tennis, Ebay, Tennis Express, and Amazon all have the highest bids on that keyword, which is why their ads appear in the search result.
Now, a cost-per-impression (CPM) campaign isn't about clicks, it's about impressions. This means you pay the host for every 1,000 times your ad appears on the SERP. CPM is good for getting your business name out there.
How Paid Search Shines
Guaranteed higher visibility
Placement is everything. Most people will click on the first result presented to them, and the vast majority of searchers (75%) won't even look beyond the first ten results. And since Paid Search ensures your ad appears at the top of the SERP, it makes it incredibly easy for web users to find you.
Ability to target
You can use paid search to target your advertising on particular regions, age groups, where you conduct business. Going back to the tennis warehouse example from before -- say they're located in Costa Mesa and their particular target audience is women, ages 25-45, located in Orange County (or even all of Southern California). The ad will only be run in the region set, and will be targeted to a specific audience.
There is some evidence that paid search traffic converts better than organic traffic with conversion rates of up to two times higher. The higher conversion rates are most likely because paid search traffic is more targeted and qualified. Search queries that result in ad clicks are also more likely to be commercial in nature, rather than informational.
How Paid Search Sucks
Possible High Cost
Depending on what you’re promoting, keyword campaigns can be expensive. The inclusion of the word “insurance,” for example, would require a bid of $54.91 per click. That is one expensive click, especially if the person who clicks doesn’t buy anything.
There is no guarantee that a visitor clicking your ad is planning to purchase anything--there's a chance they may have even clicked on your link accidentally. And, as mentioned above, you still must pay for click, regardless of whether or not the click results in a conversion.
How to Make Paid Search Work for You
Paying for sponsored links is less like buying advertising space and more like paying for qualified leads. If used correctly--with proper planning, appropriate keywords, and measured results--it can be a vital addition to your marketing campaign.
Choose your keywords carefully
A way to use keywords to your advantage is to seek keywords that aren’t searched for quite as often. For instance, instead of using "insurance" as a keyword term, try something more specific, (and less expensive), such as, "car insurance in Maine." Tools like Google’s Keyword Planner and Adwords can help you find effective phrases that will work with your needs and budget. Learn more about the tool, and finding appropriate keywords, in this blog post: A Guide to A Great Google Campaign, Part 1.
Measure your results
Be sure to monitor your paid search results and adapt your campaigns accordingly. Most, if not all, paid search hosts offer excellent analytics where every click is monitored and recorded. You can easily track how many people are clicking on your ads, and how many are converting. If the number of clicks is low, try changing your keywords; if clicks are high, but conversions are low, optimize your web pages to encourage visitors to become buyers.
Remember, with paid search, you control the ads, the keywords, and the budget, all which can be adjusted to optimize your paid search campaign and generate higher ROI. However, to ensure the best possible results for your marketing campaign you should use paid search alongside organic search and other content marketing avenues.