1. What is paid search advertising?
An advertising technique to show ads that are served alongside organic results. On Google, there are usually four ads shown on top, and three at the bottom. Unlike organic results, these types of ads are paid for by advertisers each time someone clicks on them.
Paid ads are customizable on multiple levels, where the basic text ad consists of three visual elements
Basic Text Ad
Headline is the first thing a user notices. In the early days, advertisers were able to snatch attention by 25 characters long headlines, but as Google is continuously trying to make search ads more dominant, that doesn’t apply anymore. Nowadays, Ads can be shown with up to 3 headlines, each 30 characters long.
Description contains up to two 90 characters fields, providing advertisers with more space to highlight the benefits of their products or services.
Website URL sits on the top of the headline, informing people where will they journey continue after clicking the ad.
Besides these three elements, there are also multiple Ad Extensions that will either enhance the look of your ad, or change its purpose completely.
Sitelink extensions can point users to specific pages within your website.
Location extensions show the physical location of the company, a link to a page with details about the business, and a call button. Business owners have also the ability to show users their opening hours, photos, and directions on the map.
Callout extensions provide additional information about your business. Advertisers tend to include callout extensions to improve their text ads by promoting unique offers, like “Free shipping”, “Free cancelation”, “Best price guarantee”.
Structured snippet extensions provide information about the range of your products or services, Advertisers are using structured snippets to display lists of amenities, brands, destinations, or other categories which fit their business profile.
Price extensions showcase your products or services along with their prices. Unfortunately, price extensions are limited only to certain countries.
App extensions give users a direct option to download your iOS or Android App on their mobile phone or tablet.
Call extensions make your phone number a part of the ad. This will allow potential customers to speak with you even without visiting your website first.
2. How paid search marketing works
Being a paid search advertiser is similar to being a participant in the auction. In the search engine world, marketers are bidding on user-generated search terms and paying for clicks.
However, unlike any other auction system, there is a little twist. It’s called quality score.
Google introduced quality score for the sake of serving relevant, high-quality ads to its user. Advertisers need to follow best practices in order to rank their ads high and to avoid paying a premium price.
Quality score explained
Whenever a user’s query is about to trigger your keyword, Google will evaluate the quality of your corresponding ad on a scale from 1 to 10. If Google determines that your ad is exceptionally good, you will score 10. If, on the other hand, Google will see your ad as spammy, or generally low-quality, your quality score can go as low as 1.
Let’s take a look at how to avoid getting a low score of quality, and what Google wants marketers to focus on.
- Expected CTR (Click-Through Rate)
One of the most important factors. Google cares about making as much money as possible, so if you are taking a spot, your ad has to be popular and click-able. If your competitors ranks below you while getting higher CTR, you can’t expect anything but a downgrade of your QS.
- Landing page experience and relevance
Having users to click your ad and immediately clicking the “back button” means something is wrong. User is not happy, which means Google isn’t happy. Heck, also you shouldn’t be happy! If your landing page is slow, or in anyway unattractive to users, Google will penalize you.
- Ad copy relevance
What user search for is what he should see in your ad copy, preferably in the headline. It’s not a best practice to bid on a keyword “car insurance” and show the ad saying “home insurance”. Ad copy always has to be specificaly crafted to each of your keywords
These three core elements are affecting the quality score the most. There are also some other things that have a minor effect on your QS, like historical account performance or relevance of each keyword. But other than sticking to best practices, there is not much we can do to make an impact on such.
Now, as we know what Google expects from us in terms of quality, let’s take a look at what quality score means in reality.
In order to rank in front of your competitors, you need to have a higher ad rank than them. Quality score is one of the two components which affects the ad rank. Another one is, you guessed it right, CPC (Cost Per Click).
Ad rank explained
While the first-time mention of ad rank might evoke a mysterious feeling about the whole feature, there’s actually a simple formula behind the term.
The image above shows us that even if someone is paying more per click, it doesn’t necessarily mean that he will outrank you. The final ranking is decided by both CPC and Quality Score.
When it comes to CPC, you can see that there is a difference between what we set as a Maximum bid, and what we actually pay per click. While maximum bid acts as a ceiling of what you are willing to pay, the final CPC is decided by the quality and rankings of other competitors towards you.
3. Why do you need paid search marketing
Whether you are a small business or a large company, paid search marketing can do wonders for your business. And why wouldn’t it? More than 7 Million advertisers are marketing their products on Google, making it the biggest provider of search advertising on the market.
Unlike many traditional marketing channels, Google search ads bring plenty of benefits to the table. One of the most pronounced is instant results. You don’t have to wait weeks or months for marketing to kick off. Setting up your first campaign is a matter of hours. Seeing first visitors coming from PPC can take less than a day!
With Google Ads, you are not sentenced to bid just on individual search terms. You can adjust bids according to specific locations, demographic groups, or even hours of the day
The same goes for targeting devices. You are not prepared for mobile traffic? Cut the phones and tablets out, or lower their bids. There are many ways how to handle your ultimate targeting strategy.
Strong buyers intent
When you advertise on social media, or something more traditional, like billboards, you are serving ads to people who don’t look for your product. You are playing the game of chance that a few of them will be compelled by your offer at the moment, and convert into a customer
Search ads are different. People write what they are interested in right now and you can serve them exactly that. So when they type in “order pepperoni pizza”, it usually means they are hungry and willing to spend money. They literally want to see your ad popping in front of them.
Advertisers pay only for actions (clicks). Thanks to powerful analytics tools, you can quickly discover what works and what doesn’t. Marketers are not forced to blindly sit and wait for results, because everything is in their hands right from the start.
Since paid search is all about the data, you don’t have to be banking on intuition as much. Stopping ineffective keywords and campaigns is a matter of minutes, there is no contract.
4. Paid search case studies
Let’s take a closer look at two success stories of very well-known brands.
Intel’s optimized search strategy:
We know Intel Corporation as a giant in the tech industry. It’s even more surprising to read their claim that they credit their marketing success to search result pages. It started from TV ad campaigns, and transitioned over 10 years ago, to the Google ad world. This case study is a testament to this claim and will teach us the benefits of ad extension.
The goal was set by Intel to maintain a consistent relationship with their users (IT professionals, business professionals) through improved brand engagement that will develop a stronger customer base. The approach to achieve such a goal involved:
⦁ Learning the customers and their online behavior and zeroing in on what customers want.
⦁ Reaching the customers by use of content, keywords, and extensions.
⦁ Engaging the customers by optimized use of ad space and its features.
“The people we’re reaching with the paid search are part of an active audience,” says Carrillo (Intel’s global search and online marketing manager). “These folks have a specific question in mind, and they turn to search to get answers. Intel hopes that those answers start with one of our ads.”
The execution of the 3-step approach was done as follows:
⦁ Intel did not use ads as a mode of direct online conversion. It was used as a gateway to understanding the user, letting them share their needs, and offering exactly what they’re looking for. This careful structure gave the user trust and confidence in Intel’s products.
⦁ For its active users, Intel conducted keyword research and used branded keywords. That way, their consumer pages, and product lineups got the right amount of attention. They also allotted negative keywords to ensure they stay as relevant as possible.
⦁ Intel used smarter creatives and ad features to cater to their audience without waiting for them to ask. For example, Intel used keywords like “2 in 1”, “Intel laptops”, and used ad extensions to highlight models and uses of the laptop.
Back in 2014, Intel bought to the market the concept of “2 in 1”. To an unclear audience, Intel drove the message of an Ultrabook to various media channels. Once the audience got educated on the concept, they turned to search, which Intel had optimized for themselves by use of keywords and ad extensions.
They recorded an incredible turnout from the search data since it was fresh in the market and Intel had originated the movement of a 2 in 1 laptop.
Intel continues to welcome a more brand-aware audience by use of the PPC ads and extensions. Carrillo remarks on the search tool by sharing, “It’s the easiest way to come in and see what the audience is doing and what they’re responding to”.
The Washington Wizards sorcery in search:
In the 2013 NBA season, the Washington Wizards had made it to the playoffs after 5 years. The owners of the team, Monumental Sports and Entertainment, decided to earn further from this accomplishment.
⦁ To increase more fans from the mid-Atlantic region (where the playoffs were happening).
⦁ To sell more tickets for the Wizards game.
⦁ To improve the ticket sale experience by reducing chances of ticket sale scams
The flexible budget of the team allowed the company to focus on engaging a new audience. To achieve this success, the company turned to the power of AdWords and ad extensions.
It was shared by Josh Brickman, senior director of strategy and research at Monumental, that “Google Search was a way to do that because it was a channel that we had not been attacking historically,”
The strategy of the organization was not to compete against the high-end ticket brokers. Instead, they used ad extensions with specific ad words that connected the customer to a more trusted site. This led to a great amount of traffic on their site. They have later amped up their strategy by setting better pricing structures.
The approach raised the audience and reported almost 72% of ticket purchases happened from new fans through the website via AdWords. From November to February, the team witnessed a 277% Return on Ad Spend (ROAS). It further went up 400% in the proceeding months. “Just a simple Google AdWords ad drove more conversions than any other campaign that we offered,” shared Brickman.
5. How to start with paid search
When you decide to give Google ads a shot, you have basically two options for how to get started.
- Do it yourself
This involves learning technical aspects of the platform and its features. While an average person can feel comfortable after spending 10 hours inside the interface, mastering all the techniques can be very demanding. If you are a small business owner with some spare time, it’s not a bad idea to test the waters with small budget and see the initial outcome. You can always hire a profesionall later to get help.
- Hire a Specialist or Ad agency
Excellent Google Ads specialist will take care of everything for you. From creating your campaigs, conducting keywords research, writing an ad copy, to measuring performance. If you are not willing to invest hundreds hours of your time into learning and managing your campaigns, it’s advisable to hire a professional.
Paid search is one of the most powerful channels to bring a targeted audience to your business. Potential benefits go hand in hand with complexity and competitiveness in the field.