Paid Search…aka Search Engine Marketing

In a nutshell, there are 2 different types of search engine marketing (SEM), organic, and paid. Organic search engine marketing is made up of the natural, unpaid search engine algorithms. Paid search engine marketing is the exact opposite, meaning your company will pay the search engine to have your website displayed on the results page. The rate you pay is most commonly determined by how often your advertisement is clicked on or viewed. These paid SEM ads are displayed in a ‘sponsored’ section on the search engine, therefore thats how you know they’re different from the organic searches. In a study done by HubSpot, 70% of links that are clicked on are organic, while only 30% of links clicked on are paid.

That statistic might make you believe that it’s a waste of time and money to deal with paid SEM, but it’s not! Say your website isn’t ranking well among your competition and among the right keywords, paid search engine marketing is a great way to buy yourself to the top so get noticed. A big mistake that – usually small – businesses will make with paid SEM is that they think that’s all they have to do and they’re done. Rather, they should be using paid SEM as a way to have a better online presence, while still working at their search engine optimization, and ranking higher in organic searches. Search engine marketing should never replace other marketing efforts, it should instead amplify your marketing efforts to give your company a better internet presence.

Here are a few great ways that paid search can help your business:

  1. Landing Page Testing: by having your website link in a sponsored section of a search engine, you can test 2 different landing pages, say 2 separate offers, or you can test the same offer on 2 different landing pages. The latter is a form of A/B testing, and by sending users to 2 different landing pages, with 2 different layouts, but with the exact same offer, you can see which page will result in more conversions.
  2. Finding New Keywords: Through the help of Google Adwords, you can generate a “Search Terms Report” that will show you all the keywords for which your ad was displayed to the user. This report will also give you the performance of each keyword, meaning those keywords that rank high should be added to your campaign, while those that rank low should be reconsidered. The keywords shown in the results are the keywords that users are actually putting into the Google search bar – so they are extremely crucial to your search engine marketing campaign. This report will also show the number of clicks, percentage conversion rate, and how much that keyword will cost to add to your campaign.
  3. Getting in the Game: This is the same as saying you need to know your competition and know how you rank among them. Get yourself in the game, and utilize all keywords that you can, no matter how broad, as long as they are still relevant in order to rank among your competition.

Paid search engine marketing doesn’t work alone, so you need to use it along with other inbound marketing efforts. Maximizing your coverage on a search engine results page is a great goal for your company, and you can do that through organic and paid search engine marketing. What’s great is when you have organic AND paid search results on the same page instead of different pages. Being able to establish your company as a leader is an amazing goal to have and to reach, and a combination of organic and paid SEM can get you there.

Like I’ve mentioned before, the 3 main components of successful paid search engine marketing includes keywords, ads, and landing pages. You need to make sure you match all of these, keep them consistent with one another, and optimize them all to the best that you can. The right keywords will take users to a results page containing your ads, and when they click on those ads they will be taken to your landing pages. Paid SEM doesn’t work without these 3 requirements.

When running a paid search engine marketing campaign, the most common way to pay for this is through pay-per-click, or PPC. Pay-per-click is a much more cost effective method as opposed to pay per thousand impressions (CPM). The only reason you’d want to use CPM over PPC is to just increase your brand awareness and increase your share of voice. However, when you’re actually trying to make conversions, PPC is your best bet to save money and have the campaign matter. Through PPC, you only pay Google for the advertisement when your ad is actually clicked on (not just when it’s seen or when a mouse has scrolled over it). You could have 100,000 people see your ad on their results page in one day, and if only 10 people clicked on it, you only have to pay for those 10 instead of the 100,000 who saw it. This payment method will save you lots of money. And who doesn’t like saving money whenever they can?

The actual cost of paying per click through Google is based on an auction style method. You have the highest bidder all the way down to the lowest bidder. The highest bid (let’s say $6) accounts for the top, most visible spot, while the lowest bid (let’s say $3) accounts for the lowest, least visible spot. The bids in between follow the correct ranking in order. This isn’t the actual price per spot though. Instead, Google takes the lowest bid, and still puts that for the lowest, least visible spot… but then increases each next highest level spot by an incremental amount (say $0.20). This means, if there are 5 spots, the 5th spot would be $3, the 4th spot would be $3.20, the 3rd $3.40, 2nd $3.60, and finally the 1st spot would be $3.80, even though the original bidder said they’d be willing to pay $6.00 per click.

A quality score is another way that Google makes sure you aren’t just buying irrelevant keywords that have little to nothing to do with your landing pages. The quality score, rated from low to high quality, will analyze how closely the keywords you pay for match your advertisement, and how closely your advertisement matches your landing pages, and give it a rating. This method ensures that companies in a completely different field aren’t bidding high to show up on results pages that are completely irrelevant to the search. The way bidding and quality scores can work together is if you bid higher but have a lower score compared to someone who bid lower and has a higher score, the company with a higher score will get the top position because their ad is more relevant to the search query.

Here are 3 different types of keyword matching:

  1. Exact Match: your ad will only be displayed if the search query includes the exact keyword(s) with words in the exact order.
  2. Phrase Match: your ad will be displayed if the search query includes the same order of words, but may also contain additional words.
  3. Broad Match: your ad will be displayed if the search query includes any or some combination of the words in your keyword, in any given order.

To ensure that costs don’t get too high through your PPC campaign, you want to set a daily budget for how much you will spend. You can tell Google how much you want them to spend each day per ad, and they won’t exceed that limit. You can come up with different budgets for different ads as well! Also, to guarantee all your advertisement expenditure isn’t spent up in just a couple hours, you can ask Google to spread your spending out as the day goes on. Google might also not be able to spend the total amount you give it per day even though they will definitely try. In order to get as close as Google can to spending your daily budget, you must have effective keywords and an effective ad copy. When you create your ad, you are given character limits per line. 25 characters allotted to the title of your advertisement, 37 for the display URL, 35 for your first description, and another 35 for the second.

Just like all other digital marketing methods, you’re able to measure your paid search engine marketing through various metrics. Here are the 4 you can use:

  1. Impressions: one single instance when your ad is displayed through a user typing your keyword into their query.
  2. Clicks: an instance when  viewer actually clicks on your advertisement when it’s been displayed on their results page.
  3. Conversions: this is an instance when a viewer saw your ad, clicked on it, then took the action that you intended them to take when they were brought to your landing page.
  4. Spend: the amount of money you have spent on your campaign so far.

These 4 metrics can help you understand where you might be going wrong in your ad campaign, and where you’re going right. It’s natural that the number of impressions is higher than clicks, and number of clicks higher than conversions. But something important to remember is the higher your percentage metrics (impressions, clicks, conversion) and the lower your cost metrics, the better your ad campaign is performing!

Wordstream has made a great article (not to mention it includes a rad infographic) detailing Pay-Per-Click Marketing as well as an article about What Kinds of Businesses Should Use PPC (with an even cooler infographic), and here are 5 Pay-Per-Click Mistakes That Can Cost You Money!

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