What is Paid Search?
Paid search is a search engine marketing strategy that strongly considers what you are willing to spend for a specific keyword phrase as the primary ranking factor. While several paid search models exist, the most common are CPC (cost-per-click) and PPC (pay-per-click). For instance, if you operate a personal injury law firm in Baltimore, Maryland and you determine that the keyword phrase “personal injury lawyer in baltimore” is a phrase that converts people who are seeking your services into qualified leads, if you are willing to pay the price, you can buy this valuable traffic. By setting up an account with at least one of the search engines that offer paid search solutions, within a matter of minutes, you can create a paid search ad that targets “personal injury lawyer in Baltimore.” Once you finish setting up the account, creating the ad, and indicating how much you are willing to spend each time someone clicks on your ad, your ad will immediately display adjacent to the organic search results for at least that exact match search.
In the screenshot above, sticking with the example, I conducted a search for “personal injury lawyer in Baltimore.” Please note that the first three results that display on the page are ads related personal injury lawyer in Baltimore. These are examples of paid search results on Google that are sponsored by law firms in Baltimore who are engaging in paid search marketing tactics. If you shift your attention from the first three results to the results listed on the right beneath the map, these are also paid search results. As this screenshot illustrates, progressive personal injury law firms in Baltimore are competing on spend and optimization tactics for these prime positions in search. I can say with certainty, that the first listing youhavelaywer.com/accident (which is Saiontz & Kirk) is generating a lot of relevant traffic from their paid search spend and more likely than not, they are converting a significant number of the interested parties into qualified leads and ultimately paying clients.
Where can you setup a Paid Search Campaign?
The most famous and principal traffic generating paid search engine is Google. Google Adwords, which is the name of their paid search advertiser platform, is Google’s single most successful business venture. It is easy for an advertiser to sign up, easy to manage, and it gets results. If you are considering a move into paid search, start with Google Adwords.
Bing Ads is Microsoft’s response to Google Adwords. While the traffic generated from Bing is substantially less than that of Google, the competition and cost for positioning in Bing results are not as fierce either. In my opinion, while it is still easy-to-use, the platform is slightly more complicated than Google Adwords. More often than not, you will find that the average ROI (return on investment) from Bing Ads is greater than that of Google Ads because of the diminished level of competition for each keyword.
Tertiary Paid Search Engines
In addition to the big players like Google and Bing, there are several smaller paid search engines where successes can be had. The average CPC will be significantly less on these properties as will the level of competition and resulting traffic. However, if for no other reason than the diminished cost/competition ratio, these smaller paid search properties tend to have a superior ROI than either Google or Bing. Once you have optimized your Google and Bing paid search campaigns, these properties are worth the time and investment.
Paid Search Campaign Optimization Factors
Money is the biggest factor in paid search but, especially in the case of Google and Bing, it is not the only factor. Sophisticated paid search engines also include a mixture of algorithmic factors that allow savvy small and medium sized businesses to overtake big corporate spenders. Through expert and agile paid search optimization, a company can end up spending significantly less for better positioning for the same keyword phrases that their competitors are targeting. Below, I have included a few of these paid search optimization factors:
- Keyword Research
- Understanding sweet spot spend vs. overspending to get first position
- Broad vs. Longtail Keywords
- Geospecific Keywords
- Ad Development
- Landing Page Optimization
- Clickthrough rate
Paid Search is Effective
Point blank, paid search works. It is one of easiest strategies in any marketing tool chest for ramping up business and driving a consistent stream of revenue. So where is the down side? If you don’t operate an optimized paid search campaign, you risk overspending, cutting into your ROI, and in far too many cases, you end up spending more than you earn. Paid search is also an extremely fluid landscape. Advertisers are dropping in and out all the time, budgets are adjusted, keyword targets are constantly changing, and more… Staying on top of all these changes requires an attentive paid search management strategy. Ultimately, if used properly, paid search is as calculated a marketing tool as one could hope for in an uncertain business world.