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Paid Search: Is It Right For Your Business?

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By Brian Farris   |    October 20, 2021   |    6:27 PM

How to Use Paid Search to Grow Your Business

Paid search goes by a number of different names and acronyms, including cost-per-click (CPC) and pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. 

The reason for these terms is that most ads are sold on a CPC or PPC basis. 

And while many small business owners have some basic familiarity with these terms, you wouldn’t be alone if you were unsure how to use paid search to grow your brand.

What is paid search?

Search Engine Land defines paid search as “the process of gaining traffic by purchasing ads on search engines”. Paid search campaigns can be run on any of the major search engines, including Google (Google Search Network or Google Display Network), Bing and Yahoo.

Basically, any time that an ad is shown on a search engine results page (SERP) or any time someone clicks an ad, the advertiser (aka the business) has to pay.

There are two main ways to pay for paid search: cost-per-click (CPC) and cost-per-impression (CPM). 

With CPC, businesses only pay when someone clicks on their ad.

With CPM, advertisers pay the search engine for every 1,000 times that the ad appears in the SERPs. Users don’t have to click the ad for the advertiser to be charged. 

For the most part, CPM is the best for gaining impressions and building brand awareness. CPC is the best for driving conversions or sales.

How paid search works

PPC is kind of like eBay. Advertisers provide their maximum bid (the total amount they are willing to pay for 1,000 impressions or clicks) on a particular search term, including keywords like “Philadelphia dentist” or “cork wood flooring”. 

This maximum bid can either be handled manually or automatically. For example, businesses can allow Google AdWords to choose the bid amounts for CPC as long as it stays within their budget.

Just like with eBay, the advertiser with the highest bid “wins” the top spot on the SERPs. Other “next highest” bids will be listed under the top bidder. Generally, the SERPs will show five or fewer ads at the top of the organic results and then four or five ads on the side.

What types of businesses should use paid search?

Any business can experiment with paid search, but certain types of businesses will always see more value from PPC over others. 

WordStream recommends that the following types of businesses would receive the most benefit from PPC:

  • Companies with high customer lifetime values, like medical providers, universites, and cable internet providers.
  • Businesses in industries with high margins, like lawyers and car dealerships.
  • Companies with hard-to-find, niche products and services.
  • Retailers with lots of different products.
  • Seasonal and event-based businesses.

These aren’t the only types of businesses that can receive value from paid search. The secret to success is determining which targeted, relevant, high-intent keywords are most likely to drive leads and sales to your company. 

What are the benefits of paid search?

Paid listings appear before organic search results. Online users are more likely to click the links they see first.

PPC is the fastest way to get a company to the top of the SERPs for certain keywords. The amount you’ll have to pay depends on how competitive your keywords are, your ability to target the right keywords, and more.

Additionally, paid search is also a great way to drive immediate and consistent traffic to your website, increase overall reach via impressions, build brand awareness, and increase conversions and sales.

Using highly targeted ads to attract relevant prospective customers

With targeted ads, advertisers can direct their ads to their target audience by only running ads in certain geographic areas or to people with certain interests (known as contextual targeting).

Additionally, these ads are trackable, allowing advertisers to show ROI for digital marketing efforts.

Are there any potential downsides to paid search advertising?

While PPC can be relatively inexpensive, the cost of PPC has increased over the years. 

If a business isn’t tightly controlling their budget, then they can quickly blow through it. 

Plus, businesses need to pay attention to keywords. If their keywords are too broad, for example, they may show up on SERPs for keywords that are similar, but have nothing to do with their actual ad. 

Consider this scenario: Someone using the search term “Cherokee” may be looking for information about the Cherokee Nation, but Google will show them ads for the Jeep Grand Cherokee. 

Choosing the right keywords isn’t easy, which is why so many companies opt to have digital marketing agencies manage their paid search campaigns.

The major issue with PPC is fraud. This can come in the form of spam bots or even unscrupulous website owners that get paid for how often the ads on their sites are clicked. The latter may just keep clicking the ad to get some extra money. If a business notices suspicious activity from a particular website (i.e. a lot of clicks and no conversions or high bounce rate), they can blacklist the site. 

The above example is something that the average business owner might miss, and it shows why it’s so important to keep an eye on your paid search campaigns.

When done right, PPC can help grow your business

PPC is an effective way to increase brand awareness, site traffic, and conversions. 

As long as you pay close attention to your budgets, keywords, and success metrics (or hire someone else to do it for you), it can be a very worthwhile digital marketing investment.

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