The value of content-rich, customer-relevant SEO is second to none when it comes to reaching the top of the SERPS. However, there’s another highly-strategic and proactive way to get noticed – and that’s by utilising paid search sometimes referred to just as Pay Per Click (PPC) for Search tactics.
Paid search enables companies to effectively buy visits to their website by appearing in one of the much-coveted above-the-fold sponsored links at the top of the page. Whenever a search is generated using one of the advertiser’s keywords, they will appear in one of these top slots. The Search Engine is then paid whenever someone clicks on the advertiser’s link.
PPC fees vary depending on the competitiveness of the keyword – the most expensive keywords being insurance, loans and mortgage. However, for most advertisers, the true value of footfall to the website makes it well worth the cost. For example, if someone’s paying £2 for a click but selling items at £2200, at a 1% conversion rate then they receive a 1000% ROI.
That’s not to say, however, that a successful paid search campaign is just about paying to feature, even though you can be up and running the same day, there’s a distinct strategy to making paid search work for you – from researching relevant keywords and structuring them into ad groups, through to creating interesting, well-optimised landing pages. As with most things, there are rich rewards for providing users with intelligent and relevant content. So if your paid search campaign takes users somewhere useful, appropriate and satisfying, then the Search Engines will charge you less per click. Which is why it pays to understand the subtleties of using paid search in your marketing campaigns.The AdWords Advantage.
When it comes to paid search advertising systems, Google AdWords leaves everything else in the shade. AdWords is the most popular paid search advertising system in the world – and it’s no wonder when you consider, as with everything Google does, it’s intelligently targeted. For example, not only does it allow advertisers to bid on keywords (which they pay for each time their ad is clicked), but it also allows them to target users in their local area, selecting when and where their adverts will appear.
For example, an advertiser might request that whenever someone in their city searches using selected keywords (such as ‘BMW dealerships’), their results show up. Or they may wish to narrow it down even further, just targeting customers in their direct neighbourhood. In this way, advertisers can hone in on the target audience most likely to respond to their advert. In fact, 33% of all searches on Google are related to location, so this type of highly-targeted search can be incredibly useful for advertisers.
While AdWords performance is partly based on the size of an advertiser’s keyword bid, this isn’t the sole factor involved in helping advertisers predominate. To truly excel at AdWords, advertisers also need to ensure that the quality and relevance of their keywords and campaigns are exemplary. That’s because Google trawls the pool of AdWords advertisers, selecting those that are the most pertinent and valuable to users. Those who appear on the page do so based on two factors – the CPC Bid (i.e. the highest amount an advertiser is willing to spend) along with a Quality Score, which calculates advertisers’ relevance, click-through rates and landing page quality.How to Win at AdWords.
Using AdWords is a great way to get noticed, due to the sheer amount of online footfall Google generates (thereby generating the most impressions and clicks for your ad), there’s a definite skill in helping to ensure your business positions its way towards the top spot.
Text ads can appear either above or below the search results, with the right hand column now removed and a maximum of only four ads appearing above – this makes the paid search pecking order more competitive than ever. To ensure you rank as high as possible, there are certain things Google recommends that you do:
- Be relevant: Google’s all about relevance – the more tailored your keywords, ads and landing pages are to customer searches, they better chance you have of climbing to the top. Adverts that aren’t so relevant may still show – however, they won’t get clicked on as frequently, leading to poor performance over time. So be sure to create tight keyword groups and quality text within your advert.
- Be competitive: Three types of bid-estimates are available to help advertisers appear on the first page of results. First Page Bid Estimates, Top of Page Bid Estimates, and First Position Bid Estimates. All describe the type of bids an advertiser will need to set for their ad to be shown within those three self-explanatory positions. The skill is managing to keep a bid high enough to compete with other advertisers who are also bidding on the same keywords. In order to be in with the chance of a top spot, try to keep your bid high enough to compete.
- Be real-time: By doing so, you’ll be able to make optimal regular adjustments that can have a significant impact on any future rankings. Continual incremental adjustment either manually, automatically or programatically through the AdWords API is key. For some advertisers optimal adjustments are made every hour depending on peak times of the day and key days of the week to maximise the impact of the paid search budget.
Even in the early days of the internet, it quickly became clear that it was a huge repository of diverse facts and widespread information that was growing, exponentially, day by day. Initially, people were tasked with attempting to compile indexes of what was out there, via directories such as Yahoo. But as websites grew faster than humans were able to log and tally them, the need to process the vast swathes of ever-increasing information became a matter of urgency – and a technology-driven solution became imperative. And so the early Search Engines were born.
At first, thousands of Search Engines sprang up in an attempt to impose clarity via algorithms. Unfortunately, they were pretty ineffective and spammers were able to seed the SERPs with wildly irrelevant content that had little or nothing to do with users’ original queries. Eventually, Google, along with a few others, finally saved the day – and by 2000, Search Engines were starting to behave a lot more like they do today.From Planet Oasis to AdWords and Beyond.
Those who are old enough to cast their minds back to those early Search Engines will recall that they were nothing if not novel – with the first advertising spaces launched by Planet Oasis in 1996. This used a virtual 3D city to showcase advertisers: with city blocks representing topics and buildings representing websites. Over 300 websites featured on the map, with some sold to advertisers on a PPC basis.
At the same time, Open Text was selling top-spots on their SERPs which caused a bit of an outcry among consumers, who felt that the monetary element lead to a lack of transparency.
It was also in this year that Google began life as a research project at Stanford University, with few guessing how it would eventually come to implement order and clarity within the world of searches. Meanwhile, Yahoo launched its first IPO at a value of $334 million!
Then, in 2000, the dot com bubble burst. Companies went bankrupt, and advertisers ran for the hills. But Google came to the rescue with AdWords, the first ‘self-service’ advertising platform in the world that put companies in control of their spend.
By 2002, Google had introduced a new paid search structure which implemented a system of relevance (measured by click-through rates) to evaluate ranking, thereby creating a better search experience for customers. The following year, Yahoo! bought Overture for $1.63 billion, and Google launched AdSense as a means of expanding its advertising network. This allowed website publishers to sell space on their sites (via the AdWords platform) that was specifically targeted towards their existing audience.
By 2004, Google had secured its place as the world’s most prominent Search Engine, with a market value of $23.1 billion – most of which was generated from PPC advertising. But never one to rest on its laurels, Google was intent on helping advertisers make the most of their campaigns – and on helping users get the most value from searches. So, in 2005, Google Analytics was released – enabling advertisers to track the performance of their campaigns.
The following year, Microsoft parted ways with Overture and established its one PPC platform – AdCenter, at the same time partnering up with Facebook which sold advertising on its own site by way of banners and sponsored links. Meanwhile, Google snapped up YouTube – the world’s largest online video site – for a cool $1.65 billion.
Around this time, LinkedIn also got in on the act, launching DirectAds – a platform that allowed advertisers to target the LinkedIn pool by specific criteria, such as industry sector or job title. Again, this was another move towards quality advertising that would actually add value to end-users’ online experiences.
Come 2010, Microsoft had re-launched Bing and teamed up with Yahoo! in an attempt to out-Google Google. But in inimitable Google style, Google AdWords introduced a whole range of new advertising options, including product listing ads. Utilising all that was available – and utilising it well – was becoming an industry in its own right. Google topped £50 billion in revenue in 2012; 94% of which came from advertising.
By 2013, Dynamic Remarketing was allowing ecommerce sites like PGC Digital to showcase products to users who’d just viewed similar items. Again, a win-win for advertisers and consumers, as this level of interest-driven advertising meant that users were being given a wider range of buying options, increasing their choice as consumers. It also ensured advertisers were more likely to pop up in front of people who were already in a buying frame of mind.
Last year, things stepped up another notch with TrueView video campaigns integrating into AdWords – allowing the power of video to meet the unstoppable capabilities of AdWords. Social Media, and particularly video content, is getting bigger day on day, and Google is keeping pace with this by making it even easier for advertisers to optimise across all their campaigns. In a nutshell, TrueView allows YouTube users to choose what ads they want to watch, and when – meaning advertisers no longer have to pay for unwanted views. Another win-win for marketer and consumer alike, as it allows advertisers to get more views from those people who are genuinely interested in what they have to say.Harnessing the Power of Paid Search.
Without a shadow of a doubt, paid search advertising can add tremendous value to your brand, especially since studies have shown that implementing SEO and PPC simultaneously can boost organic searches. Here are just a few of the things that make paid search so compelling for marketers.
- It works immediately: Once the strategy is defined and the campaign is setup - it can be driving targeted people to your website. This usually can be approved and up and running within a matter of hours.
- It’s easy to measure: With paid search, it’s really easy to see what’s working and what’s not – sometimes within just 24 hours. This means you can continually optimise your campaign with data insight.
- It's about quality: Because AdWords and Bing Ads aren’t based just on advertisers’ budgets, companies can achieve a higher positioning for less cost with a superior quality score.
- It increases brand awareness: Even without someone clicking on your ad, you’re still promoting brand awareness. The more you’re company name is seen, the more recognisable your brand becomes.
According to an Interactive Advertising Bureau report, search adverts represented $9.1 billion (39%) of all internet advertising revenue for the first half of 2014. Add in mobile-related search revenue and that rose to $11.8 billion. In addition, there’s strong evidence that PPC can have a positive effect on organic click-rates too. All of this demonstrates that in order to retain a competitive edge, paid search is becoming another must-have for marketers. Fortunately, there are a number of ways to really get paid search working harder for you in 2016.Get Strategic.
As AdWords have released more extensions, giving advertisers a host of ways to enrich their ads, this has somewhat upped the game. It’s no longer enough to scramble up a bit of text – now you need a clear tactical approach. You need to approach your paid search campaigns as you would a website; thoughtfully crafting your message and figuring out the best way to make the most of AdWords’ features.
Manual ad extensions include:
Automated ad extensions include:
- consumer ratings
- seller ratings
- previous visits
- dynamic sitelink extensions
- dynamic structured snippets
There really are a host of ways to get creative – and get noticed. Not only will an extension improve your ad’s visibility, it will also help to add value by increasing the click-through rate, so it’s well worth putting the time and effort into getting this right.
Finally, with mobile devices accounting for 53% of paid-search clicks, there’s yet one more reason to make sure your campaigns are also optimised for mobile ads and drive back to a fully mobile responsive experience for the user.Pay Attention to Video Advertising.
Videos are everything right now – whether it’s vlogs, virals or video ads. And last year, video campaigns really hit their stride. Already, Google has integrated TrueView video campaigns on YouTube into the AdWords interface (as mentioned above). The popularity of these video adverts rose among users, but clicks came at a low cost – meaning Google couldn’t monetise them well. However, there is a better way for Google to monetise video ads – and that’s within the search results themselves.
This is the next logical step – although there’s some debate as to whether Google or Bing will get there first. Normally, Google remains a step ahead of the competition, but recently Bing has trialled video ads in its search results, as has Yahoo. Google won’t be far behind – and one can only wonder what they have in store. They already know that video works – announcing in April 2015 that 65% of YouTube TrueView campaigns drove a ‘significant’ lift (13% average) in brand interest. And with TrueView campaigns now part of the core AdWords interface, video ads finally have the same structure as ‘Search’, ‘Display’ and ‘Shopping’ campaigns – which positions them perfectly for the Search Network.
But perhaps the biggest clue that there’s more to come is at the end of Google’s own TrueView/AdWords video. They conclude by telling us that now all campaigns share the same DNA, ‘new features and updates will come faster than ever.’ Just one more reason why advertisers need to be focusing on video ads.Take Advantage of Second Chances with RLSAs.
RLSAs (otherwise known as Remarketing Lists for Search Ads) are like a second bite of the cherry for advertisers. They allow marketers to tailor search campaigns according to whether someone has visited their website or app in the past, even down to the pages that person viewed.
RLSAs can either be used in one of two main ways:
- You can establish search ad groups targeting your existing keywords from users on your remarketing lists. Showing ads only if a user happens to be on your remarketing list and is also searching with the keywords you’ve bid on. For example increase bids by 25% for those people who previously visited your webiste in the last 30 days, or show a diferent ad to those who abandoned a shopping cart.
- You can bid on more broad keywords that you don't normally bid on only just for people who have recently visited your site, or who have previously converted on your site in the past. For example you can bid on more broad keywords for those people who have previously purchased from your site which can help increase sales.
According to some stats, only 2-4% of site visits end in a sale. Even so, a customer who’s in a buying frame of mind can run a number of related searches at various times, visiting different sites. In normal campaigns your bids, ads and keywords might be the same for every search. What RLSAs allow you to do is tailor these elements to your higher-value prospects. In turn, you’ll start to see better conversion rates and, consequently, a better ROI.
Ultimately, paid search is an invaluable way of making sure your business gets seen by the right people, at the right time – and with the correct paid search strategy, it can provide an impressive ROI.
The good news for advertisers is that anyone can be in with a chance of featuring at the top of paid listings, so long as their campaigns are well-optimised, relevant and user-focused. And given that the top 3 paid advertising spots get around 46% of the clicks on the page, putting the time and effort into your paid search campaigns can pay dividends in the long run.
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