Paid search marketing refers to paid-for advertising that usually appears alongside, above and occasionally below the organic listings on the SERPs or a partner site. These are usually labelled with something like ‘sponsored links’ or ‘sponsored results’ in order to make it clear to users that they are. In fact, paid-for ads are not part of search engines organic listing. Typically, you pay each time your ad is clicked, hence ‘pay-per-click’ or PPC. PPC is the most common form of paid search marketing, but you can also buy ads on a ‘cost per thousand’ (CPM) basis.

Paid search (pay-per-click) marketing (PPC) is similar to conventional advertising. Here a relevant text ad with a link to a company page is displayed when the user of a search engine type in a specific phrase. A series of text ads usually labelled as a ‘sponsored links’ are displayed above, or on the right of, the natural listing. Although many searchers prefer to click on the natural listings, a sufficient number do click on the paid listing (typically around a quarter or a third of all clicks) such that they are highly profitable for companies such as Google and a well-designed paid search campaign can drive a significant amount of business for companies. There are also opportunities to create awareness and response from pay-per-click ads displayed on third-party sites.

Paid search marketing gives much more control on appearance in the listings subject to the amount bit and relevance of the ad compared to SEO. Each main search engine has its own paid advertising programme. Google Adwords and Microsoft Bing and Yahoo! adCenter. There are other options for payment on what is known as the content network.

It’s no surprise that the biggest players in the pay-per-click arena are the leading search engines: Google AdWords and Microsoft Search Advertising (which also serves ads on Yahoo! networks). You will also find a number of smaller PPC search programmes out there targeting niche areas or serving particular verticals. Explore your options. Depending on your business they may offer better opportunities to reach local, industry specific or specialised niche markets than the larger players. Nevertheless, when talking about paid search advertising the ‘big two’ are where the action is for the most online businesses.

Paid search content network

Paid listings are also available through the display network of the search such as Google Adsense and Yahoo! Content Match. The contextual ads are automatically displayed according to the page content. They can be paid for a CPC, CPM or CPA (pay-per-action) basis and include not only text but also options for graphical display ads or video ads. Google generates around a third of its revenue from the content network, so these is a significant amount of expenditure on the network.

Trusted feeds

Trusted feeds or paid for inclusion is no longer significant to search advertising for most organisations. In trusted feeds used by Yahoo!, and ad or search listings content was automatically uploaded to a search engine from a catalogue or document database for inclusion for the search results. A similar approach is used by retailers to include their products in Google Product Search. Another related option is to advertise in RSS feed.

Adapted from

Chaffey, D. and Ellis-Chadwick, F., 2012. Digital marketing: strategy, implementation and practice (Vol. 5). Harlow: Pearson.

Ryan, D., 2016. Understanding digital marketing: marketing strategies for engaging the digital generation. Kogan Page Publishers.

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