Every minute there are 70 new website domains registered on the World Wide Web, adding to the millions of websites that already exist. This rate of websites being created makes it impossible for anyone to keep up with all of the information available. Tools like search engines were created to simplify this massive amount of data by using a complex algorithm that rank these millions of websites and consolidate them into a short list on a single page. Search engines fund this service by allowing businesses to purchase advertising on these search engine results pages (SERP). This advertising is known as Paid Search.
Paid Search is a marketing tactic that involves placing an advertisement for when, and only when, a user searches a specific keyword and clicks on the advertisement. That last part is what differentiates this kind of advertising from other forms of advertisements online, such as banner placements on websites. Most other advertising, up until Paid Search, was cost by impression or CPM for short. Paid Search is billed only after a user clicks on the ad. This is known as a cost per click, CPC for short. The distinction, although subtle, means that businesses like yours are only paying if a prospect or customer not only sees your advertisement, but is engaged enough to interact with it by clicking the hyperlink.
An important aspect of online marketing, and Paid Search, is to understand the purchase funnel. There are many versions of this model but it basically breaks down to 1) Awareness, 2) Opinion, 3) Consideration, 4) Preference, and 5) Purchase. Awareness means that users are just researching and seeing if they have a need and Purchase means they’ve made their decision and are ready to buy. When shopping for products online, people consistently use search engines regardless of their stage in the funnel. However, it is believed that users will modify their search queries depending on their stage. For example, if a user is just starting a search to buy a new printer they’ll likely type “printer” into a search engine like Google and click “Search.” Only after some research, and as they move their way down the funnel, do they modify their query to something like “all in one inkjet printers,” and then likely adding a brand name.
Paid Search strategies can now be crafted off of these concepts and understanding of the model. If you want to affect the future purchase decision at the very beginning, and have a large budget, it would be valuable for a business to bid on broad keywords such as “printer,” “printer copier,” “inkjet printer”, “printing,” etc. It’s important to note that these keywords have a large volume of visitors but are highly competitive, very expensive, and likely have a low conversion rate as they are more in the Awareness or Opinion stage. Another strategy would be to target very specific Long Tail keyword phrases that are searched less often, but are further down the purchase funnel. Targeting keywords such as “wireless all in one laser printer for mac” will likely be less expensive, less competitive, and have a higher conversion rate. Targeting many of Long Tail keywords can add up to a significant revenue stream while building an online presence.
Most small and medium size businesses don’t have the budget to pay upwards of $18 per click for keywords such as “printer.” Therefore, a more targeted approach that aims at specific Long Tail keywords would develop into a successful strategy. To further optimize Paid Search, campaigns can be limited down to other factors such as mobile or desktop device, keyword match (broad, phrase, or exact), geography (X miles from Zip Code), time of day and day of week, and languages. Campaigns should also intentionally direct users to the appropriate page based on their keyword. If someone clicks on an ad shown for “laser printer toner cartridge red”, it should go directly to the page related to that keyword. Landing Pages that focus on one call-to-action, encouraging a user to make a phone call, order a product online, or download a whitepaper are a great best practice. Limit the amount of options users have and they’re more likely to complete the designed action.
To get started with Paid Search, businesses can create a small campaign with Google AdWords or Bing Search Advertising. Build a list of a very targeted keywords and add destination URLs to the appropriate product pages. Add some more advanced targeting and set a small budget. All online advertising should be based on a foundation of testing. Try campaigns for a product, a product category, an industry, a brand, etc. Keep testing, keep learning, and you’ll likely find digital campaigns like Paid Search a valuable marketing tactic.