Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Paid Search

By eleventy marketing group

Today's post includes answers to common questions about paid searchAt eleventy, we provide data-driven marketing services to a variety of organizations—nonprofits, corporations, small businesses, etc. Oftentimes, we create our blog posts based on questions we get from our clients. We think it’s a good indication of what’s on the minds of professionals. In today’s post, we’ll be discussing a topic quite a few clients have asked about: paid search.

Our goal here is to give you a basic primer on paid search—what it is, how it functions, and how it can benefit your organization and increase your traffic. If you’re exploring the possibility of testing paid search, hopefully this will give you a little insight into whether or not paid search will work for you.

What is paid search?

It may seem like a simple question, but most people don’t really know what paid search is. If that sounds like you, no worries—we’ll clear that up for you right now.

Paid search is when you pay for targeted advertising on a search engine like Google, Yahoo or Bing. Essentially you pay to have your link appear on a results page when people search for a specific keyword.

Here’s an example: Say you go to Google and type “local plumber” in the search box and click the search button. At the top of the page, you will see a few results in a colored box (see image below). Those are all businesses that paid to advertise on searches for that keyword.

Example of how some paid search results appear on Google

You’ve probably seen paid search results thousands of times, but you may not have really noticed them. That’s the beauty of paid search—your ads blend in.

How does paid search work?

Paid search (also often referred to as “per per click” or “PPC”) is available to any business or organization. It can be somewhat of a complex process, so we’ll just boil it down to the basics here:

1. You set up an account and create your ad (the headline, text and link that will appear on the results page).

2. You bid on specific keywords.

This is where things get a little confusing. You don’t buy an ad—you bid. Since other businesses or people may want to advertise for a certain keyword too, you bid against competitors for ad space on that keyword.

3. The person who enters the highest bid gets the highest positioning for searches of that keyword.

If you’ve entered the highest bid, your ad will be displayed on the first page of search results for that keyword (where people are most likely to see it). If others have higher bids than yours, your ad might not show up until page 2, 5, 10, etc. of the search results (depending on where your bid falls in terms of the competition).

It’s important to note, you only pay for the ad when someone clicks on it (hence the name “pay per click”). Your paid search ad may appear hundreds of times but only get one click. In that case, you only pay for that one click.

Since the system is based on bidding, you determine what you’re willing to pay for your paid search advertising based on your budget. Obviously, the higher your bid, the better your position and the more clicks you will get.

What are the benefits of paid search?

Paid search is like an online billboard for your organization. It’s calls attention to your product or service, and gives people quick and easy access to additional information. But it’s more beneficial than traditional advertising because it is more targeted.

Since you focus your advertising on specific terms people are searching on sites like Google, you are presenting your ad to people interested in that topic (for whatever reason). This increases the likelihood your ad will reach a relevant audience.

Ever wonder how search engines make money? Google collects tons of revenue from paid search—reportedly over $100 million a day.

The specific targeting of paid search has made it a valuable online marketing tool. When done correctly—with concentration on the right keywords—paid search can drive a lot of relevant traffic to your website or landing page. Those can be new customers or donors who can help boost your bottom line.

Like any other marketing or advertising effort, paid search has to be done intelligently and efficiently. It has to get you results to make your expenditure worthwhile.

Does paid search really get you clicks?

You may be saying to yourself, I see paid search results all the time and never click on them. But, trust us, people do. Otherwise, Google and the other search engines wouldn’t have built such a huge business off paid search. The power is in the numbers.

Think about how many times you search Google in a given day. Now multiply that by the number of people in your city, state, or even across the country. How about the number of people in the world? It amounts to BILLIONS of searches each and every day on Google alone.

Keep in mind the action people are taking when they use search engines: They are searching. They are looking for something. If you are providing what they are looking for, they will click on your ad.

Example of how top paid search results appear on Google

The value of paid search is in the targeted nature of the ads, and (ideally) the relevance of your ad to the search keyword. If you focus on the right keywords, you can get very good results with paid search. The more relevant your ad is to what people are searching, the better results you will get.

Now are all clicks “good clicks” that will lead to a sale, donation or some other desired result? No. That’s why you have to test, monitor and adjust your paid search strategy (like you would with any other marketing effort) to make sure you’re getting the results you want for your investment.

This may take some time, but—when you make it work—paid search can be an effective way to increase your website traffic and acquire new leads.

More on this topic to come…

Hopefully that helped you fill in the gaps of your paid search knowledge. We’ll be posting more on this topic in near future—including information about Google Grants for nonprofits. So check back to the eleventy blog if this is a topic you’re interested in.

In the meantime: If you have any additional questions about paid search, feel free to email us or post them as comments below. We might even answer them in a future blog post so we can help other organizations who have the same questions.