Paid search marketing is big. It’s so big that Google makes nearly 100 billion dollars a year from search advertising. Why? Because it works. For the OMCA exam, you’ll to be able to explain why paid search advertising is so effective. For starters, paid search places relevant ads alongside search results in the search engines. Paid search advertising is also called PPC, pay per click. It’s called that because of the system of only paying for visitors that click to your website. Paid search ads are shown with search results, typically at the top and bottom of the page. In this example you can see the first listing is noted as an ad. This is a different system than the organic results and paying for ads won’t increase your website’s rankings. Search engines keep these systems separate. It’s effective because you are able to get an ad in front of someone as soon as they search for something. Many times, it is very early in the process, when people are just interested in a new product. By placing an ad in front of them early, you are able to get their attention, possibly the sale. Next, this type of advertising is immediate. While search engine optimization relies on editing a website, it takes time. Paid search is up and running as soon as you create the campaign, and runs as long as you pay for the ads to appear. Also, the ads can be highly targeted. You can run general ads targeting fitness trackers, or be very specific and target search phrases such as where to buy a Fitbit Force in Denver. In addition, the campaign isn’t static. It’s highly flexible. You can change budgets, campaign parameters, add new campaigns, or adjust your campaign settings anytime you want. Finally, the data generated from your campaigns is near real-time. You can make decisions based on sales data, budget spend, or any other campaign settings based on immediately available data. This allows for accurate budget and ROI calculations and the ability to act quickly when opportunities arise. Now, when it comes to creating and managing a paid search campaign, many companies will utilize their in-house marketing team. Other companies prefer to contract with agencies that specialize in this advertising. Generally, they pay a monthly fee or a budget for the agency to manage their campaigns and pay the hard costs, that is, the cost of clicks to the search engine. Alternatively, some agencies will manage paid search campaigns, and only take a percentage of sales they generate through their management. When a person searches for something, the search engine presents the information they are looking for. Paid search results present a clear, compelling advertisement in front of a searcher at the moment of their need. No other form of advertising is able to match that. Because of this, it is a strong force in an organization’s digital strategy.
Paid search marketing is one of the most effective and economic methods of driving new business. It can be confusing to set up but I’ll walk you through how a paid search campaign is structured. Advertising with paid search starts with creating a campaign. This is the container where your different ads and their target audiences are organized. In the campaign settings, you manage your settings, budgets, and options. The next step is to determine how and where people will see your ads. A display campaign allows you to run many types of ads on a display network. A paid search campaign will reach searchers with text ads. The next step is establishing goals for the campaign. Typically there are three goals of any campaign. The first is to get sales. For e-commerce, product sales, or direct offers, this goal is for campaigns that drive to a transaction as the final goal. Second, gain leads. For many business to business companies or those that have a long sales process, it starts with getting leads. Third, to drive visitors to your website. This could be to increase page views, subscriptions, popularity or awareness. I’m going to choose sales and I’d like to reach my goal by getting people to my website. Now, let’s set up the campaign settings. First, I name my campaign. Now, networks. Networks are made up of partners that show search results or run ads. If you only want your ads to show on the specific search engine you are using, like google or bing, then uncheck the boxes. Next, you set your location to target, your language, your daily budget, and then also your maximum per click. After this, we set up ad groups. An ad group is a collection of key words and ads. You use multiple ad groups to manage the different types of campaigns, offers, and types of ads. For example, if I’m selling a fitness tracker, I may want to build one ad group for people looking to get in shape or lose weight. They would be early in the process and might be interested. The next ad group could then be targeted to those searching for information about a fitness tracker. They are researching a future purchase and by making a direct inquiry, I can be more direct with my ads. The third ad group could then be made for those looking to purchase. It would be very direct and move the user to the purchase. Now in each ad group I create ads that are specific to that ad group. Here’s what I mean, if I have an ad group targeting people researching a fitness tracker my ads in that ad group would be about that information, comparisons, or helping people find one that’s right for them. The ad is the created copy, or creative, that I write to match the intent of the search query. Each ad has a similar structure. A headline in big blue text, then the ad notation, and the green text of the display URL of the landing page, or destination page, if you click the link. Then, in gray text, the copy or creative. That’s the text that describes the offer. Then, I can add site link extensions, such as phone number, location, or additional information. This is the terminology of setting up a paid search campaign. The next time that you search for a product, take a look at the ads you see. Now you’ll understand some of the elements that go into producing that ad for you.
Paid search advertising is effective because it’s like mind reading. You can put an ad in front of someone as soon as they need it. I’m going to show you how to select the words that your target customer would use when they search. This process, called Keyword Bidding, allows us to target people based on words and phrases they use in their search. When they use the words we choose, it triggers our ad. There are targeting strategies that help us find more descriptive phrases with clear intent. When we know the searcher’s intent, we can deliver a relevant ad that matches that intent. To do this, we need to know the three primary types of keyword searches that people perform. First, the navigational search. Like smartwatch Best Buy. In this type of search, the user types in the intended website along with the keyword. Now this presents an issue. There’s clear intent. But it may be for a competitor’s website. All of the major paid search platforms restrict the use of US trademarked terms, which typically include brand names. As a general rule, you can include the brand name or trademark term in your keywords to trigger the ad. But you can’t use the brand name or trademark term in the content of the ad. In this example, we have ads at the bottom of the page that appear even though we have used Best Buy. As you’ll see, we have ads at the bottom of the search results that are showing up when we type in smart watch Best Buy. You’ll notice that only the ads from Best Buy have the Best Buy keyword in them. Second is the transactional search, such as buy an Apple watch. A clear intent to purchase is shown when people use branded product words along with buy, purchase, order, or get in their search. Third, there’s the informational search. Like, what are the features of a smart watch? Informational searches are the most common type of searches. They are typically very broad, and have thousands of pages of relevant results. Informational searches cover a wide variety of issues. In many cases, you can plan and anticipate a problem or a question. Such as, how to get in shape? Which you can use to trigger your ad for a fitness tracker or a smart watch function as a solution. Similarly, a problem could be technical or related to a service issue, such as smart watch doesn’t sync. For health or technical content you may be able to anticipate issues that people will encounter. Each of these search types provides a clear intent. And a keyword strategy can be developed to target each type of intent. For example, if I were developing an ad group for an informational type of keyword search. In this case let’s go back to people looking to get in shape. I would research all of the health benefits and how a smart watch fitness tracker contributes to good health and getting in shape. Then I would use related phrases and health-oriented search terms and connect them to my ad. In my ad I would be presenting my smart watch as a solution to their desire to get in shape. Similarly in this ad example, they are bidding on the phrase get in shape, and presenting an ad for their fitness products. So now you can see there are many ways to approach a keyword strategy. As people rely on search engines more and more to provide answers, they also provide us clues on how we can use their own searched words to target future buyers.
If you are selling fitness trackers, how would you match the keyword to the right kind of search? I’m going to show you how keyword matching options will target your ads to the right searcher. Using a keyword research tool like Wordtracker I can see the many words and intentions people have when searching for fitness trackers. Here is a list of how different phrases are used when searching for fitness trackers. There are hundreds of variations. Somehow we have to be able to target the intent but also allow for the many variations that people use. If your keywords are too broad, your ad will show frequently but maybe not to the right audience. If your target is too tight your ad may not show at all. Understanding keyword match types enables you to target the right audience. It does this by allowing you to determine how closely a searcher’s words will trigger your ad to show. Let’s go through the four keyword match types. First there’s the exact match. This is where the search phrase has to match our keywords or have a very close variation. A close variation may be a re-ordering of the words that don’t change the meaning. And the usage of function words such as prepositions or conjunctions, which don’t impact the meaning. So if I use an exact match for the keyword Apple smartwatch, then only that phrase with those two words, in any order, will trigger my ad. Also a phrase such as smartwatch from Apple would still trigger the ad since from is a preposition. Naturally there are fewer people that will see the ad since I’m restricting how often it will show, through the targeting. But the click through rate of the ad, that is the rate at which people click on my ad, will probably be higher. Then we’ve got the phrase match. A user’s search phrase has to match our keywords in the order specified, but allows for additional words to be used before and after the phrase. So a phrase match for Apple smartwatch will trigger my ad regardless if they search for buy Apple smartwatch, compare smartwatch Apple, or Apple smartwatch reviews. This would include misspellings and singular and plural forms of your keywords. Then we have the broad match. This is the default option and is the widest matching option. If the user searches for a fitness tracker or activity tracker, your Apple smartwatch ad could show, as it broadly matches the search term even though the terms aren’t the same. According to Google broad match includes misspellings, synonyms, related searches, and other relevant variations. Broad match is the most common and gives more exposure but the performance is typically lower. Now finally the modified broad match. Combine a broad match and a phrase match and you can choose one or more words to match exactly or have a close variation to trigger the ad. In this method I could choose specific words in a phrase to match. So if I have the phrase, waterproof fitness band, I could choose fitness and band to be matched, allowing a very broad matching option for the word waterproof. This allows for the different words that people may search with to describe that option. Another matching option is available and it is called a negative match. A negative match lets you disable your ad when irrelevant searches are made using a keyword. For example if someone is searching for a free Apple smartwatch you may determine, this is not a qualified buyer. Normally the keywords would trigger your ad and it would be shown to this searcher. But if you add the word free to your list of negative keywords, then any search using the word free would not show your ad. It creates a stop word that prevents your ad for showing in irrelevant searches. So now you can see how match types enable highly targeted options to reach people, based on a specific need or intent, expressed in their search.
Let me ask you something. What would you be willing to pay to get a qualified visitor to your website? I’m going to show you the different ways that you pay the search engine to run your ads. In selecting keywords, we bid on them. Multiple advertisers want the same terms, so they compete by bidding how much they are willing to pay the search engine to display their ads. However, not all bidding options are the same. There are three different paid search bidding options you can choose from based on the goal of your business. First, if your goal is to get people to your website, then you’ll use CPC or cost per click. In cost per click, you only pay the search engine when someone clicks your ad. Now you can do this two ways: First, you can use automated bidding. Here, I can set a daily budget and let the search engine find the cost per click words and matches that will bring me the most visitors within my budget. Or I can manage this more closely with manual bidding, where I control my bids for each ad group or for each keyword. In this, I set the top amount that I’m willing to pay but won’t exceed for a click. This is called my max CPC, the maximum I am willing to pay for a click. When selecting a keyword, I would assign a max cost per click, like $2. Because this is such a dynamic system with multiple competitors bidding in real time and quality factors determining whose ad shows and where, I may be charged anywhere between $2 or maybe even $1 per click. But I will never exceed my $2 max cost per click. But let’s say that getting people to your website is good, but you primarily want brand exposure to as many people as possible. In that case, another bidding option is to pay based on the number of times that people view your ads. And that’s called impressions. Then, it’d be better to use VCPM, or viewable cost per mille. That’s typically how TV ads and display ads are purchased. Now don’t let this throw you. Mille is Latin for 1,000. So it simply means paying a fee for 1,000 viewed impressions. So if I am paying $20 CPM, it means that I am paying $20 for every 1,000 views of my ad in the search results. Finally, if you are focused on conversions, such as a lead or a sale on your website, you could use a more intermediate or advanced bidding strategy. This last style of bidding is target CPA, or target cost-per-acquisition. In this bidding strategy, you define your target cost per customer or lead acquisition. Instead of bidding on a visitor, you are bidding on a new customer or a lead. This type of bidding requires code to be placed on your website for conversion tracking so that the search engine is paid when it delivers a new customer. So rather than a one size fits all approach, these bidding options allow for a customized approach, depending upon your type of business or the goal of a campaign. In this way, you can control how much you are willing to pay for an ad view, a visitor, or a customer.
In this section, I’ll cover the primary metrics in paid search. Besides knowing these terms to pass the OMCA exam, I’ll teach you the main factors in getting the most out of your budget, which will make you a hero. The first metric is impressions. This reports how many times my ad was displayed and seen by people. The second is your average cost per click. This is the amount you’ve paid divided by the number of ad clicks. The amount paid per click varies, so the average gives you an accurate rate of how much you are paying per click. The third metric is the click-through rate, or CTR. This reports the rate that people click on your ad. The rate is determined by the number of clicks divided by the number of impressions. If you have 20 clicks and 1,000 impressions, then your click-through rate is 2%. Your click-through rate also affects one of the most important campaign metrics, the quality score. The quality score is a measurement to improve the quality of search advertising. This is the hero stuff. If you get this right, you’ll be spending less than other advertisers because the quality score rewards high-quality advertisers with lower ad prices. The goal of the quality score is to reward advertisers who closely manage their campaigns and create a high-quality advertising experience. A relevant high-quality ad makes the search results better and makes the search engine money. Otherwise, the search results would simply be filled with irrelevant ads. Here are the five keys to the quality score. First, the use of keywords in your ad copy. Ads that are written using the keywords chosen in the bid strategy will have a higher quality score. While this seems obvious, there are many big-budget advertisers that will write very general ads with few, if any, keywords. While they can outbid competitors, the lack of relevance from lack of keywords in their strategy and in their ad copy will produce a low quality score, which enables you, with a high quality score, to appear above them and pay less per click. So in this example, I am bidding on waterproof fitness trackers in my keywords. Then, I should also use that phrase in my ad copy, the headline, URL, and body content. In addition, using keywords in your ad copy has been proven to increase the click-through rate of the ad, which is the most important factor of the quality score. A good click-through rate means that the ad is written well. It has a compelling offer, and people click on it. If your ad has a good click-through rate, it means that people are responding to it. The click-through rate, performance of the ad, and the overall account is taken into account when deciding the order of ads that will be shown. Because the search engines make money from this system, the more clicks, the more they make. By displaying the best quality and highest-performing ads prominently, they not only show the best results to users, they maximize their potential ad revenue. The next factor is the relevance of the landing page. Similar to the ad itself, the landing page must also contain the keywords that I’m bidding on and using in the ad. Finally, the load speed of the landing page. For the best user experience, the landing page must load quickly on any device. These factors make up the quality score and the primary metrics of a paid search campaign. By understanding how they affect your campaign, you can be the hero by spending less than other advertisers and producing better results.
Your ad is the bait to get the attention of the person searching for information. I’m going to show you the basics of writing an ad that will get clicks. There isn’t enough space in the ad to provide a full sales presentation. So, it has to be fast, efficient, and compelling, to move the user to the next stage of the process, the landing page. On the landing page, is where the sale or the offer is presented, or, where the promise in the ad is delivered. There are four basic components of writing a compelling paid search ad. The first is the USP, or the unique selling proposition. This is what separates you from your competition. What makes your company or offering different, or unique. What are you offering that they can’t find anywhere else. In this example, Expedia offers a discount for booking hotel and flight together. They also present a build our own vacation option, and highlight that they have more than 11 million reviews on their site. The second component of a compelling ad, are the features and benefits of your offering. Now, here it is important to understand the distinction between a feature and a benefit. A feature describes the aspects, such as size, color, or time. For example, a feature statement for a Caribbean vacation would read, 10 days, 11 nights in a beach-front resort. These are important for early stage buyers, as they describe the offer. Benefits are more emotional, and present a personal gain, usually, beyond the product itself. So, a benefit statement would read, reconnect with your family, and make memories for a lifetime. Benefit statements are effective for late stage buyers, who are ready to make a decision. In this case, the emotional draw of making memories, justifies the expense of a family vacation. The third element, is the call to action. What are you asking people to do? A good ad does more than inform, it presents a tangible action, such as compare, buy, save, download, win, or book now. A strong call to action moves the user along in the process by improving the click-through rate of an ad, presenting a clear benefit to the user. Finally, ad extensions can increase your effectiveness. These are extra links and features on your ad. They can be a phone number, an additional offer, or links to other pages. In this example, both beaches.com and cheapcaribbean have site link extensions, but they are displayed differently. Beaches.com is the first result. And, so the site links are given more size and space. The first ad always has prominence and higher visibility of extensions. Cheapcaribbean has site link extensions as well, but, they are smaller and listed across the bottom of the ad. As you can see, crafting a page search ad is a mixture of art and science. Knowing the intent of your target and matching a compelling offer is what it takes to get the clicks.
The purpose of the ad is to gain interest. It’s the bait that makes a promise. After clicking the ad, the visitor goes to the landing page where the promise is delivered. I’ll show you how to use a landing page to get the sale. If you are actively looking to buy a product and you see an ad promising a free demo, you expect to go to the landing page, see the product, and get the free demo. That’s how landing pages close the loop on a paid search campaign. The key is that the landing page is constructed to present the offer contained in the ad. Landing pages are the salespeople of the process. The landing page takes the lead from the ad and presents the offer for the campaign. They are the final critical step in the process of converting a searcher to a buyer or a business lead. Because of this, landing pages for different purposes are constructed differently. For lead generation pages, the page is stripped of navigation features and anything that is distracting from the purpose. Only the content, offer, and lead form are presented. For example, lead generation landing pages might offer access to a demo, research report, white paper, or webinar in exchange for your contact information and email address. If I’m offering a research report in the ad, then I send people to a landing page with the research report prominently displayed. I also list the benefits of the research and present the conversion form. By maintaining a consistency in content, in language, and in the offer, I increase my chances of gaining a new lead. For e-commerce landing pages, the landing page should be the product page. Be careful sending people to general category pages where there might be dozens of similar products. If you want to show a selection of products, then it would be worth it to design a custom page for this purpose. One rule is to never send visitors from an ad to your homepage. This results in people leaving your website because they have to navigate to the information they originally wanted, which they won’t. The best practice is to send people to the page that is specific to your campaign and to your offer. Now this requires that multiple landing pages be built for multiple campaigns and multiple offers. The might sound like a lot of work, but people respond better when the ad and the landing page are consistent. Following a few guidelines like these will enable you to maintain a consistent message from the ad to the landing page. If you are delivering the promise you made in the ad with your landing page, then you’ll see the results in your campaign.
When I was a kid, my mother often quoted the second law of thermodynamics in regards to the mess in my room. The law simply states that things constantly move to a state of disorganization. It takes energy to prevent a mess. In the same way, you can’t leave these campaigns to run on their own. The energy of testing and optimizing your paid search campaign is required in order to have the best results. Improving your campaign will result in a lower campaign spend, better results, higher quality score, higher ad placement, and a higher return on your investment. Neglect a paid search campaign at your own risk. The first place to start is by testing the ad copy. Testing new ads can help you improve your click-through rate, which then improves your quality score. When testing ad copy, it can be as simple as testing a new ad headline. Sometimes a new ad headline immediately results in a better click-through rate. Other options are changing the offer, changing the call to action, or changing the ad extensions. Try different combinations or wording to find what works best with your intended audience. Paid search providers make it easy to have more than one ad for each ad group, so you should be running at least two ads for each ad group, like you see here for Green Automotive Widgets. This lets you have a real-time comparison, and you can always see the best performing ad. All ads will run at the same time and the paid search system will automatically choose which ad to run at particular times and then report performance to you, letting you see which ad is more effective. This type of testing is called A/B testing. This is simply done by randomly showing users two versions of an ad, the only difference is a single element, such as the headline. By doing this, you can learn which variation of headline is preferred by users. In this example, only the offer in the headline is being tested. The A/B test will show us if people prefer free shipping or a 20% discount. The winning ad is the one that has the highest click-through rate. The main benefit of this testing is that it can go on continuously, testing different elements against each other, and it can be completed relatively quickly. In testing ad copy, one would usually let it run about one to three sales cycles of the product or service to get a complete picture of the campaign results. The downside of A/B testing is that it only tests one variable. For example, a headline may gain more clicks and increase the quality score but in the end, produce less sales. An advanced testing option is multivariate testing. Instead of testing one small variation at a time, multivariate testing tests multiple elements in combination with each other on a single page. An example of this would be testing two landing pages with the same offer but different designs and elements. In this example, I would be testing a different design and video feature against a version with no additional content. The goal is to see how all of the elements work together as a whole rather than a single element. As I mentioned at the beginning, the energy you expend in improving your campaign will stop it from becoming a mess. Paid search is not a set it and forget it campaign. Even the smallest tests can result in significant increases in your click-through rate, which, in the end, can improve your ad ranking and lower your campaign costs.