Grasping the ins and outs of digital marketing is no small feat. There are content marketing and social media accounts to keep tabs on. There’s Google Analytics, and if you’re a brick and mortar shop, local SEO.

Which brings us to paid search. Paid search refers to your ability to pay for visibility on the major search engines like Google, as well as Bing and Yahoo when people search for certain terms you have chosen to include on your website.

With Google, for example, the paid ads appear on the top of the search results. The organic rankings (unpaid) are the links ranked below.

So, as you can see, paid search is a method of paying to be at the front of the line. However, there’s more to it than Google marketing. Below, we’ll give you paid search 101, so you can compete at the top of your game.

The Difference Between Organic and Paid Search

Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is a term used to describe all methods of marketing via search engines, which includes a paid strategy and an organic strategy.

Organic listings come up naturally, in the Google algorithm. For example, this is where a website falls within the search rankings based on various search engine optimization (SEO) tactics. SEO and SEM differ in that; the former refers to organic, unpaid marketing tactics and SEM is typically paid.

Organic rankings are determined by a number of factors–web traffic, how many websites link back to your page, whether your content is high quality, and so on.

Conversely, paid search refers to the results displayed above the natural search results when someone types in a specific set of words. The benefit of paying to play is, your solution will be front and centre.

While you’d ideally get most of your traffic via organic search, that’s not the reality. Most people don’t go any further than the front page of a search engine, so paid ads can help showcase your offerings if you’re new to online marketing or just starting out in business.

Launching a Successful PPC Campaign

Before diving into a strategy, marketers must identify the main goals for their campaign, what do you want to accomplish? Small businesses should look at paid ads as a compliment their digital strategy. It’s not a replacement for focusing on quality website content or optimizing for search engines.

Here are a few reasons to use search marketing:

Types of Paid Search Advertising

There are several different types of paid advertising; it’s not limited to the Google paid ads. Here is a quick guide to some of your options:

Social Media Ads

Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter all offer paid advertising campaigns to users. With these channels, you’re able to target specific demographics that may be interested in your product or service. But, it’s important that you choose a channel that makes sense for your brand. Make sure the demographics fit within your user base and consider how your brand performs organically.

Pay Per Click (PPC)

One of the most common types of paid search is pay-per-click. PPC refers to the ads you’ll see on Bing and Google AdWords, which shows your ad to people who search for specific keywords. You can set up campaigns by selecting the keywords that best identify what you’re selling, as well as writing ad copy that entices users to click.

Display Ads

Display ads are banner ads you’ll see on the top or the side of a page — and they’re either text-based or image-based. You’re familiar with these if you’ve ever been surfing a web page and see an ad for a clothing company in the sidebar. These ads are selected to fit the interests of your target audience and will link to your website.

In general, display ads don’t have a high conversion rate, but they may be useful if your main goal is brand awareness.


Remarketing is a practice that relies on the use of cookies in a user’s browser to show them ads related to their specific online actions. So, if you were looking at shoes on a retailer’s site and didn’t end up buying anything, you’ll see ads for those shoes follow you from website to website.

Remember to Set a Budget

When setting up your campaign, you can set limits on how much you want to pay per click, as well as how much you want to pay for a whole campaign.

Google and Bing, for example, let you set a monthly or weekly cap, as do the big social media channels. Some novice paid advertisers make the mistake of using a set it and forget it approach. If you’re not careful, certain terms could mean you go way over budget.

Ad Best Practices

Ads need to be compelling, they need to make people want to visit your website, and you’ve only got a few characters to prove yourself. Include relevant keywords in your ad copy and showcase your features, benefits, and any special offers.

You should also be sure to go over each platform’s set of guidelines; as there are some dos and don’ts you should be aware of–one such example, Google doesn’t like too many exclamation points, they come off as being aggressive.

Learn More About All Things Digital Marketing

We hope this article serves as a starting point for your paid ad research. Know that PPC and paid social ads can’t take the place of a solid SEO strategy but paid and organic work together to attract more users to your website. Be sure your site is optimized before dabbling in paid. Otherwise, you might be disappointed.

Want to learn more about using paid ads to grow your online traffic? Explore our blog to read more about using paid ads to drive traffic.

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