What is Paid Search (PPC) and Why Do you Need It?

The Basics

The Wikipedia Explanation

Contextual advertising is a form of targeted advertising for advertisements appearing on websites or other media, such as content displayed in mobile browsers.

The advertisements themselves are selected and served by automated systems based on the identity of the user and the content displayed.

My Explanation

Paid search marketing means you advertise your small business by using sponsored listings of a search engine such as Google or Yahoo Bing.

You pay for ads in real time which means you only pay when somebody clicks on one of your ad and not when your ad is displayed.

So for example, when a user searches for the term: “plumber near me” on their search engine the results reveal the following:

plumber near me example serps


plumber near me example serps bottom of page

As you can see from the screen grab above, paid search results are at the top of the screen and will generally be found here either on a desktop or on a mobile device.

Depending on the popularity of the keyword, you may even find paid ads at the bottom of the screen too.

I live in Peterborough in the UK so these results are customised to my location. If you typed in the same keyword for your town or city then you would get different results.

The ad at the very top of the page is by a company called Smart Heat and Google feels that they are the most relevant, most accurate (based on their account history) offering plumbing services in my area and who have paid for this top slot of the page.

The same applies to the Bing SERP:

plumber near me example bing serps

Top of the page results


plumber near me example Bing serps - bottom of page

Bottom of the search page results


Do you notice that there are different ads at the top of the Bing search results?

There could be a few reasons for this. I’m guessing the previous advertisers on Google are not advertising on Bing.

Since Google is the main search engine around the world, you generally pay a lot more to advertise on their platform than you do on Bing Ads.

However, in most cases, it is worth paying a bit more since the amount of traffic on the Google Search results it’s quite a bit more than Bing search results.


Cost-per-click (CPC)

Cost per click means that as an advertiser you pay the search engine for each individual click on one of your ads. You normally get to appear quite high up in the search engine pages for this privilege.

Cost-per-impression (CPM)

Cost per impression means that as an advertiser you pay the search engine for every 1000 impressions your ad appears on a page. This is a little different than cost per click since you pay every thousand impressions regardless of if somebody clicks on your ad or not.

If you’re looking to get your phone ringing or capture leads then CPC is probably the best strategy for you. However, if you looking to raise brand awareness and are willing to wait to catch of those leads at a later time. Then CPM is the strategy for you.

The cost of CPM is generally a lot smaller and at the same time shows your ads to a larger audience. The quality of traffic is not as good (hence why it’s cheaper to advertise this way).

Google AdWords

You may have heard of the term AdWords and wondered what it meant?

AdWords is the name of Google’s own advertising product. It offers both CPM and PPC advertising and is the largest advertising medium on the planet. So if you’re looking to get your brand name out there or simply get the phone ringing there’s no better advertising platform in the history of Man better than Adwords (can you tell I’m a fan).

AdWords allows you to advertise with many different formats such as targeted banner ads, text and also rich media ads which include video, static and moving images.

This is Google’s main source of income and without it probably won’t be around today. no matter what size your business is, advertising on Google AdWords should be a priority for you since it’s the largest search engine that provides the most traffic to websites like yours.

There are two main networks you can use. you can either use their The Google Search Network or their Google Display Network.

The Google Search Network – is as the name says, you basically get featured in the standard Google Search results, shopping, maps and also via its many search partners (whenever you see Google search form on someone’s website this means they are a search partner).

Google Display Network – the display network is used by any website that wishes to get paid to advertise someone else’s products or services on that website. each participant needs to install a piece of code and placed it on their website at various different places. Google would then decide which ad is both appropriate and relevant depending on the content on that page. with this information, Google will then show irrelevant ads on those websites. the network also includes the likes of Gmail, blogger and YouTube.

With AdWords as an advertiser, you get to choose how to set your bids (the amount you’re willing to pay for each click on your ad). You have the option of making this an automatic bid (where Google chooses the amount that you bid depending on your budget) or a manual bid. With both CPM and CPC you are in control of how much you bid and can set a maximum.

As soon as your budget reaches that maximum then Google will no longer show your ads.

Not only is this great budgeting but it also means you don’t spend more than you can afford.

What are the drawbacks with using Google AdWords?

Google has experimented with AdWords for quite a few years now and has been clever enough to design the ads in such a way that they don’t even look like ads.

One study even found that 40% of consumers are unaware that Google Adwords are adverts which is astonishing.

In years gone by the ads were quite prominent and used to be at the top, at the bottom and at the side of the Google Search results.

If you look at their ads today you’ll see that they have pretty much been merged with the normal Google Search results and unless you look closely, don’t look like ads at all.

The desired effect for Google is that ads don’t look like ads and they hope that most users won’t be able to tell the difference between an ad and an organic result.

A few years ago Google updated AdWords and allowed advertisers to target people based on their location, time and date and even the device they were using (such as mobile or desktop).

These are called enhanced campaigns.

When they brought in this feature many of their advertisers were celebrating because this meant you had more opportunity to target your clients at the times and locations when they were online which ultimately will increase your conversion rate.

Yahoo Bing Network (YBN)

There aren’t many networks that can compete with AdWords. The nearest competitor is Yahoo Bing (YBN) which is owned and operated by Microsoft. This is the combined marketplace of both Yahoo and Bing and has many syndicated partners such as the likes of Monster, Amazon and even Facebook.

Bing currently represents roughly 29% of online search in the US.

Under a new deal inked out in 2015 Yahoo has agreed to show 51% of its desktop search traffic with Bing Ads.

Advertising with (YBN) works in the same way as Adwords. Users enter search terms called keywords into the search engine and those keyboards trigger a page of relevant content to match those keywords. (YBN) will then show relevant ads related to those keywords and can generally be found either at the top or at the bottom or those search results.

Since the search traffic isn’t as high on (YBN) as it is on Google, as an Advertiser you pay a lot less in advertising. That’s why it’s probably a good strategy to use both AdWords and (YBN) and split your budget between these two networks. Use the bulk of your ad dollars on Google.

You should also find that there is less competition using (YBN) as there are fewer advertisers marketing their products and services there than on AdWords. With less competition means that you can be more aggressive with your budget on (YBN) and in most cases can probably dominate most keywords you bid for.

Why should you use paid search?

Back in the day, the best place for your company to advertise would have been the Yellow Pages. This big Yellow Book would have been found in every single household in the land and would have been the first port of call for your client to find the suitable company to supply them with their products and services.

This was before the internet and the Yellow pages pretty much had the monopoly for both local and national ads.

With the emergence of the internet, the Yellow Pages could not compete since it was much easier and more convenient for prospective clients to quickly look up companies online rather than leaf through a big yellow book.

Quite a few years ago it was easy for your company website to appear in the top results of the search results and they probably wouldn’t have been as much competition with adverts. However, since Google makes most of its money this way they decided strategically to increase the number of ads that are shown against search results and as I mentioned earlier make them fit quite nicely at the top of the results where they don’t even look like ads.

For this reason, it’s vital for your company to appear in the top 5 results of the (SERPS) since many of your clients will not scroll further down past these 5 results.

Those companies that don’t appear at the top of the results will simply not be seen by prospective clients.

If you have enough money and you have the budget, using PPC is by and large the fastest way for your company to be seen at the top of the search results.

The good thing is, even though the advertising platform is quite complicated to use, there are many companies out there that are willing to help you with this (including my own XenMedia Marketing) (excuse the plug).

With that knowledge you’re able to set up a campaign with any of the networks within an hour and depending on the competition can appear in the top results almost immediately.

Note: For any campaign to be successful using this type of advertising you probably need to advertise on that platform for at least one month so you can track and measure your results. then, with this information, you can start crafting effective ads and decent sales copy for those ads.

The better the headline titles and copy in your adverts compared to your competitors the cheaper your ad spend will be. That’s because the search engines will reward you for good quality ads going to relevant web pages.

People will only continue using the search engines if they display the right and relevant content related to their keywords. That’s why it’s important to get this part of advertising right.

There’s a lot of money to be made by using ads. However, on the flip side, you can also lose a lot of money if you don’t know what you’re doing.

The Alternative

So, the opposite of using paid ads is spending money on Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). This is the process of getting either your page or pages high up in the (SERPS) without paying for them to be there.

They will be listed in the organic results (generally found just below paid ads)

If you run a small business and you’re on a tight budget then this may well be the best option for you. Don’t get me wrong, you’re still going to have to spend the money getting your page to the top of the search results (the effectiveness of doing this will vary depending on the keyword and a competition in your marketplace).

You can also use this in conjunction with social media marketing. The idea would be to produce what we call evergreen content (content that will last the test of time), engage with your audience and personalise their experience with you, your brand and your business. This really does work, but I must point out that this is more of a long-term strategy and can take anything from 6 to 12 months to achieve good results for just one page.

Whereas paid ads when used correctly can propel your brand or business to the top almost instantly!