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An introduction to paid search

Paid search is a deceptively complex channel and one that, like many other marketing channels on and offline, takes many years to understand in detail. There are two primary reasons for this. First, paid search has more jargon and acronyms than any other form of digital marketing and so the above key terms may be useful to refer to throughout this chapter.

This is ironic, considering that good marketing copywriting involves avoiding exactly this type of situation but, irony aside, it is essential to understand the language of the channel to be able to communicate your strategy effectively. Second, it is remarkably easy to begin paid search activity and to gain an understanding of the very basics but, unfortunately, very difficult to get it right and to understand the tremendous number of options and variables.

As a result, it is important that within this section we start by providing an overview of the basics of paid search (and at the same time tackle the jargon) then quickly move to measurement (as good measurement criteria reduces the risk of getting it wrong). We will of course look at measurement more generally later in the book, but as measurement in paid search is unique and crucial to success it is key that we address it here also.

We then cover some of the more advanced paid search techniques and discuss Paid Search 111 whether humans or robots are best suited to managing paid search. Finally we cover how paid search can work in harmony with SEO, how the boundaries between paid search and display are blurring, and demonstrate how paid search can bring substantial rewards if done correctly. The main paid search platform is of course Google and therefore this section focuses on the functionality provided by them. However, the others (Microsoft Bing, Yahoo, etc) follow a very similar approach.

The basics of paid search Paid search can be quite simply defined: it is the process of bidding for potential clicks on an advert you create that is displayed within the search results pages of most search engines. However, given that this is the land of jargon, let’s get to the point: it is the ads you see at the top, bottom and side of the search results page.

Unlike traditional advertising, paid search is ‘bought’ via an auction model. For a given keyword or phrase an advertiser can place a maximum bid; the higher the bid, the higher the likelihood that the advert will be displayed in the top positions.

However, one of the big attractions of paid search advertising is that the advertiser only pays each time the advert is clicked, not displayed. This is obviously highly compelling and is perhaps the main reason why paid search has been adopted by one-man bands, multinationals and every company in-between.

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