Paid Search 101: How to Use Paid Search to Improve Inbound Marketing

Cari Thompson
By Cari Thompson

Estimated read time: 4 minutes, 32 seconds

We’ve all heard the term “paid search.” But how many of us totally understand what it means? We all probably know that it’s a marketing strategy that helps drive more leads and customers to our business. But how does it actually work?

The simple answer is: it’s complicated. There are a lot of moving parts within a paid-search strategy, so we can’t get into the minutiae in this post. But we do want to give you an overview of paid search, which will give you a general understanding and allow you to have an informed conversation with other colleagues and team members about paid search. Let’s get into it.

What is paid search?

Paid search is a marketing strategy under the Search Engine Marketing (SEM) umbrella. SEM is all about getting your website displayed on the first search engine result page (SERP). Essentially, when someone searches for specific keywords or phrases that relate to your product or brand, your website should show up in their search results. SEM also includes organic search engine optimization (SEO).

Paid vs. Organic Search

Both organic and paid listings are shown on SERPs, but they are displayed differently. Paid results show up at the top of the page, sometimes in a different color, and usually, have “ad” or “sponsored” displayed in the corner of the result.

Paid listings get top billing because the advertiser pays for that placement. You pay a fee, and your listing magically appears at the top of the page, to the right people, and directs them to your website. Your fee is usually based on clicks (you pay a certain amount for each click on your ad) or views (you pay a certain amount for the number of eyeballs that see your ad).

Organic search is unpaid, natural listings, and the placement of your website in organic search results depends on the search engine. Each search engine has its own set of algorithms that determine where a website is displayed on the SERP. The only way to change organic rankings is to optimize your website using other SEO strategies—coding, content, plugins, etc.

PPC vs. Paid Search

While many people use the terms PPC (pay-per-click) and paid search interchangeably, they are different. Essentially, PPC is when an advertiser pays a publisher (search engine, website owner, or network of websites) when their ad is clicked. PPC is the most popular type of paid-search strategy, so people have come to think of them as the same thing. Since we aren’t getting into specific paid-search strategies in this post, we’ll just stick to the general term “paid search” for now.

Why should my business care about paid search?

As much as you want your website’s SEO to be on point and show up on the first SERP for your keywords, sometimes it isn’t that simple. Search engines and their algorithms can be tricky to navigate, and if you want to get online exposure for your brand or product quickly, paid search is the best way to go.

Not only is paid search the fastest way to reach potential customers, but it’s also the best way to target the exact audience you want. You can program your paid-search ads to target people based on:

· Demographics
· Keywords
· Territories
· Devices
· Time of Day
· Day of Week

So, while you wait for your website to move up in organic search rankings, you can use paid search to get the initial exposure you need.

In-house vs. Outsourced Paid Search

Now that you have a pretty good understanding of what paid search is and why it’s important to your marketing strategy, the big question is, “Should I have an internal paid-search team or should I outsource my paid search strategy?”

As you can imagine, there are a lot of things to consider when making this decision. So here are some things to think about:

In-house Model

Having a fully in-house team can be expensive, so this model is great for businesses with big budgets for employees and ad spend. When hiring your paid-search team, it’s all about finding the right people—experienced paid-search specialists and managers who know how to create a strategy from the ground up—and that often means shelling out the big bucks.

While an in-house team is expensive, the great part about this model is that you have employees dedicated to your brand and campaigns with a deep understanding of your business.

Outsourced Model

For businesses with smaller spend accounts, a fully outsourced approach is a great option. It allows you to get the best value and results for your money. Instead of going through the hiring process and finding the perfect paid-search team or training current employees, you just need to find an agency that fits your needs.

On the other hand, with an outsourced agency, you won’t have the same amount of control that you would with an in-house team. Just be sure to retain ownership of your data and have a good working relationship with your agency.

While you may not know everything about paid search now, you should have a general understanding of how it works and why it’s important for businesses’ marketing strategy. Now you just need to decide if you’re going to do a ton more research and start your own internal team or hire a marketing agency to do it for you.

Cari Thompson

Cari Thompson is a copywriter, online marketer, and blogger. She studied marketing and advertising and—drum roll, please—music at Brigham Young University. Cari started in traditional advertising as a media buyer then transitioned into the online world through buzz marketing, blogging, and copywriting.
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