We can’t talk about paid promotion without discussing one of the most popular forms of online advertising: paid search. Often referred to as SEM (search engine marketing), paid search advertising is made up of text ads found at the top and on the right side of a search engine results page. All search engines have paid search programs, but Google AdWords and Bing Ads are the most popular.

So, why is paid search such a valuable marketing tool? Because you are putting yourself in front of a person at the exact time they have indicated their interest in your product or service. It’s also completely accessible – you can get started with an investment of just a few hundred dollars.

Paid search is an auction based platform. You choose keywords that are relevant to your business, and then bid on them by setting a maximum cost-per-click (CPC). From there you write ads and determine what page you want your ad to click through to.

So, how do search engines determine what order to show ads in? For some it’s as simple as the higher the bid, the higher the placement. For others, like Google, it’s a little more complicated. Google assigns each keyword an Ad Rank. The higher the Ad Rank, the higher position the ad will show. Ad Rank is determined by both the maximum bid and Quality Score. Quality Score is automatically determined by Google. A number of elements are taken into consideration when considering quality score:

Click-Through Rate
Click-through rate is determined by dividing the number of times the ad was clicked on by the number of impressions, or times your ad is seen. If your click-through rate is higher than other ads on the page, Google can deduce that your ad is the good, and will give it a higher quality score. Conversely, if your ad has a low click-through rate, Google will assign it a lower Quality Score.

Ad Relevance
Only ads that are relevant to a user’s search will appear in the search results. Google determines relevancy by looking for the same or similar keywords that people are searching on within the ad copy.

Landing Page Experience
Landing pages, or the pages that a user is directed to after clicking on an ad, also play a role. The content on the page should be relevant to the keyword and ad. Additionally things like easy navigation, quick-load times, and minimum pop-ups all play into the Quality Score.

Bing also assigns keywords a Quality Score using similar criteria, however it is not taken into consideration when determining how much you will pay, or where you ad will show. Rather, it is more a tool that can be used to optimize you paid search campaigns.

Getting started with paid search often involves a little trial and error. Keeping track of how much traffic you are getting from your paid search campaigns and how they are performing can ensure you get the most out of your marketing dollars.

About the Author: Asheley Dozier is the Paid Search Manager for Pagemodo and Webs. Get more from Asheley on The Webs Blog.

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