Search Engine Marketing: The Basics of Paid Search


Here’s a statistic that won’t surprise you: almost 90% of all buying decisions start with online research. Think about your own buying decisions. How many important purchases do you NOT spend some time researching online? Very few, I’m sure.

But this behavior isn’t unique to consumer buying. It’s highly prevalent in business buying as well. In fact, it might be even more important, especially when it comes to major purchases and large investment outlays.

And where does most online research start? In a search bar, which leads to search engine results pages. That should make it fairly obvious that you want your business to be on search engine results pages, or SERPs. There are a few ways to accomplish this, but the most direct method is by paying to be there. This form of search engine marketing is generally known as paid search, and here’s what you need to know about it.

Watch this video to see paid search explained in 2 minutes.

First, let’s clear up a little terminology. Paid search is a term used similarly to search engine marketing (SEM). Paid search is also sometimes referred to as pay-per-click (PPC), based on the premise that advertisers pay the host each time an ad is clicked on by a user.

While SEO – search engine optimization – is also literally a form of search engine marketing, we typically think of SEO as the unpaid, or organic, side of SERPs. Earning your way into the organic rankings on SERPs is an entirely different beast and an entirely different conversation. Here, we’re strictly talking paid search, or SEM.

When you type a search term into the search bar of a search engine (let’s see how many times we can get the word search into this sentence), what you get – the list of results as determined by that search engine – is what we call the search engine results page (SERP). For many searches, there will be several listings at the top of the page that have paid for the right to be there (you’ll notice they’re marked as ads). This is important since research tells us that the further down the SERP something sits, the less likely it will get clicked on. In fact, there’s a (kind of morbid) long-running joke in the marketing industry that the best place to hide a body is page 2 of Google search results, because studies show less than 10% of users go beyond the first page of results.

Paid search works essentially like this: Let’s say your company sells production line widgets. So, you set up a campaign around some keywords related to widgets and bid for premier placement. When someone searches for those keyword phrases, your ad is prominently displayed on the results page. If the user clicks on your link, you pay the search engine – you paid for that click (thus, pay-per-click).
SEM can be highly effective because, as we mentioned, we know that most buying decisions start with an online search. Research also shows that three-quarters of people who click on paid ads say they make it easier to find the information they’re looking for.

Paid search marketing is a simple concept, but it can be quite nuanced in execution. For example, knowing which keywords to choose and how to effectively bid for them can be tricky, given that your direct competitors probably have the same ideas you do for approaching SEM (similar keywords, for example). Then, there’s the analysis that must take place to sharpen and improve a campaign – how you take performance of the ads and adjust them to optimize the investment.

So, in summary: simple concept, not-so-simple execution. From start to finish, it can visually look something like this:


Search engines like Google offer tools to implement ad campaigns, but without a solid foundation for keyword strategy, audience segmentation and targeting, it can be really easy to lose critical ROI. Or, in stark terms, easy to waste money. But with a tactful and informed strategy, paid search pays off.

Ready to get started with paid search for your B2B company? Reach out to or (972) 402-7070 and we’ll connect you with a qualified marketing consultant.

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