Paid search sometimes gets a bad rap, as various studies have shown that (depending on whose numbers you believe), anywhere from 75% to 85% of all clicks are on organic, rather than paid, links.
That high-level analysis is misleading, however. Consider just one category of searches: students conducting research projects. Whether its a junior high, high school or college student, researching anything from the paintings of Pablo Picasso to the writings of William Shakespeare to the mating habits of zebras, the odds of such of search resulting on a paid ad click are virtually zero. That’s just one entire category of searches that should, rightfully, be removed from any relevant analysis.
The fact is, paid search is a vital component of any web presence optimization strategy because it enables advertising companies to:
- appear prominently in search results for terms that would be difficult to rank for organically (e.g. competitor names or highly competitive search phrases);
- control the precise message (their ad) that searchers will see in the search results;
- guarantee exp0sure on page 1 of search results when buyers are late in their purchasing process;
- specify exactly what page searchers will be linked to; and
- direct searchers to landing pages that may be very difficult to optimize organically (e.g., pages with a conversion form and limited content).
The best approach is to use organic SEO and paid search (e.g., Google AdWords) in conjunction to maximize first-page-of-the-search-results exposure. With that said, how can you maximize the impact of paid search ads? Increase the click-through rate on paid search ads? Understand Google AdWords quality scores? Optimize landing pages for conversions?
Discover the answers to these questions and many more here in 17 of the best AdWords and SEM guides of the past year.
AdWords Guides, Tips & Tactics
The New Paid Search Ads On The Block by MediaPost Search Insider
Janel Landis Laravie highlights changes Google had made to give paid search results more prominence, among them Local, Product, Video, Phone and Sitelinks, and states that “If you still are not using these, you are missing out.” She describes in detail how sitelinks are used and how advertisers can take advantage of these features.
How to Write a Killer AdWords Ad by Treating It a Mini Landing Page by Search Engine Journal
Observing that “text ads follow structure of good landing pages. First, there is a headline. Then there are two lines of text (the copy). Finally there is call to action (the URL),” Paras Chopra discusses the attributes of an effective PPC ad and how to create one by optimizing each element of the ad.
2 Little Known Ways To Increasing CTR And Quality Score by Certified Knowledge
Noting that “the biggest factor that influences (quality score) is CTR,” Chris Thunder shows how to use day-parting and geo-targeting to gradually increase CTRs and quality scores by granularly excluding low-click-through hours and geographic locations.
Frequent best-of honoree Ron Jones notes that Google uses three primary factors—CTR, ad relevance (“relevance of the keyword or search query to the ad”) and landing page relevance and reputation—to assign quality score, and walks through a 5-step process, from creating carefully targeted ad groups to reducing landing page loading time, to help improve quality scores.
How Does the AdWords Auction Work? [Infographic] by The WordStream Blog
Elisa Gabbert illustrates “how exactly the AdWords auction works, including what gets entered into each ‘auction,’ how Google determines which ads are shown where, (and) how Google determines what advertisers pay” for search ads in this handy and helpful infographic.
How to Schedule Dayparting on Google AdWords by Search Engine Watch
Writing that “all businesses have specific time periods in which they are more profitable than others,” Howie Jacobson steps through the process of how to determine the most and least productive hours for any AdWords campaign, and details the process for excluding certain blocks of time each day. He also adds a helpful reminder to take time zones into account when day parting.
AdWords and PPC Guides from PPC Hero
Nowhere else in this best-of series does a single source gets its own section in a summary, but the team at PPC Hero so consistently produces notable PPC-related content that they have earned this distinction.
Jessica Cates steps through Google’s changes to its privacy and transparency requirements from AdWords advertisers. Essentially, Google requires that advertisers make it clear to landing page visitors how their personal information will be used, how to opt out of communications with the business, and a secure connection if any financial information will be transmitted.
Jessica Rooney provides a video guide to mobile PPC advertising, specifically “how to check to see that you’re set up for mobile PPC in a way that gives you the most benefit from your PPC campaigns.”
The Ultimate Guide to Google AdWords Quality Score
***** 5 STARS
This must-read-and-bookmark guide is designed to de-mystify the murky value that is the Google AdWords Quality Score, and to help PPC marketers “understand the different types of Google Quality Score, why they’re important, the misconceptions about Quality Score, and (provide) a checklist of actions you can take to help raise…Quality Score.”
For ADD-sufferers interested in this topic, Kayla Kurtz presents a highly-condensed version of the the guide above, focusing on a handful of quick tips to help improve your AdWords quality scores, in this less-than-two-minute video.
Bryan Watson analyzes the six keyword match types (broad, phrase, exact, negative, embedded, and modified broad) and explains how to properly use each type, e.g., “if your marketing campaign is targeted towards customers in the beginning phase of the buying cycle, broad match may be good to utilize in order to target people who are looking for your service, but aren’t entirely sure what to search for.”
For anyone who’s not entirely clear on what all the unique phrases and acronyms used within the AdWords realm mean exactly, Faseeh Shams has compiled a list with extensive definitions for terms ranging from quality score and CTR to search query reports and negative keywords–along with tips for improvement in each area.
Explaining that “I’ve found that literature pertaining to (Microsoft adCenter’s paid search interface) is sparse, so I intend to contribute to the lack thereof,” Dave Rosborough supplies an overview of how adCenter works and steps through the setup process.
Bryan Watson (again) goes through the process of writing effective PPC ads, starting with using keywords in ad titles, moving along to utilizing action words in ad copy (“Call Today, Get a Quote, Sign Up, Etc.”), and proceeding through continuously testing all elements of the ads.
General Search Engine Marketing Guides and Tips
The Backward Landing Page by ClickZ
***** 5 STARS
Brian Massey demonstrates how to design the perfect landing page, starting from a blank slate rather than treating the landing page as another page on your site, with all of the attendant design and navigational baggage. Priceless: writing that the clearest, simplest landing page would contain nothing more than a “Submit” button, Brian notes “Unfortunately, this page will only be effective if you’re selling to a very curious crowd or are selling dominatrix services, where to ‘Submit’ makes sense. For other markets, we’ll have to make the call to action more relevant.”
The Bid Management Recipe by Search Engine Watch
Alistair Dent explains what you’ll need to set up a system to optimize keyword bids in your paid search campaigns, and helpfully defines relevant terms like cost per conversion (CPC): “CPC = Average Order Value x CoS x Conversion Rate.” This works fine for relatively small PPC programs, but advertisers running large campaigns with thousands of keywords turn to bid management software to automate this process.
5 Reasons PPC Search Beats PPC Social by ClickZ
Kevin Lee warns paid search marketers to avoid “shiny object syndrome” in placing PPC ads, noting that while “social media advertising shows a lot of potential for brand advertisers looking for ways to influence demand and build awareness,” search still has indisputable direct response benefits such as harvesting demand and providing clear success metrics.