I have a confession to make. I have clicked on sponsored search results. While I am ashamed to have allowed a company to buy click, I know I am not alone in this. Hubspot, in an excellent ebook on paid search, reports that 30% of clicks go to these paid links. This is a serious amount of clicks. Three out of ten people don’t care how much time and ingenuity you’ve put into optimizing your organic search ranking, they’re going to click on those links at the very top of the page or on the side of the page with either complete ignorance or ambivalence to the little “Ad” label Google tags onto the link.
The system that runs these sponsored search results is called Google AdWords. Google AdWords can help you get clicks, but it also can do a few other very valuable things for your company. Before we get into that, however, let’s talk about how AdWords generally works. There are 2 determinants for whether or not your ad appears on a page and where it appears on the page. The buyer of a sponsored search result will specify keywords (pending Google’s approval) to by tied to the link. An ad pops up when these keywords appear in a search query. The order in which the adds appear is determined based on a bidding system, with the top bidder receiving the spot at the top of the page. Bidders do not necessarily pay their bid price, rather price is scaled up from the lowest bidder. There will never be a price charged that is greater than the bid. There are also two methods of payment. One is a nominal fee charged per click on the link, which is why these ads are often called “Pay Per Click.” The other payment option is based on how many people view your ad. Unless you are interested in nothing but exposure, pay per click tends to be the more economic pricing choice. In the case that your sponsored search is wildly successful you don’t have to worry about going over budget with AdWords. AdWords allows you to set a maximum budget. If this maximum is reached your ad will be taken down.
As I said earlier, there are uses for paid search other than an increase in click through rate. Jay Taylor explains these very well in an article for Search Engine Watch. I will briefly summarize some of Jay’s ideas along with some from the aforementioned Hubspot ebook.
Guaranteed appearance at the top: Despite your best efforts you may occasionally fall out of the top organic search results. A paid link will always appear and will encourage the clicks that can help move your page back up in the rankings.
Double visibility: Let’s say that you are ruling the organic rankings and making an appearance in the sponsored results, not only does this boost the chances of your link getting clicked on, but it can indicate industry prowess, building the customer’s perception of your brand.
A/B testing: AdWords allows you to send visitors to different pages from the same paid search result. This is extremely useful in any A/B testing scenario.
Finding new keywords: As discussed in this blog on Monday, keywords are an essential aspect of SEO. Adwords provides a Search Term report. This report will shows basic metrics on the keywords and search queries that lead to an ad.