Paid Search Ads: Everything You Need to Know

What Are Paid Search Ads?

Paid search advertising, a key digital marketing tactic, involves brands paying to showcase their ads prominently on major search engines such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing, as well as social platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn. Google, for example, refers to these ads as pay-per-click (PPC) ads, which can take the form of text, display, or video ads.

Advertisers participate in auctions to bid on relevant keywords and phrases related to their business, aiming to secure top ad placements on search engine results pages (SERPs)

For instance, on Google, text ads may appear above or below search results, with only up to four ads eligible for the top positions.

On social media platforms, advertisers target customers based on demographics and interests. When users search for those keywords online, it triggers a real-time auction with keywords that advertisers bid on.

For example, if you bid on the keyword “organic coffee,” your Google Ad might appear in the top spot on a search engine results page (SERP) for that search term.

Similarly, when you target people on social media platforms who have shown an interest in organic coffee, your ad is more likely to appear in their feed.

Each platform uses its own algorithm to determine which ads will be displayed first. However, winning the auction isn’t just about outbidding the competition.

Paid search ad platforms use a rating system to predict a campaign’s success. For instance, Google Ads has a Quality Score (more on this later), which considers bid amount, ad quality, and landing page quality to determine your ad placement.

Ads that are well-crafted with relevant content tend to score higher and have a better chance of securing a top position.

The major paid search ad platforms include:

  • Google Ads
  • Bing Ads
  • Facebook Ads
  • Instagram Ads
  • X (Twitter) Ads
  • LinkedIn Ads
  • Pinterest Ads
  • Amazon Ads

Why You Need Paid Search Ads

Using paid search as part of your marketing strategy can significantly boost website visits by attracting both paid and organic traffic.

Relying solely on organic traffic to reach the top of search engine results pages (SERPs) can be a slow process. Paid ads help you bypass this gradual climb and gain immediate visibility among potential customers, especially in competitive markets.

While paid ads themselves don’t directly impact organic traffic or search engine optimization (SEO) rankings, they can indirectly influence them.

By enhancing brand visibility and awareness through paid ads at the top of SERPs, you’re likely to see increased clicks on your organic listings.

Additionally, users who initially visit your site through paid ads may later return through organic search. This is because they recognize your brand from the ad they previously clicked on.

The Benefits of Paid Search Ads

Paid search ads provide numerous benefits that can greatly enhance your digital marketing strategy. Here’s an overview of some key advantages:

Targeted Audience

Reach Paid search ads enable you to target your desired audience based on relevant keywords, as well as demographics such as location, language, interests, and search behaviors.

For example, Google Ads allows you to create different audience segments, as shown in the image below:

With such precise targeting, your ads are more likely to reach individuals who are most inclined to engage with your brand. This can lead to an increase in qualified website traffic and improved conversion rates.


One of the most significant advantages of paid search ads is that you only pay when someone clicks on your ad. This pay-per-click (PPC) model allows for better control over your advertising budget. You can set how much you’re willing to pay for each keyword and establish a maximum daily limit to manage your ad spend effectively.

Moreover, paid search helps ensure that your marketing budget is spent on potential customers who are likely interested in your product, rather than users outside your target audience.

Efficient and Immediate Results

Paid search ads can deliver results faster compared to mid-term marketing tactics like social media and long-term strategies like SEO.

 Once your ad campaign is live, your ads should appear in search results promptly, driving instant traffic to your site. This immediacy is especially valuable for time-sensitive promotions or when testing new marketing strategies.

Furthermore, every aspect of a paid search campaign is measurable, including the number of ad clicks, impressions, conversions, and return on investment (ROI). This data allows you to understand the effectiveness of your investment and make informed adjustments to your ad campaigns.

The Market Dictates the Ad Price

The cost of paid search ads is determined by market demand and competition for specific keywords. For instance, if the search term “organic coffee” is highly competitive, you might consider bidding on a similar phrase with lower competition to reduce your ad costs while still reaching your target audience.

Using a keyword research tool like Semco’s Keyword Magic Tool can help you find lower-cost keywords. Here’s how to use it:

Navigate to the Semco dashboard menu and select “Keyword Magic Tool.”

Enter your main keyword or phrase, such as “organic coffee,” and choose your target country for the ad.

Click “Search” and wait for the results to load.

The default view is “Broad Match,” which can help you identify less competitive keywords than “Phrase Match” or “Exact Match.” Look for long-tail keywords, which are longer and more specific phrases.

You can also refine your keyword search with semantically related keywords, which help search engines better understand the context of your ad and potentially rank it well beyond “organic coffee” searches.

When budget is a concern, focus on bidding on keywords with the best ratio of low cost per click (CPC) to high search volume to maximize your budget.

To discover semantically related keywords for “organic coffee,” select “Related” from the menu bar at the top.

Next, you can filter the list of related keywords by clicking on “CPC,” arranging them from most expensive to least expensive, or vice versa. This allows you to find search terms that align with your campaign budget.

Paid search ads and SEO

It is key aspects of a digital marketing strategy, each with distinct advantages. Paid ads deliver quick results, appearing at the top of SERPs immediately. They offer precise targeting and easy measurement. In contrast, SEO focuses on long-term organic traffic through high rankings. While it requires upfront investment, SEO can provide lasting ROI without click costs.

Combining both strategies maximizes visibility. Paid ad data can refine SEO content, and vice versa.

For example, if “best organic coffee beans” drives traffic, create related content. Similarly, a popular blog post like “How to Choose the Best Organic Coffee Beans” can inspire a paid ad campaign.

Paid Search Glossary

Explore the essential terms related to paid search advertising:

Pay-per-click (PPC): A model where advertisers pay a fee each time their ad is clicked.

Cost per click (CPC): The price paid for each click on an ad.

Impressions: The number of times an ad is displayed.

Click-through rate (CTR): The ratio of clicks to impressions, indicating ad effectiveness.

Quality Score: A metric assessing ad relevance and quality, impacting ad rank.

Ad Rank: Determines ad placement based on bid and quality score.

Ad auction: Automated process determining which ads appear for a search query and in what order.

Landing page: The webpage users land on after clicking an ad.

Conversion rate: Percentage of users completing a desired action after clicking an ad.

Ad extensions: Additional information in ads, like phone numbers or links.

Google Display Network: Network of websites, videos, and apps for displaying ads.

Retargeting ads: Targeted ads shown to users who previously visited a site.

Geotargeting: Delivering content based on user location.

Bid management: Adjusting bid prices for PPC keywords to optimize ROI.

How to Set Up a Paid Search Campaign

After understanding the basics of paid search ads, the difference from SEO, and key terms, let’s guide you through setting up a paid search campaign.

1. Define Your Location Settings

Targeting your ads effectively starts with selecting the right location settings. Determine where your potential customers are located, whether it’s a country, city, or specific radius around a location.

Align your location settings with your business’s service area. For instance, if you run a local retail store, focus on targeting customers in your town. If you offer online shopping, create a separate set of ads for your shipping regions.

2. Identify Your Target Keywords

Selecting the right keywords is crucial for a successful paid search campaign. Conduct thorough keyword research to find terms your target audience uses when searching for products or services like yours.

Tools like the Keyword Magic Tool can provide insights into keyword search volume and competition. They also help organize your keywords into themes, making targeting more effective and management easier.

For example, consider the following keyword cluster for “organic coffee”:

These keywords, clustered around “organic coffee,” cater to different user intents and search queries while staying relevant to your main keyword. Keyword clustering saves time and optimizes your paid search ads.

3. Determine the Correct Keyword Match Type

Keyword match types define how closely a user’s search query must match your keyword. Below, we explore four match types:

Exact Match

Exact match keywords offer high relevance but limited reach. They target searches exactly matching your keyword or a very close variation.

For example, if your exact match keyword is “organic whole bean coffee,” your ad will likely appear for searches like “organic whole bean coffees,” but not for “organic whole bean coffee medium roast.”

Broad Match

Broad match provides the widest reach but lower relevance.

Your ad will show for searches that include any or all words in your keyword, in any order, and with other terms.

For instance, if your keyword is “garden supplies,” your ad might appear for searches like “buy supplies for the garden” or “garden tools,” and even loosely related terms like “garden furniture.”

Phrase Match

Phrase match triggers ads for searches that cover your keyword’s meaning. It reaches more queries than exact match but fewer than broad match.

If your phrase match keyword is “organic coffee beans,” your ad might show for “best organic coffee beans” or “organic coffee beans in bulk,” but not for “beans for organic coffee.”

Modified Broad

Modified broad is similar to broad match but with more control. You can specify that certain words must be present in a search query to trigger your ad.

For example, with the keyword “waterproof backpack,” your ad might appear for “backpack waterproof for hiking” or “waterproof travel backpack.”

Choosing the right keyword match type is crucial for your campaign’s effectiveness (more on this in the “Best Practices” section).

4. Crafting Your Ad

When it comes to your paid search campaigns, investing time and effort into creating an ad that resonates with your target audience and meets search platforms’ requirements can significantly impact user engagement and conversion rates.

The team at Kadima Digital emphasizes that the primary goal of ad creative is to engage your audience and effectively communicate your brand’s message. To achieve this, your ad creative should be visually appealing, memorable, and relevant to your target audience. It should reflect your brand’s personality, values, and the products or services you offer.

Consider the following when crafting your paid search ad:

Know Your Target Audience: Tailor your message to address their needs, pain points, or desires to increase your ad’s relevance and appeal.

Use Standout Visuals: Whether through video ads or still images, ensure they catch users’ eyes and stop them from scrolling.

Craft a Compelling Headline: Make it attention-grabbing, concise, and directly related to your target keyword.

Write Engaging Ad Copy: Clearly communicate your product or service’s value proposition and benefits.

Include a Strong Call to Action (CTA): Your CTA should be clear and action-oriented, encouraging users to “buy now,” “click here,” or “learn more.”

Match Your Ad to Your Landing Page: Ensure your landing page aligns with your ad’s messaging to improve user experience and positively impact your Quality Score.

Respect Character Limits: Adhere to each platform’s rules and limits for headlines, descriptions, and extensions to avoid penalization.

Implementing these tips can enhance the effectiveness of your ad creative, leading to more successful paid search campaigns.

Here are some of the above ad creative tips in action: 

5. Refine Your Bid Strategy

Bid strategies in paid search advertising can be broadly categorized into manual and automated options. Manual bidding gives you control over how much you pay for each click, while automated bidding allows the search engine to adjust your bids to maximize clicks and achieve the best cost per conversion within your budget.

Most paid search ads platforms offer suggested bid amounts. You can start with their suggestion or choose a lower amount that aligns better with your budget. However, keep in mind that bidding lower than the suggested amount may impact your ad’s performance, as bid amount is a key factor in ad rank evaluation by most platforms.

Before finalizing your bid strategy, it’s advisable to research your competition. A PPC tool can be instrumental in staying ahead of the competition. Use Semco’s Advertising Research feature to identify the keywords your competitors are bidding on, their spending, top-performing ads, and more.

To analyze your competitors’ ads using Semco:

Head to your Semco dashboard and click “Advertising Research” from the “Advertising” dropdown menu.

Enter a competitor’s URL in the search bar and click “Search” to view the results.

Analyze the data to gain insights into your competitor’s PPC strategy, including keywords, ad performance, landing pages, and more.

If you scroll down the page, you’ll see which keywords and phrases your competitor currently ranks for, any recent position changes, search volume, CPC, landing page URLs, and traffic per keyword.

If you click through the navigation tabs across the top, you’ll get a more detailed picture of competing marketing campaigns.

For example, click “Ads Copies” to view current ads and associated landing pages.

  1. You’ll discover what works well for your competitors and might for you, too. Or where they are potentially missing out on paid traffic.
  2. Spotting these strengths and weaknesses can help you stand out in your market. Is a competitor missing out on a keyword opportunity? Or under-bidding on a keyword that you could outbid them on?
  3. Once you’ve done your homework, design a cost-effective ad campaign with PPC Keyword Tool.

6. Utilize Ad Extensions

Ad extensions are a valuable feature in Google Ads that can enhance your ad’s visibility and engagement. These extensions provide additional information to users, making your ad more informative and compelling. While some extensions are automatically included by Google, others require manual setup for greater control and customization.

Examples of ad extensions include:

  • Business phone number
  • Map with your physical address
  • Buy now, pay later option
  • Images
  • Discounts or special offers
  • Sitelink extensions (links to specific pages on your website)

Google Ads data shows that incorporating ad assets into your content can boost your ad’s visibility and click-through rate (CTR), with ad extensions serving as such assets.

While Google may automatically add extensions it deems beneficial for your ad’s performance, most extensions require manual setup. This manual process provides greater control over the message and information presented in your ads.

To set up extensions, you’ll need to choose the extension type within the Google Ads platform, complete the necessary information (such as specific sitelink titles and URLs for sitelink extensions), and apply them to the relevant campaigns or ad groups.

For instance, when searching for “best organic coffee,” a Google ad displayed with multiple ad extensions:

This exemplary paid search ad includes sitelink extensions for a secret menu, a sample pack, coffee specials, and more.

It’s crucial to select ad extensions that are pertinent to your business and beneficial to the searchers you aim to reach.

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7. Launch Your Ad and Add Billing Information

Before you publish your paid ad, review your search ad campaign settings to ensure you haven’t overlooked anything that could enhance your ad’s visibility.

Have you included ad extensions where appropriate? And verified your URL?

After launching, closely monitor your campaign’s performance metrics. Regularly check the click-through rate (CTR), conversion rate, and average cost per click (CPC). This monitoring will help you make informed decisions about increasing bids, adjusting keywords, or tweaking copy for improved ad performance.

You’ll likely need to enter your billing information when you launch your campaign. Most platforms require a pre-paid balance or a linked credit card for charging when you reach a payment threshold.

Remember to track your ad spend to align with your marketing budget and ROI goals.

How Do Search Engines Establish Ad Ranking?

Search engines use a variety of factors to determine the ranking of ads in search results. Understanding these factors is crucial for running a successful PPC ad campaign. Here are the key elements that influence ad ranking:

Bid Amount:

The amount you are willing to pay per click on your ad is a significant factor in your ad’s ranking. A higher bid can often result in a higher placement in paid search results.

Ad Extensions:

 Ad extensions are additional pieces of information that can be added to your ad to make it more appealing and useful to users. Examples include product images, links to special offers, and additional text.

Quality of Ads and Landing Pages (Quality Score)

The Quality Score of your ads and landing pages is crucial in determining their effectiveness and ranking in search engine results. Several factors influence the Quality Score, including the ad’s click-through rate (CTR), relevance to the search query, and the relevance and quality of the landing page.

A high-quality ad that is closely related to the search query and leads to an informative landing page is likely to have a better Quality Score. Such ads typically rank higher in search results and cost less per click.

It’s important from a consumer perspective that ads lead to landing pages that are relevant to their expectations. For example, if your ad offers a 10% discount coupon for your organic coffee blend, the landing page should prominently feature the discount and the product. Directing users to a homepage or a page unrelated to the ad’s content can lead to a poor user experience.

Use and Frequency of Keywords

Keywords play a crucial role in the ranking of paid search ads. Ads that closely match relevant user queries tend to rank higher in search engine results pages (SERPs). For example, if your ad includes the phrase “vegan skincare products” and aligns with frequent user searches like “vegan skincare” or “vegan skin products,” it is more likely to rank well.

Keywords that Match Search Terms

Search engines prioritize ads that exactly match or closely align with the terms users search for. For instance, an ad containing “affordable yoga mats” is more likely to rank higher if users search for “affordable yoga mats” rather than just “yoga mats.” Matching search terms precisely can significantly impact ad rankings.

Time of Day

Certain ads may perform better at specific times or days of the week. For instance, ads for a breakfast restaurant are more relevant on a Saturday morning than on a Thursday afternoon.

Another example is from Google:

Suppose you run a dog-sled touring business in Alaska. By viewing your “Day and Hour” performance on the Ad schedule page, you’ve noticed that your ads get the best results between 8 and 11 a.m. on Tuesdays, when Extremely Cold Places is paying on television. You decide to adjust your ad schedule so that on Tuesdays, your ads only appear during that time.

Location of Target Audience

The location of your target audience is also crucial. Ads targeting specific locations can rank higher in those areas. For example, if you own a flower delivery service in New York City, targeting people who live in or around the city can improve your ad’s performance.

All paid search ad platforms allow you to choose your target audience and location when setting up your ads.

Competing Ads/Other Search Results

Your paid search ad’s ranking is influenced by other advertisers targeting similar keywords or phrases.

For instance, if the competition for “biodegradable coffee pods” is high, your ad needs to be more optimized in bid, quality, and relevance than your competitors to rank well.

You might consider increasing your keyword bid or enhancing your ad’s appeal.

If those strategies don’t yield results, you could create a new campaign centered around a similar but less competitive keyword, such as “environmentally friendly coffee pods.”

Device Type

 Ads are ranked differently based on the device users view them on.

An ad leading to a mobile-friendly landing page is likely to rank more prominently in mobile search results than one that isn’t mobile-optimized.

Paid Search Ads Best Practices

Following best practices for paid search ads can help you create efficient campaigns that align with your business goals and marketing budget.

Track and Optimize Return on Investment

Measuring ROI involves assessing the profitability of your ads relative to their cost.

Track metrics like CPC, cost per acquisition (CPA), and overall ad spend against the revenue generated from conversions. You can track some directly from the paid search platform you’re using.

If you run PPC ads on Google, use PPC Keyword Tool to track and optimize ROI.

You can navigate to the tool from the “Advertising” drop-down on your Semco dashboard.

If you haven’t set up a project yet, the next step is to do so. Enter your domain name and click on the “Set up” button.

Now, you can add your keywords manually, obtain a list of keywords to target from Semco, or import them from a file.

After adding your keywords, specify the country, region, and city you want to track, then click on “Start PPC Keyword Tool.”

If you import keywords such as “organic coffee,” “best organic coffee,” and “coffee roaster,” your dashboard will look like the following:

Using the PPC Keyword Tool makes it simple to keep your campaign organized and budget-friendly. It can reveal which keywords drive the most profitable traffic.

You can export all your Semco plans and upload them directly to your Google Ads account. Similarly, you can import an existing Google Ads campaign to restructure it in one place.

The key to maximizing your return on investment is to continuously optimize your ad campaign based on your analysis. If certain keywords consistently attract high-value customers, consider increasing your bid for those keywords.

Never cease optimizing your ad campaign based on your analysis—it will help you realize your ROI potential.

Avoid relying solely on broad match keywords

As they can increase your reach but often attract less targeted traffic, leading to lower conversion rates and wasted ad spend.

Instead, use a mix of match types, such as exact and phrase matches. This approach allows you to reach a more targeted audience and balance reach with relevance.

For instance, using a phrase match for “women’s running shoes” can attract more relevant clicks compared to a broad match, which might trigger your ad for any search containing “women,” “running,” or “shoes.”

Focus on Outcomes, Not Activities

Shift your focus from activities, such as the number of clicks or impressions, to outcomes like conversions and sales. Set clear goals for your PPC campaign, such as lead generation, sales, or brand awareness, to make more data-driven decisions.

For example, if your goal is to increase online sales, focus on keywords and phrases that have historically led to higher sales, even if they have fewer clicks.

Calculate the conversion rate required

To make your campaign profitable. This calculation can help you justify ad costs and determine when to pause or add funds to your campaigns.

Clarify the type of conversion rate you’re after, as not all conversions are directly related to profitability. For instance, a webinar ad that leads to sales may require different ROI calculations than an ad that drives direct clicks to a product page.

Forecast Your Likely Results Before You Begin

Before launching a paid search campaign,it’s beneficial to forecast potential results based on historical data and industry benchmarks.

This practice helps set realistic goals and budgets by observing what has and hasn’t worked in the past.

For instance, if historical data indicates a 2% conversion rate for similar products or services, you can estimate the amount of traffic needed to meet your sales objectives.

Semco’s Ads History tool allows you to view historical competitor ads and assess how well a keyword has performed in paid searches.

Simply enter your target keyword and click “Search” to access this information.

In this tool, you can identify the advertisers who appeared in the top eight paid positions on Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs) over a 12-month period.

Optimize Your Paid Search Ads with Semco

To optimize your paid search ads effectively, focus on more than just outbidding competitors. Craft quality ads, target the right audience, and refine your campaigns based on measurable outcomes.

Utilize tools like Advertising Research and Keyword Magic Tool in combination with a deep understanding of SEO. This approach will help you develop a robust search ad strategy to expand your reach and increase conversions.

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