What is Paid Search? Understanding Google Adwords and Bing Ads


Paid search refers to any search process where results are dictated by payment from advertisers

What is Paid Search- a post from the Best Methods of Programmatic Display Buying series. 

Paid search, now commonly referred to as SEM (Search Engine Marketing) is a subcategory of the broader category SEO (Search Engine Optimization).  Terminology like pay-per-click (PPC), cost-per-click (CPC), and cost-per-thousand impressions (CPM) all play a part in the machine known as Google Adwords, arguably the most popular paid search platform used by digital marketers.

Where can I start using Paid Search?

A competitor to Google Adwords, Bing Ads, is a very similar SEM tool. Results show that Google Adwords owns the majority of the SEO platform share, but don’t let that be a reason for you to just use Google Adwords. Diversifying your add portfolio by demographic is a good way to increase your brand visibility and drive your conversion rate.

Which type of user uses which search engine? Which one are you targeting?

If you choose to run a paid search campaign, the idea of platform loyalty doesn’t have to apply. Using multiple paid search platforms can be a good idea. Why? For the same reason that you get called by your grandmother for help setting up her computer. Demographics matter. Think about who uses Google and then think about who uses Bing. Bing automatically comes installed on all Microsoft devices so would someone who falls in a more mature age bracket bother downloading Google Chrome on their new Microsoft device?


Google caters to the more tech savvy consumer that has a good grasp on how search engines work and is falls under the “young” category. So what does this mean to you the digital marketer? Place your ads in places that you get your best bang for your buck. For example, placing a display add for L.L. Bean boots targeted at a under 35 female demographic would probably work best on Google’s platform whereas an add for reading glasses would have better performance on Bing Ads. I apologize to those that I may have offended in that last sentence, or the entire paragraph, but you get the point.

Paid search metrics

Understanding your platform and using it are two very different things. If you do both, you can master a campaign and provide major value to your idea or the mission of your company. PPC Professionals does a good job of further explaining Paid search metrics, but here are some of the best formulas to gauge whether or not your campaign keywords or display aids are performing at their best:

Conversion: When someone clicks on your ad and completes a desired action, such as a purchase, app download, or sign up.

Conversion Rate: The number of times your ad resulted in a conversion.

CPA: Cost-per-acquisition is the cost of your total ad spend divided by the number of conversions.

CPC: Cost-per-click is a type of bidding wherein you pay for each click on your ads. You specify your CPC bids depending on how much you are willing to pay for each click your ad receives.

CTR: Clickthrough rate is calculated by dividing an ad’s impressions by the number of clicks your ad receives.

Impression: The number of times your ad is shown. An impression is counted every time your ad is shown on a SERP or other Google Network site.

KPI: Key performance indicators are metrics used to help a company define and measure its progress toward certain goals.

PPC: Pay-per-click is an online advertising model wherein an advertiser pays a publisher (e.g. Google AdWords) each time someone clicks on their ad.

ROI: Return on investment, in terms of AdWords, is the amount of money you make less the amount you spend on ads. This figure can also be negative.

Want to understand Google Adwords better? 

By completing two tests, you can easily become a Google Partner and begin optimizing your website. Check out my article on how to become a Google Partner.

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