The Super-Simple Guide To Search Advertising in 2021

What is Search Advertising?

PPC. Paid Search. Search Engine Marketing (SEM). Search advertising has a lot of different names, but they all amount to the same thing – advertising on a search engine results page. 

Paid Search is a simple concept with complex execution, and one of the single most important aspects of a healthy online marketing system. For small businesses, PPC is one of the best investments to go up against the bigger competition, local or otherwise. 

Key Search Advertising Definitions 

We’re going to be throwing around a lot of paid search buzzwords, so here are some important definitions and concepts to start us off. 

(Psst. Now’s also a good time to bookmark this page.)

PPC/Paid Search: 

Pay-Per-Click or Paid Search advertising are ads placed on search engine result pages (SERPs) of search engines and tools. 


The actual words someone types into a search bar to yield a result.


An example of a query. This is a “conversational” query – likely a voice query. Typed queries tend to be shorter. 


The words or phrases frequently used in queries that marketers use to categorize search interest and direct marketing efforts. 

For the example above, a marketer might be targeting keywords like: 

  • Best med spa in Atlanta

  • Best medical spa Atlanta 2020 

  • Atlanta dermabrasion best

  • Top Atlanta medical spa


PPC ads are sold in an automated auction process initiated whenever someone triggers an ad impression. Winners are based on a variety of factors, including bid and ad score. 


A bid is how much you are willing to spend on a specific ad group or keyword. This is a way to more precisely control spending. Bid adjustment can help you focus in on the keywords and ads that are performing best, and get more bang for your buck. 


A budget is your total monthly ad spend. You can exceed daily averages if there is a lot of action, but you’ll never spend more than you want to. 


Now that we’ve got some terms under our belt, let’s dive into PPC ads themselves. This is where it gets fun. 

How It Works – The Anatomy of a PPC Ad 

Here’s a basic PPC ad:


In order, these elements are called the:

  1. URL – Your site or landing page URL.
  2. Headline – The headline for the ad, what you are trying to convey.
  3. Description – More useful information to help draw in the individual viewing the ad. 

Each of these elements are enormously important to the functionality of the ad. 


The URL should direct users to the most effective (and useful) page. For example, this ad sends the user to a standard offer page, not a specific landing page for this deal. 


The headline, like all headlines, is intended to grab the attention and set up expectations for the page somone will see. For example, if this ad said “New Customers 50% off!” But the page did not have that deal expressed anywhere obvious, the user will be less inclined to purchase. 


Finally, the description – the real meat of the ad. Here is where you pack in all the useful information you can. More does not necessarily mean better, but you don’t want to omit helpful decision-making information. 


Not all ads are as simple as the above example. Ad extensions, a service that some search engines provide, allow you to enhance the appearance and functionality of your PPC ads. 


These ad extensions can do a variety of things, including link to pages within your site (sitelinks), link to the nearest physical store in a map (location extensions), and implement click-to-call phone numbers (call extensions). The example below has both location and call extensions. 



This ad is a bit larger, consuming more territory on the page, and offers much more information and detail than the previous example. There is a specific offer in this ad and a link to a landing page specific to this offer as well. Clickable links are available for both the phone number AND location for those who might be interested in just either calling or swinging by. 

By giving customers more information and options, there is an increased chance the ad is just what someone was looking for. 


The point is to be useful to the consumer, and many times, more information, when well laid-out, is what the user wants. Ad extensions are an excellent way to offer that. 

PPC Ad Rank

Your PPC ad is what users actually see when they view a webpage. It’s also competing with everything else that will be on that page, including organic search results. Conclusion = It has gotta be good. 


Good is, as it turns out, relative. These results can appear at the top or bottom of SERPs, and in any particular order. Could be first up at the very top, or down at the very bottom right before the “next page button,” and far below the fold.


Ad rank – the position which your ad takes on the page – is determined by a few factors:


Ad Quality: The Click-Through Rate (CTR) of your ad, the quality of your landing page user experience, the quality score, and relevance of your ad to the user’s search at the time. 


Ad Context: Time of day, device, search type, search terms, etc. 


Ad Extensions: These should be useful to the user and have a good extension CTR.


Bids: Depending on the thresholds you set, you’ll limit what you can spend and (to some extent) how high you can rank. For example, a minimum $1 first spot bid won’t ever go to you if your max first spot bid is set at $0.70. 


The way each of these factors are weighted will change frequently, meaning your ads must be what we like to call “airtight.” Optimize every aspect of your ad to function exceptionally well no matter what opportunity it is given. 


Inside The Auction House – Buying Ad Space

Once you have ads made, they need to be sent out into the world. Which means buying inventory – space online created when someone views a page. This is done in an “auction.” 

“Do I hear 0.04, 0.04 CPC, CPC, 0.04 CPC, ladies and gentlemen?” Okay, maybe it’s not going to be that fun. Sorry. 

The auction works by taking bids for the space from various advertisers. You decide how much you’re willing to pay for a certain keyword or type of search, and then the auction determines if you win the spot and pay. 

These prices are set and managed carefully using keyword-level bids (like we covered in the definitions), and more broadly on the monthly campaign-level. This system allows you (the advertiser) to control exactly how your advertising money is spent.

Why Paid Search is Important 

If you’ve made it to this section, you can’t be totally unconvinced of the efficacy of PPC. Nevertheless, it’s nice to see the proof. Here’s why PPC is an essential part of your online advertising ecosystem: 

50% of people arriving at a retailer’s site from paid ads are more likely to buy than those who came from an organic link. – Unbounce, 2019 

People who click an ad have a better chance of hitting the right landing page for their goal, one that has been designed and dedicated for showing them the information they need to make a purchase. They may also be more primed for a sale and looking to make a purchase more quickly than someone who clicks an organic link. 

Paid search results gain 1.5 times as many conversions from click throughs as organic search results. –  New Media Campaigns, 2020

For many of the same reasons as above, PPC traffic is more high-converting than organic. This isn’t just organic searchers that you’ve trapped or tricked into clicking an ad that you paid for. It’s a wholly separate source of higher quality traffic to your site.

Almost 70 percent of searchers on mobile will call a business using a link from the search.  – PowerTraffick

Ad extensions work. And they’re there to be useful. When you create ads that are “clickable” because of their genuine helpfulness, you’ve transcended to the next level of advertising – being a provider of solutions. 


46% of Internet users can’t readily tell the difference between PPC ads and organic search results.  – PPC Resellers, 2019 

PPC ads take advantage of people being less than totally observant. Cheating your way into their line of sight isn’t that unfair, right?

For every $1 spent on Google Adwords, businesses earn an average revenue of $2.  – Google

That one kinda speaks for itself. 

So it should be pretty clear there are a lot of reasons to feel good about PPC. Not just good, excited. We firmly believe that PPC is awesome. And we want you to as well. 

How Has Search Marketing Changed?

In a word: sophistication. In the same way that most online advertising has changed in the past 5 years, PPC has become increasingly sophisticated and “dialed-in.” What does that mean, exactly? 

Often, when people think of online advertising, they think of a “spray and pray” approach, blasting out generalized ads in the hopes that more eyes would equate to more sales. These days, keyword analysis and bid management, among other methods, create a much more tailored and controlled approach. 

The result? Increased ROI and more effective online marketing in general.


We’ll be the first to admit everything above is really only scraping the surface of PPC. That’s exactly what it was meant to be. 

Now you have a basic toolkit for day-to-day PPC marketing, and the knowledge to make serious online advertising decisions for your business. 

That being said, if you have any questions whatsoever, we’re always here to help:


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