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What is paid search engine advertising?

Paid search marketing refers to the paid-for advertising that usually appears alongside, above and occasionally below the organic listings on the SERPs or on a partner site. These are usually labelled with something like ‘sponsored links’ or ‘sponsored results’ in order to make it clear to users that they are, in fact, paid-for ads and not part of the search engine’s organic listing. Typically, you pay each time your ad is clicked, hence ‘pay per click’ or PPC.

PPC is the most common form of paid search marketing but you can also buy ads on a ‘cost per thousand’ (CPM) basis. It’s no surprise that the biggest players in the pay-per-click arena are the leading search engines: Google AdWords and Microsoft Search Advertising (which also serves ads on the Yahoo! network). You will also find a number of smaller PPC search programmes out there targeting niche areas or serving particular verticals.

Explore your options, because depending on your business they may offer better opportunities to reach local, industry specific or specialized niche markets than the larger players. By and large, though, when we’re talking about paid search advertising the ‘big two’ are where the action is for most online businesses. How does paid search advertising work?

When a user enters a search query into the search engine, the engine returns a list of organic search results. It also determines which ads to show that are Are Customers Finding You? 129 relevant to the search query. These ads, which sit adjacent to or above the organic listings, used to be small, unobtrusive text-based ads, but now may come with enhanced listings that include images and other data such as price and merchant name.


While high ranking in the organic listing is the ideal that most webmasters are striving for (because it’s ‘free’ and because users see organic results as impartial: they trust, and therefore click on, organic listings in preference to paid ads), optimizing a page to rank in organic search results can be difficult, and getting a consistently high and sustainable ranking takes a substantial amount of effort and a lot of time

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