Search Advertising 101

Aug 19, 2008 - 8:36 pm 0 by

Paid placement is a form of search advertising that provides a top ranking in return for payment. Every major search engine offers a paid placement program. Learn what's available in this session that is especially geared toward beginners, with details on programs from major providers and advice on how to succeed.

Introduction by:
Rebecca Lieb, Contributing Editor, ClickZ

Dana Todd, CMO, Newsforce
Matt Van Wagner, President, Find Me Faster

We started with Dana Todd, who is the chair of SEMPO.

First advice was to take the time to look at the help and training from all of the search engines, and reach each engine’s blog regularly for updates. also has free webinars.

If you love data, you’ll love PPC.

  • The most successful pc managers are highly analytical.
  • Microsoft Excel is your friend. You can have expensive tools, but it does a lot for you.
  • Linear progression:
    • Start small
    • Test, measure, adjust, test it again
    • Expand on your successes

Dana shows screenshots of several search engines and vertical/specialty search, and outlines which areas are paid and which are organic. Feeds, mobile, white paper, and lots more have opportunities for PPC.

How do you buy search?

  • Flat cost-per-click
  • Yahoo search submit (Paid Inclusion)
  • Directory programs, white paper networks, etc.

Understanding Hybrid Auctions

  • Blind Auction – you can’t see other max bids
  • Ad rank is determined by a number of factors
    • What you want to pay per click
    • Competitive landscape
    • Quality score
    • Value of the ad space

What is quality score? It’s the keyword’s Click Through Rate + relevance of your ad text + historical keyword performance + other features.

Pre-flight checklist for building campaign.

  • Good tracking software. At least install Google Analytics. You’ll need two pieces of code, from both Google Analytics and from Google AdWords. Might take some time to get this set up.
  • KPIs
  • Set Values
  • Establish baselines
  • Strategy (goals)
  • Money
  • Rules

Setting base values and goals

  • Conversion: can mean many different things
  • Absolutely required homework
    • What are your target goals?
    • What are the actions you value?
    • What dollar values can you set? You can even do something like value an email lead at 41 cents, as that’s the cost it saved you on a stamp.
  • It’s OK to guess. Use your gut if you’re not sure. You can always modify your assumptions.

She skips a conversion funnel, figures that we’ll get it in all of the other sessions here.

Finding Keywords

  • Where?
    • Your site, competitors, trade literature, vertical sites, lots of other stuff.
    • Brand names are typically best performers if you have a known brand. You can control the message this way, much better than in organic SEO. You’re taking up more real estate on the page.
    • Find “negative keywords” during this phrase as well. Use lots of negative words to filter out random impressions which hurt your quality score. Start with “free” “cheap” and “naked”. Look in your referral logs to see what is bogus traffic.
  • How many?
    • If you have a low budget, don’t spread yourself too thinly across a zillion “tail terms”. Start with just a few and get them good, then expand from there.
    • 80/20 rule. 20% of your keywords will drive 80% of your traffic (and budget!). shows upstream and downstream of visitors. If someone typed in Compaq, shows if people then next searched dell computer or Compaq computer.

Google’s keyword tool. It’s a lot of fun, and can save you a lot of time and effort. Set your match type first, as the default match type is broad.

Building the ads

  • Because CTR affects your position, do NOT get lazy. Don’t use one ad for everything. You do need to put the effort into writing your ad, you want quality score to be good.
  • Use keyword in title and/or description. Users follow scent trail.
  • Must pass editorial review.
  • Choose appropriate landing page URLs (usually NOT home page), though sometimes home page can be best. You might want to do an A/B test.
  • Use Dynamic Keyword Insertion
    • A little complicated to explain here, so check out the tutorials on each site. Usage is different between engines.

Searchers prefer uninterrupted logic. Make sure that the ad text and the landing page all talk about what the person is searching for.


  • Don’t just set it and forget it.
  • Map out a calendar in terms of:
    • Campaign rollout
    • Reporting/analysis
    • Testing period(s)
    • Other promotions (offline, online – trade shows, etc., like editorial calendar)
    • Budget changes (e.g. overspend on Google during kickoff)
  • Schedule promotional and seasonal messaging
  • Dayparting – time of day, days of week. If you are only open during the week, you may not want to advertise on the weekends.
  • Overlay any expected seasonality
  • Schedule quarterly “housecleaning”.


  • Daily budgeting technology isn’t perfect, so engines usually under-deliver or over-deliver. Set it for a little more than you want to spend, so the engines don’t under-deliver. Do look at your spend.
  • Put your high-traffic or high-dollar words in their own campaign with their own budget
  • Start out with a bang so you can lock in a high CTR which will help your quality score – then pull back
  • Google has different ways to manage budgets:
    • Conversion Optimizer (average CPA)
    • Budget optimizer (most clicks for a defined budget)
    • Preferred cost bidding (set average CPC preferred)
    • Manual bidding (you control it.)

Managing Bids

  • Bid management software helps
    • Popular tools: search engines’ tools, Atlas, Keyword BidMax, Omniture, SearchRev, Performics, Clickable, Adapt
    • Note: “bidding rules” don’t work well on hybrid auctions
    • Low volume keywords won’t have much data to optimize automatically against ROI or other projected values
  • People are still required!
  • Paying too much? Improve your CTR and landing page
  • Delete low performing keywords, or pause/isolate them so they don’t bring down overall campaign. Don’t have pity, get rid of them if they don’t help you.

Final thoughts

  • Don’t be afraid to start small and grow your success
  • Build a risk portfolio for yourself – set aside some budget for experiments and branding. Be creative, try some things, see what you can figure out.
  • Reinvest a portion of “profits” back into the budget.
  • Leverage the engines for knowledge, but don’t believe everything they tell you. Changes occur, ad reps aren’t always talking to the engineers, etc.
  • Provide enough resources to support the campaign.
  • Strive for integrated strategy across all media.

Matt Van Wagner is up next.
PPC is really process-oriented. You’ll keep getting better as time goes on. He starts off by showing an ad for Bebop Baby Shop. Their only goal was to get people to go into the store. They did a bunch of ad impressions, got some qualified visitors, and it cost $185. Their sales were three months ahead of projects. They refined their ad to just a specific geography to make it more relevant.

Another reason he loves PPC is so many things are measurable. Investment, revenue, percentage of ad spend to revenue.

PPC and SEO are complementary.

  • Get going quickly
  • Discover what words convert
  • Reduces risk of major ago changes
  • Predictable, dependable flow of traffic

PPC allows you more control over messaging

  • You control messaging through ad text
  • You determine what pages ad visitors land on first.

Process creates sustainable advantage

  • It’s not just about keywords, ands, bids, and “secretes”

Use systems-level thinking

  • Align PPC campaign, goals with larger company goals.
  • Increase s ales, not just clicks

Track performance, Make adjustments

  • Be methodical, measure and test everything you can
  • Don’t react too quickly, but don’t get analysis-paralysis. Do write a note as to why you are doing what you are doing.

Set good goals and work towards them.

He showed graphic of the structure of a PPC account. I won’t replicate here, as you can find it on the help pages for PPC vendors.

Google/MSN keyword match types.

  • Broad
  • Phrase
  • Exact
  • Negative

Yahoo Keyword Match types

  • Standard Match
  • Advanced Match

Broad match

  • Queries in any word order
  • Likely plurals
  • Likely equivalents including misspellings

Phrase Matches

  • Exact query order

Exact Matches

  • Only if query matches keyword exactly. The keywords will be the exact search only.

Standard Match

  • Exact query order
  • Common misspellings
  • Singular or plural forms
  • Words in your ad, even if they are not in your keyword list. Warning!

Advanced Matches:

  • Queries in any order
  • Common misspellings
  • Singular or plural forms
  • Words in ad text or website. Warning!

Use broad/advanced match to generate traffic and discover new terms

  • Stick to two and three word terms
  • Use one word keywords only very rarely if at all
  • Watch conversion rates and web logs

Use phrase and exact match to hone in on important high-traffic terms
Use negative match to reduce ad impressions on non-productive searches.
Negative match keywords

  • Prevent ads from showing on non-productive searches
  • Subtle differences across PPC networks
  • Improves CTR, quality scores, and reduces costs.
  • Good to exclude type of traffic you don’t want. If you want to sell wool capes, think of a negative of costume, so someone looking for a Halloween costume doesn’t see your ad.

Click-Through Rate = Clicks divided by Ad Impressions
Reduce unproductive ad impressions, improve CTR

Gives a case example where looking at logs and adding in negative words helped reduce ad spend.

Where do your ads show?
Search Engine Results Page (SERP)

  • A user types n a query
  • They are actively seeking answers

Content sites

  • User doesn’t type in query
  • Users encounter ads while doing something else. Reading a newspaper online is one example. It’s interrupt advertising.


  • More directly relevant visitors
  • More control on placement
  • Content ads
    • Less control over where ads are placed
  • Can be “spikey”, which could be good or bad
  • Traditionally where more click spam lives

Tip: look at your spend of content versus search. Reduce content it is higher than search.

Example of ad designed to draw clicks:

  • Make the ad relevant to the keyword.
  • Ad includes keyword
  • Good, strong offer
  • Local campaign gives you a fifth line (Google only).

Ads designed to filter clicks

  • Ambiguous keywords like “home care” need ads that clearly identify purpose – is this for lawn services, or senior care?
  • Impacts quality score, unfortunately.

Get a variety of ad styles, have a contest in the office, or look at the SERPs and see the types of styles.

  • First person story
  • Trusted authority, uses quotes
  • Price Appeal
  • Convenience – toll free number
  • Get information
  • We’re different from “them”

When looking at ad performance, look at conversion rate. One can have higher CTR, but doesn’t convert.

Please forget everything you just learned about ad rank. Please remember only that ad rank exists.

Coverage provided by Keri


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