Paid Search Marketing 101

For many companies, paid search has been on their to-do list for years.

For many companies, paid search has been on their to-do list for years. Pay-Per-Click (PPC) is one of the best tools to reach potential customers who are ready to commit to a viable solution.

Here’s everything you need to know before you allocate part of your marketing budget to this tactic that almost seems too good to be true.

Account Structure


Campaigns are the top-level organizational tool within paid search marketing. The number of campaigns that your business has should depend on how many product categories you offer. It’s important to remember that overarching budgets are set at the beginning of a campaign. Essentially, you will broadly be determining what your campaigns will be based on the specific dollar amount that you are able to assign to each individual campaign.

For example, if you are a clothing company, it would make sense for your campaigns to be split into a men’s clothing category and a women’s clothing category.

Ad Groups

An ad group contains one or more of your ads that share a specific set of keywords that when searched, will serve your ad. Try to choose groups that will have about 10-20 keywords within them. You should also try to limit the number of ad groups you have to ensure that you will be able to manage any changes that may be necessary throughout the life of the campaign.

For example, within your campaign for women’s clothing, you might include ad groups such as “women’s tops,” “women’s dresses” and “women’s shoes.”

Ad Position

In paid search campaigns, the primary purpose is to have your content show up at the top of search results without the painstaking task of having to optimize your site and consistently create new content. The placement of your ad in search results has many factors that go into it. This means that actions such as tweaking and adjusting your copy, landing page and bids should all be part of your paid search process.


Paid search is very different than other ad platforms because targeting is not done through demographics. Instead of targeting people of a certain age or gender, the focus is on targeting the right search. To accomplish this, you will need to rely on relevant keywords.


When starting a paid search campaign, it is critical to know all of the words people use to describe your company, product, service and the problem that you are attempting to solve. Compiling all of these keywords and organizing them correctly is crucial to a successful paid search endeavor. As the primary way ads are served, it is important to have a strong list of multiple keyword variations.

Broad Match

The most commonly used keywords are typically very simple words or phrases that describe your product or service. Broad match is when the search engine uses at least one of the keywords to serve your ad on related search terms. For example, if one of your broad match keywords is “food,” your ad will appear on searches such as “breakfast food,” “Italian food” and “healthy food.”

While these keywords are a great place to start, they should be used wisely. As a rule of thumb, single-word broad match keywords should be used sparingly because a simple keyword typically won’t be specific enough to be relevant to the searchers you are intending to reach.

One of our favorite secret weapons when dealing with broad match keywords are broad match modifiers. Broad match modifiers add more specificity to the broad match keywords you are using, which allow for searches to be narrowed and become more relevant. This tool helps keep your broad match keywords from running wild.

When it comes to paid search, making sure that your keywords attract a relevant audience is the key to successful ad campaigns. The overuse of broad match keywords could be the culprit of a poor ad quality score and low click-through rates.

“Phrase Match”

With this type of keyword, your ad is served on searches that include the keyword phrase in the order it is set. For example, if “Italian food” is set as a phrase match keyword, it will result in your ad being served on searches such as, “best Italian food” or “Italian food nearby,” but not on “Italian family style food.”

[Exact Match]

Exact match is the most definitive type of keyword. With exact match, your ad is only seen when the search matches the keyword exactly. One thing that may be surprising about exact match is that your ad can still be served when the order of the words are mixed, but only if the meaning has not changed. For example, if you have the keyword phrase, “Italian food” set as an exact match keyword, your ad would appear in the search, “Italian food” even if searched as “food Italian.” However, your ad would not be found if someone searched, “family style Italian food.”

-Negative Match

After you have built a list of keywords you would like to target, start thinking about words that you don’t want to target. While this might sound counterintuitive, this is the best way to make sure that you are paying for the most relevant traffic possible. With negative match, you can prevent your ad from being displayed when specific words or phrases are searched.

Reporting and Analysis

Your hard work won’t pay off until you reach this step. Monitoring, reporting and analyzing the effectiveness of your paid search efforts comes down to understanding key performance indicators (KPIs) in addition to the metrics typically considered in other advertising efforts, such as impressions, reach and conversions.

Quality Score

Once you have your ad structure set up and running, the search engine will evaluate your audience’s user experience through the search process to determine the quality score of your ads. Quality scores factor in the relevance of your ads’ keywords, ad copy and landing page to come up with the final score. This KPI is a number between one and 10 and the higher the quality score, the more likely it is that your ads will take the top position and cost less.

Impression Share

Another indicator of a successful paid search effort is a high percentage of what is called “impression share.” Impression share is the percentage of impressions that your ads receive compared to the total number of impressions that your ads could get. To find your impression share, you divide your actual impressions by the total eligible impressions for your ads. Impression share is a good way to determine if increasing your budget will gain more impressions or if your money could be better spent elsewhere.

Ad Creative


Unlike most other ad creative, search ads are only text. There are no image specs or dimensions that you need to worry about. Your focus should be on efficiently communicating your message in just three short lines of text.

In these text ads, you are able to utilize two headlines that are each 30 characters or less. A text ad also contains a display URL, which is a basic URL for a site that doesn’t include the entire path.

Example: Display URL –, Actual URL –

Text ads also include a description that can be up to 80 characters long. The description is where you should include your “call to action” and outline exactly what it is that you want the user to do.

Tip: Excel and Google Sheets are great tools for counting the number of characters in order to ensure that your copy meets the required character count.


Extensions is a tool offered on Google Adwords that allows you to include certain actionable information without it counting toward your final character count. Examples of extensions can be items such as your phone number, location, and even item prices. Utilizing extensions can help increase the effectiveness of your ads, leading to a significant reduction in the cost per click.


Paid search is a marketing tactic that can be extremely useful in capturing qualified customers as long as you are willing to put in the work. The way people utilize search is constantly evolving and the biggest search engines are always trying new things to improve the user experience. Understanding the basics of paid search is a great first step, but keep in mind that it will take time and experimentation to find a rhythm in your own paid search efforts.