Starting paid search marketing - header image

#2 Starting paid search


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Paid search is one of the search engine marketing opportunity areas. Search advertising programs like Google Ads will help you get in front of your target customer the quickest but at a cost.

In this guide you will learn to place your business front and center in search engines to attract new customers.


Paid search offers the fastest way of getting your business seen when people search online. Think of it like putting up a big sign at the top of the Google search results.

We’ll walk through the basics of getting started in paid search marketing. Ready to dive in? Let’s go!

The fundamentals

Paid search marketing is about making sure your business shows up when someone looks for keywords you bid on. Here’s what you need to know:

  1. You pay for every click on your ads. Cost per click of CPC can range from $1 to $100 and more depending on your niche.
  2. Your ads show in Google Search Engine Results Pages or SERPs. First, at the top, then in between organic results and at the bottom of SERPs. Ads are marked Sponsored results.
  3. Ads are displayed based on a real-time auction. If multiple advertisers bid on the same keyword, the one with the highest ad rank wins higher SERPs placement.
  4. Ad rank = Quality Score x Bid Amount. This means that if your quality score is high, then you can pay less than your competition for the same click. More on ad rank at Google.
  5. High Quality Score means 1) the keyword, 2) your ad text, 3) your landing page are very closely related. I.e. The keyword “nike running shoes for men” triggers your ad featuring this phrase and the click leads to a landing page with a list of Nike running shoes for men that you can purchase online.
  6. Choosing the right keywords to bid for is critical. Equally important is choosing your negative keywords (keywords you don’t want to bid on). Such keywords waste your budget.
  7. Build your ads using phrases and sentences your customers will find relevant. Check competition, use your customer knowledge and niche expertise. If offers, free shipping, returns policy, etc. matter to your audience, make sure you include these in your ads.
  8. Know what your conversion action (form submission, email/phone click, etc.) is before you setup your first campaign. Setup conversion tracking before you start showing your ads. Failing this is what costs most new advertisers thousands of dollars in wasted budgets.

Remember, it’s all about showing up when it matters. Now, let’s take the first step in getting your business noticed!

Getting started

Let’s get you setup with some accounts: Google Account and Google Ads account.

  1. Create a Google Account. It’s better to create a separate address for all your business needs. Keep it separate from your personal account. Here’s how to create an account.
  2. Create a Google Ads account. Setup your business account with Google Ads. Read a detailed guide from Google.
  3. Create your first campaign. You can create a test campaign and make mistakes the first time around. It will not go live unless your submit your payment details (next step). Don’t stress about being perfect—just focus on getting your business out there.
  4. Add payment details to fund your ad account. Once you provide your payment details, given that your campaign is ready to go, your ads will start showing on Google.

Now that you know the basics and created an account, you are ready to building you first campaign. Strong pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns are driven by strong ads. Let’s look at ads next.

Account structure

Understanding Google Ads account structure is critical in building strong ad campaigns. Here’s a visual cheat sheet from WordStraem. Below I’ll go in more detail.

google ads account structure overview
Google Ads account structure cheat sheet from WordStream.


This is your highest tier in the account structure. There should be one account for each business you manage. It includes payment details, you tax information and administrator contact details.


The second tier in Google Ads account structure is campaigns. You can have up to 10,000 campaigns inside one account. More on Google Ads account limits.

You can choose various campaign types (Search, Display, Video, Shopping, etc.) depending on your goals. But in this case we focus on Search type.

Learn more about campaigns on Google.

Ad groups

Each ad group targets a list of keywords (10-20 keywords is a best practice) and consists of one or more ads.

It’s ok to start with a single ad group, but as you learn what people are actually searching for you might want to split your initial ad group into a more granular structure.

For example, you sell running shoes and start a single ad group. Over time you see that people are searching for women’s running shows and men’s running shoes. To make the ads more relevant to the keywords, it’s a good idea to create two separate ad groups: one for men’s and one for women’s running shoes.

Making your ad groups specific to your user queries will improve your quality score.

Now that you know how the account is structured, let’s build some ads.

Building great ads

A few things are key here: make it specific, relevant, enticing, better than the competition.


Generic ads don’t rank well in Google Ads auction. If they don’t rank, they don’t get clicked. If they don’t get clicks, ads get low quality score and show less often. Use numbers, percentage points, facts, awards, etc.


Use the right keywords (more on that in the next section). Keep the user in mind. Solve their pain points. Show how your product or service solves their pains. Make the ads speak to your marketing persona.


Each ad should have a call-to-action (CTA) and it should be very clear. Always have an offer, and make it better than your competitor’s offer. Describe what you offer in a way that makes people want to learn more.

Know what triggers your customer’s buying decision. For some it’s a discount, for others it’s a money back guarantee. Yet others respond better to a scarcity (i.e. limited time offer, while quantities last, etc.).

Better than competition

Google Ads is an auction-based system that chooses from a pull of competing brands bidding on the same keywords. Building better ads will place your ads higher.

Make a few searchers to look for what your competition is using to entice their customers. Take a note.


Keyword management is at the core of search ads. Management means that you will start with one set of keywords, monitor their performance, het rid of low performers, add and test new ones. Here’s a few tips.

  1. Think like your customers: Imagine what words someone would type to find your business. Put yourself in their shoes. Those are your keywords.
  2. Be specific: Choose precise keywords. Instead of “shoes,” try “running shoes for women.” Specificity helps you reach the right people and avoid wasting money on useless (generic) clicks.
  3. Test and refine: Start with a few keywords. See which ones work best and make adjustments. It’s like trying different keys until you find the one that unlocks the door.
  4. Negative keywords matter: Exclude words that aren’t related to your business. This helps your ad appear for the right searches.

Picking the right keywords is like picking the right ingredients for your business’s recipe.

Budgeting and bid strategies

What scares most businesses away from Google Ads is high click budgets. It’s easy to drain your budget if you don’t know a few basics before you start. Here’s how to handle your budget and bids:

  1. Understand your average cost per click (CPC) for your target set of 10-20 keywords. If your average CPC is $3 and you would like to get 10 clicks per day from this campaign, expect to spend $30/day. Check CPC values for your target keywords using Google Keyword Planner.
  2. Start with a minimum of what you can afford. See how it works, then adjust as needed. If you can’t afford it just yet, come back to it when you can.
  3. Start with a Maximize clicks bid strategy. The system will show your ads to maximize the number of clicks on your ads. Set the bid strategy and don’t change it for 2-4 weeks. It usually takes up to seven days for the system to learn a new strategy.
  4. Monitor conversions to see how much it costs you to generate a conversion. Change the bid strategy to Maximize conversions and set the target conversion to the conversion value you’d like to see.
  5. Keep an eye on individual keyword performance and keep improving your ads. Also keep your conversion in focus, not clicks.

It’s not about spending the most, but spending wisely. Make your budget work its magic for your business!

Tracking performance

There are so many numbers, they make Google Ads scary. But if you choose 2-3 key numbers, things become a bit friendlier.

Metrics that matter: Keep an eye on numbers that relate to your bottom line. Things like conversions (when a clicker takes a desired action on your website, i.e. submits a lead form) and cost-per-conversion (how much it costs you to get the clicker to submit that lead form) are the two metrics that tie your Google Ads campaign to your business bottom line.

Other metrics like click-through rate (CTR) hint at the effectiveness of your ads. CTR refers to the number of clicks vs. the number of times your ad showed. Aim at 10% and up. Lower CTR values show that many people see your ad, but very few are finding it relevant or enticing enough to click the ads.

Numbers can guide your actions. But don’t overcomplicate. Your goal is to sell your product or service, not use all the numbers and all the tools. The simpler the better.

As you get more comfortable inside Google Ads, you can start using additional metrics and data analytics.

Advanced tactics

Let’s take your ad game to the next level! Here are advanced strategies to boost your ad’s impact:

1. Targeting techniques: Get precise with audience targeting. Use demographics or interests to reach the right people. Consider loading your past customer lists to show ads to them.

2. Remarketing: target your ads to people that already clicked your ads. Remarketing means that the user is further down the sales funnel. Create ad text with that in mind. Provide even better offers to tip these potential customers over.

3. Bidding strategies: Experiment with different bidding strategies. Try automated bidding or focus on conversions for better results.

4. Run A/B tests: Compare different ad versions to see which works best. It’s like finding the best flavor for your customers.

5. Review Search Terms report: Keywords are what you set in your ad groups in hopes that people use them. Search terms are keyword variations they actually use. Checking the report regularly allows you to discover new keywords to bid on and negative keywords to exclude from your campaign.

6. Use ad scheduling: Once your campaign runs for 1-2 weeks you will start seeing when people click your ads during the day and in which days of the week your ads get more clicks. Ad scheduling tactic refers to targeting specific times and days of the week.

Ad scheduling not only saves your budget from nightly clicks, it also ensures your ads are showing when your staff is in the office and can react to a lead immediately.

7. Ad extensions: Add extra info, like links to specific pages on your site or your phone number. It’s like adding bonus features to your ad.

These tactics might seem complex, but they’re like adding secret ingredients to make your ad irresistible! Let’s take your ad from good to great!


Sometimes things don’t go as planned. Let’s tackle common issues and avoid hiccups:

1. Ad not showing? Check settings: Ensure your ad settings—like location or budget—are aligned with your goals.

2. Low clicks? Revise your ad: Review your ad content. Is it engaging enough? Adjust your message or try different keywords.

3. High spending, low returns? Optimize: Look at where your money is going. Trim keywords that aren’t performing well or adjust your bid strategy.

4. Technical glitches? Seek support: Reach out to platform support – Google Ads Help. See if your questions were already answered. Post questions to the community at Google Ads Help and Contact Google Ads with specific questions that you can’t find answers to.

Mistakes happen, but they’re chances to learn and grow. Check this 12-point guide to advertising with Google Ads.

Key concepts

There are plenty of things you will learn on the journey of paid search marketing. Here are some of the most crucial concepts.

Keywords: Similar to SEO, identify keywords relevant to your business and what potential customers might search for. Bid on these keywords in auctions to display your ads when users search for them.

Ad formats: Go beyond text ads! Explore options like responsive search ads, image and video ads, and shopping ads to tailor your message to different search intents.

Landing pages: Where users land after clicking your ad should be relevant and compelling. Optimize your landing pages for conversions (sales, leads, etc.) and align them with your ad message.

Ad copy: Craft clear, concise, and keyword-rich ad copy that grabs attention and entices users to click. Highlight your unique selling points and use strong calls to action.

Targeting: Target your ads to specific demographics, interests, locations, and even devices to reach the right audience at the right time.

Bidding strategies: Decide how much you’re willing to pay per click (CPC) based on your goals and budget. Explore automated bidding options or set manual bids for more control.

Quality Score: This score (1-10) reflects the relevance and quality of your keywords, landing pages, and ads. A higher score can lead to lower costs and better ad positions.

Conversion tracking: Set up tracking measures to understand how users convert from your ads (e.g., purchases, form submissions). Analyze data to optimize your campaigns and track ROI.

Campaign types: Choose the right campaign type for your goals, whether it’s driving website traffic, increasing brand awareness, or generating leads.

Negative keywords: Prevent your ads from being shown for irrelevant searches by adding negative keywords that don’t align with your target audience.

Remember, paid search is dynamic and requires ongoing optimization. By understanding these essential concepts, you can effectively leverage Google Ads to reach your target audience, drive valuable traffic, and achieve your business objectives.

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