Paid Search Ads 101: The Benefits & Primary Elements You Should Know

by Stephanie Mialki in Advertising, Google Ads

Digital marketers know that for their business to succeed online, they must be found with little effort in search engines. Getting to the top of results pages with SEO can take more time than desired, so to speed up that process, many marketers focus part of their digital strategy towards paid search ads.

What is paid search advertising?

Paid search advertising is one of the most popular forms of pay-per-click (PPC) advertising using an auction-based, PPC model to show digital ads on search engine results pages such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo. How often your ads appear, the rankings, and how much you pay per click — all depend on your bid and Quality Score.

First, you bid for ad placement on SERPs by setting the maximum amount you want to spend per click (bid) and the maximum amount you’re willing to spend on the entire campaign (budget). Once you create an ad and connect it to a post-click landing page, each respective search engine ad platform will calculate a Quality Score to determine positioning. The metric is a good indicator of the relevance of your specified keywords, ads, and the destination page (post-click landing page):

paid search ads Quality Score

Quality Score can change over time based on a few factors, including how many users click your ads, if you change your post-click landing page (ad relevancy), and whether or not they convert on the post-click landing page or bounce. Brands with the most optimized paid search ads are given top placement, and therefore, likely have higher click-through rates.

What is a paid search ad?

On major search platforms like Google, Bing, and Yahoo, paid ads are typically shown above and below organic search results. They include three main components — a headline, display URL, and description text — all of which convince users to click. Text ads can also include ad extensions to expand your ad with additional information.


The ad headline is the first thing noticeable because it has the largest text so incorporating relevant keywords draws more attention from high-intent searchers. The three major search engines allow two headlines, each up to 30 characters (however, on Yahoo, if you choose only one headline, the character limit is 50).

This Google search for “content marketing platform” presented these two ads:

paid search ads Google

Notice how the second ad’s headline is more optimized than the first one. It’s more relevant to the search query (with the entire search phrase in the title), and it contains two calls-to-action (“learn” and “get started”).

Display URL

The display URL shows your website address in green, directly underneath the headline. It is comprised of the domain from your final URL and an optional subdomain and path fields to provide searchers more clarity where they’ll arrive once they click through.

Display URLs each contain up to 35 characters. One primary difference, though, is that Bing display URLs are bold:

paid search ads display URL

Description text

Description text helps highlight the most important details about your product or service and why search users should click through. Google Ads and Bing Ads allow up to 80 characters of description text, while Yahoo allows up to 150 characters.

This Yahoo ad’s text description includes two calls-to-action — “Learn About” and “Read More”:

paid search ads description

Ad extensions

Ad extensions effectively allow your ad take up more space in the results list. That is a big deal when you realize space is extremely limited.

These add-ons enable digital advertisers to provide more information about their product or service — such as location, phone number, or additional deep links. Formats include location information and maps, click-to-call buttons, reviews, sitelink extensions, and more. Not only do they increase your ad’s visibility, but Google reports ads’ click-through-rate increases several percentage points, too.

Here we see Intercom’s Google ad with two sitelink extensions, one to case studies and one to their pricing page:

paid search ads extensions

A Google search on mobile for “conversion rate optimization” displayed two ads with different ad extensions — the first a review extension, and the second with a call extension complete with click-to-call functionality:

paid search ads mobile

Benefits of paid search marketing

1. More visibility

Optimizing your site could eventually get your brand and offer to the top of search results, but paid search advertising can get you there immediately. Whether you’re a small startup business trying to build your online presence, or a large organization with an already existing reputation, paid ads are perfect for quickly getting in front of high-intent search prospects.

2. More traffic

Page traffic may eventually increase from organic optimizations. Yet, there is hardly any waiting to see a bump in traffic when paid ads are in effect. This is especially true for newer companies attempting to get their name out in the market and companies targeting specific organic terms that they aren’t currently ranking for.

3. Highly interested prospects

Since paid search ads target specific search queries, people who see your ads were already searching for a solution like yours. They’re not just people arbitrarily surfing the web; rather, they’re likely interested in evaluating your product or service, either now or in the near future.

4. Detailed analytics

Search engines like the big three provide marketers with free real-time data and analytics, enabling them to learn about their campaigns and prospects and to see exactly what they’re getting from their paid search dollars. Some of the most useful analytics include:

  • Where a prospect is geographically located
  • What type of device they’re using to search
  • What pages they visited on your site
  • How much time they spent on your site

These kinds of details can help you optimize your campaigns regularly so that your ad dollars are being put to their best use.

Is paid search inbound marketing?

The question is an ongoing debate among marketers, so it’s important to make the distinction when paid search ads are inbound or outbound.

Based on the intent-based keyword ad examples examined in this article, paid search ads are inbound marketing. That’s because the user inquired first and brands are not reaching out to interrupt them. The inbound marketing criteria confirms that because ads are shown to consumers at the right time, presenting a direct solution to a query. Yet, interest-based PPC targeting like Facebook ads is outbound marketing because people are not actively searching for a solution.

Increase your conversion rates with paid search ads

There is no denying paid search advertising can be a valuable strategy to generate brand awareness, leads, and sales. Not only do well-crafted, targeted ads increase the effectiveness of your advertising efforts, but when paired with an optimized post-click landing page, they reach their full potential.

The Instapage post-click optimization platform empowers digital advertisers to create the most effective post-click landing page with a designer-friendly builder, team collaboration, Instablocks™, advanced analytics, and more. No other software compares, and your paid search campaigns are the beneficiaries.

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Stephanie Mialki

by Stephanie Mialki

Stephanie Mialki is a Content Writer for Instapage. She is a graduate of St. Bonaventure University with a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Mass Communication.

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