9 Things You Must Completely Understand for Success in Paid Search

Paid search, also called sponsored search or pay-per-click, is purchasing ads on search engines to rank higher and get more traffic. Paid search puts your business name in the top results in searches, produces immediate and consistent traffic, and allows advertisers to brand and easily track their marketing.

EducationUnderstanding paid search will help you develop effective paid search campaigns that produce the results you want. The following nine terms are the most common concepts in paid search.


Keywords are extremely important to how your rank in search engine searches. Keywords are how search engines find and rank, or sort, websites. When you are participating in paid search, keyword selection is essential to reaching your proper audience.

Negative Keywords

Negative keywords are keywords similar to the ones you want to use, but which prevent your ad from showing to people searching on things that may seem or sound similar to yours but which you don’t offer. For example, if you sell designer sunglasses, you want people interested in sunglasses to find your site, but you don’t want people looking for prescription glasses, so “prescription” would be a negative keyword to use.

Ad Groups

Ad groups are where you sort and store your keywords for your ad campaigns. They contain keywords, ad text, and your landing page URLs. Ad groups control what keywords your ads pull for searches, what your ad says, and where the visitor lands when clicking on your ad. They are very important in paid search to get the best results.

Text Ads

Text ads contain no images, only words. The right keywords are very important in text ads because there’s not a visual to draw visitors and prove relevance.  Make sure to include a strong headline that gets the user’s attention as well as a compelling ad body.

Click-Through-Rate (CTR)

The click-through-rate or CTR is a measure of how many visitors click on your ad. It is the number of clicks on an ad divided by the number of times the ad is shown. A high CTR is usually more desirable in paid search.

Quality Score

Quality score is a search engine’s estimate of how relevant your ad group (keywords, ad, and landing page) is to visitors. Google’s example of a good Quality Score is a searcher looking for striped socks clicking on your ad for striped socks that leads to your website that sells socks. The more highly targeted your ads and keywords, the higher the quality score.

Cost-Per-Click (CPC)

Cost-Per-Click or CPC is the amount you are charged each time someone clicks on your pay-per-click ad. Your quality score and cost-per-click determine your ad rank, or how high on the search pages your ad shows up during searches.

Cost-Per-Action (CPA)

Cost-per-action or CPA is the amount you pay per visitor action in paid search. Visitor actions include an impression, form submission such as newsletter sign-up, click, double opt-in, or sale.

Conversion-Rate-Optimization (CRO)

Conversion-rate-optimization or CRO is a method of increasing your percentage of visitors to your site who turn into, or convert, to customers. It involves monitoring which visitor activities result in sales and which don’t, and tailoring ad campaigns to the specific things that result in sales.

Those who are new to paid search can start with keyword research and optimization and focus on keyword relevance. A good progression is to then try a few text ads to see how they work, and how to monitor your ads for CTR and Quality Score, then looking at CPC, CPA, and CRO methods. You could work with a web design company or digital marketing firm, but some research and simple testing will help you better understand how paid search works and how to use it in your Internet marketing.

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About the Author

Though his chief ambition is to one day control the entire Internet, Jim busies himself in the meantime running our little web development and marketing agency. He's a certified super nerd who ranks coding in old, outdated languages and watching Star Trek reruns just a bit too high on his list of fun things to do. Outside of work, Jim enjoys Hockey (Tampa Bay Lighning, to be specific), more genres of music than most people realize exist, riding his Harley (he calls it "two wheel therapy") and exploring the world through travel.