Confused by keywords? Addled by AdWords? Don’t know your PPCs from you CPMs?

“We need to stop interrupting what people are interested in and be what people are interested in.” – Craig Davis

In this brief, but a value-packed guide, we’ll tell you everything you need to know to get started with search advertising.

In this guide we’ll cover the following search advertising fields:

  • What search advertising is?
  • When and why you should use it?
  • How does keyword matching work?
  • How to structure an ad?

Buckle up… there’s a lot of information coming your way.

What is Search Advertising and How is it Different to Organic Search?

Search advertising and organic search optimisation are both forms of Search Engine Marketing (SEM), but search advertising is, well, the part of SEM that you shell out money for. That’s why it’s also called “paid search”.

Essentially, you pay a fee to ensure that your website is displayed on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) when someone types in relevant keywords – and you also get to control how this is presented.


The first decision you need to make with search advertising is whether you want to pay based on the number of clicks the link gets, called Pay Per Click (PPC) or how many impressions it gets (CPM).

For the most part, PPC is a far better investment of resources, because you only have to pay for the eyeballs that actually reach your site. 

Why Do It?

There are two major benefits to paid search advertising: 

  • Getting to the Top of Google – you skip the queue to the top and ensure that people see the link to your site/landing page.
  • Split Testing Your Landing Pages – a less obvious draw is that you can create different versions of ads, or of the landing pages, where they go to, helping you to refine your messaging and figure out what works best for you.

How to Use Keywords in PPC

The keyword combinations you choose are crucial to the success of your ads. These can be (loosely) divided into:

  • Branded keywords, i.e. company or product names, e.g. “Furniture4U” or “Bob’s Iguanas”.
  • Generic keywords, that refer to a type of item/thing, e.g. “filing cabinet” or “Angel Island Chuckwalla”.
  • Transactional keywords, implying some kind of purchasing intent. E.g. “cabinets for sale” or “iguana breeders”.
  • Locational keywords, e.g. “Cabinet makers near me” or “Pet store Mogadishu”.
  • Long-tail keywords, consisting of more than 3-4 words. E.g. “Sliding filing cabinets for office” or “Buy baby red iguana pet”.
  • Informational keywords, for when people are searching for a particular piece of information/trying to solve a particular problem. E.g. “Directions to Furniture4U Chicago branch” or “How to tell if your iguana is depressed”.

Three important things to bear in mind when it comes to keywords:

1. Different keywords will appeal to potential customers at different stages in their buyer journey
Think very carefully about how this relates to what you offer and plan for plenty of ad variations.

2. Don’t waste your keyword options on words that don’t add to your core keyword
Focus on qualifying words that actually help you differentiate yourself. For example, “office filing cabinet shop” and “office filing cabinet store” might look like different keywords, but the core keyword is “office filing cabinet”, which is used in both cases. It’s more useful for you to stick with “office filing cabinet” plus words that actually add value, like “in Chicago” or “near me”. 

3. Decide if you need an exact keyword match
Sometimes, only a precise set of words in a particular order is relevant. At other times, it’s better to use “phrase match” which allows the words to be used in a different order. 

For example, if you set the keyword “Red iguana for sale” to phrase match, it will still show up if someone types “for sale red iguana”. However, if you set “food for iguanas” as “exact match” only, it WON’T show up if someone searches “iguana for food”. Which is probably for the best.  

Structuring Your Ads: The Basics

Okay, let’s get down to the specifics. When you’re crafting a Google search ad, you need to remember the numbers 25, 37, 35, 35. In that order.

That’s because you have 25 characters available for the title, 37 for the display URL or vanity URL (as in, it’s not the “destination” link people actually click, but it reiterates the site address), then two lines of 35 characters each to capture the reader’s attention and draw them into your site. 

For Example:
Green Iguanas for Sale
No. 1 pet shop in Mogadishu
Charming reptiles in verdant hues

Final Thoughts

There is, of course, so much more we could say on the subject of search advertising – especially when it comes to your grand strategy, keyword optimisation and so on. But we’ll come to all this in another post. In the meantime, use this guide as a handy introduction to launch your first search advertising campaign.

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