Curated Comprehensive : Paid Advertising

Paid advertising is something we all encounter almost every day — whether you’re a digital marketer or not. But despite it being a pretty big deal, it’s still a relatively new concept to many of us. Here we’ll help you get to grips what paid advertising is, understand how it might benefit your business, and how to get started.

We’ll admit it, the world of paid advertising can seem a daunting one which is full of spreadsheets, online bidding platforms and a bunch of incomprehensible jargon. But do not fear, we’ve enlisted our trusted team of paid- advertising-experts to give you the lowdown on paid advertising. So without further ado, let’s get started.

What is paid advertising?

To kick things off let’s start with a basic definition of what paid advertising is from our very own Pearse (Senior PPC Executive), “Paid advertising is a method of driving highly targeted traffic to your website, in which you pay the publisher (e.g. a search engine or social platform) on which keywords and audiences you want your ad to appear to”. Paid advertising is effectively an umbrella for a number of different advertising formats you pay to be displayed. These include paid search, paid social, display ads, and video ads.

Even within this description, there might be a few terms which don’t quite make sense. To help you out, we’ve made a glossary of terms at the bottom of this article for your reference, why not check it out?

For many businesses, paid advertising takes up a lot of their overall spend. With digital marketing budgets on the increase, more money is being placed in the hands of this channel, and more businesses are expecting results. But with so many people using the same channel and competing against each other, you’ve got to take a step back and really ask the question what’s the point?

Why use it?

There are whole number of reasons why you might want to use paid advertising. It can help to contribute toward a range of business goals, but when it comes to our clients there are three key benefits we always refer back to:

Lead generation

Revenue generation and sales (eCommerce)

Brand awareness

Paid advertising presents itself as a prime opportunity to convert consumers who are in a purchase mentality. You are speaking directly to people that are already searching for your product or service or that you know will be more likely to respond and therefore convert.

Aside from converting, paid advertising can also be used to transform great content and PR work into top-notch tools to attract and engage customers with your brand.

In an ideal world, you’d hope that your brand is strong enough that you’d have no necessity to compete with paid advertising. Even a small amount of investment in paid search can reap big rewards, it’s just about knowing what to expect and knowing how to make it happen.

Breaking down the benefits

We’ve explored why you should use paid advertising, but we’re going to make it even more simple by highlighting the key benefits. These benefits apply across the board regardless of what channel you might be using.

ROI (return on investment) The ROI from paid advertising can be high particularly if it’s your debut to the channel and you are strategic with your spend. For instance, we have seen some amazing initial returns for businesses that incorporate Google shopping into their paid strategy.

Quick learning The learnings and insights you can gain from paid advertising can be rapid from a search term, audience, ad copy, or landing page perspective. This allows you to adjust and address your strategy quickly to place more budget in the areas you know that work.

Exposure It can get your brand in front of the right audience almost instantly. By being selective with who you want to target and which terms an audience will be searching for, you can ensure that your ad is being served to those who would be more likely to engage with your brand.

Ever evolving If one thing’s for sure, the paid advertising space is never boring or stationary. Whenever you think that things maybe plateauing a new tactic or channel suddenly changes the game. This makes for an exciting marketing landscape and certainly keeps you on your toes. Hence, when it comes to paid advertising you’ve got to be agile with your strategy and be prepared to make bold moves when needed.

It can be offensive With deep pockets paid advertising is an area where you can be competitively aggressive and dominate a large amount of the search listings. A big budget also allows you to incorporate other channels into your paid strategy such as display, video, and paid social.

But it can also be defensive Given the ever changing goalposts set by Google and continuous changes in algorithms some brands use paid search as a purely defensive strategy. It can be used to either stop competitors bidding on their brand name or up weight bidding on key terms that have historically performed well for them. It’s basically about defending your territory and maintaining your stance rather than fighting an expensive battle.

It’s super measurable Paid advertising is incredibly measurable in terms of seeing what you’re spending, and what you’re getting back in return.

How to get started

Now you’ve learned about the benefits, we bet you’re raring to go. But embarking on your paid advertising journey shouldn’t be a shotgun decision. It may seem like a quick win but like every other digital channel it can only be successful with thought and planning.

First off you’ve got to consider the standard of your website. Let’s be frank, if you’re site isn’t up to scratch, what’s the point of sending traffic to it? A few key questions you might want to consider include:

Is my site SEO friendly? Think about how easy it is for a user to navigate, does it include quality content and copy?

Does it look professional? Is it actually pleasing to look at? You’ve got to have a good balance of both functionality and aesthetics.

What is the user journey like? Think about where users are lead onsite and the journey they are taken on. Have you made the user feel supported throughout the whole process from entering the site to conversion?

We’re pretty good at sussing this stuff out, so if you need a hand, get in contact. After making sure your site is good to go, it’s time to plan. Here’s what we usually start with when we go to start a new campaign:

Understanding our goals/KPIs What do you want from your efforts?

Research your audience Who actually are they?

Research your audience context Where are they online? What sort of lifestyle do they lead?

To do this you’ve got to delve into some data. You can use a combination of owned data (Google analytics etc), desk research (e.g. audience search queries) and any qualitative research you may have collected about your end user. This will ensure that when you build your campaigns, on whichever platform you choose, they are focused and optimised toward your audience.

Next up is picking which platform to use. Despite the temptation to put all your eggs in one basket, we recommend testing as many channels as possible — if your budget permits it. But throughout, don’t forget about your end user. If you know that your target market rarely uses social media, then there’s very little value in even testing this platform. Keep their behaviour and the goal of your campaign at the forefront of your mind when choosing what to test first. You might be asking, “but how do I know?”. Here’s a quick rundown of what your research might indicate.

If you find your users are searching on Google (or Bing) using keywords with clear intent (i.e. looking for your brand or one of your products) then paid search will most likely be the most cost effective and targeted option. Here you can bid on specific brand and non-brand keywords. You can also try bidding on broad-match terms which might include similar phrases, misspellings, or differently worded variations.

Paid social is a bit more of a long game, as the user will not necessarily be searching directly for your brand name or product. However, it’s a great way to pique your users interest in your brand with some prospecting content or offers and gain exposure to new audiences who might be the perfect fit for your brand.

But not everyone wants to pay for potential immediate sales, or build an army of brand advocates on social. If you want traffic and you want it cheap, display or video ads are a wise way to go. Here you can get quick click-throughs to your website with ads which put a precedence on visuals.

Naturally, each channel has their benefits and limitations so it’s important to track your efforts. From here you can pick and choose which are working best for you, and happily marry them together to make a cohesive strategy.

So I’ve got started — now what?

Now it’s just a case of keeping your eyes peeled and keeping close tabs on your campaigns and tracking their behaviour. Record which keywords that are working for you, which audiences which are responding to your ads, and particular types of content which are pulling users through to your site. Try testing out different types of ad copy, or linking to topic specific landing pages. It’s also important to target new and different audiences to see which are most responsive. As we’ve said before, the beauty of paid advertising is that you can learn a lot about your campaign in a very short space of time. Use the data to show you where to place more or less budget and to help you choose which types of ad and content to use. This ability for incremental improvements is pretty much unparalleled by any other channel, so take advantage of it!

So we’re going to wrap things up. Check out our glossary and funnel diagram for some jargon-busting goodness, or a take a look around our blog for more specific info. If you’re still looking for a bit of help getting started with paid advertising get in touch. We’d be more than happy to help out.



Audiences Specific groups of people you’re trying to target. They should be the basis of your campaign and dictate how it takes shape. This is where you can get really granular, dialling down on specific groups of people based on their age, gender, occupation and online behaviour.

Bounce rate The number of people that click through but leave the site after viewing one page. It basically allows you to record the number of people that are dropping off Vs. those that are continuing their journey onsite.

Conversion Whether it’s a sale, a sign-up, or getting in contact, this is the end goal. This is the last step in the paid funnel.

CTR A.K.A. Click Through Rate. This is the percentage of people that click on your ad from the total number of those who have seen it.

Display ads Ads with a bit of excitement. This umbrella term includes several different types of ad, but all rely on elements other than just text e.g. image, video etc.

Engagement This is the stage at which a user has clicked through and are exploring your site. They are engaging with your brand and content.

Impressions An impression is when one person sees your ad. A total number of impressions is the amount of times your ad is loaded fully on a page.

Keywords These are crucial. Keywords are what link the user to a campaign. They are what people are searching for and therefore define when your ad will be presented.

Pages viewed The number of pages a user views during their session (full amount of time they spend on your website). This helps you see user behaviour and understand their journey onsite.

Paid search This is what is most commonly thought of when we think of paid advertising. These are basically ads which are sponsored within a search engine (either Google or Bing) and are paid for each time the ad is clicked (pay-per-click) or each time your ad is displayed (cost-per-impression).

Paid social Using budget to boost social activity. Ultimately it’s all about maximising reach, engagement, and can be super-specific on targeting.

Remarketing It does what it says on the tin. Basically, it’s serving an ad to a user that has already engaged with your brand before. It also gives has the potential to be even more targeted as you can use data or an analysis of previous behaviour to suss out the sort of ad the user might respond best to.

Time on site The amount of time a user stays on your site after clicking through. If time on site is low and bounce rate is high, it might be worth going back to basics and looking at your site — does it appeal to who you’re targeting? Is it SEO friendly?

Traffic This is how many people are coming on to your website. A simple measure of how effective your ad is.

Visibility This measures how visible your ad is at the top of the purchase funnel, and at the time users are likely to convert.

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