How to Launch Cost-Effective Online Search Advertising Campaigns

64.6% of everyone using a the Google search engine clicks on advertisements, plain and simple—and this makes it ideal for small and medium businesses.

Online advertising—called pay-per-click advertising by marketers—generates an immediate return if you do it correctly. Just be aware that advertising platforms won’t hesitate to take your ad budget even if it’s misspent.

It shouldn’t run in competition with your other marketing plays, but rather alongside them. For example, SEO content is highly beneficial in the long run, but it also requires the expertise to create it yourself or a moderate up-front investment to pay a content creator—and you still won’t see a significant traffic increase for months, if not a year.

PPC advertising, on the other hand, provides immediate results instead of in a year from now. The best marketing strategies do more than just advertising—but this is the strategy that gives your business an immediate boost with a clear return.

There are two main types of digital advertising, though we’ll be focusing on one today.

  • Search Advertising: text ads appearing in search results (Google and Bing)
  • Display Advertising: image ads that appear on related websites (banner ads)

We’re going to look at search advertising process.

Never Skip the Keyword Research for Search Ads

Are you paying a “marketing guru” to come up with a creative list of keywords based on intuition and experience?

Oh dear.

Keyword research is data-driven, plain and simple. It tells you what people are really searching for out there, which isn’t just “a nice touch.” It’s critical to making your ads work properly.

This research doesn’t just tell you who’s looking for what you’re selling; it also lets you frame what you’re selling as a solution for what people want. This is the writer’s wheelhouse.

There are 3 levels of search intent:

  • Problem-oriented: researching the symptoms of a problem.
  • Process-oriented: searching for the process or mechanics of a problem.
  • Solution oriented: searching for a fix or solution to a problem.

You may have heard this called the Awareness-Consideration-Decision (ACD) funnel, or the See-Think-Do process. It’s the same Buyer’s Journey dressed up in different terminology.

The key is to match what you’re offering with the right stage of the Buyer’s Journey, and keyword research informs your ability to do that.

Keyword Intent Counts

Spoiler alert: People don’t buy anything until the end of that journey, so don’t push for a hard sell until the third stage, when you can see that they’re interested.

Where do you start with keyword research? If you’re bootstrapping it, then you’ll want to start with free keyword research tools like the Moz Keyword Explorer. Sign up for a free account and you can do seven searches per day.

That’s where you start if you have no budget to grow. The free tools give you ideas, but not strategic insights. That’s why we use top industry tools like SEMRush and ahrefs.

You can run lead generation campaigns based on the first two levels of search intent in order to acquire the leads for future remarketing, but the third level is where you want customers to buy what you’re selling. It’s a narrower field of commercial intent to buy than the other two, so you have to make it count.

That’s why keyword research is so important! It’s the roadmap for your marketing campaign.


Create a Landing Page (Yes, it’s Mandatory)

Has your expert told you to send paid ad traffic to your website? Run away as fast as you can.

To quote Oli Gardner, the industry-leading conversion expert: “Never. Start. A. Marketing. Campaign. Without. A. Dedicated. Landing. Page.”

Every campaign needs a landing page. Why? Focus.

Sending paid traffic to your homepage, blog, or cornerstone content is bad for a business website. Those pages have distractions and much weaker guidance mechanisms.

Landing pages keep your prospect focused with a single message that guides prospects to take a single action—and they work by leveraging design and writing together to achieve that.

Have you ever sent AdWords traffic to a page with one of these things?

  • A navigation bar
  • A blog sidebar
  • Links “from around the web”
  • Banner ads

You need the landing page’s copy to match the keywords on the ads you’re selling—we’ll get to that in the next section.

There is one ‘sort-of’ exception to this: selling highly specific products on an eCommerce store. This calls for product pages that, while technically different, follow 80% of the same principles as landing pages (and still need to match search intent).


Raise Your Search Ad’s Quality Score

Pro tip: you can’t win in the online space simply by throwing money at it.

Large corporations don’t seem to get this, but that’s okay. You can turn that into a competitive advantage for just about any small business marketing campaign.

Specifically, you can raise your ad’s Quality Score by matching the keyword in your ad to the keywords on the landing page. This isn’t to get more searches—it’s to show Google that your page really does offer what you’re advertising on its search network.

Earning Google’s trust with a high Quality Score does something awesome: it lowers the cost of your ads.

Incredible, right? It’s also a two-way street, meaning that ads promising something different from the landing page have to pay more per ad than competitors who do the work properly. This is a huge advantage when you start scaling up your advertising for more revenue.

There’s a rub, of course: you still need to write compelling ads while using the keyword.

They need to use the active voice and employ action verbs. Your ads need to communicate a clear value proposition, speak directly to the prospect’s pain points, and align with the prospect’s worldview—all in a set number of characters per ad (yes, fewer than Twitter).


Those are the main ingredients to launching a PPC advertising campaign to get an immediate return on investment. Have questions? We answer those too.

You know where to find us when it’s time to start.


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Andrew Webb

Andrew Webb

Andrew is a content designer, UX writer, and content strategist with SEO chops. He has worked in UX and marketing for companies like Shopify and Meta, but he also runs the Webb Content consulting brand.

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