Paid Search Marketing 101 – What You Need to Know

Paid Search Marketing 101 – What You Need to Know

Whether you’re a new business or a more veteran but growing business, making a name for yourself on organic channels can be a challenge.

You should still make efforts to increase your organic reach, but fortunately, another option exists to supplement – and even enhance – your organic marketing efforts.

Paid search ads.

ActiveCampaign Director of Trial Optimization Phu Bui hosted a webinar all about paid search ads.

Watch the webinar above or read the recap below to learn:

  • What is paid marketing?
  • Why use paid marketing?
  • The funnel and paid marketing
  • What are some compelling paid ad examples?
  • How do you get started with paid marketing?
  • Paid search marketing: Q&A

What is paid marketing?

Paid marketing is any marketing channel where you pay for something – whether that’s impressions, clicks, or conversions.

There are lots of ways you can pay for marketing, including:

  • Google Ads, Microsoft Advertising
  • Facebook Ads, LinkedIn Ads, Twitter Ads, Pinterest Ads, or any social media platform
  • YouTube Ads
  • Display or image ads that can appear as banners

“Although these are popular ways, there are so many others. Tons of things are available to you,” says Phu.

Why use paid marketing?

Why use paid marketing?

  • Control
  • Cost
  • Connection

Paid marketing is a great way to create demand when you’re just starting out to build an organic presence. It takes time to build organic marketing channels. Paid marketing can help fill the gap and speed up brand awareness. And it’s easy to track who is or isn’t converting.

If you’re not sure about using paid ads and want to take a break, or if you try them and they aren’t worth the money for you, you can turn them on and off almost immediately. Paid ads have almost immediate On/Off capabilities.

Paid marketing also has strong and precise targeting capabilities, making it easier to connect with customers. “You can get really precise with who you’re targeting and how you’re targeting them, and that’s how you can increase your efficiencies by making smarter decisions,” says Phu.

Where does paid marketing fit into your marketing funnel?

There are different stages of people becoming aware of who you are and what you offer — and each customer has a unique journey that eventually leads to a purchase from your business.

In each stage of your funnel, there are different goals for your marketing and different things that you can offer your prospects – but prospects aren’t going to jump from awareness to purchase in one fell swoop.

You don’t ask someone to marry you on the first date, and you don’t throw a sales offer in someone’s face before they really know who your business is. “In the same way, you’re not going to ask for someone to give you a credit card for $1,000 a year or something after the first time that they’ve ever heard about you. Or at least you shouldn’t,” notes Phu.

The stages of the marketing funnel are:

  • Top of funnel
  • Middle of funnel
  • Bottom of funnel

Understanding your funnel and your customers’ path to eventual purchase or conversion helps you decide what paid marketing channels you use to help you move a prospect through the funnel one stage at a time.

Think about the funnel for your business. Different paid marketing channels can help push people from one stage to the next.

Facebook Ads, display, and YouTube Ads tend to be classified as upper funnel channels, but they can be used at the bottom too. Many people can use retargeted ads through these mediums to have a second go at people who didn’t convert the first time and keep your brand top-of-mind.

Paid search is most often classified as the middle of the funnel or bottom of the funnel. This is where people are searching for a product in your field or your brand name.

1. What are some compelling paid ad examples?

If you’re not sure where to start with paid search marketing ads, Phu has you covered with a few examples.

Here’s a great example of a carousel ad on Facebook from HelloFresh:

baimautwg food adA Facebook carousel ad for HelloFresh that catches the eye with a colorful, fresh-looking image.

What’s great about this ad?

  • Food! A very popular eye-catching image
  • Emoji help to break up the text – and often people expect to see them in social media
  • Makes benefit to customer clear from the start, “fresh…pre-portioned…easy”
  • Offer is in the headline (and it’s incentivized)
  • “Pause or Cancel anytime” is assuring to people – no commitments means less friction for a customer

Here’s a Google ad example from Kate Spade:

3y1bpnj0 unnamed2A Google ad result for Kate Spade.

This kind of Google ad is an example of using site links. Site links are the links below a main domain link that link to targeted pages. In this ad, they say things like “new in handbags.”This kind of ad takes up a lot of space on the SERP (search engine results page) and makes your brand more visible.

“Let’s say that other people are bidding on the same term as you. If you aren’t super strong in organic results yet, having a bigger ad is helpful because then you’re just more prominent and increases the likelihood that someone will either notice at least notice your brand if not also clicking on it,” says Phu.

What else is good about this ad?

  • The ad is relevant. It mentions the spring arrivals in the third headline there it says shopper first spring arrivals.
  • There’s some language toward the end of the copy in the main ad that says, official online store. Having that anywhere is just a really good way of building trust.

What makes an ad compelling? Here are a few tips.

  • Focus on the benefits to the customer. They care about what your product does for them, not just what your product does.
  • Get to the point as quickly as possible. People are impatient; don’t make them wait or you may lose their interest.
  • Stand out! It’s tricky, there’s a lot of competition and similar ads in the market. But if everyone else says one thing, find a compelling way to say something else.
  • Be as relevant as possible to your audience. Use keywords, location, interests, and anything else you can to relate to your intended audience.

How do you get started with paid marketing?

To get started with paid marketing, here are some paid marketing helpful tools to look into:

For an even easier path to paid marketing, check out these quick tips and tricks:

  • If budget is tight (or even if it’s not), try layering targeting (e.g. you can target paid search by age, gender, device, household income, and other factors).
  • Use lookalike audiences! Easier to set up than finding the perfect interest targets.
  • If you have a few ad sets targeting different audiences on Facebook, make sure you “fence” ad sets off from each other to prevent double targeting.
  • Facebook Ads has a library of stock images for ad creation if needed. You can turn a static image into a video too!
  • Make sure to use negative keywords in paid search.
  • Always be testing something.

Resources about paid ads:

Paid search marketing Q&A: our top 5 questions and answers

You may still have questions. Great! Here are the top 5 questions asked during the webinar and our answers. For more answers, listen to our webinar to hear all of the questions (and the answers) that people have about paid marketing:

  1. “How should I act/react when it comes to paid ads?”


  • Paid ads offer pretty tight and immediate control when it comes to making changes or turning things on or off.
  • If something is working well for you, spend more on that channel until you hit a point of diminishing returns.
  • If something is not working for you, you can spend less on that channel, test elements of the channel/landing page, or turn it off!

1. “On Facebook, how big should your audience be?”


  • The minimum source audience size is 100, though ideally, it should be much larger than that. The larger your source audience, the more accurate Facebook’s algorithm can be when creating a lookalike audience.

3. “What is the #1 KPI I should watch out for when running paid ads?”


  • This depends on your goal and the channel.
  • For Google Ads and Microsoft Advertising, it’s probably best to monitor your actual conversion (like purchases, free trials, etc.).
  • For Facebook Ads, you can keep track of conversions, or if you’re using it to introduce new people to your brand, you can track reach and “New Users” in Google Analytics.
  • A pretty common KPI to monitor across the board is ROAS (Return On Ad Spend). As much as possible, you’ll want to make sure that all of your ad efforts are, at minimum, breaking even.
  • Don’t ignore the possibility of the halo effect. Seeing the brand in different places might cause people to search for your brand, or my cause people to go directly to your website and convert without ever actually clicking on one of your ads.

4. “I’d like to start running paid ads, but I’m worried about not knowing how to target and losing a lot of money.”


  • The nice thing about paid ads is you can set daily budget caps so you know that your campaigns won’t spend much beyond those limits on a daily basis. You can also turn them off whenever you want!
  • For targeting, if you’re doing something like Facebook Ads, I’d suggest just keeping it simple and creating lookalike audiences.
  • If you’re trying to run something on Google Ads or Microsoft Advertising, that can be pretty tricky to someone new to it! It might be worth hiring a consultant or agency to help advise on starting up with that. It can get expensive really quickly.

5. “Is it ever worthwhile to go after keywords that are high cost, high competition?”


  • It depends. If you can reasonably get a decent amount of volume or exposure by appearing on searches for those keywords, that’s a plus.
  • If your margins are high enough to justify going after those keywords, yes.
  • Keywords that tend to fall into the high cost/competition bucket are probably more generic (or maybe even your competitors’ keywords), and I do believe it’s important to maintain some brand presence on those kinds of searches. However, if you’re trying to fuel the middle of your funnel, you might try another channel that has cheaper CPCs (like Facebook Ads) in order to introduce more people to your brand.

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