Search ads are sponsored links that appear at the top, bottom or alongside the search engine result pages (Exhibit 18.1). Since the space allocated for the ads is limited, advertisers have to bid for keywords. Search advertising platforms such as Google Ads, Bing Ads and Yahoo! Search Ads offer advertisers the flexibility to create ads, target customers based on demographics and location, set budgets and make bids. The advertisers usually pay on a per click basis (PPC). YouTube’s Ads for videos is structured along similar lines as Google’s Ads.
Search advertising allows marketers to reach their target customers when they are seeking their products, often with the intent to purchase. The element of purchase intent is an immense advantage that makes search far more effective than any social media channel.
Accountability is another key advantage. It is possible to track increase in leads and sales resulting from search advertising by tracing users as they traverse the web site. These ads are also non-disruptive.
The prime disadvantage is cost, relative to other forms of online advertising. Because search advertising is so effective, the competition for key words and phrases has driven some bids to high levels.
Search marketing, it should be noted, can target only those who search for specific key words and phrases. It is essentially a form of inbound marketing, and though it is very effective in fulfilling existing demand, like other forms of inbound marketing, search is not as effective in creating demand.
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