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This is what a comprehensive payment search program looks like

This is what a comprehensive payment search program looks like

So you want to start a paid search marketing program.

Or maybe you have already launched one, but you are not sure which items you may have overlooked.

When people think of paid search, they tend to think of Google Search Ads.

But a comprehensive paid search program will go far beyond that.

In this article, I will review the main parts of a full paid search program so you can decide which items you still need to test – and possibly include – in yours.

Search ads

As mentioned above, search text ads are the PPC element most people are familiar with.

Search ads appear at the top or bottom of search engine results pages. They contain the word “Advertisement” (in red circle below) to distinguish them from organic listings:

One reason for the popularity of search ads is their versatility. They can be used at all stages of the marketing funnel by adjusting messages and landing pages.


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Although search ads may look simple, search ad targeting has changed a lot over the last five to ten years.

Originally, search ads were targeted only at keywords. So if someone was searching for “women leather jackets” and you had chosen those keywords, your ads would impress if other criteria were met as well.

Recently, targeting can include a combination of keywords and other parameters, such as customer match, remarketing, detailed demographics, market audiences, and custom audiences.

If all this sounds too complicated, you have the option to create search ads with dynamic search ads.

Dynamic search ads use your site’s content to automatically generate and target your ads, which can be a huge time saver.

However, we strongly recommend that you test and compare dynamic search ads with search ads you create yourself to see which ones perform better.

You can run search ad campaigns on the Google Network ( and Partner Sites) as well as the Microsoft Network (


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Display ads

Almost all comprehensive paid search programs also include display ads.

As the name suggests, display ads differ from search ads in that they always contain an image.

Here is an example from the search engine’s journal site:

Display ads appear when people visit sites in the Google Display Network (which include some sites, YouTube, Gmail, or apps).

Search ads, on the other hand, only appear when people search for products or services on Google.

This means that display ads will make an impression even if people are not actively looking for a product or service – an important difference.

As a result of this distinction, most advertisers use display ads at the top of their funnels, but they can actually work at all stages.

Display ads allow you to specify where or when your ad should appear based on features in your ideal audience, e.g. Their personal interests, age or gender. They can be targeted at customers through interest audiences, custom interest audiences and target groups in the market as well as topic targeting.

Display ads are available on the Google Display Network (GDN) and the Microsoft network.

GDN is made up of more than two million websites, videos and apps, so it’s too important to ignore when developing your paid search engine.

YouTube Advertising

YouTube advertising is fast becoming an essential part of the most comprehensive paid search programs.

YouTube is great for building awareness of new products and services at the top of your conversion funnel, but it’s also great for increasing sales through TrueView in-stream ads and TrueView video discovery ads.


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You can place video ads on, apps, and sites on GDN.

Unfortunately, some advertisers continue to shy away from advertising on YouTube for fear of high production costs. Even if you could spend a small fortune on production if you wanted to, you certainly do not.

With the YouTube video builder you can e.g. Create your own video ads with just a few images and a few lines of copy.

Discovery ads

Discovery ads are great for creating interest and attention at the top of your funnel.

These visually rich ads are rendered embedded across large-scale Google properties, e.g. YouTube start and “see next” feeds, Gmail campaigns and social tabs and Discover pages in your app.

Shopping ads

Shopping ads are another important part of a comprehensive paid search engine, especially if you sell products on your site.

Shopping ads are great for closing bottom-up sales because they are visual, immediate, and targeted at what people are actively looking for.


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For example, here are some shopping ads that appeared for a search on “women’s summer hats”:

As with dynamic search ads, you also have an automatic option with purchasing campaigns.

These smart shopping campaigns use remarketing, intention signals, and existing creative assets to create your ads for you and display them across ad networks.

In our experience, smart shopping campaigns generally perform better than standard shopping campaigns, but this is something you want to test for yourself.


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Shopping ads can be seen on Google search results pages, Google Shopping tab, Bing search results, Bing shopping tab, GDN, YouTube and Gmail.

Analysis and reporting

Let us not forget that any comprehensive paid search program must also include analytics and reporting. Otherwise, you pretty much take a wild guess with each new ad campaign.

You need good metrics to know what works — and what does not — to guide your decision making.

Fortunately, much of this valuable data is embedded in Google Ads and Google Analytics (as long as you have site tracking set up).

Still, none of this data will do you any good if you do not use it to optimize and improve your program.

In general, you should generate reports for both your primary goals (e.g., revenue, leads, new users) and secondary goals (e.g., engagement, top impression share, absolute impression share).

Data Studio is a great tool for creating easy-to-understand graphics if you need to share your metrics and analytics with others.


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Other tools designed for competitive analysis, e.g. Semrush and Google Insights, are also very useful.

Landing pages

Finally, the highest paid search engines will also include a smooth journey after clicks.

This journey should include landing pages with targeted content, a strong call to action, relevant images and / or video, and confidence signals.

Optimizing post-click elements through A / B testing is the only way to ensure you do not create barriers to better conversion rates.

Depending on your backend capabilities, tools like Unbounce and Google Optimize can help you get these items in place and work seamlessly.

Do not set artificial limits for your paid search engine

Of course, you do not need to implement all of these elements in your paid search engine.

Some simply do not fit your goals or business well – at least for now.

Still, it is good to be aware of all the possibilities and periodically test them.


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Paid search marketing is dynamic and things are changing all the time. Something that did not work last month or year could give you good results today.

So while search campaigns may be an excellent start to your paid search engine, they should not mark the end of it.

More resources:

Image credits

Feature Image:
Screenshots taken by the author, July 2021

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