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Frequently Asked Questions about Paid Search for Small Business

Frequently asked questions

What’s the difference between paid search and search engine marketing (SEM)?

Some people use the terms interchangeably. But paid search campaigns use PPC (pay-per-click) ads that appear on the SERPs (search engine results pages) based on keyword bids.

SEM is broader in scope and involves making changes to your website to make it more visible for organic searches — such as optimizing titles, URLs, description meta tags, and other elements.

Is paid search worth it for small businesses?

It can be, done right.

Over half of small business websites see fewer than 16 visits daily, most of which come from outside their service area. That’s not enough traffic for a service business to survive. And if the leads don’t happen organically or through word of mouth, your only choice is to buy them — or buy the traffic to generate your own leads.

Some small businesses waste thousands of dollars monthly for leads that go nowhere. Paid search is a better option, in our opinion.

What are the benefits of paid search for small businesses?

Paid search yields faster results than any other form of online advertising. It’s like turning on a traffic spigot to your high-conversion pages.

It can target specific audiences, keywords, and geographical areas, and paid ads always appear above the organic results. You have complete control over your budget and the keywords you bid on.

What’s the downside of paid search?

It can get expensive. If you’re not careful or don’t know what you’re doing, you can rack up a hefty bill bidding on low-conversion keywords.

That’s why it pays to hire an agency with a good paid search program. A paid search expert will know which keywords to target, how to tweak bids and budgets, and understand what works best for your business.

How can I get a good investment return (ROI) on paid search?

Track your campaigns carefully to determine which keywords and ads generate leads or sales — and adjust your budget accordingly.

You should also monitor the Quality Score of each keyword in the search engine’s dashboard, as this is an excellent metric for controlling your costs and assessing the success of different campaigns.

Finally, it pays to work with an experienced agency that understands paid search marketing and can optimize your campaigns for maximum ROI.

How long does it take for a small business to see results from paid search campaigns?

Most campaigns show results within a few days after launching.

As with any marketing strategy, you must continually refine campaigns to improve performance in the long term.

The exact timeline for “success,” however you define it, will depend upon factors like budget, targeting strategies, and attention to detail.

What are some examples of a small business paid search campaign?

A paid search campaign may involve various forms of advertising on Google, Bing, or Yahoo, gradually eliminating less effective ads and dedicating more resources to advertisements with the best ROI.

You might also consider social media advertising on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and even LinkedIn or display ads on websites like YouTube.

For local service businesses, we find that Google Dynamic Search Ads offer good ROI, if you have the content on your website to support them, and Google Local Services Ads, if your business qualifies for them. Not every business does.

Do all local service businesses (plumbers, electricians, etc.) need paid search to remain competitive?

No, not if they get enough business from organic search, their Google Business Profile, and word of mouth.

Culture Cube has a few clients like this, but they’re rare in a highly competitive area like metropolitan Los Angeles. Most clients, even those with high-traffic websites, supplement their leads from organic search with cost-effective paid search campaigns.

How can I reduce my paid search costs?

Start by researching relevant keywords and their costs. Generally speaking, low-volume long-tail keywords (specific keyword phrases like “plumbing services in Santa Ana”) cost less and convert at a higher rate.

Focus on the relevance of the keyword bid and the quality of the page you send people to when they click on your ad. A poor-quality or irrelevant page can result in high bounce rates, negatively impacting your Quality Score and raising your bid costs.

And, as always, adjust your campaigns weekly for ROI — or hire an agency to do it for you.

What’s the most effective type of paid search for small businesses?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. Different businesses will benefit from different types of paid search, and any particular ad’s effectiveness may depend on your business’s nature, budget, customer reviews, and other factors.

That said, we don’t recommend most social media advertising for local service businesses (who looks for a plumber on Facebook?). We’ve had great success with Google Dynamic Seach Ads and Google Local Services Ads.

By Peter Losh

Peter Losh is the SEO Director of Culture Cube Marketing in Upland, California. He's also a de facto UX designer, site builder, and content creator. Unlike most folks in the SEO biz, he works directly on the sites he optimizes, having witnessed the effects of recommendations that go ignored or misunderstood (in previous gigs).

Peter has worked on websites since the salad days of the internet, first as a graphic artist and web designer at the Centers for Disease Control. Then came several years of freelance web development, SEO and e-commerce management for business sites of various sizes, and ultimately a 10-year stint as the sole SEO Manager of PartyCity.com.

In his spare time, he enjoys classic film, classical music, and classic comebacks. And cats.

Professional Work Experience

  • Search engine optimization
  • Ecommerce management
  • Conversion rate optimization
  • UX design and analysis
  • Copywriting and training
  • E-mail campaign design
  • Web design and development
  • Graphic design

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