Of all the ways to advertise your business, paid ads on search engines may provide the fastest results. With most advertising methods, you’re interrupting a customer while they’re trying to view or do something else. Paid search reaches customers at the moment they’re searching for something related to your products or services.


And you can start paid search advertising with a small budget, as low as $10 a day.


But paid search is cost-effective only if you carefully design, execute and monitor your campaigns, says Janine Monico, head of paid advertising for SEOM Interactive, a search marketing agency near Philadelphia. Monico provides these five tips for how to maximize paid search advertising:


1. Look for intent to buy

One of the most important tasks in paid search is choosing the keywords that will trigger your ad to appear. Focus on keywords that demonstrate a strong intention to buy, says Monico: “If you’re a small business on a limited budget, you can’t afford to burn it on tire-kickers and information-seekers.”


For example, if you’re a roofer, the term “roofing” may get a lot of traffic, but “roofer” is more likely to capture users who are ready to choose a roofer, Monico says. When seeking “high intent” keywords, put yourself in the mindset of your target customer. And start with a focused set of terms; if you’re not getting enough good leads, you can always add or change your target search terms later.


2. Exclude search terms you don’t want

The advertising platforms of major search engines such as Google Ads also let you specify which search terms you don’t want to trigger your ad. For example, many businesses prefer to avoid customers who seek a “free” or “cheap” version of their product, Monico says—so they might exclude search traffic that includes those phrases.


Paid search is known as “pay-per-click” advertising, because you pay only when a prospect clicks on your ad. That’s a good way of controlling costs, but if the wrong kind of customer clicks on your ad, your money is wasted.


3.  Find your target

If you haven’t signed up for Google Analytics, you should. The program collects reams of information about your website visitors, including their age, gender and interests. These insights can inform all of your marketing and advertising efforts. Google Ads, for instance, allows you to serve ads only to searchers who fit your desired criteria, Monico says. 


4.  Reach for quality

Have you ever clicked on a paid search ad, only to discover that the company doesn’t offer the product or information you were seeking? The major search engines are aware of the problem. If your keyword search terms, ad copy and landing page are all closely matched, they will give your campaign a high “quality score” and you’ll pay less per click, Monico says. Apart from that, a high-quality campaign increases the chance that a click will lead to a sale.


5.  Track your ROI

Even with online advertising, it’s not always easy to see which campaigns and platforms are most effective. For example, a customer who clicks on your ad might buy your product at a later date, after signing up for your newsletter or clicking on your site from an “organic” search link. Google Analytics can track some individuals across devices and visits, Monico says. But other tools can also be useful. For example, call-tracking tools assign different phone numbers to different advertising channels (like a paid search landing page or social media ad landing page) to help you track how a customer came to you.


For small businesses, Monico says, the key to successful paid search is to focus on the customers you want. Aim for quality leads rather than big traffic numbers, and track results closely to ensure you’re maximizing returns on each paid click.

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