SERPs – What PPC Experts See That You Don’t

Lately, I’ve been meeting a lot of new people and inevitably I’m asked what I do for work. This is a pretty common dialogue:

Me: I’m an internet marketer (try to keep it easy and hope they just roll with it, but usually you get the follow-up question)
Them: What exactly do you do? Build websites?
Me: I manage paid search advertising for companies.
Them: [blank stare]
Me: You know those ads you see on the side of search results or on Facebook? I write those.
Them: Oh, you’re that guy (obvious annoyance in voice)
Me: I only write the good ones .
Them: [laugh a little, move on to another subject]

While it may not be easy to describe PPC to most people, when you spend day after day poring over Clicks, Impressions, CTR, Avg CPC, Avg Position, Conversions, Cost/Conversion, etc. you begin to see search engines in a different light. Let’s take this example of a search for “verisign certificate”, which any new ecommerce site owner might perform:


You may look at this and see just another set of search results, but a PPC expert sees much, much more:

  • Advertising on Brand Terms – Often clients ask me why they need to bid on terms for which they rank #1 organically. This is a perfect example of why. VeriSign is the #1 paid result as well as the #1 organic result. If they weren’t bidding on this brand term, competitors like GoDaddy & could have their listing *above* VeriSign’s #1 organic listing.
  • Special Offer – Most likely, you picked out that box with the dotted line around it and button saying “View Offer”. This is a fairly new addition to the AdWords platform and it allows VeriSign to occupy even more of the page while pushing a special offer (which likely has a great CTR). This is taking full advantage of what Google gives you.
  • PPC-only Promotional Pricing – In the second PPC ad you’ll see that GoDaddy is offering a special $12.99 price. Go to their website right now, hover over “SSL & Security” in the top navigation, select “SSL Certificates”. No mention of the $12.99 pricing anywhere (as of this writing). No need to give away the farm for someone who already knows about you. Right?
  • Geo-targeting – Look at the left sidebar and you’ll notice it says “Provo, UT”. Google detected my location based on my IP address. This means that the results (and ads) I see may be very different from what you see based solely on where you are when you do the search.
  • Wasted Spend – This is one of my favorites. Amazon is a great company and has an amazing selection. However, they don’t sell VeriSign certificates. So why do we see their ad on the bottom of the right side column of ads? And why are they talking about books? I know that the search mentions “certificates” but this is just a waste of money.

Just because a SERP seems simple and straightforward don’t forget how much information is being presented if you are willing to “read between the lines”.