What is Search Engine Advertising (SEA)?
Search engine advertising (SEA) is a form of Internet advertising. Sometimes, it is also referred to as search advertising, Internet search advertising, or online search advertising.
Instead of improving SEO techniques and waiting for them to pay off by appearing on the first page of an online search, businesses can speed up their SEO efforts by purchasing ads that appear on the first page of search results, regardless of their ranking.
Unlike traditional advertisements that are purchased outright, companies pay per click with SEA. The ad is displayed, and a fee is paid every time a user clicks on the ad. The fee is paid regardless of whether the user makes a purchase or signs up for an email newsletter after clicking on the link.
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Display features of SEA
Ads are featured in prominent places on the search results page of search engines. Ads appear above, below, or next to the results of an organic search using targeted keywords and/or phrases.
Search engine advertising looks like regular search results at first glance. Ads include features like:
- Headline: The headline is the most noticeable portion of the advertisement. Because of this, it should contain targeted, relevant keywords and phrases, as well as descriptive language that illustrates what products or information can be found on the page.
- Display URL: The URL domain, subdomain, and path fields are included in the display URL. This information cues the user in to what can be found on the page.
- Description Text: The most important details about the information and products on the page can be found in the description text. Its language should focus on convincing users to click and visit the website.
However, there are some features that distinguish SEA from regular search results on the page. First, the advertisement has to be labeled as such. This form of advertising falls into the category of native advertising, which means it has to follow FTC guidelines for making the intention of the content clear, so it must be labeled as an ad. In case of search engine ads, the label appears in front of the display URL.
In addition, some ads appear much larger than the other results on the search page. They can include ad extensions, which means additional links can be provided under the main ad. These links increase the visibility of the ad, and they provide users with more options to click on. These extensions don’t come with any additional fees.
Differences between Google and other search engines
All popular search engines have search engine advertising features, but the ads don’t appear similar across platforms.
Google’s ad solution is called Google AdWords. It captures the majority of the search market, so it’s often the platform businesses start with first. However, that usually means that advertising on that platform is more expensive.
Bing’s ad solution is called Bing Ads. Although it doesn’t capture the same volume of users as Google, it does include Bing, Yahoo, and AOL. The same ad will appear on all three platforms for the same price. Bing highlights the display URL by bolding the letters, while Google does not. Bing also includes a bit more control than Google. It allows for Google AdWords campaigns to be uploaded to its platform, it allows users to assign different ad campaigns to different time zones, and specific audiences can be targeted based on their operating system.
Both forms of advertisements do have some things in common. Bing places advertisements at the top and bottom on search results pages, both highlight the display URL in green, and both allow 80 characters in the description text.
Comprehensive advertising campaigns include both Google AdWords and Bing Ads advertising. With Google, companies can capture the largest search volume on the Internet. With Bing Ads, companies can increase click-through rates (CTRs) for shopping and financial services and reach an additional audience of millions of users who don’t use Google.
How search engine advertising works
Search engine advertising starts with a bid for a particular keyword or phrase. This amount is different than what is paid for each ad click. Regardless of the bid, keyword selection will determine how the ads are displayed, so keyword research is essential to ensure the ad reaches its target audience.
It is the job of search engines to retrieve the most relevant information for each inquiry, and that includes ads that are displayed. Based on the bid and the keyword phrase being used, the search engine that will display the ad will begin the process of assigning a quality score to the ad, which in turn determines its rank and position.
The quality score looks at a multitude of factors that include:
- Click-through rate
- Landing page
- Historical performance
- Ad relevancy
- Keyword relevancy
- And more
Benefits of SEA
There are multiple benefits of search engine advertising. Appearing on the first page of a search engine doesn’t happen overnight, even with a superior SEO strategy. Ads can boost exposure on the first page without having to wait for an SEO strategy to kick in.
Advertisements are displayed based on search queries that rely on keywords. That provides companies with an opportunity to create highly targeted ads to an audience that is already interested in the information in the ad. That increases the likelihood of those users taking action by making a purchase, signing up for an email list, or starting a download.
This form of advertisement is less intrusive than other forms of advertisements. SEA provides users with an option for something they are already looking for, as opposed to other forms of outbound marketing strategies that can be off-putting and irritating.
Using SEA also provides businesses with more options for tracking and measuring data. The information gleaned from advertising can be more detailed than traditional SEO techniques.
Information that can be tracked and measured includes:
- Average ad position
- Conversion rate
- Geographical location of prospects
- Devices being used
- And more
The future of search engine advertising
All advertising is more targeted than it has ever been before, and that trend will continue in the future. A detailed keyword strategy ensures relevant ads are being placed on the right results pages, but these ads will evolve in the future to be even more targeted to their audience. Based on information about the user’s location, device, and more, ads will be customized to provide a personalized user experience. For instance, one ad may be created to target a certain age range, while another ad may target people who are located on the coast.
Voice search is on the rise, which has created challenges for marketers using SEO and search engine advertising. Typed inquiries use simplified keywords and phrases. Voice searchers tend to use full sentences. As voice search continues to increase, advertisers will be required to tweak their SEO strategies and SEA to meet the demands of users who search for information this way.