What makes Paid Search so damn sexy?

What makes Paid Search so damn sexy?

14th January 2016

In the world of marketing and advertising, Paid Search may sometimes lack the sizzle of social, the zing of video and the visual impact of display. But what happens when we look for beauty that’s more than skin-deep? When a French guy like me looks beyond the blue links of paid search, I see a marketing channel that’s sexy as hell for all the right reasons. Voila!

Search is powerful. This is because it’s at the heart of online activity. Everything starts with search. What is the first page you go to when opening a web session? Award-winning Super Bowl commercials get discovered through search. Social content is discovered by search. Your audience might see your brand in a social context, but they’ll find your site when they do a search for you. And getting your audience to your site is the gold – because you can control their experience there. They find you with search, whether they look for you at home or on the go, by typing or by speaking… Search is already ubiquitous but it is just the beginning: search continues to evolve to meet new needs, new usages, new form factors, new ways to consume the internet.

Search is the most popular kid in the room. About 766 million searches happen every day across all search platforms in the U.S. only. That’s 32 million per hour. That’s 9 thousand searches per second (comScore qSearch August 2015). And I preferred not to look at the worldwide figures as they are mind-blowing. No other marketing medium can put up reach numbers like this. Search has become such an innate, ingrained habit that sometimes we, as consumers, are not even aware of it as a separate step in our discovery process; it’s just what we do… even when we do something else. Multi-screening also creates a new layer of behavioural insight for search marketers. The 2014 IAB ‘Changing TV Experience’ study revealed 78 per cent of consumers use another device when watching TV – and for 69 per cent of those, mobile was the dominant device when second-screening.

Search: the popular kid in the room
Credit: photo by Thomas Bayer

It’s effing brilliant. Data collected from search behavior is a window into intent on an individual level and on a societal level. The database of intent is getting richer every day as we add geo-location abilities, mode of transport (walking versus riding the tube, for example), deeper context (she searched for watches yesterday and party supplies today – connected?) and as we connect search data to other technology like fitness bands. You have heard of the Internet of Things? Search and its information architecture are foundational to the successful delivery and understanding of IoT. You have heard of the Future? Once put to the task to understand badly typed or poorly expressed intents, search and its machine learning capabilities are now capable to actually anticipate our intents, to predict our future even.

Search has integrity. Remember John Wanamaker’s old statement about half of his marketing budget being wasted but having no idea which half? Well, modern reporting tools don’t lie. You can measure search marketing results to the penny, the minute and the neighborhood. Not many channels can provide such a level of granularity and immediacy. Take a tool like Bing Ads Intelligence for instance: it plugs you directly into the search algorithm history revealing, for any keyword, the demographic profile of the searchers, the device they used, their location… It also informs you on the cost of a click for the different match cases and ad positions. And it’s free, accessible to all via Excel and works in a couple clicks. There’s a transparency with paid search that reassures and makes the guessing game of broadcast or display almost comical. Is there anything sexier than integrity?

It gets the job done. Paid search marketing drives buyers to sellers. It gives buyers what they want. Sellers get customers they would otherwise have no way of finding. Search does everybody a solid.

It’s getting prettier. Image extensions let advertisers add a photo to their paid search ad. Same with Shopping Campaigns, which are a retail advertiser’s dream come true. Bing’s much-discussed native ads rolled out this autumn with even prettier options to get in front of searchers in a context that makes a lot of sense.

So much control. A sense of control is a real turn on. One reason paid search marketing is perfect for smaller businesses is the absolute control over budget that search delivers. Control over targeting (men, women, time of day, day of week, seasonal, geographical, mobile, desktop), keywords and extensions makes things even more exciting and endlessly variable.


What paid search marketing lacks in sizzle, it more than makes up for with the meat. Paid search continues to innovate with new formats, targeting options and ad features. As search matures into its mid-20s, we have both a deeper database and broader search intelligence to mine. The data nerds have now morphed into marketing geeks, and paid search marketing is sexier than it’s ever been. And so much more potential remains untapped. We commissioned a market research last summer in the UK, and the results revealed that although search marketing is reaching a maturing phase, it remains misunderstood, misused or even ignored by these very small businesses who could do so well in this channel. Some say small is beautiful, but it seems that SMB could be sexier and not even know it.

What do you love most about paid search? Tell us in the comments!


Written By
Tasked with promoting Microsoft’s search marketing platform - Bing Ads – around the world, Cedric works closely with advertisers, from Blue Chip brands to small businesses, to help them develop effective online strategies which can boost their visibility with PPC, provide more targeted communication and deliver higher ROI.
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