June 13 2024


The Importance of Paid Search in the Age of AI 

Paid search or pay-per-click (PPC) advertising allows businesses to pay search engines for placement in search engine result pages (SERPs) via keyword bidding, remarketing tactics, and display ad options. A successful paid search strategy considers user intent (how customers approach their needs in the search bar) when deciding how to target potential buyers and drive them to helpful content on your website for optimal engagement. As part of an integrated approach, ads in conjunction with organic results increase your visibility and credibility in the search landscape.  

88% of users we surveyed said they are more likely to click on a website that appears early on Google more than once. 

Tech Validate Survey conducted by TopSpot

While PPC has always been a critical part of digital marketing strategy, new AI features have increased its importance. Along with direct access to chat platforms CoPilot and Gemini, AI visually entered the search landscape directly into results via Search Generative Experiences (SGE). Google recently rolled out AI Overviews to all users on desktop and mobile for a variety of search queries. Along with rich results or featured snippets, organic results continue to be pushed further down or get lost in the shuffle. Paid search strategies can help boost your SEO and overall visibility in SERPs when a part of an integrated digital marketing strategy. 

In this blog, we discuss the changes to paid search, AI, and the overall search landscape to learn how a strategic PPC program focused on an intent-based keyword strategy could help reduce the effects these new features may have on driving quality traffic and leads to your website. 

Paid search result in Bing
A paid search result for custom work platforms in Bing.

Changes to Paid Search  

There have been some significant changes to paid search results in the past two years, starting with Google changing the label from “Ad” to “Sponsored” in 2022. Bing is still using the “Ad” label, but it is far less noticeable compared to Google. Despite being more pronounced, Google is mixing its ads with organic results to improve the user experience, helping users to feel results are genuinely helpful versus revenue-driven. According to SEMrush, 45.1% of total search engine clicks on desktop devices came from organic clicks in 2023. This has been a balancing act for the search giant since it relies on ad revenue coming from companies wanting top placement and the users they serve. 

A paid search result in Google
A paid search result for Swiss machining in Google falling in between organic results.

Paid placements are now very common below featured snippets, but Google is now testing PPC results in AI overviews. The company said without additional steps on the backend in Google Ad platforms, sponsored results will begin appearing inside the AI Overviews boxes that can show for queries if the content is deemed relevant. All these new features are dynamic and vary by query, however, we do know that not running a strategic, targeted ad program, or no program at all, removes you from the competitive playing field in SERPs. 

As search engines grapple with paid search revenue and user experience, it’s important to remember a PPC strategy has always been beyond top placement. This is especially true for B2B industrial companies who may share landscapes with companies like Amazon that can afford to pay for a range of broad paid search placements. These smaller, budget-conscious companies must rely on targeted strategies and helpful content to stay competitive. 

Why Paid Search Matters Now More Than Ever 

This is where integrated strategy comes into play, creating more opportunities to populate relevant search landscapes and stand out in crowded SERPs. Digital marketers call this SERP visibility and it’s about showing up in as many features in the landscape as possible.  

Organic and paid search results make up 80% of all trackable website visits, with paid contributing 27% of that total. That organic piece also includes rich results that rely on structured data and other experimental features appearing in results, meaning that 27% creates more reliable opportunities for customers to find your website. Paid search offers businesses more control of their SERP visibility with targeted ad text, custom site links, negative keywords, and demographic targeting you can input into ad platforms. You additionally pick the landing page, having assurance outside algorithms of your users’ experience.  

Another big part of an integrated strategy is using the data from PPC strategies to bolster SEO. Your ad program can feed content strategy, and that data can improve the performance of other channels by identifying gaps or finding keywords and phrases to incorporate into your existing content. Think about the ad copy you include and test—the headlines and copy performing well can be carried over to your website content to optimize your organic results.  

Paid search programs can be effective during algorithm changes, which can cause organic rankings to fluctuate. While not immune to changes during these updates, PPC can help your visibility. The key to any integrated strategy is utilizing helpful, intent-based keyword strategy determined via the B-SMART Method. This creates keywords that align with users’ search queries and match the criteria search engines deem helpful, allowing content to withstand major ranking fluctuations.      

A Note on AI in Paid Search Marketing Tools 

As Bing and Google continue to integrate AI into search, the same will go for their digital marketing tools. There have been a lot of new AI and automation features added to the platforms powering paid search in the past two years, created for digital marketers to set it and forget it. Only 10% of advertisers optimize their Google Ads account weekly. However, when looking at the landscape changes and the data potential in an integrated strategy, TopSpot recommends a more manual approach to this vital piece of strategy. 

A strategic and tailored approach makes more sense when considering budgets, a finite resource better managed strategically versus relying on algorithms. The technology behind these tools has your paid data on hand to inform decisions but lacks insights into your SEO and lead quality that help sustain a robust integrated strategy. For industrial B2B, a paid search program needs frequent monitoring and adjustments to stay competitive beyond changes in search technology. Businesses need to keep a pulse on evolving markets, competition, and the needs of customers and prospects. 

If you’re a TopSpot Client, contact your Account Manager for more information on changes in paid search. Not with TopSpot? Contact us to learn more about the importance of PPC as part of an integrated digital marketing strategy that utilizes buyer search intent.   

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