What is SEA and what does it mean for a website operator?

With Search Engine Advertising (also known as online search engine advertising – SEM), companies are able to display advertisements about their company in the search results of Google, for example. Interested parties are directed to the operators’ websites using various tools and techniques. The quality factor and keyword selection play a very important role here, but more on that later. If a visitor then clicks on the ad, the advertisers have to pay a fee. It is referred to as PPC advertising. This gives advertisers a picture of the prospective customer and their intentions.

The search engine ads can often be found above or below the search results on Google or Yahoo. With Bing, the search engine ads are also displayed next to the search results.

The right headline plays a very important role in search engine advertising. It should contain keywords that are very important for the content of the website. Use the domain name and the URL domain to show prospective customers what they will find on the website. For example, Google uses display URLs in green directly under the headline.

How does search engine marketing work?

Search Engine Advertising is based on a kind of auction system for keyword selection. Advertisers can then also bid on certain keywords that are very relevant and important to them and the content of the website. However, the respective bids and the revenue for the displayed keywords and clicks can vary greatly. For example, if you pay over 200 euros for a keyword, this does not mean that you have to pay 200 euros every time a visitor clicks on the website. The placement of search queries is determined precisely by the keyword selection.

Without in-depth keyword research, you may miss your target group. Through a precise analysis, important words and phrases will crystallize. By choosing the right keywords, your ad rank can also become higher and more cost-effective.

The advantages of a detailed SEA strategy are:

  • Quick and easy implementation:
    Setting up a search engine advertising campaign is relatively quick and easy. It is very flexible and configurable and can usually be set up in just a few hours. In addition, changes can be made on an ad-hoc basis, allowing you to continuously adapt your website content, keywords and ad spend to the behavior of your target audience. You can also import your existing Google Ads campaigns directly into Bing Ads. With just a few clicks, your campaign is up and running without having to create everything from scratch.
  • High user intent:
    As search engine advertising is based on keyword-oriented search queries, it offers search users targeted ads. People tell you what they like – so that you reach an appropriate audience. Because paid search ads are highly targeted, they are considered less intrusive than other types of ads. In turn, by providing a better user experience for internet users, they can significantly increase conversion rates and ROI.
  • Greater brand awareness:
    Search engine advertising also helps to increase brand awareness. The higher your display rank, the more is displayed. When potential customers get to know you better over time and recognize you as a relevant and trustworthy company. Your search terms are increasingly associated with your product, service or brand. If users click through to your website and a retargeting pixel is present, your brand name and value proposition will continue to appear in display ads.
  • Detailed measurability and analysis:
    Search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing provide advertisers with real-time data and paid search analytics so that campaign performance can be easily tracked and measured.
Sea search

Who offers search ads?

Most search engine companies provide platforms for advertisers to display ads in their search results (Google does this via AdWords, Bing via Bing Ads, etc.). This is a natural opportunity for search providers to capitalize on their huge user base and the intent of their users. While Google’s dominance in the search ad market is undeniable, a comprehensive online marketing strategy should also consider placing search ads on search engines like Bing and Yahoo. Some markets also show a preference for certain search providers.

How search ads work

The actual mechanisms behind search ads are similar in most popular search engines, with some minor differences. Since Google is the most popular search engine, we use it as an example and explain how the search ads work. Google uses a modified second-price auction system to rank the ads on the Google search engine results pages(SERPs) and determine the cost advertisers must pay to appear at the top of the results page.
Google’s second-price auction mechanisms basically mean that advertisers don’t have to pay the full price, but the amount required to beat the nearest competitor, depending on their ad rank.
However, the system is not only based on bids. If Google only sold its ads to the highest bidders, the SERP would be littered with poor quality paid ads that link to completely irrelevant landing pages. This would impair the reliability of the search engine. To improve the user experience for both users and advertisers, Google also takes an advertiser’s ad rank into account.

What is the difference between SEO and SEA?

SEO is the abbreviation for Search Engine Optimization. This is a collective term for all the activities you carry out to ensure that your website performs better in the organic results of search engines such as Google. Online marketing, on the other hand, is all about advertising. When using Search Engine Advertising, search engines display ads for your company in the search results above the organic results. Both forms of online marketing naturally aim to attract more visitors to the website. From the above descriptions it is clear that SEO is free and you have to pay for Search Engine Advertising. However, the difference is not so simple. The SEO activities you carry out can, for example, be collaborations for which you pay.

Both online marketing forms aim to attract more visitors to your website. You have to pay advertising costs for search engine advertising, usually in the form of pay-per-click. It delivers immediate results, but the results are only available as long as you pay for the advertising. In the case of SEO, website traffic is generated organically. This means that the traffic from search engine searches is free and does not require a fee per click, as is the case with online marketing, for example. However, developing organic visibility takes time and effort (money). Most likely, you need to outsource SEO work to a specialist who can help you rank higher and improve your organic online presence. In many cases, SEO and Search Engine Advertising work best when they are integrated together and strategically aligned to cover both short-term and long-term goals.

Difference between SEO and SEA


There are a number of important differences:

  • Achieving a high ranking on Google’s organic search results pages (SEO) can take several months, whereas search engine advertising is immediately visible above the search results. Therefore, search engine advertising provides immediate results in terms of website traffic. With SEO, this can take a while.
  • Google offers less insight into organic search results. For example, you cannot see which keyword your website visitor used to land on your website. With search engine advertising, Google makes this information available to you. With conversion tracking and the Google Ads system, you can determine which keywords are converted and at what cost.
  • Paid search results in Google are mostly at the top of the page. Normally, four displays are shown on desktops and three on cell phones. A user always sees the paid search queries, even if they scroll past them. The unpaid search results are sometimes not even visible without scrolling down.
  • Unlike search engine advertising, organic visibility and traffic won’t dry up if you stop paying. Efforts to develop organic traffic and visibility are more sustainable in the long term than advertising. Search engine marketing requires constant investment.
    You can easily control your budget with paid advertising. Determine how much you want to spend per day and set a fixed budget. This is important to make sure you don’t go over your limit, as this can happen very quickly with paid ads! For this reason, it is recommended to outsource your search engine advertising, as an experienced professional can optimize your campaigns with a lower budget and thus save you money. Outsourcing your Google Ads is often not only more effective, but also cheaper.
  • Search engine advertising can be expensive. This is not always the case, but the costs can quickly add up if you are not constantly monitoring and optimizing your campaigns. Experts recommend outsourcing ads to an expert to keep your Google Ads account in top shape. Data traffic from organic search queries is free of charge. Although developing online visibility requires effort, it is more cost-effective than advertising.
  • With paid ads, you can target specific keywords, which is also the case with SEO. However, with advertising you can also target specific locations, languages, devices and audiences based on previous website visits.
  • With paid search ads, you have more control and space to deliver your marketing message. With the ads, you can highlight additional information such as your phone number, opening hours, business location, unique selling points (USPs) and more.
  • Long-term profits versus direct results:
    SEO is a slow process where you can’t expect results from one day to the next. It takes a lot of time to position your website on different keywords and achieve a higher position in the search engine results. This also depends on the activities of competitors who may be working on a better organic position at the same time. However, if you do it well, you will benefit in the long term. SEO can ensure that your website maintains a good position in the search results for a long time. Search Engine Advertising, on the other hand, is direct. As soon as your ads have been approved, they will be displayed with the corresponding search terms. You can therefore expect more clicks on your website almost immediately. At the same time, it is short-lived. As soon as you stop the displays, you will no longer notice any effect.
  • Measure results:
    The results of SEO activities are difficult to measure. How do you determine how many hours of work are profitable compared to the improved results in the search engines? If you use paid advertising, you can immediately see how much you have spent on a campaign and how many clicks (and possibly even conversions) it has generated. Since the ads in the search results are labeled as such in Google, for example, there are also people who do not click on the ads and scroll directly to the organic results. Advertisements can be seen as very commercial. In addition, a limited number of ads will always be displayed, while more advertisers may want their ads to be displayed with competing search terms.
SEA desktop

The combination of SEO and SEA

Ideally, experts recommend investing in both SEO and search engine advertising, as both have advantages and disadvantages. An optimal online marketing strategy will use both methods, as they complement and support each other very well.

Search Engine Advertising gives you direct feedback on the keywords you are advertising for, so you know what the intent of people searching for a particular term is. This information can be used for organic search engine advertising (SEO) to improve results.

  • You can test your keyword strategy in Google Ads. If this works, you can use them for a long-term SEO strategy.
  • You can incorporate the A / B test data from Search Engine Advertising into your SEO strategy. For example, you will find out which ad copy works best based on the clicks in Search Engine Advertising. You can use this in your metadata descriptions.
  • You increase the trust and attention of potential customers if you are visible both organically and through paid advertising. This results in your website being called up twice during the search.

Why Search Engine Advertising?

  • Higher revenues:
    The main reason why every marketing agency should offer search engine advertising campaigns to their clients is more money. The basic principle of marketing, the reason why companies are in business, is to make more money. Google has various ads that you can use to launch and fulfill your SEA strategy.
  • Search engine advertising campaigns are conversion-oriented:
    While money is usually the main goal of marketing campaigns, other types of conversions should not be ignored. Marketing campaign goals such as new subscribers, newsletter sign-ups or even contest entries are alternative types of conversions that a marketer may want to achieve.
    SEM is a key conversion driver for marketing campaigns of any kind. This is because paid ads are often linked to conversion-focused landing pages or sales pages that drive web traffic through the sales funnel.
    Organic results are usually not linked to landing pages, but paid ads are. In this sense, SEO can support brand awareness and top-of-funnel activity, while paid ads can really focus on a specific goal and end of funnel conversions.
  • Search engine advertising can increase brand awareness:
    While SEM is often seen as a bottom-funnel marketing channel, it can also support brand awareness. According to Google, search ads can increase brand awareness by 80%. Even if ads don’t get clicks, brand names are still clearly visible at the top of the fold, and searchers can read or recognize the product, brand name or URL when they see the ad. Searchers may also take notice when ads contain keywords and search terms for competing brands, as the brain tends to compare things listed next to each other.
  • It is also accessible for small accounts:
    One of the biggest concerns with paid search advertising is the cost. Brands and agency clients often believe that the costs of search engine advertising will outweigh the benefits. So the potential for ROI is there, no matter what. There is also no minimum amount you have to spend to place ads. You could get started with just 5 euros if you have a limited budget.
  • Search Engine Advertising is ideal for local marketing:
    SEM is an important tool to drive website visits and get more conversions for almost any budget. However, it is even more important if you are a local marketer. Local marketing aims to connect regional businesses with the surrounding community it serves. In other words, when people search online for local business services, it’s local marketers who match those queries with business listings and search engine ads.

Quality factor on Google in relation to search engine advertising

Since the Google AdWords quality score makes up half of the ad ranking formula, it is one of the most important metrics for search marketers to focus on. With the help of High Quality Scores, you can achieve a better ad position at a lower cost, as Google favors ads that are highly relevant to user queries. The quality factor is probably the most important metric in search engine marketing. The quality factor is top secret. It is a value by which a website is evaluated based on the keywords used. However, this is not about the number of keywords used, as otherwise the ads with the most keywords would always be listed higher. This is where the ad insertion auctions come into play. Higher bids give your own ad a higher ranking. However, other factors also play a role. The algorithm also assesses the relevance of the keyword selection and then determines a suitable ranking from the number and the bid, thus determining the elements for the ad. The quality of keywords is rated and determined by Google on a scale of 1-10.

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