Online advertising takes many forms. You can advertise on your blog, website, social media account, or you can turn to media buying and purchase ad spots anywhere you want. Media buyers also have endless possibilities when it comes to picking ad formats. However, those who are really serious about their product often turn to the most brand-friendly solutions, namely, search advertising platforms.
The affiliate marketing industry encompasses many activities around the notion of promoting other people’s products or services. Depending on the assets at your disposal, you’re free to choose the products and platforms that suit you best. But in this article, we want to talk specifically about the advanced platforms reached for by agencies and lone media buyers with serious budgets and considerable experience.
Let’s take a look at the top 10 search advertising platforms to get an overview of the search market and learn your options for growing your business.
What is Search Advertising?
Search advertising is basically a type of advertising where the ads are displayed among the search engine results. If a person types in a search query, the platform will match that query with a related ad. Paid search advertising is also called search marketing or search engine marketing and it usually works on a cost per click (CPC) basis.
Who is search advertising best for?
Search ads are not the best ad format for beginner affiliate marketers with no previous experience in the industry and those with small budgets. If you’re thinking about advertising lower payout offers from verticals such as Sweepstakes, Leadgen, or Downloads, search advertising is not for you.
Search ads are ideal for brands, agencies, and media buyers specializing in high-quality (usually high-payout) offers. These often belong to the e-commerce vertical. Low-quality ads leading to low-quality websites are often filtered out so even if you do outbid your competition, you still cannot advertise anything you want as the search platforms usually use additional mechanisms (such as Google’s Ad Rank) to determine which results deserve to be shown to the public.
Do all search engines have ads?
In general, yes. The vast majority of search engines do have ads. Even privacy-oriented solutions such as DuckDuckGo have ads despite not gathering any private information about its users. Based on the keyword alone, ads can be accurately matched and displayed above the organic search results. Not all search engines, however, offer their own advertising platforms and search/display ads, so you might need to use an external performance marketing solution.
Search engine advertising (SEA) vs. search engine optimization (SEO)
Before we move on to the best search advertising platforms, it’s important to understand the difference between three basic marketing terms related to search engines.
★ Search engine advertising (SEA) relates to the buying of ad space among search engine results. SEA has targeting options, the ads are clearly marked as ads and it’s basically just another type of advertising that requires tracking, gathering data, and optimization. Your efforts can be measured.
★ Search engine optimization (SEO) relates to the activities a website owner can take to improve the website’s position among the search engine results pages. It’s not easy to immediately measure the performance of changed variables and certain changes are made off-site so, in general, SEO is completely separate from SEA.
… vs. search engine marketing (SEM)
Search engine marketing (SEM) is an advertising activity that relates to search engines. It includes search engine advertising but also search engine optimization. For website owners, it’s crucial to engage in SEO – to increase the visibility of your page and also SEA to increase the reach of your brand.
10 Best Search Advertising Platforms
Now onto the important part. Although the search market is dominated by a single provider, there are many search advertising platforms that are worth checking out. Here’s a thorough overview of both market leaders and interesting alternatives for the search ads industry.
NewProgrammatic Search Ads
NewProgrammatic is perhaps the most interesting position on the list. And what makes their search ads stand out from the crowd? They have many publishers and those publishers include keyboard apps and niche search engines. Apart from the unique inventory, their advantage is that ads are triggered before the search takes place.
NewProgrammatic as a self-serve platform offers two search ad formats – Search Autocomplete and Tiles. When a user types a query into the search bar, the ad network triggers an ad that either auto-completes the query with a relevant URL suggestion or displays an ad in the form of an ad tile underneath the search bar.
The NewProgrammatic ad network is suitable for both business owners and media buyers promoting brand-safe affiliate marketing offers. The process is very simple – once you complete the verification process, you can get started running PPC campaigns based on keyword targeting. Simple and straight to the point – just like their ads.
Apple Search Ads
Apple Search Ads are unique in a way that they only allow to advertise apps included in the App Store inventory. Although we believe they fully deserve to have their spot on the list here, bear in mind that unless you are an app owner, Apple search ads might not be something you can use.
Apple’s mobile ad platform offers only one ad format although you do have the option to choose how you want to display your ad – be it plain text with an icon or a variety of app screenshots and illustrations. Moreover, the platform is fairly new but already well established, with Lifewire reporting that:
The Google Play Store generates more than double the downloads of the Apple App Store, but the App Store makes about twice as much money as the Google Play Store.
The biggest advantage of Apple Search Ads, however, is the fact that most people visit the store with the intent to purchase or download an application. If you’re researching something you’re doing that on Google but if you’re looking for an app you can get right now then you visit the App Store. So, if you target your ads well using all kinds of relevant keywords, you can reach a very purpose-driven audience.
The most obvious name on this list – Google Ads, formerly known as Google AdWords – dominates the advertising market and is the most popular search ads provider. According to eMarketer, Google accounts for a massive 56.8% share of all US search ad revenue in 2021. Google is also a search engine that holds over 92% of the search engine market share.
Google Ads offers a variety of ad formats (video, image, responsive, app promotion, product shopping, and call-only ads) but we will focus solely on text search ads. Among the most important features of the platform is the fact that it’s got a global reach. With Google Ads, you just can’t run out of traffic and you can choose to be as broad or as specific as you like.
And how do Google Search Ads work?
They use a second-price auction system that allows advertisers who win the bidding auction to pay just enough to outbid the competition rather than the full bid that won the contest.
Additionally, Ad Rank decides which ads deserve to be displayed. It’s an algorithm similar to the one used to crawl pages for SEO purposes but this time, it’s checking the quality of the advertisement. Yes, in Google Ads it’s not enough to win a bidding auction, your ad also needs to be a valuable and relevant item among the popular websites populating the SERPS.
Bing Ads by Microsoft Advertising
Microsoft Advertising is a pay-per-click ad network that allows you to display ads on the search engine called Bing. Bing has the second spot after Google in the global search engine market with an approximate 2.7% share. While that doesn’t seem like a lot, let’s not forget that this small percentage accounts for over 1 billion visits each month.
Bing also has a market share of 36.96% among US console users. What’s more, it’s available in 105 languages and 238 countries. So, despite its subpar popularity, Bing is an excellent search platform with a lot of potential. It works similarly to Google Ads so it displays the ads on top of the search engine results. There are more granular targeting options and some sources claim the conversion rates are actually higher with Bing and the same budget can get you better results with them as well.
Of course, Bing ad campaigns should be tailored towards an older audience with higher incomes as that’s the primary user base of that search engine.
Baidu Ads is a PPC ad platform just like Google Ads but with one crucial difference – it’s Chinese. If you’re thinking about advertising in China, Baidu (百度) has the highest search engine market share in that location amounting to about 79%.
The Baidu PPC ad network works like any other ad network. The paid search ads appear on the top of the SERP. Additionally, you can use Baidu’s keyword planner, audience segmentation, and even their drag and drop landing page builder. The ad network offers its own tracking and analytics solution but you can also use your external solution of choice. If brand safety is of the highest priority to you, you can pay extra to disallow others to bid on your brand keywords.
Although Baidu is overall an excellent search ads network, it is limited to the Chinese market, and setting up your account is not an easy process. There are also certain restrictions that prevent you from using certain keywords such as Best, No. 1, or Exclusive.
Yandex Ads is another localized PPC ads network. Yandex has a 43% market share when it comes to search engines in Russia. Although Google has the majority, Yandex has nearly 85 million active monthly users. As far as PPC ad networks go, this one should not be overlooked.
Google’s Russian counterpart keeps growing and reaching higher annual advertising revenue every year. Yandex advertising is one of the ad networks providing a variety of ad formats such as banner ads, video ads, ads for mobile apps, dynamic ads, text and image ads, and most importantly – search ads. The targeting options are based on Yandex’s own machine learning technology and any anti-fraud solutions will make sure your money only goes towards real clicks.
Although Yandex functions like a regular search engine, it is also the biggest technology company in Russia. By displaying ads via Yandex, you’re reaching the core Russian audience in a more precise way than Google does. What’s more, since 2017 Russian android users have had the option of choosing their default search engine from Google and Yandex. In short, if you have a Russian audience in mind – go for Yandex Ads.
Yahoo Ads by Bing Ads
Yahoo is a part of Microsoft’s advertising branch and Yahoo’s search results are actually powered by Bing. So why is it listed separately? Because Bing does not control what results appear on the SERPs.
Although the Yahoo ad network is now served through Bing Ads, it still deserves a separate mention. Actually, the Yahoo search inventory is now available through the Bing platform along with AOL and other Verizon-owned search properties. The good news is that accessing Yahoo inventory through the Bing Ads platform is expected to lead to an increase in clicks of 10 to 15 percent in the U.S.
What’s more, the targeting options for Yahoo Ads will now be powered by Microsoft’s Audience Intelligence Graph which only means more accurate audience targeting and more quality leads for your business.
DuckDuckGo is an independent search engine that puts privacy first. For real. No user behavior or search history is being recorded and yet this is still an excellent option for running search ads. DuckDuckGo advertising is handled by a PPC platform that uses keyword targeting to serve relevant ads to its users.
If you want to reach tech-savvy individuals, advertising on DuckDuckGo is your best bet. The rapidly growing search engine is most popular in the US and has reached a number of 90 million queries a day in September 2021. If you want to advertise on DuckDuckGo, you need to register with Bing Ads and, unfortunately, you don’t have an easy option to exclude other Microsoft advertising properties from the rotation. Well, unless you’ll use this special hack.
Keep in mind that DuckDuckGo is still in the growth phase. With the growing popularity of privacy-oriented solutions, it’s the only search engine that guarantees privacy and a one-of-a-kind place for brand-safe ads that reach the right audience at the right time. Try it while the competition is low!
Although the first thing that comes to mind when you say YouTube Ads is video ads, YouTube has a lot more to offer in terms of advertising. And we’re not just talking about in-video overlays and banners. We’re actually talking about search ads. After all, YouTube is actually a search engine as well.
So, how do YouTube search ads work? Well, they’re actually Google Search Ads in disguise. Since YouTube became incorporated into the Search Partners ad network for Google ads, Google ads can now be displayed among video search results on mobile devices. This does not interfere with the regular video ads in any way. What’s more, it seems to be bringing equal results to regular Google ads displayed on top of the SERPs.
What’s important here is that YouTube is the second-largest search engine in the world. So, the platform has more monthly searches than all the above-mentioned search engines combined. By enabling your search ad campaigns to show on YouTube, you are gaining potential customers without the risk of investing in less popular ad networks.
Amazon Ads might be, surprisingly, the biggest Google Ads competitor when it comes to search advertising. Amazon search ads use the same mechanism for ad auctions – second-price auction. There is also something similar to the Ad Rank system, however, Amazon is not as transparent as to how the system works.
Similar to Google, Amazon ad targeting is based on keywords with the exact, phrase, and broad keyword match types. But there’s something that no other digital advertising platforms have – product targeting. Advertisers can not only target products but categories, whole lists of products, and even product ratings or the number of reviews. What’s more, sponsored posts can make use of Amazon’s automatic targeting option that will match your ads with contextually relevant search results.
Amazon’s sponsored posts are overall similar in effectiveness to Google ads. They can be used for brand awareness campaigns as well as sales generation. Furthermore, they focus on customers who, unlike those googling for a product, are about to pick a product and make a purchase. So, keep that in mind and make sure that your ads are an example of display advertising at its best. But also, make sure that the product doesn’t disappoint.
There are plenty of ad platforms around. Regardless of your preferred method of online advertising, you can find something that could appeal to you and your audience. Digital marketing (including affiliate marketing) offers such ad types as banner ads, native ads, display ads, interactive ads, animated ads, video ads, PPC ads from self-serve ad platforms, but also LinkedIn ads, Facebook ads, Tumblr ads, Instagram ads, Twitter ads, and many others.
If you’d like to go with search ads, however, you don’t have to limit yourself to Google Ads. There are more PPC platforms that allow you to run search ads with good ad engagement and balanced ad spend. Ad networks such as Bing Ads, Google, NewProgrammatic, YouTube, or ad platforms like DuckDuckGo all provide paid search advertising. Your choice should depend on what’s your target audience and if you’re looking for popular or underused PPC platforms with potential.
If search ads are out of your budget, would you like to try cheaper yet effective ad formats?