I recently had the opportunity to participate in some speed networking at Small Business Marketing: Unleashed. When I told the second person I networked with that I am a PPC manager, she gave me a blank stare and said "I have no idea what PPC is." She's not alone.

Many people do know what PPC advertising is, and where paid advertising is displayed, but my experience at SBMU reminds me that this isn't always the case. So I decided a great first entry for me at Search Engine Guide would be a Boot Camp Style article explaining exactly what paid search advertising looks like.

I tend to talk with my hands, demonstrating what my minds eye is seeing - on the internet, I rely on pictures. So we're all starting from the same place, I'll throw out some screen shots of where paid advertising are displayed on the three major search networks and explain some of the not so obvious details. Then, just to keep things interesting, I'll show you where paid advertising displays in a couple of other search engines.


As Google receives the lion's share of searches we'll start with them. There isn't quite a "hard rule" that is always followed, so I'll give a brief description of where paid ads, or "sponsored links" typically appear. As a general rule, they always appear to the right of the natural results, and quite often (but not always) as the top three results on the page, above the natural listings. When they do display above the natural results, Google shades the background to make it obvious that they are different results than those below. (even though that shading may mean nothing to someone not knowing what paid advertising looks like.)

Google AdWords

Occasionally, if your search term is very, very obscure, you'll see only a very few ads, but the most ads that Google will display on any results page is ten. Sometimes there are only one or two ads at the top of the page, and never more than three. But sponsored links always display on the right hand side of the natural results. Google will only 'serve' ten ads per page; if there are more than ten advertisers, Google pushes them to the next page. If all you want to view are sponsored links, then you can click the "more" displayed just below the sponsored links. But you'll still see only ten at a time.


Yahoo seems to get the second number of search volume, so they're second in this discussion. The same general rules that applied to Google, apply to Yahoo as well, but instead of labeling their paid ads as "sponsored links" they're labeled as "sponsored results." Above the top sponsored results, Yahoo will display a list of related searches, labeled as "Also try:.." To further muck things up, you might find Google ads displaying amongst the Yahoo ads because they're currently running a beta test.

Yahoo Search Marketing


MSN gets the lowest search volume of the three major engines, and again, the rules are very much the same as with Google. Paid ads appear to the right of the natural search results, where they're identified as "sponsored sites." As with Google, depending on the search phrase, you may or may not see sponsored sites displayed above the natural results. MSN displays Related Searches above the sponsored sites on the right; be aware that those results are not advertisements.

Microsoft adCenter

So those are the major three players, yet there are dozens of other search engines that people use. Solely for demonstrative purposes, let's take a look at Ask.com and Dogpile.com.


Ask has their own search engine and their own paid advertising. In years past they used to display search results from their own database along with results from others, including Google. Now they stick to their own database for natural results. They do however participate as part of Goggle's search network, and you will find Google ads displayed along with the Ask ads. Ask highlights their ads above the natural results, never along the right side of the page and they label them as "sponsored results". Along the left side of their search results, they display options that allow you to narrow your search results.



Dogpile is a meta search engine, displaying results from multiple search engines, including Google, Yahoo, MSN and Ask. The way they display their ads though, is somewhat deceiving. Their "sponsored ads" are a collection from Google, Yahoo, MSN and Ask, but the secret is that they are mixed up with the natural results. Unless you read the tag that labels listings as , you may never recognize that you're looking at a paid ad.


So there you have it, your first introduction to what Paid Advertising looks like. Now you'll never look at a Search Engine Results Page (SERP) the same, and you'll recognize those hidden advertisements at DogPile. In future posts I'll cover more of the basics, including the limitations of ad text, the importance of relevance and landing pages, discuss CPC, CTR, and you'll get familiar with all the alphabet soup of PPC (Pay Per Click) industry. Don't worry if you don't know what CPC is, or CTR, you will! If at anytime you have specific questions, by all means, post them as a comment and I'll try to answer as best I can!

May 7, 2008

Diana Adams is a Pay-Per-Click Manager, SEO Specialist and all around "get-er-done" authority. Diana helps clients achieve high ROI with their PPC campaigns by providing detail oriented attention to their Pay-Per-Click ad management.

Outside the office, Diana enjoys rock climbing, skiing, hiking and camping, and has tried river kayaking. She and her husband were high school sweethearts, tying the knot 20 years later. They have five (nearly) grown children.


Diana, I love it. Thank you so much. a) I finally know what SERP stands for (as silly as it is, I never asked anyone what it actually meant.) b) now, I know what Dogpile is and c) how to find the sponsored links on different search engines.

This is perfect for our Boot Camp. I found it really helpful and easy to follow. Thanks. :)
I look forward to the next one.

thanks for the overview, good information. do you have details on the rankings of each?

TK - http://www.blogtogreat.com/

Hi TK -

Glad you enjoyed the overview. I don't think I know what rankings you would be referring too?

In general, ad ranking is determined by Quality Score (which is determined by several factors) and CPC bid - and it does vary across the different platforms. Does that help?

Hi there. Nice overview even for those of us who are familiar with PPC. Do you have a specific bid management tool that you use? Thanks!

Hi Karen -

I don't use any bid management tools. I find that by focusing on ad text quality, landing page quality and keyword relevance, my clients get a positive ROI from their campaigns.


How do I get sponsored links on my blog so that I get paid a commission when those who visit my site click on the sponsored links? thanks

Do you know if Paid links on the side perfrom better than those at the top/bottom of the page?

Hi Diana,

Do you find that placing PHP code into your pages and into your Adwords ad so that the keyword that the user is searching on appears in your webpage and your AD decreases the PCP you pay to Google? Doesn't it make it more relevant to Google so that you get higher ranking and also lower cost per click?



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Search Engine Guide > Diana Adams > SEM Boot Camp - Paid Search Advertising Roadmap