PPC Management – Successfully Leveraging Paid Search in the Explore Phase


Paid Search is well suited to the Explore phase as the most reliable way to connect with prospects that are actively seeking help related to a problem that you solve.

Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated. Search Engine Marketing has been around for awhile and has become very competitive, but its still the most powerful channel for predicting customer intent.

  • Display and email reliably present your message, but not necessarily to prospects that are actively seeking help.

  • Organic search (SEO) puts you in front of prospects seeking help, but not as reliably and broadly as Paid Search. This is because in the Explore phase…

  • Prospects don’t search for branded terms. So, you can’t rely on high organic rankings for your company or product names to connect with prospects.
  • Prospects search for broad terms associated with thought leadership around their problem. So, you’re competing with hundreds of media sites and blogs in addition to your competitors.

Only Paid Search ensures full coverage and positioning for these competitive non-branded and long-tail thought leadership keyphrases. You can pay to have coverage for keyphrases that you’d never index on or rank well for.

Typical keywords vary by phase. Read more in the organic search section.


For paid search campaigns targeted to prospects in the Explore phase, your goal is to make prospects aware you have resources to help them and engage with them early in their journey. Not to drive immediate leads or sales.

  • So… don’t judge the effectiveness of Explore phase Paid Search campaigns based solely on direct attribution to leads!

    • If you do, you’ll end up under-supporting Paid Search (and Display, Email, etc) in the Explore phase and miss out on connecting with prospects at this critical phase.

Instead, apply appropriate metrics around content consumption and interaction such as visits, pageviews, video plays and asset downloads.


It’s impossible to create keyword segments that anticipate every level of intent and research approach for prospects in the Explore phase. Here’s how to help your chances of meeting their needs:

  • Be broad. Test a wide variety of keywords rather than limiting your keyword set to predefined notions of what mindset the customer is in.

  • Be everywhere. Test a wide array of touchpoints — from traditional keyword advertising to mobile search to intelligent content ads. You need test as many places as possible because prospects are searching in many different ways.

Maximize Shelf Space

Optimize for the desktop, tablet and smartphone to maximize your shelf space, or pixel real estate, on all forms of SERP (Search Engine Result Page).

In today’s landscape, customer’s are shifting from a 15” PC screen down to a 4” mobile device.

  • Paid search shelf space goes from 10 positions to 4 (desktop to mobile).

  • Organic listings that appear above the fold go from 3 to 1.

This is a radical shift in what the customer might see when they query – so coordination is paramount.

Example: coordinate paid search and SEO in the following way:

  • 1 paid ad to the direct (home).com
  • 1 paid ad to a microsite that talks directionally about the query – such as a feature, benefits, cost calculator, etc.
  • 1 Indexed result of the .com in the organic results, striving for position
  • 1 Indexed result of the microsite
  • 1-2 other pages indexed related to the content of the product service.  This could be news, video or PDF’s

In the scenario above you maximize your shelf-space by taking up 25% of the available search engine results page on a desktop PC.  This quickly translates to the mobile environment too by positioning your paid ad above the mobile fold and getting at least one more in the organic search results (maybe more if the .com, microsite and additional content have strong rankings).

Josh Dreller BtoB Paid Search Engine Marketing Expert

Expert Advisor:  Josh Dreller

Director, Marketing Research at Kenshoo / Kenshoo
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Josh Dreller BtoB Paid Search Engine Marketing Expert

Josh Dreller

Director, Marketing Research at Kenshoo / Kenshoo

As Director of Marketing Research for Kenshoo, I sift through massive data sets across search, social, and online advertising to uncover trends and best practices. I have a strong passion for this industry and am very proud to be a long-time member of the Standards Committee for the Digital Analytics Association, which works to provide standard definitions and promote consistency of the most widely used terms across the analytics industry. I also enjoy writing, and contribute regularly to iMedia Connection and SearchEngineLand.com.

Prior to Kenshoo, I spent many years working on the Web in various positions at Fuor Digital, Visual IQ, and Resolution Media. I’m a graduate of Florida State University, with a B.F.A. in Motion Pictures, Television, and Recording Arts. I’m also a member of MENSA.