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Paid Strategy

The Paid Marketing Glossary: Paid Ads, Paid Social, PPC, and What other Terms You Need to Know (and Why)

Dipping your toe into paid marketing? Find out why it works best paired with an organic strategy, and learn all the terms you need to know.

8 mins read time
Joe Martinez
Joe Martinez

Jan 12, 2022

Traffic and lead generation aren’t easy, especially when you have to make tough choices like focusing your energy (and your dollars) on either organic marketing channels or paid marketing to drive traffic to your website.

We believe smart brands do both. But we can't argue that when you need traffic quickly, nothing works better than paid marketing. You can initiate an ad campaign on a leading ad network (e.g., Google Ads), and as soon as your ad goes live, you'll start receiving clicks and traffic.

The downside, of course, is that when a paid campaign ends, the results quickly dry up. That's why a strong organic strategy paired with paid advertising is always our recommendation.

So, let's say you've already got your organic/inbound strategy laid out and in the works. But you're ready to layer on some paid ads to give your brand a boost. If you are new to online advertising and planning to create your first ad campaign, you need to acquaint yourself with paid marketing terms. A clear understanding of the terminologies used in the online advertising industry is essential if you want to drive results.

Our paid marketing glossary will help you get started. 


Paid Marketing Terms


Paid Ads

Paid ads, or paid advertising, is any form of advertisement or ad campaign that requires payment to run. This does not include any earned or owned media (like social posts, unpaid news features, etc.). The term is used to denote online or digital ads that run on the internet. It is one of the fastest-growing industries worldwide. In the U.S. alone, businesses spent $356 billion on digital paid ads in 2020. 

Here is an example of a paid ad:

paid ad example

These are two search ads that are appearing above organic (free) search results in Google. This is what makes paid ads popular. You can outperform organic search results easily.

Here is another example of a paid ad:

paid ad example 2

This is a banner ad that you see on different websites instead of a search engine. Similarly, there are several other types of paid ads, such as native ads, shopping ads, retargeting ads (which we'll discuss later), etc.



Pay per click, or PPC, is an online advertising model used in paid ads. When you run a PPC ad campaign, you are charged whenever your ad receives a click. This is one of the most popular advertising models that’s used by all the leading ad networks, such as Google Ads, Facebook Ads, and others.

Illustration of the three main economic models in digital advertising, CPM, CPC, and CPA.


There are other models too where you'll be charged on the number of impressions your ad receives. This works best when you are running an awareness campaign and want people to see your ad as much as they can (like a billboard).

Similarly, you can pay per conversion or lead, too. However, PPC is the most popular model in use today.


Paid Social

When you run paid ads on a social networking platform, it is known as paid social or social ads. All the leading social media platforms have dedicated ad platforms. Paid social includes all types of ads that you see on a social networking platform.

Here is an example of a paid social ad on Facebook:

15 of the Best Facebook Ad Examples That Actually Work (And Why)

Here is a paid social ad example from Twitter:

paid twitter ad example

Social ads can be easily identified because they use words like sponsored, promoted, ad, advertisement, etc. If you use any social network, we're sure you already know what paid social ads look like.


Get the Most Bang For Your Buck  Time to put your money where your mouth is — and nothing speaks quite as loud  as paid markerting.  Learn How We Can Help


Paid Search

Paid search is a type of paid ad that is specifically run on search engines. You can run a paid search campaign only with search engines such as Google, Bing, Yahoo, DuckDuckGo, and others.

Search engines allocate several positions (other than organic results) for ads. Google, for example, shows ads above, below, and on the right side of the SERPs page:

paid search example


Here is how DuckDuckGo shows paid search ads above the organic results:

paid search results example


Paid search ads give you instant access to the search engine traffic that is, otherwise, hard to drive. It requires a lot of time to rank in a search engine organically via inbound marketing. It takes, on average, around 3 years to reach the first position on Google:

average age of page in google top 10


While inbound marketing is a sustainable marketing strategy for long-term growth, if you can’t wait, paid search is the best way to go. But as we mentioned earlier, the best approach is to use paid search alongside your inbound marketing strategy.


Display Ads

Display ads are graphic or visual ads that are displayed on other websites, blogs, apps, and third-party sites. Ad networks create partner websites where they run graphic ads.

For example, Google Ads is the leading ad network with the biggest network of partner sites. It runs an AdSense program that is a monetization technique for website owners. Publishers (website owners) enrolled in the AdSense program are part of Google’s display ad network. Display ads are shown on the most relevant sites available in its network.

But display ads aren’t limited to websites anymore. You can show ads in apps and on smartphones. Any graphical ad, irrespective of where it is shown, is termed as a display ad.

Here is an example of a display ad:

Google Display Ad Example

You can run display ad campaigns with any ad network of your choice. There are several publishers and ad platforms that have their network of sites for running display ad campaigns.


Retargeting Ads

A retargeting ad is a special type of ad that is shown to people who have visited your website or product and left without conversion. Retargeting, or remarketing, ads remind people of their past interaction with your business with the aim of bringing them back.

Here is how a retargeting ad works:

What is ReTargeting and How Does it Work? - ReTargeter


Here are two retargeting ad examples:

What Is Remarketing? How Remarketing Works to Increase Leads and Sales

Research shows that only 2 percent of visitors convert on their first visit to a website. Others just leave your website. This is what makes retargeting ads so important for businesses. These ads are used to bring back the remaining 98 percent of visitors.

Remarketing ads rely on cookies that track visitors once they visit and leave your website. You can run remarketing ad campaigns with Google Ads, Facebook Ads, MailChimp, AdRoll, and others. There are lots of retargeting ad networks out there.



Also known as PPC bid or bidding, this is the process used to determine the price per click each advertiser will pay. PPC ads use an auction where businesses set the maximum price per click they're willing to pay. The highest bidder for a keyword gets the top placement and so on.

This auction is managed at the backend by the ad network. You just have to select the highest cost per click you can afford to pay. You can use different bidding strategies to increase or decrease your bid based on ad performance.

Google lets you automatically adjust bids for high-performing and low-performing ads.


Use Paid Marketing with Organic Marketing for Best Results

Paid marketing works great. But it costs you money — regularly. And the moment you stop investing in paid ads, your traffic and conversion will fall to zero.

This is a reason why we recommend using paid marketing with organic marketing. While you continue to invest in ads, don’t ignore inbound marketing as it never stops. In fact, it continues to grow over time without any additional investment.


Get the Most Bang For Your Buck  Time to put your money where your mouth is — and nothing speaks quite as loud  as paid markerting.  Learn How We Can Help

Joe Martinez

Joe Martinez is the Co-Founder of the Paid Media Pros YouTube channel. He is a regular contributor to WordStream. He has also written for Social Media Examiner, Search Engine Land, Marketing Land, PPC Hero, SEMrush, Unbounce, Leadpages, Optmyzr, and AdStage. He has hosted webinars for SEMrush, Unbounce, Quora and Microsoft Ads. He regularly speaks at conferences such as SMX (Advanced, Munich, East, West), HeroConf, Inbound, Pubcon (Pro, Florida, Austin), SMXL, SEMPO, and more. Finally, he was named a Top 25 Influential PPC Expert by PPC Hero in 2017-2020.

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