Having a great website helps you appear higher organically in search results, but you can immediately jump to the top of a results page through paid search ads linked to a set of keywords relevant to your brand.
You pay for each click on your ad, which is why these ads are also known as pay-per-click (PPC).
Getting an ad into that highly visible area involves winning an automated auction that takes into account the price-per-click you bid on a given keyword, as well as the quality (as determined by SEO principles) of your site.
"Even when you are marketing to your entire audience or customer base, you are still simply speaking to a single human at any given time."
- Ann Handley
You can have an ad built and online in a matter of minutes using platforms like Google Adwords, as well as similar offerings from Yahoo and Bing.
The key is to find which keywords your ideal customers would search for. Start with a specific description of the product or services you sell and include your location to help you target who would most likely buy your product or service. Instead of 'knitwear' (too broad), go for: 'hand-knitted angora sweaters, North London'.
Write your ad. Keep in mind you have one line to catch their attention and get them to click your link in a sea swimming with similar ones.
Set your maximum daily budget. Keep in mind that popular keywords cost more per-click than less common terms - because other companies are bidding for them too!
Use your platform's conversion tracking. If an ad isn't driving the traffic or sales, reword it and test, test, test!
You know your leads are quality - the people who clicked on your ad searched for something you've got.
Fast results - Much quicker than waiting for your natural search ranking to rise.
Easily targeted - You can bid by keyword and by region.
Competitive - Common search terms might be expensive.
Text only - You can't show images or have much control over how your ad will look.
Costs are easy to manage, as you pay on a cost-per-click basis.