The History and Evolution of Paid Search

By Hannah Kimuyu | 09 Mar 2010

The History and Evolution of Paid Search

Paid Search has come a long way since its "official" inauguration back in 1996. Of course, paid search has presented itself in various formats since then and many providers have come, gone, purchased one another, and rebranded.

At Greenlight we strive to be the best at delivering paid search campaigns; we also take a pride in knowing and researching how the discipline has evolved over time.  Has Google always had the greater market share?   How has Quality Score evolved?   Who was the first to offer paid inclusion? These are all questions that we often get asked and hopefully will address in the three page summary below.

In researching this topic we came across a number of sources that also looked at the history of PPC, however most appeared to focus purely on Google, or on a limited date range. Our History of PPC attempts to identify all the key events and dates between 1996 and 2009.



We've also included a chart illustrating the main factors that Google include to determine how the advertisers' ad will be positioned and then later how each factor influences the Google Quality Score.  


The factors plotted on the graphs are as follows:

Landing Page Relevancy - Refers to how relevant Google perceives the relationship between the keyword the user searches for and the landing page they land on once they have clicked on your sponsored listing.

CPM (Cost per Mile) - Some advertising formats still use CPM as a metric for charging advertisers. Essentially it refers to the cost per 1000 impressions. So regardless of the number of clicks the advertiser receives, they will have to pay for the number of times their ad is served / displayed.

CTR (Click through rate) - This is calculated by dividing the number of clicks received by the number of impressions served. A high CTR can be a indication of ad relevancy.

CPC (Cost per Click) - Refers to the price that an advertiser has to pay for each click they receive following a users search.

Account History - The account history of your campaigns is a combination of the clicks, costs, CTR's and all other performance factors' relating to your account from the current date to the date the account was created on Google Adwords.

Landing Page Load-time - This refers to the time it takes for the web page to load following a click on a paid search advert.

Other Relevancy Factors - There are other relevancy factors on top of Landing Page Relevancy that impacts an advertiser's Quality Score. These include Ad relevancy, keyword relevancy and domain relevancy.



While researching the History of PPC we came across a number of articles that helped to establish accurate dates and events onto the timeline. There are far too many to list them individually, however here are a few that have been particularly insightful.

-           Google Corporate Milestones page

-           Google Adwords Blog

-           Danny Sullivan and Josh Dreller at Searh Engine Land

-           Daniel C. Fain and Jan O. Pedersen - Sponsored Search; a brief history

-           Steve Baker - History of Adwords

-           Aaron Wall - A comprehensive report about search engines history