Paid search advertising, also known as search engine marketing or simply pay-per-click (PPC), is one of the most powerful digital marketing strategies you have available to you. On Google alone, there are 40,000 searches every single second. That means there are more than 3.5 billion searches every single day. Tapping into the power of that massive audience gives you the chance to reach as many prospects as you’re willing to pay for.
You don’t need to be intimidated by paid search advertising. Running a successful campaign takes a lot of hard work and careful planning, but it’s simple enough for anybody to handle if they’re willing to put in the hours. Below is everything you need to know about getting started with paid search advertising and executing successfully:
Determining a Dedicated Budget
Determining how much you have to spend on your paid search campaigns is the very first step in your strategy. Many other decisions, including which keywords you’ll want to compete on, will hinge on your budget.
Of course, your budget depends on a number of factors. If you’re a small or growing business, you might only have a small amount of cash to set aside each month for paid search. If that’s the case, you’ll need to make some tough decisions. The most valuable keywords will cost you more per click than the less popular ones will, but they may not perform as well. Throughout this article, we will discuss ways to make paid search advertising work on a small budget, but it’s worth looking at the rest of your marketing budget to make sure everything is performing as well as you expect paid search to.
If you have a relatively modest budget that could be set aside for paid search, or if you’re solely focused on maximizing ROI, you’ll need to do some calculations. You’ll need to calculate how much revenue you expect each converted customer to generate, and how often you expect leads to convert to a paying customer. You can then use industry and Google data to estimate how much you’ll pay per click, and what kind of search volume to expect. Putting this all together will give you an idea of how much you’ll profit with various keywords and budgets. You’ll just need to play around with your model to see what fits your company’s desires the best.
Another way that can be effective, especially if you want to get started quickly, is simply determining the maximum amount you’re willing to spend each month. You can then start off small, and as you analyze and update your campaigns, spend more on the most successful ones. As you get a good feel for what your actual return will be, you may then decide to ramp spending up even further.
Alongside setting your budget, you’ll need to start thinking in very broad strokes about what keywords you’ll want to target. If you have a very small budget, you’ll want to avoid the most popular keywords since you won’t be able to afford to compete with any reasonable volume.
To start off, think about your ideal customer. What services are you providing them? What problems are you solving for them? What those core competencies in mind, put yourself in your ideal customer’s shoes. What are you looking for specifically? Jot down as many keywords and phrases as you can think of.
Ideally, you’ll come up with several ideal customers, each with a unique problem solved by your goods or services. For example, as a lawn care company, you’ll have ideal customers for landscaping projects, regular lawn mowing services, etc. Each customer will attack their problem with different phrases, and your list should account for all of them.
Next, trim your list to the very best candidates. Feel free to set any discarded keywords aside for later, in case you want to expand. Use Google’s AdWords Keyword Planner to take a look at search volume and cost. Any keywords that have a relatively small volume or a cost perceived to be too high can also be discarded. In the end, you’ll be left with a strong, concise list of active keywords that are important to your customers and relatively cost-effective.
Don’t Forget Long-Tail Keywords
Long-tail keywords are lower-volume, more concise keywords. Once you’ve set your most important keywords (also known as head terms), you should come up with as many long-tail keywords as you can. Long-tail terms won’t be high-volume, but they’re also going to be much less competitive and highly cost-effective. If you’re working with a smaller budget, loading up on long-tail keywords can be a terrific strategy.
Exclude Your Obvious Negative Keywords
You don’t want to waste time on keywords that won’t return value for you. Sticking with lawn care as an example, if you primarily serve customers who are willing to spend a lot to have the best-looking lawn in the neighborhood, keywords such as “cheap lawn care” might not produce many qualified prospects. Take the time to think about the customers you don’t want, and exclude phrases that they would exclusively use.
Writing the Perfect Ad
Effective ad copy isn’t something that can be done in one fell swoop. You’ll need to constantly tweak your copy and see what works best. However, there are a number of things you can do to help get results right from the start:
-Personalize ads to keywords – it’s going to take a lot of time and effort, but customizing each ad to the specific keyword is the very best way to get the most bang for your buck. At the very least, sort keywords into tight buckets and write a new ad for each.
-Reiterate the keyword – the keyword is fresh in your prospect’s mind since they typed it out and search for it. Reuse the keyword in your headline and/or description in a logical way to make sure their attention wanders to your ad.
-Match tone to the keyword – a good rule of thumb is to be as specific as the user’s search query was. For example, if they’re looking for a specific product, mention it in your copy. If they’re looking for something more general, stick to that language instead.
-Always use a CTA – write a CTA that makes it clear what you want the next step to be. This helps weed out any users who might click but not be a great fit, saving you the cost of a click. Ideally, your CTA will lead to a well-crafted landing page.
-Showcase yourself – users will see ads every single they use a search engine. Make sure you stand out by telling them exactly what your unique selling proposition is!
Creating an Effective Landing Page
Once somebody clicks your ad, your landing page has the tall task of sealing the deal and converting them. It doesn’t matter if you want them to make a purchase or just submit their email address, you need to make it as simple as possible for them. Remove all friction with a clean, simple design. Make sure the website loads instantly on mobile and desktop devices.
Like your ad copy, each landing page should be tailored specifically to its audience. Keep incorporating the keywords that drew your audience to click your ad to remind them why they’re there. If they’re looking for somebody to mow their lawn, you don’t want to drop them into a general landscape page. It will take time to personalize dozens of pages, but the results are worth it.
Finally, keep your forms short. If you’re looking for an email address, don’t ask for email, name, occupation, etc. Just ask for their email address. You can always incent them to provide the rest of the information further down the road (and that gives you a great reason to keep in contact!).
Are you looking for more ways to ensure that your landing page gets the results you need? Take a look at our article Beyond PPC: Creating Landing Pages That Convert.
Analyzing and Reiterating
As we’ve hinted in every single section, testing is the most important tool in your paid search arsenal. Every single aspect of your campaign, from the keywords to the ad copy to the landing pages must be carefully analyzed and tested. By constantly making small improvements, you’ll make sure you get the most bang for each dollar spent and draw in more prospects than you thought possible.
Make sure to constantly analyze for negative keywords, too. If you find that certain keywords or phrases aren’t returning a profit, stop paying for them and add them to your negative keyword list. Use the money saved to ramp up spending on a more profitable keyword or test out a new one.
Moving Beyond Google
Google is the elephant in the room when it comes to paid search advertising, but they aren’t your only option. In fact, there are numerous other platforms, each with their own audience to reach and features to enjoy. Below are two non-Google platforms that we recommend all businesses consider running advertisements on.
Bing is the second most popular search engine in the U.S. As of January 2019, it has about 4% global market share and roughly the same amount in the U.S. This may seem small, but the sheer volume of total searches per day means that Bing is still getting millions of searches every single day. There is a clear opportunity on Bing, especially when the rest of your competitors are solely focused on Google. For even more on why we love Bing, take a look at our article Bing or Google? Which SEM Platform Serves You Better.
While Bing has the second highest search traffic, Yahoo isn’t very far behind. Yahoo’s Gemini platform offers many of the same tools as Google and Bing, at a much lower cost. We generally find that clients launching campaigns with Yahoo Gemini enjoy a terrific ROI. Best of all, if you’re already working on AdWords or with Bing, you can import your campaigns directly into Gemini, so you don’t have to duplicate any of your past efforts.