Developing a Sustainable PPC Strategy: What You Need to Know
A sustainable PPC strategy is the difference between achieving your business objectives and failure. Paid advertising networks on Google, Bing, Facebook, and other platforms allow even small businesses to successfully drive conversions in a world where major brands generally dominate organic search rankings.
Whether you’re a professional marketer or a business owner, simply signing up for a PPC account won’t be enough to help you stay competitive. Take the time to get familiar with your platform of choice and use this guide to aid you in developing a sustainable PPC strategy that will push your conversions and profits to new levels.
1. Set a Defined Goal for Your New Campaign
Every paid advertising campaign that you invest in should have a defined goal before you begin. These goals depend on numerous factors including how new you are to digital marketing, whether or not you have an existing audience online, and what your plans are for expansion.
Establishing a well-defined goal for you and your team is the bedrock of any successful strategy. Understanding your objective helps you understand how you will need to engage with your audience and what type of content you should attempt to curate both in your ads and landing pages. Common reasons for running PPC campaigns are:
- Brand discovery and awareness
- Sales and conversions
- App downloads
You are not necessarily limited to running one type of campaign at once. For example, you might utilize a discovery campaign to bring in first-time customers while using a more sales-focused campaign to capture conversions from those that have already expressed interest in buying. However, you will want to be sure not to mix these segments of your audience and confuse your messaging. If you’ve never used PPC platforms before, stick with one defined goal and attempt to gain mastery before taking on bigger challenges.
By defining your goal, you can now make smart decisions when moving forward with your PPC strategy. This brings us to our next step –
2. Align Your Goals with Audience Intent
You won’t get far with your PPC strategy if you’re attempting to achieve your goal by marketing to an audience that isn’t aligned with your efforts. Every customer interaction with a business can generally be summarized in several steps often referred to as the Buyer’s Journey:
- Awareness – The individual is just learning about your business and its products or services. They may have a problem that you may be able to solve, which leads to –
- Interest – After learning about your brand, the individual may express interest in your products by visiting your landing pages or subscribing to a list to learn more. That interest in your solution to their problems leads to –
- Desire – The individual may now be looking closely at your deals and comparing with competitors as you provide a legitimate solution to a real problem they’re facing. The desire for your product leads to –
- Action – The individual has decided that they are ready to purchase with the brand that offers the best product/service and the best offer.
As you can see, where your audience is along this journey should dictate how you want to go about marketing to them. If an individual has only just discovered your brand during the awareness stage, you wouldn’t want to jump right into the hard sell as you would during the action stage. You would want to provide the user with the opportunity to learn more about your services so that they can educate themselves to make a smart purchasing decision.
If you’re a brand that’s currently focused more on generating immediate sales and conversions, then you will want to create a PPC strategy that focuses on audiences that express a desire to engage or make a purchase.
After you align your goals with an audience that matches your intention, you need to know how to target those individuals directly. A great place to start is by bidding on the types of keywords that are pre-loaded with the audience intent that matches your campaign strategy.
3. Bid on the Right Types of Keywords
It’s natural for a brand to want to rank for the most popular and most commonly searched keywords that relate to your industry. For example, an HVAC company would love to be the number one ranked result on Google for “HVAC” or “HVAC services.” However, these types of keywords are guaranteed to be highly competitive and therefore expensive, pricing out many smaller businesses.
However, you can still scoop up valuable keywords for your campaign by understanding the intent behind the search. There are generally three types of keywords entered into a search engine every day:
- Navigational – Expresses an intent to go to a defined location. The user may not remember a direct URL. This can include searching for brand names, products, services, or anything else related to a brand they may have in mind. These keywords are useful if your brand is already popular and well-defined.
- Informational – This type of keyword helps users find content that educates or informs them about a topic. These generally take the form of questions using words such as “where,” “when,” or “how.” The key here is that the intent is to learn, not to spend. Informational keywords are great for ranking educational content on your site that can promote awareness, but they are not the keywords you would pursue necessarily for chasing immediate sales.
- Transactional – This type of keyword is loaded with the intent to purchase. A user might enter the words “buy” or “sale,” but may also search in terms of a product or service. Examples of this would look like “best local landscaping service” or “professional men’s watch.” These are deemed transactional as the keyword seems to imply that the user is already interested in purchasing that product or service.
Understanding the types of keywords and why users search for them is key in helping you to tailor a sustainable PPC strategy. Your focus should not just be to chase the most common keywords but to research keywords that fall under the type that aligns with both your campaign goals and the audience intent.
A discovery campaign focused on building brand awareness would prioritize informational keywords. Users are not at the action stage of the buyer’s journey and simply wish to gain more information. You can then bid on informational keywords that your audience is using and ensure that your website or landing page has quality content that provides them with the resources they need. Users then feel rewarded for discovering valuable content, which then establishes your brand as an authority, and drives success for your PPC campaign.
Likewise, a conversion-driven campaign would highlight transactional keywords that users type when they’re already committed to spending cash on a product or service. Your ads and landing pages should match the intent of these keywords and prioritize hard-selling your products or services with great offers that they can’t turn away from.
Finally, you might also consider bidding for long-tail keywords for your PPC campaign strategy. Long-tail keywords are phrases that consist of three or more words and have a highly specific focus. Many new marketers will make the mistake of ignoring these keywords due to their low search volume. However, the hyper-focused intent behind using them makes them well-aligned with campaigns driven by conversions.
Because the user is motivated enough to highly-define their search, there is a great chance that they are also motivated to purchase if they discover your ad. Additionally, the low volume equates to a low bidding cost, making it a cheap, but potentially worthwhile investment to consider in your PPC strategy.
4. Utilize Analytics for Continuous Optimization
PPC campaigns are unique in that while they are paid, you only receive a charge whenever you receive clicks from your impressions. Whether you are using Facebook Ads, Google Ads, or another PPC platform, they want your campaign to perform otherwise they do not receive payment.
Because of this, your PPC platform of choice will provide a suite of analytical tools that you can use to track your campaigns in real-time. Both Google Ads and Facebook Ads will monitor countless metrics including click-through rate, clicks, impressions, cost-per-click, and much more. You can elevate your PPC strategy further by using tools such as Google Analytics, which will tell you everything you need to know about how a user spends time on your website or landing pages.
Utilizing these types of reports can tell you what keywords or channels your audience uses to find your brand. After arriving at your site, you can also track how long they spend on a page, how engaging your content is, and even information regarding the audience’s demographics and interests. These are all powerful resources as this information is necessary to continuously refine your campaign and further improve your return on investment (ROI).
While certain tools like Google Analytics feature paid subscriptions, all of these platforms offer free versions that effectively provide all of the analytical information a business needs to run a successful PPC campaign. Social platforms with paid ad features will offer built-in analytic tools to help you optimize performance and ad spend automatically.
However, be aware that it can take weeks for your PPC campaign to gather enough information to take appropriate action. Making changes to your advertisement or landing page too soon into a campaign will disrupt the algorithm and cause the learning process to take that much longer. You must give your ads an appropriate amount of time before considering changes. After you’ve gathered enough data, you can begin A/B testing new variations of ads and begin to eliminate the ads that do not generate worthwhile results.
5. A/B Test Your Ads & Landing Pages
It’s great to aim for a home run out of the gate, but results like that are anomalies when it comes to PPC campaigns. Most PPC strategies will account for the time it takes to test and refine the sales copy and appearance of your advertisements and landing pages.
With the help of your PPC and website analytics tools, you can gain an approximated idea of what type of content is performing well with your audience and which isn’t. To gain more specific insight as to what your audience truly enjoys, you can begin to A/B test certain aspects of your campaign. A/B Testing allows you to present two variations of the same ad or website page to your audience.
Each page will feature similar content but feature a slightly different URL for easy distinction. Your PPC platform will then direct new traffic to either variation depending on the split that you designate (usually 50/50). As users interact with both page variations, the algorithm will gather analytic data and automatically push traffic to the page variation that performs the best. After you gather enough data to decide, you can eliminate the poor-performing variation from your campaign.
Common things that you will want to A/B test with a PPC campaign include the ad copy, images, videos, headlines, call-to-actions, or the sales copy itself on the landing page. Your first landing page draft may be filled with excellent, informative copy, but A/B testing may prove that your particular audience is more receptive to a succinct, direct sales approach. Similarly, recording a 1-2 minute video and uploading it can often do more in driving conversions than 2,000 words of content.
A/B testing is not a one-and-done step and should be continuously employed to gather further insights about your audience. The more informed your team is about your target audience, the better you will be able to refine your campaigns and create a sustainable PPC strategy for all campaigns moving forward.
6. Use the Right Network to Reach the Right Audience
There are several types of PPC ads on different networks. Choosing the right type of advertisement to employ is another step to helping you better connect with the right audience.
A. Search Ads
The first type of advertisement is a search ad. Users will bid with competitors for certain keywords that will return their domain as an advertised result on search engine results pages (SERPS). The bidding competition ultimately determines the price you pay any time your ad gets a click.
A search ad is most effective for audiences that are already at the buying stage of their journey. If the user is willing to click on a paid business ad when performing a search, they’re likely looking for a high-quality brand that can help them solve a problem. If you’re looking to drive conversions with your campaign, search ads are the way to go.
Take advantage of your ad space to demonstrate brand authority, give direct information about what you wish to sell, and provide a high-quality image of the product or service.
B. Display Ads
Display ads are located on a different network than search ads and are great for generating general brand awareness. A display ad can be on any website on the internet that opts into Google’s display network. Your ads will only appear on screen whenever the user meets a variety of targeting parameters that you designate.
Because display ads focus more on building awareness, they’re not necessarily the best suited for driving immediate conversions. You should expect to spend more and settle in for a longer campaign cycle with the benefit that your brand can be seen by users all over the internet. After building more brand awareness, you can shift your campaign focus to more aggressively pursue actual sales.
C. Shopping Ads
Shopping ads are similar to search ads in that they highly target those who are motivated to purchase a product. This is highly popular among e-commerce brands and is a highly effective way of securing conversions from online shoppers.
Using Google’s Merchant Center, you can upload your products including images, pricing, and description. You can set targeting parameters to target only those users that express interest as well as qualifying income. Because users get a direct visual of the product and the necessary information, shopping ads have extremely high clickthrough rates when compared to other ad types.
Choosing the right type of advertisement to run falls in line with everything outlined in this article thus far. Every decision you make regarding your PPC strategy should align your goals with your audience’s intent. Because we outlined our goal as our very first step, choosing the right type of ad network to use should be simple whether you’re looking to boost your brand awareness or drive immediate sales.
7. Remarket to Those That Engage with Your Content
Remarketing is an additional type of PPC campaign that allows you to re-engage with users that abandoned the sales journey before converting.
The traditional buyer’s journey was thought of as a funnel. The top of the funnel is the widest to grab as many potential buyers as possible. As the sale process continued, the funnel would filter out less-qualified buyers until you’re left with only the most worthwhile prospects. However, the sales journey seems to be much less direct, especially with modern changes in online shopping.
It’s difficult, if not impossible, for us to know the exact motivations of a user when visiting a website or landing page. However, we can gauge an approximation by examining when a user stopped engaging with our advertisement.
As an example, we will say that a new user visited your page, added an item to their cart, but never followed through with the checkout process. We can assume that they must have an interest in the product, but maybe hesitated when it came to the pricing, shipping, or some other part of actually making the purchase. Our next sales pitch should naturally be different than if we were approaching someone that never heard of the brand before. This is why we utilize remarketing.
Utilize your analytics and metrics to determine how your audience interacts with your content and which stage of the sales process is causing you to lose them. This allows you to hyperfocus your new advertisements to better suit their needs and secure the conversion. A great way for you to do this is by setting up micro-conversions to track along the way.
8. Set Up Micro-Conversions to Gauge the Effectiveness of Your Strategy
While the end goal for every business is to secure a sale or a conversion, you can benefit yourself by establishing smaller goals to keep track of along the way. Let’s look at an example of what a typical buyer’s journey might look like after clicking on one of your advertisements:
Read About the Product > Fill Out a Form to Gain Promotional Discount > Add Product to Cart > Enter Billing Information > Complete Purchase
While the primary conversion is the purchase, we can designate several of these steps as a micro-conversion to track our successes. If a user makes it past the form step, we still are better off as we managed to obtain valuable contact information as a result of our advertisement. You can then utilize their contact information and general interest in your product to add them to your list for a remarketing campaign.
Understanding what micro-conversions have higher rates of success can also help you to take a closer look at what parts of your PPC strategy require optimization. If your audience is not completing your form, then you need to improve your on-page content or make the form simpler to fill out. If the user is adding the product to their cart, but not completing the purchase, you may need to sweeten the deal, adjust pricing, or improve the checkout process in some way.
Creating micro-conversions as separate goals is invaluable for helping you to both improve your existing campaigns and to better prepare for future remarketing campaigns. The better you can understand the behaviors and thoughts of your audience, the better chance you have at creating a sustainable PPC strategy that you can lean on for future sales.
9. Build Lookalike Audiences
Finally, be sure to leverage all of the valuable data you’ve collected about your audience to create lookalike audiences. A lookalike audience is a brand-new audience that demonstrates the same behaviors, interests, and search habits as your existing audience that led to conversions.
Taking advantage of lookalike audiences gives you a leg up on all future PPC campaign efforts as you already have an idea of buyer wants and needs, based upon previous experiences. This saves you valuable time and campaign funds by taking advantage of all the testing and analysis you’ve done previously. Giving yourself every advantage is exactly how you can develop a sustainable PPC strategy in the competitive marketing world online.
Platforms like Facebook and Google make it extremely easy and convenient to create lookalike audiences. Again, it is in their interest for you to be a successful client as you only pay when audiences engage. By helping you to engage with new customers that previous research proves to be highly qualified, you should find your lookalike audiences to be high-converting users from a much earlier point than when you first began marketing with PPC.
Conclusion: A Sustainable PPC Strategy Aligns with Customer Intention
The key takeaway for developing a sustainable PPC strategy is to employ tactics and tools that align with audience intent indicated by their web browsing behaviors. Every action a user takes including the type of keyword they use to search can inform you whether they simply wish to educate themselves or if they’re ready to purchase.
By establishing a clearly defined campaign goal and aligning that with your audience intent, you can begin to choose the campaign type that is best suited for that purpose. You can then use your understanding of your audience to use your budget effectively and bid on the keywords best suited for your business goals.
After building out your initial campaign, leverage all of the powerful analytical tools at your disposal. It is easier than ever to instantly gather all of the traffic data you could ever need to optimize and improve your campaign performance. You can use that analytical data to A/B test your ad copy, landing pages, and more. You can also set up micro-conversion goals to better understand the behaviors of your audience members.
Finally, be sure to leverage all of the hard work and research you’ve done thus far to give yourself up a leg up in future efforts. Lookalike audiences allow you to utilize your data to begin marketing to high-value prospects. This continuous optimization and improvement are what you need to develop a sustainable PPC strategy moving forward.