If you aren’t seeing that success you expect from your paid search marketing campaigns, check to make sure you aren’t making these critical mistakes.
Have you ever noticed how often someone will complain that something “doesn’t work” if they don’t understand it?
It couldn’t be more true with PPC.
In my experience, a lot of the people who say that PPC doesn’t work are the ones making mistakes with the way their campaigns are conceived, set up, and managed. Their own efforts aren’t working, so they conclude that the whole exercise is folly.
But the “PPC doesn’t work” argument doesn’t hold up strongly against numbers.
According to Hanapin’s most recent State of PPC survey, 80 percent of marketing professionals felt good about their PPC success over the preceding year.
Other marketers are getting the results they want. If you’re not seeing that same success from your campaign, step back and look at your strategy to pinpoint where you could be going wrong.
Could it be any of the below mistakes?
1. Not Adopting New Ad Features
It’s been a long time since online advertising was just search and display, even though that’s still where the lion’s share of people’s energy is focused. These do remain potent ways to reach an audience, but newer options may be better for reaching the specific types of people you want to target in a given campaign.
For example, sponsored InMail on LinkedIn may be impactful, as well as other relatively new social media advertising options like Quora ads, Instagram Stories ads, AdWords call only ads, Facebook lead capture ads, or even Snapchat video spots.
Be on top of the industry trends and stay agile. You may find that you get the best results from an unlikely format or platform.
2. Overlooking Intent Signals
If you aren’t considering different intent signals in your campaign targeting, this can severely diminish performance. Understanding the different ways your prospects engage with you at different stages of the sales funnel, and aligning your campaign to that, is key to reaching them with the right offer.
Search marketers used to think of any search for a product-specific keyword was a quality intent signal. But in the age of the non-linear, self-serve buyer’s journey, that’s no longer the case.
Someone who watches the first 20 minutes of your hour-long Facebook video product demo is displaying somewhat different intent from even someone who Googles “where to buy [your product name].”
To maximize sales, focus on targeting people who’ve displayed intent signals pointing towards the bottom of the funnel. To capture self-warmed, qualified leads, focus on the middle of the funnel.
3. Advertising for One Device Only
Yes, “mobile first” is important. I know, I know.
But focusing too much on one gadget and neglecting others can cause you to lose out on customers and leads you could be reaching with your campaign.
Might you be giving up on desktop visitors by optimizing for mobile?
Experimenting with different CTA and conversion flows allows you to target a much wider audience and miss out on fewer people interested in your offer because of the device they’re on.
4. Ignoring Click Fraud
Could click fraud be tanking your PPC results? Some projections estimate that businesses could lose up to $16.4 billion this year because of it.
Search engines do what they can to combat click fraud and invalid traffic, but industry-wide protection will take time. You can’t rely on that when your viewability is hurting now.
Instead, you need to either use a third-party tool or start taking your own measures to protect your brand’s digital marketing.
By keeping an eye of your site’s activity logs, you can often identify IP addresses, referring websites and even geographic territories where the fraudulent activity is coming from and adjust your campaign targeting accordingly, thereby circumventing the issue altogether.
5. Serving Up Mismatched Messaging
Another mistake that loses you leads is failing to align the different assets of your ad campaign well enough. You need to optimize your campaigns for maximum message match.
Whether your targeting parameters, ad creative and landing page are poorly aligned, or your overall copy isn’t tapped into your customer’s’ needs, this can kill the ad’s overall experience and impact some of your other metrics by way of Quality Score.
Message matching has been proven to make a huge difference. For example, by using dynamic content personalization tools to align all the variables of one recent campaign for a client, Codeless Interactive was able to drive a 213 percent increase in conversion rate and a 69 percent decrease in cost per conversion.
Just don’t forget that message matching shouldn’t trump the basics – making sure that you’re targeting the right people with the right message.
6. Not Monitoring Campaigns Closely Enough
Next, don’t underestimate how hands-on active PPC campaigns can, and arguably should be. They’re anything but “set it and forget it,” and hands-off advertisers run the risk of wasting heaps of money over time if they continue to run ads that aren’t performing.
You should always have at least two versions of every campaign running: a test group and an experiment group. Document the variables of your experiments, measure their impact over a day or two or more, rinse, repeat.
Some campaign parameters you can experiment with include:
- Adjusting budget by impression share.
- Making bid adjustments.
- Optimizing ad copy.
- Changing the hours and days your ads are shown.
If you’re doing a good job with your experiments, you should see conversions rising and costs per conversion sinking as time goes on.
Remember, though, that what worked for you last week might have already stopped working for you, and you might never know why.You need to check in on all active campaigns frequently enough to spot performance issues before you spent too much money on them. That way you can make adjustments before your campaign goes too far down the wrong path.
7. Not Bidding on Branded Keywords
Yet another common mistake is not using your brand name as a campaign keyword. Many argue it’s not worth it or necessary, but even if you don’t need to use them, your competitors will. They can intercept your audience if you don’t try to outbid them.
When Growww Digital experimented with turning off brand name ads for an online marketplace client, they saw a 23 percent decrease in cumulative revenue, dropping more than $43,000, as well as a decrease in sessions. After turning the brand ads back on, their important metrics recovered back to where they were before the experiment.
8. Optimizing for Metrics Other Than Revenue
With all the fuss over Quality Score and pressure to drive a high volume of traffic with ads, it can be easy to forget that click-throughs aren’t your end goal – and neither are lead capture conversions. These are just signposts along the way.
At the end of your funnel, and what you’re really after with advertising, is sales, revenue, and ROI.
When you take your eyes off of the ultimate objective, the metrics that your PPC dashboard might be showing you can become misleading.
For example, optimizing campaigns around click-throughs is a bad idea when you have a campaign that’s getting clicks but not conversions. And even conversion rate can be misleading, and optimizing for it a potential mistake, if you’re generating low-quality leads as conversions.
You might not have your goal measurements set up for this type of tracking, and it might not even be possible, depending on your site’s tech infrastructure. This is why it’s key to integrate your ad performance data with other data, such as your Google Analytics dashboard (yes, those UTMs are useful).
At the very least, you should set up data pushes to your CRM for automatic logging of each customer’s pre-sale touches with your assets. This will allow you to identify the campaigns that send you the highest-value customers.
Everything in Its Right Place
Ultimately, most PPC mistakes happen when you don’t understand the best way to reach your audience given the specifics of your situation. By focusing on reaching your targets in the right place with the right message for the campaign’s particular goal, and tracking your results all the way through, you can stay in tune with what people want and optimize your campaign accordingly.
Think the PPC playing field is too uneven to compete? Wrong. Small companies absolutely can compete against big brands. Find out how here.
It isn’t easy to compete against big brand advertisers in PPC. They have deep pockets, large in-house marketing teams, and contracts with high-priced ad agencies.
As a smaller competitor, you might conclude that the advertising playing field is simply too uneven to compete.
While you may not be in a position to buy full page print ads in national newspapers or produce commercials for TV, pay-per-click (PPC) marketing is a channel that still allows small advertisers to play on the same field – if they know how.
In this article, I’ll give you some tips on how to compete against big brands in paid search – using one anonymous advertiser as an example.
1. Monitor the Competition
In the face of overwhelming competition, the tendency is to ignore what your competitors are doing and strike your own path.
Although you won’t necessarily want to go head-to-head with them, you should still have an awareness of what they’re up to, especially in terms of their online promotions.
Let’s take a look at the following example:
As you can see, this search returned four ads. The top ad is for our anonymous garage storage system company, which we’ll call “Small Garage Co.” for simplicity.
The remaining ads are for big brands competitors: California Closets, Lowes, and Home Depot.
From these ads, we see that California Closets is featuring 20 percent off selected finishes. Home Depot is offering 30 percent off its storage solutions.
Judging from its ad, Small Garage Co. isn’t running any promotions. But in fact it is! When you click on the ad and visit its site, we learn that it’s running a summer promotion of $250 off garage cabinets and flooring!
Why isn’t this information included in the ad? Especially when their competitors are running promotions?
This isn’t to say that Small Garage Co. has to match the big brands on discounts or promotions. Ideally, it should offer something. But to do that it needs to know what its competitors are doing and strategize accordingly.
Higher prices and less attractive promotions aren’t necessarily a deal breaker, especially if you’re offering higher quality or better support. A good portion of the market will be willing to pay a higher price to get what they want.
2. Improve Your Messaging
The above example illustrated the importance of monitoring competitors and communicating promotions. Now, let’s take this point further.
Take a closer look at the “Small Garage Co.” ad:
Has the company used its ad real estate wisely? They state that they’re “experts” and “committed to quality.” But in my opinion, that doesn’t carry much weight. (Especially when it’s the company describing itself. It does carry weight when someone else describes the company in those terms.)
They state they have “10+ years of experience.” Again, this might not count for much when competing against well-known brands.
They repeat “garage storage” and “garage flooring” multiple times in the headline, body copy and sitelinks, which is a little redundant.
And their “About Us” and “Contact Us” sitelinks are another wasted opportunity.
What could they have done instead?
They could have communicated their competitive advantages over big box retailers.
By visiting the company’s website, you’ll find many of these advantages, including:
- They’re a local company (i.e., local to my location near Boston). Many people prefer to support local companies rather than big national retailers.
- They specialize in garage flooring and storage systems. They don’t offer unrelated services, such as bathroom renovations or heating system replacements.
- Their products have a lifetime guarantee!
- They provide a free onsite consultation to measure your space and give recommendations.
- Installation is done by the company itself. They don’t subcontract the work out.
- They offer additional garage-related services, such as garage painting, onsite storage units (to store your things during install) and garage lighting.
But unless you clicked on the ad and dig into the company’s site, you would never know these things!
This may seem like a lot of messaging to stuff into one ad. But I’m confident that a skilled PPC team could do it by making smart use of all ad elements, including headline, body, sitelinks, callouts, and structured snippets.
3. Work With a Skilled PPC Ad Agency
Getting the right messaging to compete against big brands isn’t easy. You have to:
- Know what your competitors are doing.
- Understand your competitive advantages.
- Be able to communicate those differences in your ad messaging.
- Monitor your data and test like crazy to make sure it’s working.
In most cases, I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect a smaller company – especially a company with no in-house marketing team or maybe a team of one or two people – to compete against big brands with high-end digital advertising agencies on their side.
This is especially true with PPC advertising. PPC is in a constant state of change. Strategies and tactics that worked well last year may not work well today.
Lessons learned in different markets or industries may no longer apply. In addition, advertising platforms, such as AdWords, change rapidly too.
You may not have the budget to bring in a big-league advertising agency. But you may have the budget to bring in a smaller PPC agency or specialist and collaborate with them closely. By working together, you may uncover little tricks and tips that give you an edge.
For example, we worked with a client that sells their products both directly and through big retailers. When given a choice, many customers prefer to purchase directly from the company because they know they are experts in their products. (Companies usually prefer this arrangement as well because it cuts out the “big box” middle man.)
Working together, we came up with the idea of using the headline “[Company Name] – Official Site.” At first, I thought this headline too boring to garner many clicks. But to my surprise, the technique worked really well for this client and drove more sales.
This is exactly the kind of little gem that a PPC pro can help you uncover.
4. Give Your Small Website a Big Brand Feel
I can’t stress this point enough. If you want to compete with big brands, your website needs to have the look and feel of a big brand.
You don’t need to deceive anyone. But you are trying to inspire confidence. And to inspire confidence, your site needs to be modern, mobile-friendly, functional, and look good.
If your site hasn’t been updated in some years, now’s the time to do it. And then keep doing it!
Put website updates and redesigns into your budget and keep them there. Today’s top website design will need to be updated in a few years as aesthetic preferences and functions change.
Even if you write a killer ad that draws clicks, you’ll lose conversions – big time – if your site doesn’t build trust. If it sews a seed of doubt, “Who are these guys?” “How big is this company?” “Do they know what they’re doing?” you’ll lose the sale.
In fact, you need to make sure your site has a big brand feel before getting into PPC advertising – even if that means foregoing PPC entirely for a period of time. Yes, you heard me right!
You Can Play With the Big Brands!
I hope I’ve convinced you that your company can compete against big brand PPC advertisers. You simply need to keep an eye on the competition, communicate your competitive advantages (preferably working with a PPC pro), and build a website that inspires confidence.
It all comes down to knowing your market, products and customers — and then finding an edge you can leverage.