Earlier this year, Facebook broke some bad news. Organic reach is officially being choked, making it harder for brands to reach the audiences they’ve worked so hard to build.
Because of this, I believe marketers will look to SEM (search engine marketing) to recapture lost attention. The problem is, there’s already so much competition. How do you get past the noise and generate PPC (pay per click) results, and which KPIs (key performance indicators) should you be tracking to measure success?
Optimizing conversion rate (CVR) is one of the fastest ways to improve AdWords efficiency. It allows you to test new approaches and boost ROI without having to expand target keywords, campaigns or budget.
Here are five approaches to PPC that will help you generate more conversions and better results in 2018 and beyond.
1. Optimize keyword quality score
Google’s entire business model relies on providing searchers with relevant results. This goes for organic results as well as AdWords.
To do this, Google assigns your target keywords a Quality Score (QS). This QS, along with your CPC (cost per click) bid, is what then determines your “Ad Rank.”
The three elements that determine your QS are:
- Ad relevance (in other words, how relevant the keyword is to the ad copy you serve).
- Landing page experience.
- Expected CTR (click-through rate).
Many PPC experts consider CTR the most important factor when determining QS. Therefore, when looking to optimize your QS, start with CTR.
Analyze the keyword relevancy of your campaigns. Is your ad copy aligned with the search intent of the keyword?
It’s good practice to create separate Ad Groups for each of your keywords. Also known as Single Keyword Ad Groups, this is where you cater to the intent of specific searchers rather than a larger group.
In the example below (courtesy of ConversionXL), ASDA is the only advertiser for the term “womens red dresses” with copy tailored to that search term.
As well as relevancy, your ad copy should quickly sell the benefits of the “click.” In other words, why should the searcher pay attention? Make your headlines relevant, focusing on the desires and pain points of your audience.
By optimizing CTR, and therefore quality score, you’ll generate more qualified traffic. And high-quality traffic delivers better conversion rates.
Once you’ve optimized CTR, your landing pages should be the next target. Dynamic text replacement (DTR) can provide some quick wins. This “swaps” specific copy in your landing page based on the keyword the user searched to find you. DTR can improve quality score and therefore contribute to a higher CVR.
2. Intelligent remarketing
When it comes to AdWords, high bounce rates are a fact of life. Users who come to your landing pages are at various stages of the customer journey. For example, a call-to-action (CTA) for a demo won’t work on a searcher who is still educating themselves on different solutions.
To capture these missed opportunities, use remarketing to cross-sell and “down-sell” bounced visitors. Let’s start by expanding on the example above. If you’re offering a demo of your software to someone who is still in the awareness phase, this approach won’t be as effective as something that answers their questions.
Therefore, an e-book that teaches prospects how to overcome specific challenges is an appropriate down-sell. It would educate them on the options available to them while providing information about how your product makes the process easier.
Of course, these challenges will vary depending on personas and customer segments. Therefore, you must personalize your ad creative where necessary.
Retargeting in this way allows you to capture lead information that would have been otherwise lost, boosting the CVR and overall ROI of your campaigns. The mistake many marketers make here is to “re-sell” the demo request. Use it as an opportunity to educate them and add more value instead of forcing them further down the funnel.
Here are some tips you can apply to your remarketing ads to capture the attention of lost leads:
- Test different lead magnets: Different personas and customer types respond to different forms of media. Split-test your remarketing ads to offer an e-book and webinar. See which generates the highest conversions and double down on those formats.
- Name-drop influencers: If you work with well-known influencers in your space, consider including them in your remarketing ads. This association adds an element of trust like no other.
- Use dynamic targeting: Serve specific ads to different audience segments. More on this later.
The point of remarketing is to capture lost users and retain customers. Don’t waste the opportunity by serving the same messaging. Look for ways to add value up and down the funnel.
3. Tap into the power of machine learning
AI and machine learning bring the promise of higher-performing marketing at speed. From an AdWords perspective, this would mean automated bid and budget management, using more data than a human can handle to make adjustments in real time.
To find out exactly what impact machine learning has on PPC performance, we analyzed 32,858 paid accounts using the Acquisio Turing platform to uncover the truth. Here’s what we found out about conversions and machine learning:
- An average increase in conversions of 71 percent.
- A median increase in conversions of 22 percent.
Discussions of landing page quality aside, the huge difference between average and median is explained by the fact that a certain number of accounts saw extremely high increases in number of conversions, which skews the average in a meaningful way. If we wished to exclude those extremes from the discussion, we would look at the median score, which tells us the percent increase in conversions that was observed for the 50th percentile.
The plot thickened because this increase in conversions came with an overall decrease in cost per acquisition (CPA). In fact, the median CPA had a decrease of 18 percent, with 64 percent of the group enjoying a decrease in CPA overall.
While the report above focused on the increase in conversions made possible by machine learning, our most recent study examined 50,000 campaigns to determine Google AdWords Industry Benchmarks and looked at conversion rate (CVR) with and without machine learning by industry. Here are the CVR findings segmented by business category:
Conversion rate (CVR) by industry with and without machine learning
Machine learning martech helps PPC marketers scale and optimize marketing activities efficiently, but it’s also a serious contender for conversion boosts.
Here’s the thing: Machine learning technologies get better the more they learn. In other words, results will improve as machine learning algorithms react to new findings. Check out The Marketer’s Field Guide to Machine Learning for more information.
4. Test new ad extensions
To cut through the noise, you must capture as much SERP (search engine results page) real estate as possible. This means not only standing out with your creative but also expanding how much room your ads take up.
To do this, test different ad extensions on your top-performing campaigns. Ad extensions, as defined by Google, “expand your ad with additional information — giving people more reasons to choose your business. They typically increase an ad’s click-through rate by several percentage points.”
Ad extensions come in several forms, the most popular of which are:
- Sitelink Extensions: Provide links to other relevant pages on your website.
- Callout Extensions: Additional information on what you’re offering, e.g., limited stock and free delivery.
- Structured Snippets: Allows you to highlight specific elements. For example, if you’re selling “Italian vegan leather boots,” you can include a list of shoe sizes.
- Location Extensions: Include your business address and telephone number in your ad copy.
As you’re well aware, mobile user behavior is very different from desktop users’. Indeed, 61.9 percent of all PPC clicks were from a smartphone during Q3 of 2017.
Google has reacted to this shift in behavior by adding additional extensions for ads that appear on mobile devices. These are:
- Message Extensions: Allow users to send an SMS to your business directly from the SERPs.
- Call Extensions: Similarly, users can dial a phone number provided within your ad copy.
As always, test different extensions on a small scale before applying them to all of your campaigns. Keep the customer’s journey and intent in mind. Are they searching for a term with several possible outcomes? Consider using a Sitelink extension. Does it look like they’re searching for your retail store on a mobile phone? Include mobile extensions.
5. Advanced segmentation with in-market audiences
Facebook Ads are popular among marketers due to the advanced targeting available. But many are still unaware of AdWords’ functionality to do the same.
Google collects a tremendous amount of data on their users. So it was only a matter of time before they allowed marketers to use it themselves.
That’s where in-market audiences come in. By using in-market audiences within your display ads targeting, you can target users based on their consumer behavior, as well as the content they have expressed an interest in online.
The data available is sorted into several market categories, including real estate, travel and telecommunication. You can then set targeting on a granular level, all the way down to specific interests and brand names:
So, how does it work? According to Google, data such as sites browsed, the proximity of visits, relevant ads clicked and conversions are all taken into account to categorize users by intent.
This means that, while this is limited to the Display network only, you’re able to serve hyper-specific ads to those who have expressed an interest. From persona segments to product categories, the options are many.
This Thanksgiving, you’ll probably hear someone say that the chemical tryptophan that’s found in turkey makes them sleepy. Although this holiday delicacy does include an amino acid that can help you relax, it’s not the only food that contains tryptophan. Cheddar cheese has a lot more of the chemical than turkey, but you never hear
your aunt saying she needs a nap after eating a grilled cheese.
According to experts, turkey doesn’t make you crave a post-Thanksgiving nap. Instead, the high amount of carbs, the general size of your meal and an increase in alcohol consumption are what cause you to doze off after dinner.
What does this have to do with PPC, though, you may wonder? Well, surprisingly a lot. In the world of paid digital marketing, there are three PPC myths that you’re mistakenly falling for. You, and nearly everyone else, take these myths as fact—like the idea that your holiday bird makes you crave some shut eye—but they’re not.
It’s time to put an end to the most alluring PPC myths, misconceptions and inaccuracies.
1) PPC is a set-it-and-forget-it tool
Starting a new PPC campaign is often a time-consuming process. Your company needs to determine what copy you’ll use, the best image for your message and then you need to launch and monitor the campaign.
At first, the time you put into your campaign seems necessary and helpful. However, once it’s been running fairly successfully for a period of time, it’s easy to forget. It’s normal to get distracted by other channels and projects and neglect to update and check on your PPC campaign.
Unfortunately, this is a huge mistake. Companies think they can just set up their PPC accounts and forget them, but this couldn’t be further from the truth.
The entire time a PPC campaign is running, you should be looking for optimization opportunities. Could your copy benefit from a little more creativity? Would a/b testing help you secure better results? There’s a lot of untapped potential when it comes to updating and improving your PPC campaigns.
According to Rory Witt, owner of San Diego-based digital marketing agency DigiMar, one of the best ways to increase a PPC campaign’s success is simple—use your audience list and remarket to your existing customers.
Says Witt, “To get started with this technique, look no further than Google’s Remarketing. This option enables you to show ads to people who’ve visited your website or used your mobile application. After they abandon your site or app, remarketing will help you reconnect with them by showing them your advertisements across their devices.”
For example, say you own a pet boutique. You run an awesome advertisement for winter dog jackets, and it has a lot of success. Instead of letting the revenue increase end there, follow up with the people who purchased a dog jacket from you and offer them dog booties or other seasonal dog apparel items.
2) PPC = short-term; SEO = long-term
Many people mistakenly think PPC is a short-term strategy. They want to inform customers about a sale or other time-dependent event, so they advertise. If their ad gets 30 clicks at $2 each, they simply want to ensure that they receive one or more $60 sales as a result. Some businesses will even stop running their PPC campaigns if they’re breaking even—but this can be a big mistake.
Although PPC can increase your revenue overnight, it’s not a short-term tool. To stick with the Thanksgiving theme, pretend you’re a honey baked ham retailer. Each one of your hams sells for $100. You run a PPC campaign this holiday season, and you break even. Every customer that results from your digital marketing efforts has a $100 cost per acquisition, and each one buys one ham from you.
You could look at these results and deduce that your PPC campaign was a waste of your time, but it may not be … If you have sound customer relationship management techniques in place, this campaign could turn into a goldmine for you.
In 10 months, you can send an email out to the campaign’s customers. Remind them that it’s time to buy another honey baked ham, and then offer them a discount or incentivize them to make another purchase. Convince customers that it’s worth their while to buy a ham for themselves and an additional ham as a gift. Before long, you’ll become the go-to vendor for individual and gift-giving holiday hams.
3) Money is the ‘be-all’
There’s a common myth that suggests you will rank better if you spend more money on your advertisements. If only it were this simple … Having a bigger budget doesn’t necessarily ensure your rank will improve.
According to Matthew Tyson, marketing strategist for WideNet, “The success of your ads is determined by multiple factors—such as relevance, targeting, and quality score.” If you want to give Google more money, it may improve your relationship to an extent. Their business is publicly traded, so of course they want to make money. However, at the end of the day, the platform needs user trust, too. If your advertisement takes Google users to irrelevant or harmful content, it’s not worth the money.
To ensure that Google is making its shareholders happy and maintaining user trust, they assign advertisements a Quality Score. This is where things get good for advertisers … If you can design ads that help Google’s business objectives, you’ll be rewarded—monetarily. Google will actually provide you with a lower cost-per-click rate if your advertisements gives them money and keeps their users happy.
It’s easy to confuse money with success. When it comes to paid advertising, money is important, but it’s not everything. Your company needs to think about a campaign’s relevance, quality score, targeting and much more in addition to its financial backing.
Don’t rush to conclusions
The human mind likes to know where things come from. It loves tales, stories and simple explanations. Humans remember and share myths, origins and creations.
To an extent, these preferences are harmless. After all, isn’t it fun to take a big winter’s snooze after November 23 and blame it all on something you ate? Of course it is! Myths are all fun and games, until they cause a detrimental result—like decreasing your company’s bottom line.
If you want to stay on the enjoyable and laughable side of myths, remember the three PPC misconceptions above. When they come up, remind yourself that they’re not based in reality, and steer your company in another direction.
Discover some of the best practices on B2B PPC campaigns that you can use today, including attribution models, ad types, video, and more.
If you work in digital marketing, you might not normally think of B2B PPC (that is, pay-per-click for business-to-business campaigns).
Most digital marketers think of PPC as a B2C (business-to-consumer) discipline for either direct sales (retail, such as apparel or electronics) or for lead generation (identifying and matching potential customers for services, such as consultations for financial services or finding a new healthcare provider).
Your job as a PPC marketer in the consumer space is as you’d expect. You run paid search ads for your product or service that nudge searchers to your landing page and hopefully get them to convert. And as a B2C PPC marketer, you have a relatively short sales cycle.
Why the B2B PPC Conversion Funnel Is Different Than B2C
There are different rules of engagement for marketing toward a business audience than toward consumer audiences.
Let’s go over some of the bigger points of differentiation.
Multiple Decision Makers
While a consumer shopping for a new winter coat probably doesn’t have a lengthy approval process, multiple stakeholders, and a legal department to vet contracts with, your business customers do.
Longer Sales Cycle
One of the immediate effects of having multiple decision-makers in the sales process is a longer sales cycle.
A while back, Salesforce found that the average B2B sales cycle is 84 days long(though they vary wildly, and may be significantly longer for your company).
The longer sales cycle means business customers may take weeks or months to eventually choose to sign up for your subscription service or enterprise-scale product.
Need for Multiple Messaging Points Across the Funnel
Because there are multiple stakeholders involved in B2B purchasing decisions and because the sales cycle tends to be longer overall, it’s far more important to have relevant messages for the appropriate audience at different funnel stages.
Searchers in exploratory mode will respond better to upper-funnel messaging without a strong push to sell. On the other hand, searchers who are deeper in the funnel – reading reviews, comparing costs and individual service or product features – may instead be better served by a stronger call to action that drives them to convert.
The Beginning of the B2B PPC Funnel
The B2B PPC funnel starts out in a different manner than a consumer funnel. You can’t exactly hand out free samples of your enterprise-scale software on a tray at your local shopping mall.
Instead, you’ll likely introduce them to your funnel with a visit to your company’s online presence – if not your main homepage, then most likely a specific landing page on which you’re featuring a virtual offer, such as a webinar, eBook, infographic or another asset.
To procure that asset, visitors will need to sign themselves up for your funnel by filling out a lead capture form.
Once these visitors have become part of your funnel audience, your next task is targeting them properly by way of AdWords Audiences.
Presumably, you’ll also have your own specific qualifiers for types of leads for different stages.
At this point, you’re most likely using a CRM solution (if you have one) to score and qualify leads, after which, these audiences should be moved to deeper-funnel audiences for your PPC ads. Meaning, you don’t want to be showing top-funnel ads to these deeper-funnel leads, but rather, more-appropriate messaging to this warmer audience that will nudge them to the bottom of the funnel.
B2B PPC Tactics: Keywords, Attribution & Ad Types
Now that we’ve given an overview of B2B PPC and how to get prospects into the top of your funnel, let’s go into some actionable tactics you can start using immediately to nudge them through your sales cycle and get them to closed-won status.
1. Branded-Keyword Campaigns
It might not be obvious, but branded keywords are important for mid-funnel prospects in B2B PPC.
Specifically, once prospective customers become aware of you, unless they’re already breaking down your door to buy, they’re likely performing pre-purchase research.
They’re comparing features and price points between you and your competitors, and potentially performing searches either for your brand plus nonbrand terms (“ABC Software Inc. enterprise security”), comparison searches (“What’s the difference between ABC Software Inc. and XYZ Software Inc.”), or simply running repeated brand searches with your name as they go through the steps of their own due diligence.
2. AdWords Attribution
If you ask Google, the only attribution you need is data-driven attribution, which uses the publisher’s machine learning algorithms to precisely calculate and assign partial “credit” to different touchpoints in your funnel.
While the publisher will tell you that this black box algorithm is the only way to go, it should be noted that there are rather high volume requirements – 15,000 clicks and 600 conversions in the past 30 days (and subsequently, 10,000 clicks and 400 conversions per month).
For those businesses that don’t necessarily meet this threshold, alternatives such as time-decay attribution and position-based (U-shaped) may make more sense.
Position-based attribution assigns 40 percent of the “credit” for a conversion to the top of the funnel and 40 percent to the bottom, with the remaining 20 percent going to mid-funnel. This heavily weights top-funnel and bottom-funnel interactions and may make sense for businesses that strongly emphasize initial leads and closed deals only, such as commercial real estate, in which finding qualified buyers and sellers can be almost as important as closing on a property.
The time decay attribution model assigns “credit” to various touchpoints throughout the conversion journey, weighting the most recent more heavily and the older touchpoints less so.
This attribution model may make sense for highly competitive B2B spaces in which initial leads are less emphasized and closed-won deals are of paramount importance.
This attribution model may also be useful for testing purposes when comparing conversion journeys – if Conversion Journey A, which has a certain set of touchpoints and marketing content, consistently drives closed-won deals three months faster than Conversion Journey B, it may be time to more strongly emphasize the touchpoints in Conversion Journey A and do some retooling (or retiring) of the touchpoints in Conversion Journey B.
3. Remarketing & Retargeting – RLSA & GDN
Once your prospects have entered your conversion funnel, it becomes more important to serve them messaging and landing pages that are relevant to their specific needs and mindset in the current stage of their conversion journey.
In other words, it’s important to avoid inundating these prospects with top-funnel messages that no longer apply to them.
If you continue to serve these prospects ads to sign up the webinar they already watched two weeks ago, you won’t only annoy and confuse them, but you’ll also miss out on the opportunity to target them with a more-relevant, mid-funnel message.
This is what Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSA) is for – these search ads help you provide varied messaging for these mid-funnel prospects.
The same can be said for targeting via Google Display Network (GDN). Remarketing via GDN should offer varied but targeted ad experiences that tie together your lower-funnel website offers, such as customer success stories, budget calculators, free audits/assessments and similar.
It may also be useful to experiment with the new Display Responsive Ad feature, which pairs a text ad with a Facebook-size image and seems to work well for mid-funnel display campaigns.
4. YouTube Video Ads & Bumpers
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video is… well, it’s a lot easier to digest than yet another 5,000-word white paper.
Keep in mind that video ads, at present, aren’t necessarily the strongest channel to drive final conversions – you should go in with appropriate expectations here.
That said, due to the way certain video types are counted, YouTube videos may help you drive a great deal of awareness and keep your brand top-of-mind for mid-funnel prospects in a cost-effective way.
YouTube video ads most commonly take the form of a skippable pre-roll that loads before a standard video. Fortunately for you, if viewers don’t get to the 30-second mark in your pre-roll ad, YouTube classifies that interaction as an impression rather than a paid view, and such impressions are served free of charge.
Because you can serve an unlimited number of impressions for free so long as viewers don’t make it past 30 seconds, YouTube video ads potentially offer a very cost-effective branding opportunity.
Then again, given that video watchers are more impatient than ever, we don’t recommend videos that go much further than 30 seconds in length. In fact, YouTube’s 6-second bumper videos can also provide quick reminders of your brand and your products and services to mid-funnel prospects without being overly obtrusive.
These tips should hopefully help point you in the right direction for B2B PPC.
As mentioned, B2B PPC is a different beast with different properties and in many cases, significantly longer conversion/sales cycles.
Due to these relatively longer sales cycles, along with having more stakeholders involved and more proof points required, I recommend taking a holistic view of your B2B firm’s entire conversion journey, preferably collating all relevant data for every touchpoint to help you craft the best campaigns and drive more final conversions and sales.