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Written by Caroline Cox on Mar 5

Tips for creating successful healthcare PPC campaigns in this highly regulated industry

Here, you’ll find:

  • How healthcare marketers can leverage paid search
  • Regulations for healthcare-related ads
  • The latest data surrounding healthcare PPC
  • Tips for standing out from industry competition

Marketers who are seasoned in the healthcare space know that it can be, in a word, finicky.

For that, you can thank Google’s core algorithm updates in recent years. At times, these updates have thrown the industry into near-chaos, with some sites losing nearly all of their traffic while others see huge growths. 

Because of this unpredictability, it makes sense that marketers would turn to healthcare PPC. Not only does paid search allow for audience targeting, but it can help you get to the top of the search engine results page (SERP) more quickly than relying on SEO and organic rankings. 

Around 80% of internet users have searched for a health-related topic online, according to Pew. And NewsCred expects that voice searches for healthcare topics will continue to rise.

Add to that the recent Moz data showing the #1 positioned organic search results are now further down the page than the worst-case scenario positioning in 2013, and it’s clear paid search can be more beneficial than ever.

For best practices when it comes to healthcare PPC, read on.

Google only allows pharmaceutical manufacturers to advertise in select countries. (Image via Unsplash)

Google only allows pharmaceutical manufacturers to advertise in select countries. (Image via Unsplash)

Understand the healthcare PPC regulations

Because healthcare is such a highly regulated industry, it makes sense that paid search guidelines would be, too. Luckily, both Google and Microsoft Ads (formerly Bing) have published clear parameters when it comes to this kind of ad content.

For example, Google only allows pharmaceutical manufacturers to advertise in select countries. Pharmaceutical manufacturers can only promote prescription drugs in Canada, New Zealand, and the United States (over-the-counter meds have a much longer list). You can use the handy drop-down menu to see which country allows which types of PPC ads.

Google’s healthcare ad policies include regulations related to:

  • Restricted drug terms
  • Unapproved substances
  • Unauthorized pharmacies
  • Speculative and experimental medical treatments

Microsoft states that their policy on pharmaceutical products “varies by market.” For example, those advertising drug or alcohol addiction services (such as rehab facilities, group therapy, and halfway houses) must be certified by a company called LegitScript first.

A Microsoft Ads healthcare ad verbiage example

A Microsoft Ads healthcare ad verbiage example

Microsoft’s healthcare PPC ad policies include regulations related to:

  • Invasive treatments and cosmetic surgery
  • Weight loss
  • Pharmacy and prescription-only medicine

No matter which part of the healthcare umbrella your company falls under, it’s a good idea to read over these guidelines. This way, you can make sure you’re not spending time on a campaign that’ll end up getting rejected or pulled. 

Be easily reachable

This may sound like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised to see how many companies (across multiple industries) make it difficult to get in touch with them. What’s a lead to do? In this case, they’ll likely keep scrolling to find a brand with a phone number, live chat, or address more readily available.

Setting up a call extension and location extension on your ad is a great first step. It’s also wise to include your contact info on each website page as well as your landing pages and even your social media profiles. This way, people will be able to reach out to you quickly, no matter where they land. 

Pro tip: If one of your main goals is to drive people to your location, don’t forget about correctly setting up your Google My Business profile. This can help increase local customer engagement across Google Maps and searches. 

Focus on E-A-T

Yes, this is an SEO term. But the idea behind it can be quite beneficial when it comes to healthcare PPC as well. (If you’re not familiar, E-A-T stands for expertise, authority, and trustworthiness.) 

E-A-T was first introduced in 2015 via a Google Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines document that explained how the search engine gauges website quality. It was brought up again in 2018 when these guidelines expanded to also include content authors. 

With the stiff competition — plus a focus on hard data and proven science — that comes with the healthcare industry, keeping E-A-T in mind when you’re creating ad copy and landing page content can be what sets your brand apart from the rest. 

When it comes to healthcare PPC messaging, keep it simple

Speaking of content, let’s talk about messaging. Think about when you’re searching for the meaning of certain symptoms or the nearest urgent care facility. You’re probably not in the mood for quirky headlines or sensationalist claims.

The most effective healthcare PPC messaging is clear and direct. Your ad will have the best shot at cutting through the clutter by speaking your audience’s language and being concise about what you’re offering. Sometimes a simple question, such as “Looking for a speedy urgent care center in Atlanta?” is all it takes. 

Straightforward ad copy from Mommy’s Bliss, a company that sells wellness products for moms and babies

Straightforward ad copy from Mommy’s Bliss, a company that sells wellness products for moms and babies

Pro tip: While ad copy should be simple, we suggest your landing pages be as thorough as possible. With landing pages, you’ve already cleared the hurdle of getting someone to click your ad. Now, you need to provide them with as much info as possible so they can feel confident and informed before moving forward and following your CTA.

Be thoughtful about keywords

Keywords are one of the most important aspects of paid search campaigns. Because of this, you want to build ads around the terms and phrases your prospects are using during their search. 

Depending on which part of the industry your company falls under, this could include things like:

  • The specific product or service you offer
  • The issue or condition your product or service addresses
  • Major symptoms that your product or service deals with
  • Your target audience
  • Company information (i.e. name, location, contact information)

If you go too generic with your keywords, you risk getting lost in the shuffle. Take things a step further by keeping in mind what questions prospects might be typing into search boxes, and what their concerns might be (such as cost or location). 

The more specific and targeted you can be within your budget, the better. You can even leverage negative keywords to keep unqualified clicks at bay. 

Know how to speak to your audience effectively

“A successful ad will speak to the user, but not in a ‘buy now’ sense,” explains Dylan Jones, an SEM manager here at HawkSEM. He explains that a common misstep many brands are having to walk back now is talking in a “marketing voice.” 

“Google is knocking down sites that are saying users need to buy the next great thing or that you need to call now if you are showing these signs,” he adds. “They are forcing us to think more as a user and less as a marketer.” Because of this, the brands with copy that gives actual facts — with the authority to back them up — are more likely to be the ones that see the most success.

Pro tip: Healthcare searches can potentially be a matter of life and death, but that doesn’t mean you should adopt a fear-based approach. Instead, consider things like question-based ad copy and even multimedia. For example, a Google survey found that 60% of hospital administrator respondents watch online procedures and product comparisons.

There’s a huge opportunity for those in the healthcare industry when it comes to paid search. (Image via Rawpixel)

There’s a huge opportunity for those in the healthcare industry when it comes to paid search. (Image via Rawpixel)

Don’t forget about mobile

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: not being mobile friendly can have serious adverse effects on your digital marketing program. Small Biz Trends reports that 60% of consumers interested in healthcare ads are going to visit the company’s website, and 53% of searches are coming from smartphones (with another 7% from tablets).

You can check to see that all of your landing pages are rendering properly on mobile using Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test Tool. You can even take things a step further by testing out mobile-specific ads and making mobile bid adjustments as needed. 

The takeaway

There’s a huge opportunity for those in the healthcare industry when it comes to paid search. While it’s one of the first places users go, there’s also a ton of information to be found online — with varying degrees of accuracy.

At its root, healthcare searches are about people and their families wanting to get well and stay well. It’s a topic that’s personal and important, no matter the demographic.

Being concise and direct with your ad copy will do wonders to help you cut through the clutter — and competition. As long as you’re thorough, honest, and keep those E-A-T principles in mind, you can be sure your healthcare PPC is slated to succeed.

Looking for more insight on creating strong healthcare paid search campaigns? Let us know!

Caroline Cox

Caroline Cox

Caroline is HawkSEM's content marketing manager. She uses her nearly 10 years of professional writing and editing experience to create SEO-friendly articles, educational thought leadership pieces, and savvy social media content to help market leaders create successful digital marketing strategies. She's a fan of seltzer water, print magazines, and huskies.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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Written by Jane Serra on Feb 12

Get ahead of the competition by optimizing your Google Shopping Ads campaign

Here you’ll find:

  • How Google Shopping Ads works
  • How to target the right keywords
  • The reasons why adding negative keywords is crucial
  • Best practices for optimizing ad images
  • How Showcase Shopping ads can help your brand 

The Google Shopping Ads feature is one of the best ways to get your products noticed. You upload your featured products to the Google Merchant Center, splash in some keywords, and images of your products will start to pop up on a Google search along with their prices.

It may sound simple, but there are a handful of key things you need to know to bring in serious sales using this service. If you want to take your marketing game to the next level, consider these six must-know tips to make Google Shopping Ads work for you.

HawkSEM: 6 Must-Know Tips to Make Google Shopping Ads Work for You

Optimizing the information you submit to Google is the key to getting the best return on investment. (Image via Rawpixel)

How does Google Shopping Ads work?

Before we dive into the tips, Google Shopping Ads – formerly known as AdWords – is a paid search advertising service that is available for e-commerce businesses to use to attract new clients.

This service lets brands set up campaigns based on their budget. Your ad will appear in the search results page with your product, cost information, and product photo when a relevant keyword is used in a search.

This will give you a marketing edge because consumers will see your products at the top of the page. It can also benefit you by pushing competitors farther down the search results page. 

What do I need to know about Google Shopping Ads?

Optimizing the information you submit to Google is the key to getting the best return on investment. Let’s go over these 6 tips.

1. Optimize your data feed

When you log in to your Google Merchant account, you’ll want to ensure that your data feed has the necessary information for your product titles. Descriptions in the product title should include:

  • Brand name
  • Material type
  • Sizes
  • Color
  • Model number

Do some keyword research to make sure you’re using the best keywords in your title descriptions. You can use Google’s keyword tracking tools such as Google Search Console and AdWords Keyword Planner to help with this.

2. Target the right keywords

You’ll want to leverage the same keywords a consumer would type into the Google search bar. For example, if your company sells coconut oil, “coconut oil” as a keyword would be too broad to use. 

Instead, imagine the searcher is looking for more specific information about “coconut oil.” It’s best to use long-tail keywords like “best all-natural coconut oil” or “coconut oil for cooking.” Implementing long-tail keywords gives your product a better chance to reach the right audience.

Being specific is important because you don’t want to waste money serving ads to people who aren’t looking for your exact product. Your coconut oil could be used for cooking, for example, while someone is looking for coconut oil body lotion.

3. Add negative keywords

Adding negative keywords tells the search engine platform that you don’t want your ad to end up in a specific search. Let’s go back to the coconut oil example. 

Refined coconut oil goes through a lot of processing and can be used to make soaps, bath oils, or body moisturizers, while unrefined coconut oil is best for cooking. If you’re selling unrefined coconut oil for cooking, excellent negative keywords you’ll want to add would be “refined coconut oil” or “processed coconut oil.” 

4. Optimize your images

To grab a consumer’s attention, make sure you’re uploading high-quality images to associate with your products. Keep in mind that, per Google, your images need to be under 1024 kilobytes

To get the best images possible, consider using a DSLR camera. These are cameras that provide the most detail and are used by professionals.

 Also, make sure your products are clear with no distractions or busy backgrounds. The most popular look is the product with a white background. Use good lighting and make sure the product is the main focus. 

HawkSEM: 6 Must-Know Tips to Make Google Shopping Ads Work for You

If your products aren’t converting, you may want to consider moving them to a different ad group and lowering your bids. (Image via Unsplash)

5. Focus on your top-selling products

Putting your top-selling products in their own ad group will give you the best chance at finding the right audience. You can track your top-selling products by using Google Analytics. Make your bids are on the higher side for these items for maximum exposure.  

If your products aren’t converting, you may want to consider moving them to a different ad group and lowering your bids. This can help ensure you’re maximizing your marketing budget and not overspending.

6. Use Showcase Shopping ads

The standard option that most businesses use is Product Shopping ads. These are the ads that show up on the top of a search results page. They have a product photo, price, and star reviews all nicely packaged in a small box that consumers can easily click on. 

Another option is Showcase Shopping ads. Showcase Shopping ads give your audience a preview of what your brand is all about. This option lets you feature more than one product. It’s also ideal for broader keyword searches. For example, if you sell summer dresses, you can feature multiple dresses you sell in one ad for that keyword.

The takeaway

The tips we’ve mentioned above are crucial for making your Google Shopping Ads campaign successful. Paid search advertising like Google Shopping Ads help your audience find your products. By following the strategies of keyword targeting, using negative keywords, and image optimization, you’ll be on the right track of making your ads pay off.   

Want to find out how you can optimize your PPC campaigns even further? Let’s talk!

Jane Serra

Jane Serra

Jane Serra is the VP of Marketing at HawkSEM. She's an accomplished marketing executive with more than 12 years of experience leading digital marketing teams across demand generation, branding, events, content, and communications. When she's not strategizing, networking, and honing her craft, she enjoys traveling and scrolling Yelp for new restaurants to try.

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Written by Caroline Cox on Jan 9

Yes, your PPC campaign should have negative keywords — here’s why

Here, you’ll find:

  • How to define negative keywords
  • Tips for building a negative keyword list
  • How negative keywords stack up again standard keywords
  • Negative keyword best practices

Like noodles for spaghetti, sunshine for plants, and gin for martinis, keywords are an essential part of pay-per-click (PPC) campaign success.

Maybe you’ve got a paid search campaign that’s bringing in a ton of leads, but the conversion rate is low, meaning you’re spending precious ad dollars on unqualified clicks. We’ve seen upwards of 90% in wasted ad spend when clients don’t include any negative keywords in their account.

On the other hand, if you feel confident that you’ve selected the right keywords that are hyper-focused on your audience, that’s great! But if you’re not also leveraging negative keywords, you may be missing out on making your PPC campaigns as targeted as they can be.

Taking advantage of negative keywords can do wonders for eliminating window shoppers and bad leads. According to Google, a negative keyword (also known as a negative match) is a keyword type “that prevents your ad from being triggered by a certain word or phrase.”

Meaning: if someone searches for a phrase including a term you’ve deemed a negative keyword, your ads won’t show up. 

Want to make sure you know all the benefits of negative keywords for PPC? Let’s dive in.

HawkSEM: How Negative Keywords Benefit Your PPC Campaigns

When you’re mining your reports for keywords to exclude, you want to include their variations as well. (Image via Unsplash)

Negative keywords vs. standard keywords

Using keyword targeting helps ensure your paid search ad is tailored to your audience. When you’re paying for each individual click, you want those who click your ad to be qualified leads. Negative keywords work the same way, just in the opposite direction.

When you add negative keywords, you’re telling the ad platform (such as Google or Bing) that you don’t want your ad to appear for certain searches. 

If your company makes tasty salsa, for instance, then you may want “salsa” to be one of your keywords. But if someone’s searching online for “salsa dancing” or “salsa lessons,” they’re probably not looking for your product. By adding these as negative keywords, you can filter out people searching with these terms, thus saving you from spending money on bad leads. 

Pro tip: When it comes to queries with more than 10 words in them, negative keywords can’t be applied.

Building your negative keyword list

It’s a good idea to conduct your research the same way you conduct your standard keyword research, particularly before and during a campaign launch. 

Search Engine Watch advises you to start the process by thinking about the types of businesses, products or services that your brand could be mistaken for (like our salsa example above). Next, brainstorm the search terms that might be used to describe those businesses.

There are some terms — like “address,” “free,” and “login” — that you’ll probably want to select as negative keywords right off the bat. After that, you can also refer to your SEO analytics and see what search terms are bringing visitors to your site. Are there any that clearly stand out as negative keywords? Add those to your list. 

The different types of negative keywords

As with standard keywords, there are various types of negative keywords. 

For PPC campaigns, negative keywords can be broad match (keywords that don’t have punctuation around the words), exact match (if the search contains the exact negative keyword you’ve specified, the ad won’t show), or phrase match (meaning your ad won’t show if the exact keyword terms, in that order, are searched). But that doesn’t mean they function in all the same ways.

As of the past few years, “exact match” doesn’t always mean exact for standard keywords. It does, however, when it comes to negative keywords. Google explains that the main difference between these two types is that you need to include variations of these keywords if you want to exclude them. These variations can include:

  • Synonyms
  • Singular or plural versions
  • Misspellings
  • Any other close variations

This is why, when you’re mining reports for keywords to exclude, you want to exclude their variations as well.

Pro tip: When you’re entering your keywords into Google Ads, you can add them at both the ad group and campaign level. For negative keywords, you generally want to apply them to the campaign level, not just the ad group level, so other keywords can trigger that term.

HawkSEM: How Negative Keywords Benefit Your PPC Campaigns

Regularly go into your ads account, head to “search terms” in your Keywords tab, and mark any keywords you see that stand out as being irrelevant. (Image via Unsplash)

Adjust your negative keyword list as needed

Just like your standard keyword list, your negative keyword list shouldn’t remain stagnant. You always want to be optimizing and iterating to make sure your PPC ads are as targeted as possible. 

How often you iterate on your list will depend on various factors, including your campaigns and bandwidth. No matter what “consistent” means for you and your team, it’s a good idea to regularly go into your ads account, head to “search terms” in your Keywords tab, and mark any keywords you see that stand out as being irrelevant.

The takeaway

For all the reasons above, it can be hugely beneficial to add negative keywords to your PPC campaigns. Not only does this help weed out those who aren’t in the market for your product or service, but it saves you money by helping you only pay for clicks that will (hopefully) become customers. 

With a bit of brainstorming and some campaign tweaks, you can be sure that your PPC campaign won’t attract the wrong crowd. 

Want to take your PPC to the next level this year? We can help.

Caroline Cox

Caroline Cox

Caroline is HawkSEM's content marketing manager. She uses her nearly 10 years of professional writing and editing experience to create SEO-friendly articles, educational thought leadership pieces, and savvy social media content to help market leaders create successful digital marketing strategies. She's a fan of seltzer water, print magazines, and huskies.

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Written by Caroline Cox on Dec 17

Digital marketing can get you in front of potential customers, while the right strategy can get them to convert.

Here, you’ll find:

  • How search results affect customer acquisition
  • The organic efforts that can help acquire new leads
  • Effective paid marketing strategies for your business
  • How to ensure your site is set up for optimal acquisition

Marketing pros who aren’t new to the game likely know all about the customer journey. It’s comprised of the stages we base our content, campaigns, and gameplans on: awareness, consideration, and decision. (With delight as the bonus step.) And the customer journey is a crucial element when it comes to acquisition.

Customer acquisition is the process of going from a generated lead to a converted customer — it’s basically the whole funnel (or journey) combined. At the end of the day, marketing is about attracting new customers, and keeping customer acquisition top of mind is how marketers can make that happen.

While there’s no one way to pinpoint and acquire qualified leads that are sure to become customers, there are a handful of digital marketing strategies you can implement with customer acquisition in mind. Here, we’ve mapped out six of our favorites.

HawkSEM: 6 Ways to Leverage Digital Marketing for Customer Acquisition

Companies that use paid search for successful customer acquisition know it’s not only about the ad. (Image via Unsplash)

1. Paid search

Also known as pay per click (PPC), paid search is one of the most effective digital marketing strategies when it comes to customer acquisition. That’s because it allows companies to target their specific audience with the right keywords at the right time.

Paid search ads appear at the top of the search engine results page (SERP) on sites like Google and Bing. If someone’s searching for “women’s black cycling shoes,” for example, and you’re an e-commerce brand selling cycling products (including women’s black cycling shoes), you want your targeted ad to be the one they see. The same goes for brands selling services and other products.

The companies that use paid search for successful customer acquisition know it’s not only about the ad, though. Rather, it’s crucial to pair eye-catching, appealing ad copy with an optimized landing page that boasts consistent verbiage, clean design, and a clear call to action (CTA).

2. Search engine optimization (SEO)

Along with a paid search strategy, having a solid SEO strategy helps your website be more easily recognized by search engines. This helps improve your rankings and, ideally, grow your reach for better customer acquisition.

Proper SEO on your site means having elements including:

  • Unique title tags on your pages
  • High-quality content marketing
  • Internal links and external links (to authoritative sites)
  • A site map
  • Meta descriptions
  • Images with alt tags

Ensuring your site is optimized for search engines won’t automatically get you in the first position (or even the first page) on the SERPs. The search algorithm that determines the best content for each search query is constantly changing, and the details about how search engines determine the best content to show searchers isn’t always clear.

However, by keeping your site up to date, easy to navigate, and educational for prospects and clients, you can position your brand as a thought leader and your site as a valuable resource of information.

3. Social media

When it comes to social media, you’ve got the option to leverage both organic and paid avenues. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that each path can be leveraged in the same way or achieve the same results.

Let’s start with organic social media. The practice of regularly creating social media posts can spread the word about new business offerings or updates, increase your exposure, and even help you go viral (in the good way, ideally).

While organic social posts likely won’t directly result in customer acquisition, they can aid in brand awareness, content sharing, and allow you to highlight the fun side of your brand.

Paid social, on the other hand, can be a powerful tool if wielded properly. When choosing which platforms to advertise on, you should first consider your target audience and the platforms they use most.

From there, you should take advantage of the audience targeting tools most of these platforms have in place, so you can get your content delivered straight to those who need to see it most. Paid social is a great way to meet people where they are in a way that’s nearly seamless.

HawkSEM: 6 Ways to Leverage Digital Marketing for Customer Acquisition

When done right, remarketing is one of the best ways to get past visitors back to your site. (Image via Unsplash)

4. Remarketing

As we’ve touched on before, remarketing can benefit your business in numerous ways. Not only does it keep you top of mind when someone visits your site without making a purchase or requesting a consultation or demo, but it allows you to hyper-focus your ads and ups your chances of turning a lead into a conversion.

Remarketing (also called retargeting) works by leveraging display ads to connect your business with people who have already visited your site or mobile app. The most successful remarketing campaigns aren’t one size fits all, of course — a brand-new site visitor shouldn’t be remarketed the same way as a returning visitor. When done right, it’s one of the best ways to get past visitors back to your site. Bonus: it’s one of the most cost-effective ad strategies around.

5. Content marketing

When people hear “content marketing,” they may automatically think of blogs. And while blogging is a great medium for businesses when it comes to customer acquisition, it can encompass much more. Content can be:

  • Blog posts
  • Videos
  • Guides and e-books
  • Infographics
  • Checklists
  • Downloadable templates
  • Product descriptions
  • Case studies

No matter the content you create, you want to make sure it’s accurate, helpful, and targeted. The more content you create, the more industry topics you can cover, and the more likely you are to be found on SERPs by those in search of what you have to offer.

You can even take things a step further by partnering with another brand on a piece of content, such as an infographic, webinar, or guest blog. This expands your reach, helps you build a professional network, and boosts your credibility as a reliable source.

6. Email newsletters

As Digital Marketing Institute reports, you’re six times more likely to get a click-through from an email campaign than from a tweet. Newsletters can be a powerful acquisition channel if you follow a few key strategies. The most successful newsletters:

  • Include only one main CTA
  • Offer a tactical takeaway (like a pro tip, discount, or statistic)
  • Feature an attention-grabbing subject line
  • Have an easy-to-read template
  • Are optimized for mobile

When you’re looking to build your non-client subscriber list, get creative! You can add exit-intent pop-ups to your site, or include a subscription box in your site’s footer. Offline, you can give people the option to sign up if your brand is posted up in a booth at an industry conference or networking event — a particularly effective strategy if you’re doing a giveaway or contest.

Pro tip: Let your readers help you spread the word! Include social share links as well as forwarding options in your email newsletter to make sharing a breeze.

HawkSEM: 6 Ways to Leverage Digital Marketing for Customer Acquisition

You’re six times more likely to get a click-through from an email campaign than from a tweet. (Image via Unsplash)

The takeaway

Customers are the bread and butter of any business, and digital marketing is one of the most direct ways to connect with your desired prospects.

By knowing your audience, meeting them where they are, and analyzing the data behind your campaigns, you’ll have the tools you need to not only attract more customers, but keep them loyal and happy as well.

We know a thing or two about successful digital marketing here at HawkSEM. Wondering how we can take your ROI to the next level? Let’s talk.

Caroline Cox

Caroline Cox

Caroline is HawkSEM's content marketing manager. She uses her nearly 10 years of professional writing and editing experience to create SEO-friendly articles, educational thought leadership pieces, and savvy social media content to help market leaders create successful digital marketing strategies. She's a fan of seltzer water, print magazines, and huskies.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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Written by Caroline Cox on Nov 22

Pay-per-click (PPC) ads are a highly effective tool for getting your business in front of the right people, at the right time.

Here, you’ll find:

  • What PPC marketing is
  • How to properly manage a PPC campaign
  • What makes PPC ads successful
  • The latest PPC stats

Ah, the ever-changing algorithm. Many a marketer wishes they knew the magic words to instantly land them at the top of search engine results, but we all know it’s not nearly that simple.

And that’s too bad, because we also know that approximately three-fourths of users don’t read past the first page of search results. That’s where pay-per-click (PPC) ads come in.

Also referred to as paid search marketing, PPC marketing falls under the category of search engine marketing. PPC ads are the hyperlinked results at the top of the search engine results page (SERP) above the organic, search engine optimized (SEO) results. They look similar to the organic results, except with a little green box denoting “ad” next to it.

The good news: According to a survey by Clutch, 75% of people say paid search ads make it easier to find the info they’re searching for online.

PPC can be a highly effective tool in your digital marketing arsenal, whether your industry is SaaS, financial services, higher education, insurance, or anything in between. It can help connect you with potential clients through eye-catching copy that provides context and a hyperlink taking them straight to a targeted landing page on your site.

HawkSEM - PPC marketing

PPC ads look similar to organic search results, except with a little box denoting “ad” next to it.

What is PPC marketing?

Paid search and PPC are defined as a type of online advertising that allows marketers to have their brand’s display ads show up on in the sponsored results section of a SERP. And because of the pay-per-click nature of these ads, you only pay when someone actually clicks on your ad.

Getting the clicks — that’s the tricky part. To create the most effective PPC campaigns, you want your ads to appear in front of the right audience searching for the right keywords that makes sense for your product or service.

From there, you place your bid to say how much you think a click is worth. When your ad shows up and gets clicked on, you’re charged a fee (that can vary greatly depending on industry, competition, keywords, quality score, and more).

PPC vs. paid social ads

Social media advertising is a great way to meet your target audience where they are while also subverting pesky platform algorithms that can keep your content from showing up in feeds.

But unlike PPC ads, you pay a flat rate for the ad space — rates don’t change depending on impressions or engagement. This often translates into social ads being more expensive than PPC.

PPC vs. display ads

Display ads are ads that show up on almost every revenue-generating site across the web. These are the ads you see on the top, side, or bottom of website you visit, a mobile app you use, or a video you watch.

Display ads are known for their high visibility rates. Ads created via the Google Display Network reportedly reach more than 90% of people on the Internet. Because of their prevalence, display ads often don’t have as high of a click-through rate (CTR) as PPC ads.

Most often, these ad types are used for branding, so you stay top of mind after someone visits your site, in conjunction with your PPC efforts.

What are the components of a PPC ad?

Let’s start with Google PPC ads. These can contain:

  • 1-3 headlines
  • A display URL
  • A description up to 90 characters long
  • Ad extensions
HawkSEM - PPC marketing

Google allows up to three headlines in a PPC ad.

Headlines

Recently, Google upped the ante by allowing up to three headlines in a PPC ad, separated by a “|” or pipe symbol. Your headlines are where you have the opportunity to catch someone’s attention and highlight a product or service while being direct about what you offer.

When brainstorming PPC ad headlines, consider elements like:

  • Including keywords
  • Highlighting a common problem and/or solution
  • Getting as close to character limits as possible
  • Asking questions
  • Using concise, to-the-point language

Display URL

Your display URL can be your site’s homepage or a simple, clean URL that relates to the keywords and ad copy (such as hawksem.com/ppc). This clean display URL is simply what appears to users within your ad.

Ideally, though, the URL links to a targeted landing page on your site. The landing page should closely match with the look, feel, and verbiage of the ad, with a clearly defined CTA so the person knows what action to take next.

For example, if HawkSEM was creating a PPC ad that offered a free PPC audit, the display URL could be something like hawksem.com/free-ppc-audit. This way the offer is clearly matched with the ad itself. The link might then route to a more complex URL like hawksem.com/ppc-audit/?utm_source=ppc&utm_medium=google-ads&utm_campaign=ppc-audit for tracking purposes.

Descriptions

You’ve got a limited number of characters to work with for your PPC ad’s description — make them count! Your description should speak specifically to your target audience, highlight benefits for them (vs. just talking about how great your offering is), and have a strong call to action (CTA).

Descriptions are most effective when they’re tangible, i.e. offering “25% off” instead of simply saying “we’re the best!” Plus, Google now allows for 2 descriptions, doubling your character count to 180.

Ad extensions

Ad extensions are no-cost additional lines of text that can help improve your CTR by adding more info and context to your ad (as well as more real estate on the SERP). As Google explains, ad extensions can include:

  • More text
  • Call buttons
  • Location info
  • Additional links to your website
  • Star ratings

Your extensions aren’t guaranteed to show up with your ad, but if your ranking is high enough and the extension is likely to improve performance, it will.

Suspect your PPC program might be broken? We’ve got a guide for that.

What are Microsoft Advertising PPC ads?

HawkSEM - PPC marketing

Microsoft Advertising PPC ads (formerly known as Bing ads) function and look similar to Google Ads.

Microsoft Advertising PPC ads (formerly known as Bing ads) function and look similar to Google Ads. They feature the “ad” box next to the result, and include a headline, URL, and description. As you can see above, some ads include additional links and descriptions as well.

HawkSEM - PPC marketing

Shopping ads are more visual, often leading to a higher CTR than plain-text ads.

What are shopping PPC ads?

For e-commerce brands and those who sell products online, shopping ads can be a great way to get someone to “add to cart.” Shopping ads are more visual, often leading to a higher CTR than plain-text ads.

Shopping ads are automated based on data you send to the search engines. That’s why it’s crucial to fully optimize the product pages on your website. To set up your product to be included in the results feed, you’ve got to format your product information to be compatible with the Shopping feed’s ad platform.

Once you submit your product data to the search engine in the proper format, you’ll be primed to show up on the SERP’s ad section. The approval process can take 24-72 hours. Merchant centers for Google and Bing have their own breakdowns to ensure you’re following the proper steps.

What are some stats on PPC marketing?

  • One-third (33%) of respondents in a Clutch survey said they click on a paid search ad because it directly answers their search query.
  • The first PPC ad spaces were reportedly created in 1996 by Planet Oasis and Google as a research project at Stanford University.
  • Microsoft’s search network Bing attracts 116 million unique desktop searchers a year.
  • Between 40 and 60 billion Google searches take place each month in the U.S.
  • In 2018, Google ad spending grew by 23%.
  • Bing users spend 35% more online when shopping from their desktop computers than average internet searchers.
  • People are most likely to click on text paid search ads (49%) vs. shopping or product listing ads (31%) and video ads (16%).
  • Sponsored ads account for 2 out of 3 clicks on the first page of Google results.

What are the benefits of creating PPC marketing ads?

With PPC marketing ads, you don’t have to fight against the algorithm to show up at the top of a SERP listing. These ads put your business in front of the right people at the right time — when they’re searching for something similar to have you have to offer.

Gone are the days of buying ads and crossing your fingers that they’re seen by enough interested people to be worth their price. By using keyword planner tools to target your audience by preference, region, and more — only paying for the clicks you actually get — you have much greater chances of turning that click into a successful conversion.

HawkSEM - PPC marketing

It’s up to you to determine the amount you’re willing to pay when someone clicks your ad. Essentially, you’re deciding how much each click is worth.

How does bidding work?

You likely know how auctions work — there’s an item (or, in this case, a rank placement), and different people try to outbid each other to be the one who scores.

That’s how PPC bidding works, more or less. When someone enters a query into their chosen search engine, there’s an auction. The built-in algorithm picks what they determine as the most relevant paid and organic search results, and that’s what the user sees.

It’s up to you to determine the amount you’re willing to pay when someone clicks your ad. Essentially, you’re deciding how much each click is worth. What makes this tricky is that, unlike in a public auction, you don’t know how much your competitors are bidding on each keyword compared to yours.

If another advertiser outbids you, their ad is the one that’ll get shown. If you bid too high, you may get more clicks, but you can also go through your budget in a snap. To find the happy medium, it takes time and attention, whether that means you, a team member, or a digital marketing agency.

Keep an eye on your click volume and the types of clicks you’re getting — are they qualified leads or are they junk? These insights will help you modify both your bidding and your ad content accordingly.

What is a quality score?

Along with your bid, your quality score also factors into your ad ranking. Google decides on your overall quality score (on a scale from 1, which is not great, to 10, which is excellent).

This can be viewed in the keywords section of your Google Ads account. The better your quality score, the more you’ll rise through the ranks of results and the better cost-per-click (CPC) rate you’re likely to get.

HawkSEM - PPC marketing

Your PPC ad’s ranking at the top of a SERP depends on factors like the keywords you’re bidding on, the competition for those keywords, your bid amount, and your quality score.

What affects an ad’s ranking?

Your PPC marketing ad’s ranking at the top of a SERP depends on a few factors. These include which keywords you’re bidding on, the amount of competition for those keywords, the amount of your bid, and your quality score.

The formula looks something like this:

The ad ranked below you
———————————- + $0.01 = actual CPC
Your quality score

The higher your ranking, the greater your chances are of getting a click — pretty simple. If you want to up your ranking without increasing your spending, make sure your ads are compelling, accurate, and in line with the hyper-focused landing pages connected to them.

You also want to be mindful of who you’re targeting, when you’re targeting them, and where you’re targeting (from region to the search engine itself).

What is PPC lead scoring?

Generating leads is one thing — but knowing the value of the leads being generated is another altogether. When you know the true value of the leads coming in through lead scoring, you can better prioritize and iterate your PPC marketing strategies. This helps you drive more of the kind of leads you want in the future.

You can determine your lead value by setting up a lead-scoring system that connects your quality leads to the amount spent on each lead.

ValueTrack parameters can be added to landing page URLs that gather info about who is clicking your ads. From there, you can pull this PPC marketing campaign data into your CRM to connect with lifetime value and lead score. This helps determine which campaigns are driving the best leads and value (and it’s part of ConversionIQ, our smart approach to marketing).

Armed with this info, you can better analyze your PPC campaigns and keywords to maximize your ROI.

How do you calculate PPC marketing ROI?

Put simply, you can calculate revenue per lead using the following formula:

Total Revenue Generated / Total Number of Leads = Average Revenue Per Lead

However, this doesn’t paint the whole picture. There are other factors at play as well, including your average sales cycle length, site traffic, customer relationship management (CRM) data, and lead scoring to determine your high-quality leads.

Ensure you’re properly measuring your PPC ROI by:

  • Setting up lead scoring
  • Tracking your leads and conversions properly
  • Adding in subjective data regarding experiences with the lead
  • Calculating anticipated ROI before anticipated site traffic

How can you optimize your search engine marketing (SEM) plan for PPC success?

You can have the best PPC ads around — but if the rest of your online presence is lackluster, you still risk those clicks turning into dead ends instead of closed deals.

Take another look at your SEM program. Are you leveraging the right keywords? Have you planned out your ROI goals? Is your site fully optimized? Being able to answer “yes” to all of these questions will give you and your team the peace of mind that you’re doing all you can when it comes to search engine marketing.

Plenty of companies make the mistake of letting conversion tracking fall by the wayside. Some set it up improperly, and some aren’t tracking this at all. Conversion tracking is crucial for giving you insight into performance while providing you with insightful data about customer actions.

A step-by-step plan for an ROI-driven PPC campaign

Think you’ve got the ROI-driven PPC thing down? Make sure you’re taking all of these steps when crafting your campaign:

  • Determine your campaign’s goals
  • Identify, prioritize, and categorize the right keywords for your campaign
  • Write out your ad copy
  • Set up your ads within your chosen ad platform
  • Determine the desired CTA
  • Make sure your landing pages are targeted, consistent, and optimized
  • Have tracking set up (properly! More than 70% of our PPC audits turn up incorrect or with improper tracking.)

How to find the right PPC agency for you

Whether you’re not seeing the PPC results you want or just don’t have the time and resources to manage it all, partnering with an agency can be hugely beneficial. (OK, so maybe we’re a little biased.)

When you’re vetting out the agencies you potentially want to work with, it’s a good idea to prepare by:

  • Having a list of goals and objectives
  • Deciding which services you need
  • Having a budget in mind
  • Determine your key performance indicators (KPIs)

Once you decide which agencies you want to actually connect with in-person or via phone, make sure you get an understanding of their fee structure, company culture, and communication style. You also want to make sure the team you’re working with is knowledgeable and experienced. (Think all PPC agencies are the same? Think again.)

The takeaway

PPC ads have proven to be a way to reach your targeted audience and turn search engine users into customers. Not only can paid search ads boost awareness of your brand by 80%, but they can expand your reach, bring you more traffic, and, ultimately, make you more money.

Ready to take your PPC game to the next level? Let’s chat.

Caroline Cox

Caroline Cox

Caroline is HawkSEM's content marketing manager. She uses her nearly 10 years of professional writing and editing experience to create SEO-friendly articles, educational thought leadership pieces, and savvy social media content to help market leaders create successful digital marketing strategies. She's a fan of seltzer water, print magazines, and huskies.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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Written by Caroline Cox on Oct 31

Managing your pay-per-click program shouldn’t feel like you’re wandering in a haunted house. 

Here, you’ll find:

  • A few of the most common PPC problems
  • Actionable solutions that’ll help you overcome these problems
  • Pro tips to boost your PPC program

Ghouls, monsters, zombies, and an underperforming PPC campaign — scary stuff, right?

When it comes to paid search, it can be easy to spend your whole budget and still get underwhelming results. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

We’ve highlighted 4 common PPC problems, complete with solutions that can help turn things around. Just beware: there’s spooky stuff ahead.

HawkSEM blog: 4 Common PPC Problems — And How to Fix Them

Create ads that match your keywords closely to create more detailed reporting and become that much more likely to attract qualified leads. (Image via Unsplash)

PPC Problem #1: You’re driving traffic, but not conversions

So you’ve decided on the copy, finalized the design, organized your campaigns, and launched your ads. Now, you’re seeing traffic numbers go up — that’s great! But conversions are another story.

Traffic is one thing, but if you’re not seeing conversions, something is amiss. So, what gives? It may be a matter of where you’re sending that traffic on your site.

Solution: Create optimized landing pages

If your ads send leads to your homepage, you’re not making the best use of your traffic. When people click your ads and land on your homepage, it’s not always clear where they should go or what they should do next.

By sending this traffic to optimized landing pages instead, you can deliver a minimalist visual experience with a clear message that makes it easy for your leads to know exactly what action they should take. You can even tailor these various landing pages to different audience segments and speak directly to them.

Properly optimized landing pages have elements like:

  • Consistent verbiage with their corresponding ads
  • A clear CTA
  • A mobile-friendly format
  • Easy shareability

PPC Problem #2: Your leads aren’t qualified

Sure, it’s great to have a large influx of leads coming your way. But if, upon closer inspection, the bulk of your leads aren’t qualified, you’re using up time and money that could be better spent elsewhere. 

By not taking advantage of all of the keyword and targeting strategies at your disposal (like using too many overly broad keywords and not leveraging retargeting and negative keywords) you risk having a high volume of leads that don’t actually translate into sales.

Solution: Revisit your targeting strategy

It may be time to look into the audiences you’re currently targeting. Where are they in your buyer’s journey? By targeting your prospects who are further down the funnel and closer to the decision-making stage, you can create hyper-focused campaigns that’ll increase your odds of converting them into closed business.

It’s also a good time to look into single keyword ad groups (SKAGs). Experts define SKAGs as ad groups designed with a one-to-one relationship between the root keyword and the ad. These groups can include multiple variations and long-tail keywords. 

By creating ads that match your keywords closely, you can pull more detailed reports and become that much more likely to attract qualified leads. 

Pro tip: While most brands know about targeting on social media platforms, don’t forget about Google and Bing audience targeting, too. When it comes to leads, it’s a game of quality over quantity. 

PPC Problem #3: Your PPC program relies too heavily on automation

Automation can be great for time-saving and repetitive manual tasks. But being too hands-off with your PPC program can have drawbacks.

This can result in underperformance along with a lack of understanding about what’s going right and what needs attention. When you opt for the “set it and forget it” model, you risk wasted spend and losing control of the whole operation.

Solution: Keep the human element intact

At its core, marketing is about connecting with people. Because of this, it’s essential that you keep the human element at the core of any marketing strategy or initiative.

Leveraging tools to make your job easier is a win, but they work best when paired with a hands-on approach. This means taking the time to understand your audience (in a way no algorithm can), revisiting your goals, and iterating when necessary. By continuing to test, track, and reconfigure your PPC program, you’ll land on the combination that works best for your company — with or without automation.

Pro tip: If this all sounds overwhelming or like something you simply don’t have time for, consider partnering with a digital marketing agency focused on ROI. They can identify your company’s strengths and weaknesses, put the right systems in place, and help you start to see those numbers heading in a more pleasing direction. 

HawkSEM blog: 4 Scary PPC Problems (And How to Fix Them)

It’s easy to spend your budget in a flash when you’re managing PPC campaigns. (Image via Unsplash)

PPC Problem #4: You’re not sticking to your budget

When you’re managing PPC campaigns, it can be easy to go through your allotted budget in a snap. But, as we said above, if your campaigns are bringing you a high volume of leads without resulting in substantial ROI, then there’s work to be done.

But, wait! Don’t throw more money into Google Ads to try to boost profits and fix your wasted ad spend issue just yet. Alternatively, you don’t need to necessarily modify your budget just because you’re consistently underspending and not hitting your budget. 

Solution: Identify your “money keywords”

We’re all about money keywords — the keywords that bring you the most PPC ROI. By zooming in on the right data, you can get a better idea of your money keywords and the ones that can be scrapped.

First, check out your PPC performance over the last 3-4 months (as long as your current strategy has been in place at least that long).

Go into your Google Ads account in the Keywords tab. Next, then identify all the keywords that haven’t produced any conversions during those months (you can organize this info in a spreadsheet or PivotTable) and dump them. It’s worth noting here that brand keywords are a different story, as these can help boost your quality score, even if they don’t result in conversions.

At the end of the day, it’s not all about clicks and traffic, both of which may decrease after you eliminate those keywords. Look at which ones are driving the best lifetime value (LTV), then put as much of your budget as you can towards your money keywords. 

Pro tip: If you’re not hitting budget, increasing your cost-per-click (CPC) bid limit and expanding your audience location can help. By creating a simple budget tracker that includes things like your overall budget, average spend rates, and actual monthly spend rates, you can get a firmer grasp on where you are and where you want your program to be. 

Your paid search strategy shouldn’t be a mystery, and it shouldn’t feel like you’re simply throwing ideas at the wall and seeing what sticks. By identifying your PPC problems and arming yourself with the solutions, you can turn a broken program into a high-performing strategy that yields big results.

Caroline Cox

Caroline Cox

Caroline is HawkSEM's content marketing manager. She uses her nearly 10 years of professional writing and editing experience to create SEO-friendly articles, educational thought leadership pieces, and savvy social media content to help market leaders create successful digital marketing strategies. She's a fan of seltzer water, print magazines, and huskies.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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