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Written by Steve Dang on Mar 2 , 2021

Check off these boxes to ensure your PPC marketing strategies are on the right track for your SaaS brand.

Here, you’ll find:

  • Dos and don’ts when it comes to PPC for SaaS brands
  • How to make your assets work for you
  • Why retargeting (the right way) is key
  • Tips for optimizing your SaaS landing pages

Software-as-a-service (SaaS) companies have always faced a unique set of marketing obstacles, with long sales cycles and an emphasis on demos. Then 2020 happened, and things got even more difficult.

Many businesses had to make major shifts in their strategies and operations. The sudden changes in routines affected everything, including digital marketing. 

While website traffic and searches experienced a surge, the competition and cost of paid ads took a downward trend, according to Search Engine Watch. In 2021, customer wants and needs are still changing. Luckily, most SaaS teams are more than familiar with ever-changing goal posts.

As one of the most effective digital marketing tactics in terms of ROI, pay-per-click (also known as PPC or paid search) ads can help ensure your SaaS company is set up to weather the next unexpected storm. 

Here are 12 ways you can make PPC work for your SaaS brand.

1. Focus on credibility to convert visitors to leads

It’s especially key for SaaS brands to establish credibility from the beginning. If people are finding you through a search engine, they may not be acquainted with your company. (Unless they’re searching through a brand term, of course).

You want to make it clear that your company is legit right off the bat. One effective way of doing this is by aligning your brand with well-known clients.

If you have Fortune 500 clients in your roster, explore how you could leverage that through marketing, such as including their logos on your landing page (with permission). 

Even better: Create a case study that highlights your partnership with that brand and how they found success through working with you. This establishes credibility and helps people understand your offering on a deeper level.

HawkSEM: PPC Tips for SaaS Brands

OverOps uses brand logos and testimonials to illustrate their credibility.

You can also establish credibility through showcasing:

  • Awards
  • Press mentions
  • Client testimonials
  • Seller ratings

2. Always qualify your leads

Plenty of SaaS brands think they’re covering all the bases. They’ve got a customer relationship management (CRM) tool in place, and they properly store and track their leads. But if you’re not following up on those leads and taking advantage of lead scoring, you could miss out on helpful insights. 

There are two ways to score leads. The first is quantitative, which scores leads from 1 to 10, zero to 100, or something in between, depending on how granular you want to get. The other way is qualitative. For this, you can score with metrics like low, medium, or high probability. (Here’s how to use lead scoring in Salesforce.)

Once you decide how to score your leads, the next step is to optimize your campaigns for qualified leads. You don’t want to fall into the trap of seeing the conversion data inside of Google Analytics and simply optimizing for those conversions. 

Once you score your leads, it’s wise to connect them back to the originating campaigns, ad groups, keywords, segments, and devices. It’s tempting to rely on intuition when you’re optimizing campaigns, but the data won’t steer you wrong.

3. Know how to properly use CLV

Many SaaS marketing agencies focus a ton on lead volume. But, especially with the longer sales cycles that tend to come with SaaS, it’s also crucial to calculate customer lifetime value (CLV or LTV). This figure can be used to make critical decisions, such as how much you pay for user acquisition and how your target through paid search ads. 

HubSpot explains you can determine lifetime value by calculating the average purchase value, average purchase frequency rate, customer value, and average customer lifespan. Ultimately, multiplying customer value by the average customer lifespan should give you your CLV.

Once you have an accurate number, compare that with your customer acquisition cost (CAC) to make sure you’re getting the ROI you want. 

4. Understand what constitutes quality conversions

Speaking of CLV, your goal should always be to create clients for life. The more clients you keep, the less it’ll cost you (no surprise there). Plus, an increase in client volume coupled with a decrease in cost per acquisition (CPA) can save you serious money.

This mindset can help you market with the long game in mind. Big players and key clients will sometimes visit your website or contact you with questions multiple times before making a purchase, but that type of client can be more lucrative in the long run. 

SaaS PPC

Sometimes all you need is a display campaign targeted to a very narrow audience to start attracting the right kind of clients. (Image via Unsplash)

5. Put your best foot forward with landing pages

For SaaS companies in particular, your landing page is often the first step of the buyer’s journey for potential customers. So, it’s wise to prioritize ensuring your landing pages are as compelling and effective as possible.

As a guiding principle, make sure your landing page has a clear purpose. Each page element should work together to get the user to convert by filling out a form or performing some other desired call to action (CTA). You also want to entice visitors to scroll down through the entire page, if applicable, so the page shouldn’t be too long.

Extra features, like a chatbot, can also be quite useful in a landing page. They allow you to engage with your audience, reduce your bounce rate, and get a conversation started right then and there. You can also address any particular pain points they might have while the lead is warm.

Pro tip: Don’t let your landing pages go stale. You should consistently be testing them and optimizing accordingly.

6. Study your ideal client and current clients

If your search engine marketing (SEM) strategy is underperforming, you may have misread what matters to your target audience. Especially for technical and niche businesses, keyword targeting is crucial.

Due to the hyper-focused nature of the lingo in some of these industries, one keyword may have multiple meanings, some of which may not apply to your business. (For example, event planning software for businesses offers something different than a ticketed event platform). It can be helpful to go back through and make some of the following changes:

  • Adjust display times
  • Switch up keywords
  • Refresh your ad copy
  • Tailor by language and location
  • Add negative keywords to your campaigns

Sometimes all you need is a display campaign targeted to a very narrow audience to start attracting the right kind of clients. When you choose to go this route, however, pick your placements carefully and make sure they’re on relevant sites.

7. Nurture cross-channel alignment

Another common issue we see when it comes to PPC for SaaS is that various channels are too siloed and separate. This can result in miscommunication, unnecessary or repetitive efforts, and missed opportunities.

Synchronizing your channels can keep everyone working towards the same goal with a cohesive vision. When aligning on an element like your copy, you’ll know that you’re speaking to your target audience with a consistent voice and tone, whether it’s a followup email or a landing page.

Remedying this issue can be as simple as a weekly video sync or phone call with all the necessary team members to review and discuss current projects.

8. Take advantage of long-tail keywords

When it comes to paid search marketing, longer search terms often mean higher intent. Think of it this way: someone searches “blender,” and someone else searches “Vitamix black 5200 standard high performance blender.” Who do you think is more inclined to make a purchase?

The same concept can be applied to PPC for SaaS. Going after more relevant long-tail keywords targets those with higher intent and snags those potentially in the “research” stage of the funnel, which can be just as valuable.

Long-tail keywords are effective for SaaS brands because they help bring in better leads with PPC campaigns. This often results in more affordable leads that are highly qualified.

In the SaaS space, keeping low acquisition costs and sticking to budget are often major concerns. Focusing on long-tail keywords is a way to achieve desired results with these concerns in mind. To find the right long-tail keywords for your company:

  • Know your unique selling proposition and use that information in your keywords to highlight what makes you stand out 
  • Conduct keyword research to ensure your long-tail keywords are the same words customer would use in a query
  • Use keyword research tools to find ideal long-tail keywords for your market
  • Never use long-tail keywords that aren’t a good fit for your software or product, regardless of how easy they may be to rank for
  • Include questions in your long-tail keywords

9. Leverage all of your assets

It’s common for companies to generate a hefty amount of assets in their lifetime. But what good are assets that get lost in the shuffle or can’t easily be found?

SaaS marketing relies heavily on audience education — assets play a key part in that. In the past, keeping premium content gated was the best practice. Nowadays, it’s better to keep this content ungated to improve the chances of converting the lead instead of, as Search Engine Stream explains, possibly increasing your website’s bounce rates.

Whitepapers, insightful research, templates, and other similar content are excellent assets to educate and nurture your audience. Plus, having assets covering each buyer’s journey stage is an easy way to target the right person with the right content at the right time.

Pro tip: Keep your assets organized in a spreadsheet — preferably a cloud-based doc that your team can access, such as Google Sheets. It can include things like links to each piece, what stage of the buyer’s journey it addresses, and the type of content it is.

10. Avoid ad fatigue

With the lengthy sales cycle for SaaS brands, you can almost bet that leads will see the same ads over and over as they perform similar searches during their “research” phase. Eventually, this can cause ad fatigue with your target audience, and they may begin to ignore the ads.

This not only hurts your click-through rates and results in higher PPC costs, but it can also reduce the chances of a lead coming back to you when they’re ready to purchase. 

The best way to avoid ad fatigue is to cycle out ads regularly. Changing out your ads every month or so will likely result in better campaign and conversion results. 

11. Look beyond Google Ads

While Google is a major player in the search engine game, others, like Microsoft’s Bing, shouldn’t be ignored. 

Microsoft Advertising makes it easy to export your Google Ads campaigns to their platform. Plus, you could see even better results with a lower average cost per click (CPC) and have your ad spend budget go further. Depending on your target audience, you may find less competition on the Microsoft Ad platform, which includes those searching on the Bing, Yahoo, and AOL platforms. 

12. Consider retargeting

When it comes to PPC for Saas, retargeting can be a game-changer. This type of ad connects your SaaS offering with people who have already visited your site or mobile app. 

Google Ads is set up so that the default audience is generally set at 30 days. But this is often not enough time for the SaaS sales cycle, which can end up being three or six months out.

Once you determine a rough estimate for how many days it takes your leads to convert, you can tailor your campaigns accordingly, as long as it follows the platforms’ rules and is within the maximum membership duration. 

A lot of educating can take place during the buyer’s journey. If you’re serving white papers or other content campaigns that last longer than 30 days, your retargeting should do the same.

Lastly, don’t just retarget your entire audience. Make sure different audiences are getting different tailored messages when possible.

Pro tip: Platforms like Google, Facebook, and LinkedIn all have their own retargeting tags, so make sure you’re placing each retargeting tag properly.

Speaking of LinkedIn, here’s a bonus video tip taken from our webinar all about PPC for SaaS:

 

 

 

The takeaway

PPC for SaaS brands often isn’t a straight-line path from A to B. Rather, it’s about different campaign types working together, nurturing your audience with education, and serving up various resources that ultimately get them to convert. 

As you talk through your digital marketing goals and strategies, you may find that a SaaS marketing agency is what you need to take your program to the next level and leverage ideas you might not have thought of before. 

Whether you partner with pros or keep things in-house, the above best practices will set you up to craft winning paid search campaigns for your SaaS company. Want even more PPC for SaaS tips? Check out this webinar recording.

This post has been updated and was originally published in August 2019.

Steve Dang

Steve Dang

    Steve Dang is Director of Digital Marketing & Strategy at HawkSEM. He's got more than 10 years of experience leading digital teams and revenue growth, working with clients in SaaS, FinTech, E-commerce, higher education, financial services, and more. In his spare time, Steve enjoys long runs, long swims, and long books.

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    Written by Caroline Cox on Jan 19 , 2021

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

    Here, you’ll find:

    • What defines a negative keyword
    • How negative keywords differ from standard keywords
    • Tips for building a negative keyword list
    • Best practices for these keyword types

    Like noodles for spaghetti, sunshine for plants, and gin for martinis, keywords are an essential part of pay-per-click (PPC) campaign success. The trick lies in understanding how best to deal with them so that everything runs smoothly.

    Maybe your paid search campaign brings in a ton of leads, but the conversion rate is low, meaning you’re spending precious ad dollars on unqualified clicks. Even with an otherwise stellar PPC strategy, ignoring negative keywords could waste a huge chunk of your budget. 

    That’s because you could be getting clicks meant for similar-sounding, but ultimately unrelated keywords. We’ve seen upwards of 90% in wasted ad spend when clients don’t include any negative keywords in their account.

    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.

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

    What are negative keywords?

    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. 

    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

    Keyword targeting helps ensure your paid search ad is tailored to your audience. When you pay for each individual click, you want as many clicks as possible to be from qualified leads. Negative keywords work the same way, just in the opposite direction.

    When you add negative keywords, ad platforms (such as Google or Microsoft Advertising) know that you don’t want your ad to appear for searches containing those words.

    If your company makes salsa, for instance, then you may want “salsa” to be one of your keywords. But if someone searches 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 and save money on bad leads.

    Pro tip: Negative keywords only apply to the first 16 words in a search query. So, when it comes to especially long queries, negative keywords after the 16th word won’t trigger the filter and your ad may still appear.

    How to build your negative keyword list

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

    There are some terms — like “address,” “free,” and “login” — that you’ll probably want to select right off the bat. Google suggests using your search term reports to look for terms that only seem relevant. Are there any that clearly stand out as negative keywords? Add those to your list.

    However, before using search term reports, start by thinking about the types of businesses, products, or services that your brand could be mistaken for (like the salsa example above). Then, brainstorm the search terms that might be used to describe them.

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

    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 surrounding punctuation (there’s no negative broad match modifier match type)
    • Exact match – If the search contains the exact negative keyword you’ve specified, the ad won’t appear
    • Phrase match – Your ad won’t come up 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, we’ve seen that “exact match” doesn’t always mean exact for standard keywords. It does, however, when it comes to negative ones. 

    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

    When you mine reports for keywords to exclude, it’s wise to exclude their variations as well.

    Pro tip: When you enter 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 exclude 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 list shouldn’t remain stagnant. You should consistently recheck and optimize it to make sure your PPC ads are as targeted as possible.

    How often you go over your list will depend on various factors, including your campaigns and bandwidth. No matter what “consistent” means for you and your team, make a recurring reminder to go into your ads account and head to “search terms” in your Keywords tab to mark any keywords you see that stand out as irrelevant.

    In January 2021, Google made it easier to manage negative keyword lists. Google Ads users can now add a new column to view, filter, and edit negative keyword lists applied to campaigns.

    Pro tip: When it comes to symbols, Google allows for ampersands (&), accent marks (á), and asterisks (*) in your negative keywords. As such, keywords with and without these symbols will be considered two different negative keywords — think Beyonce as a different keyword than Beyoncé or “black & white” vs. “black and white.”

    The takeaway

    As you can see, there are many potential benefits to adding 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 because you only pay for clicks that will (hopefully) become customers.

    While you don’t want to overdo it on the keyword exclusions, with a bit of brainstorming and some campaign tweaks, you can be sure that your PPC campaign won’t attract the wrong crowd.

    This article has been updated and was originally published in January 2020.

    Caroline Cox

    Caroline Cox

    Caroline is HawkSEM's content marketing manager. She uses her more than 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 Sam Yadegar on Jan 4 , 2021

    Companies all over the world have to adjust to the new reality — which could mean rethinking current search engine marketing (SEM) strategies.

    Here you’ll learn:

    • What Google has in store for search in 2021
    • Which new tools could enhance your SEM
    • The latest standout SEM trends
    • Tips for adjusting your campaigns in the new year

    For most businesses, 2020 was a doozy. Between unpredictable sales and changes in customer behavior, many are still working on getting back to normal — the “new normal,” that is.

    Meanwhile, the SEM landscape continues changing faster than you can flip calendar pages. Whether you’ve already finalized your marketing plans for 2021 or are scrambling to make it happen now, this is a great time to make sure your paid search plans are set up for success in the new year.

    Below, we offer some ways to do just that.

    1. Keep Google’s novelties in mind

    Despite pandemic news and a holiday season unlike any other, Google continued updating its algorithms and policies. (Case in point: Their December 2020 core update.) 

    Here are three planned Google updates that could have a significant impact on your marketing tactics and budget in 2021:

    Mobile-first indexing

    In March 2021, Google will fully switch to mobile-first indexing. This means that the search engine will look primarily at the information from the mobile version of your website when determining ranking. If you haven’t taken the steps to ensure your site is as mobile-friendly as possible, let this be the push you need to do so.

    Core Web Vitals

    In May 2021, Google will put new emphasis on page experience through the implementation of Core Web Vitals. With this rollout, some parameters will become significant ranking signals, such as:

    • Page loading time – loading time must be under 2.5 seconds.
    • Interactivity – the website should respond to the user’s actions in under 100 milliseconds.
    • Visual stability – the website should maintain a cumulative layout shift of less than 0.1.

    Core Web Vitals means marketers will need to pay special attention to improving user experience (UX) on websites to match Google’s requirements. (However, because UX is already a priority for most brands, this shouldn’t be too big of a change-up.)

    Third-party cookie phase-out

    In January 2020, Google announced its plans to phase out third-party cookies (which have been used in marketing to track, monitor and analyze a site visitor’s behavior) on Chrome by 2022. It’s a move to quell growing online privacy concerns, with cookies slated to be replaced by “browser-based tools and techniques aimed at balancing personalization and privacy,” according to Marketing Land. 

    This could affect your marketing strategies if you leverage advanced retargeting or remarketing tactics. The good news is that you have an entire year to learn how to pivot from relying on third-party cookies.

    hawksem: sem campaigns 2020 article

    As far as content types go, you can’t get much better than articles and other materials that aim to educate your audience. (Image via Unsplash)

    2. Get familiar with Google Analytics 4

    Google is constantly perfecting its tools. One prime example of this is its new and improved analysis platform, Google Analytics 4. Launched in October 2020, this machine learning-driven program can help you get more nuanced insights into customers’ behavior.

    New features also include the ability to track users across different platforms, improve audience segmentation in Google Ads, and much more. Exploring this new opportunity as soon as possible can help you gain a competitive edge and streamline your 2021 SEM campaign.

    3. Beef up your educational content

    As far as content types go, you can’t get much better than articles and other materials that aim to educate your audience. People love this kind of content because it provides a service and (ideally) helps them solve a problem or glean new information without having to make a purchase. 

    With millions of people changing up their employment status in 2020, the need for educational content is on the rise. In fact, consumers are 131% more likely to buy a product after reading educational content, according to a recent study.

    This content is a great incentive to include on a landing page in exchange for a user’s contact info. The time and money you invest in the educational content right now can bring impressive results in the future.

    4. Explore paid social advertising

    When the pandemic moved millions of people to fully working, shopping, and seeking entertainment online in 2020, the number of active users across social media platforms increased dramatically.

    The proof is in the data. Instagram now has over 1 billion monthly active users (that’s up from 500 million in 2019). Meanwhile, TikTok has more than 650 million monthly active users (up from 500 million in 2019).

    Because of this, 2021 could be a great time to invest in paid social strategies. Social media ads are generally more affordable than other digital ad types, making them a smart diversification tactic. Depending on where your target audience is most active, you could explore ads on platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest

    hawksem: sem campaign article 2021

    Right now, many people are rethinking their values, habits, and where they invest their time. (Image via Rawpixel)

    5. Reevaluate your SEM campaign budget

    Since the demand for products shifted more towards essential goods in 2020, it may be a good idea to reevaluate your PPC campaign budget as things go on the upswing. 

    A good plan of action: Single out the highest performing ads and keywords, then channel more of your PPC budget to support them. To pace your campaign spend better, you may consider such settings as lifetime spend or monthly spend limits instead of daily budgets.

    6. Keep a handle on security

    A crisis can create fertile ground for all kinds of fraudulent activity. Criminals across the globe create malware and use names of famous brands to offer fake discounts while phishing for sensitive information. 

    Almost 200,000 coronavirus-related cyber-attacks occurred every week in 2020. Protect your information (and that of your customer’s) with tactics like:

    • Monitoring your log files for crawl errors to reveal if spambots are trying to access your website
    • Implementing Single Sign-On (SSO) technology for user authentication
    • Checking to see if the website is secured with a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate
    • Reviewing all your SEO add-ons and plugins for security, stability, and updates

    The takeaway

    There’s no arguing that 2020 was a chaotic year across the globe. But amid a crisis, there are almost always lessons to be learned. 

    The last year taught many of us new aspects of flexibility, adaptability, and survival. In 2021, the pandemic is still likely to affect some of your marketing efforts. Thankfully, this time, you can be much more prepared. By thoughtfully preparing now, you can streamline your 2021 SEM campaigns for whatever comes next. 

    This article has been updated and was originally published in June 2020.

    Sam Yadegar

    Sam Yadegar

    Sam Yadegar is the co-founder and CEO of HawkSEM. Starting out as a software engineer, his penchant for solving problems quickly led him to the digital marketing world, where he has been helping clients for over 12 years. He loves doing everything he can to help brands "crush it" through ROI-driven digital marketing programs. He's also a fan of basketball and spending time with his family.

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    Written by Caroline Cox on Dec 14 , 2020

    Is a competitor showing up for your company name on the SERP? Here’s what to do.

    Here, you’ll find:

    • What happens when you see a competitor using your name in a Google ad
    • Advice for dealing with competitors using your name
    • What to know about competitors bidding on your brand name
    • Expert insights on trying this tactic yourself

    Seeing your competitor’s brand name on the search engine results page (SERP) is never a great feeling. But an even worse feeling? When they’re showing after someone searches for your company’s name.

    So, are companies allowed to use other company’s names in their paid search ads? What about as keywords for bidding? Lisa McElwain, an SEM manager here at HawkSEM, helps answer these questions and more below.

    Can a competitor use my brand name in their ad?

    The rules around company names and trademarks can be confusing. Let’s break it down. 

    The basic answer is: yes. Brands can use your brand name in their Google ads, as long as the name isn’t trademarked and the way they’re using it can’t be deemed “deceptive.” (Deception tactics include things like the company impersonating your brand.)

    If your company’s name is trademarked, that may be a different story. Often, bigger companies trademark their names. If this is the case, then they’re the exclusive owners. Per Google guidelines, no other brands can use that name in their ad copy. 

    An exception to this rule is if the company using it is a legitimate reseller, such as Zappos creating an ad for Nike sneakers. 

    competitor brand name bidding on the SERP

    An example of what it looks like when one brand bids on another’s name. (via Google)

    What are the rules about competitors bidding on my brand name?

    Competitors can buy your brand name as a keyword, even if it’s trademarked. By using your brand name as a keyword, their ad could potentially show up on the SERP when someone is searching for your specific company. 

    Unfortunately, you can’t do much of anything about the competitor using your brand name or trademarks as a keyword. However, there are things you can do to remain competitive. For starters, ensure you’re bidding on your own brand name. This way, competitors aren’t stealing any extra traffic that should be going to you. This also allows you to take up more real estate in the SERPs if you’re showing a paid ad and appearing in the organic results. 

    If a competitor is bidding on your brand name and you aren’t? Then their ad will show above your organic result, which isn’t what you want. You can also bid on their brand name — more on that below.

    Pro tip: If you have an existing amicable relationship with a competitor, you could consider contacting them for a truce and agree to not bid on each other’s terms. There’s no guarantee they’ll agree, but if you’re worried about your budget, it’s worth a shot!

    Why would a competitor bid on my company’s brand name?

    The main reason companies bid on another’s brand name is to try to steal traffic away from the competition. They want to target those who are looking for a product or service like theirs. 

    This is especially the case in areas where the product or service is not as well known, so people aren’t searching for the services as much. This leaves few options for keywords, so brands bid on their competitors. 

    brand name bidding

    Before you get heated, it’s important to realize that they might not actually be bidding on your brand. (Image via Rawpixel)

    How do I choose which competitor brand names to bid on, if any?

    If you’re going to try bidding on a competitor’s name, we advise making sure you’re picking the right competitors to bid on (or that your agency has picked the right ones, if you’re not doing your own marketing). 

    There’s not much point in bidding on brands that aren’t stealing business away from you, such as big-name brands with significantly more offerings. 

    You’ll also want to tailor the ad copy to differentiate your brand from that particular competitor. One way to do this is by highlighting your unique selling propositions. For instance, if that particular competitor brand has a similar but more expensive product or service, highlight your brand as being the more affordable option.

    Have more questions about paid search or Google Ads? You’ve come to the right place.

    What should I do if I think a competitor is bending or breaking the rules around leveraging my brand?

    Before you get heated, it’s important to realize that they might not actually be bidding on your brand. If your brand is “Sunrise Senior Living,” for example, the company could simply be bidding on “senior living.” That’s what will match in Google’s algorithm — not necessarily the “Sunrise” part. 

    Unfortunately, there’s not a lot you can do unless they’re using your trademarked term in their ad copy. If they are, you can submit a trademark complaint to Google. Aside from deciding to bid on their brand in return, another way to fight back would be to conduct keyword research (using tools like SpyFu or SEMrush) on what other keywords they’re using for search marketing efforts. 

    In extreme cases, you could consider sending the company a cease and desist letter, though this will likely come at a cost and not guarantee the outcome you want.

    semrush pricing SERP

    Just because a competitor is bidding on certain keywords, that doesn’t mean they’re the “right” keywords. (Image via Google)

    Should I bid on my competitor’s brand name?

    There’s no hard-and-fast answer to this. However, experience tells us that bidding on a competitor’s brand name shouldn’t be a top priority in your paid search strategy. If you have other keywords that are working well, it’s a better use of your ad spend to allocate your marketing budget toward those. 

    If you have an excess budget, then you could try bidding on their brand as a keyword. We don’t suggest using another brand in your ad copy.

    How can I use competitors bidding on my brand to my advantage?

    If your products or services are similar enough, this could give you ideas for things to try on your own search marketing efforts. 

    It’s also worth noting that, just because a competitor is bidding on certain keywords, that doesn’t mean they’re the “right” keywords. If a keyword doesn’t seem right to bid on for your business, don’t do it! (And maybe even add them to your campaign as negative keywords.) 

    Consider reviewing their ad copy or strategy and taking inventory of what you uncover. How does yours compare? This is a great time to reflect on your own advertising efforts. Are you  taking full advantage of Google’s ad offerings like ad extensions and sitelink extensions (if appropriate)? Ask yourself: If you were a consumer, would you click on your ad?

    Pro tip: If you decide to bid on competitor terms, avoid using dynamic keyword insertion. This is a feature that involves the searched keyword auto-populating as an ad’s headline. This will cause your competitor’s name to show up in your ad. It could be deemed deceptive, even if it’s unintentional.

    The takeaway

    We find that, in general, bidding on your competitor’s brand is typically not a great idea. You could also get lower quality scores for those keywords. That’s because Google can see you’re not the brand whose name you’re bidding on. Plus, it’ll likely cost you more to bid on those branded keywords because the brand isn’t your own.

    In the long run, it’ll be better for your marketing plan to focus on your unique products or services, make sure user experience is top-notch, and use ads to highlight your selling propositions that make you stand out.

    Caroline Cox

    Caroline Cox

    Caroline is HawkSEM's content marketing manager. She uses her more than 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 Sam Yadegar on Dec 10 , 2020

    Facts and figures to help you better understand the current PPC landscape

    Here you’ll learn:

    • Recent pay-per-click (PPC) statistics 
    • Important Google PPC stats
    • Key mobile PPC and paid social numbers
    • Things to consider when planning your PPC strategy in 2021

    Paid search (or PPC) is often the driving force behind a solid marketing campaign. While the way you approach PPC tactics depends on your company’s goals and budget, marketing pros know that implementing them is integral when it comes to boosting ROI.

    But, just like any marketing technique, the paid search landscape is also changing regularly. To stay ahead of the curve, it’s wise for marketing teams to know the latest PPC data so they can adjust efforts accordingly. That’s why we compiled the below paid search statistics — to provide valuable insights into what this digital marketing type looks like today.

    ppc management stats

    The Google Display Network (GDN) serves display ads to more than 90% of people on the internet and works across 2 million websites. (Image via Unsplash)

    General PPC stats

    Keeping these stats in mind when designing your 2021 marketing strategy can help you stay competitive and at the top of your game.

    • By 2021, companies around the world are slated to spend 137 billion on paid search advertising.
    • 45% of small businesses invest in PPC advertising.
    • Traffic that comes in through paid search advertising drives 50% more conversions than traffic from organic advertising.
    • Paid search advertising accounts for about 39% of advertising budgets.
    • 60% of companies plan to spend more money on paid advertising on Amazon in the future. 
    • More than two-thirds of consumers are sure that they can recognize paid search ads.
    • People are more likely to click on text PPC ads than on shopping listing ads and video ads.
    • 41% of clicks on Google searches go to the top three sponsored ads.
    • 75% of people believe that paid search ads make it easier to find products they’re looking for when browsing websites or using various search engines. 

    Valuable Google PPC stats

    While paid search advertising is hardly limited to Google Ads, the search engine giant maintains the majority of the population’s attention — which doesn’t appear to be changing anytime soon.

    • The Google Display Network (GDN) serves display ads to more than 90% of people on the internet and works across 2 million websites.
    • Almost 4 times as many consumers are more inclined to click on a paid search ad on Google than on other search engines like Amazon, YouTube, or Bing. 
    • The lowest average cost per click (CPC) for GDN, $0.44, belongs to the “travel and hospitality” advertising categories, while the highest, $1.49, belongs to “dating and personal.”
    • 98% of advertisers consider Google the most trustworthy digital ad channel.
    • In the United States, Google generates 62% of all core search queries. 
    • Google Ads and Facebook PPC ads are the key players in the digital advertising market, with 38.2% and 21.8% of the market share, respectively.
    • In a Marin Software survey, 84% of respondents who use paid search already use or plan to implement Google’s responsive search ads. 
    • In 2021, Google’s ad search revenue share in the U.S. is estimated to be 70% of total ad spending.
    • 63% of people have clicked on a Google Ad at least once.
    • Google Ads can potentially deliver $8 for every $1 spent, generating an 800% ROI.
    • The average conversion rate for GDN ads is .46%.
    • 49% of consumers say that they often turn to Google to find a new product.
    PPC management data

    27% of internet users say that they find new products and services through social media ads. (Image via Unsplash)

    Predominant mobile PPC stats

    Increasingly, internet users across the globe are turning to their mobile devices for everything from searching and scrolling to making purchases. With this in mind, adjusting your PPC strategy to meet their demands can help you reach a significant segment of your target audience.

    • 52% of internet traffic worldwide comes from mobile devices.
    • 68% of our m-commerce survey respondents have purchased something they discovered through a mobile ad on their smartphone.
    • 53% of clicks on PPC ads are made from mobile devices.
    • Google attracts 96% of all mobile engine traffic in the U.S.
    • Prices for mobile search ads in 2019 were lower than they were for desktop ads.
    • More than 70% of search ad clicks and impressions occur on mobile devices.
    • 60% of consumers click a mobile ad at least once a week. 
    • Since the COVID-19 outbreak, 45% of consumers say they shopped more via their mobile phones than in the past. 
    • In 2019, 94% of Facebook advertising revenue was generated by mobile users.

    Want to learn more about PPC advertising in 2021 and beyond? We’re here to help.

    Important social media PPC stats

    From paid ads to brand awareness, the key social media platforms — think Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and LinkedIn — are often important pillars of your marketing strategy’s overall success. These stats can help you understand how to look at social media when crafting your plans for 2021.

    • 32% of survey respondents say that video ads are a highly effective social ad format, followed by image ads (26%).
    • Many marketers allocate around 18% of their advertising budget on paid social.
    • 27% of internet users say that they find new products and services through social media ads.
    • An average Facebook user clicks approximately 12 ads in 30 days.
    • By the end of 2020, ad spending on social media advertising is expected to reach nearly $99 million.
    • In 2021, annual Instagram ad revenue is expected to reach $18.16 billion.

    The takeaway

    While you shouldn’t hinge your entire marketing strategy on a handful of statistics, we can find plenty of helpful insights through analyzing the latest PPC management data. This info demonstrates the growing importance of paid ads across various channels. It also shows that more companies plan to increase their PPC budgets in 2021.

    Amid the pandemic, more and more people are using their smartphones for searching and shopping. Because of this, mobile optimization remains another important part of effective paid search marketing campaigns. 

    As far as platforms, Google Ads and Facebook remain key players in the digital advertising market. Knowing the latest reports, trends, and numbers surrounding PPC can help you be better armed to optimize your program and gain a competitive edge.

    Sam Yadegar

    Sam Yadegar

    Sam Yadegar is the co-founder and CEO of HawkSEM. Starting out as a software engineer, his penchant for solving problems quickly led him to the digital marketing world, where he has been helping clients for over 12 years. He loves doing everything he can to help brands "crush it" through ROI-driven digital marketing programs. He's also a fan of basketball and spending time with his family.

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    Written by Caroline Cox on Nov 30 , 2020

    Tips for creating successful healthcare paid search 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 pay-per-click (PPC) ads
    • Tips for standing out from industry competition

    Marketers experienced in the healthcare space know that it can be, in a word, finicky — even where there’s not a pandemic.

    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 alone. 

    Google Trends shows health-related searches nearly doubled across the U.S. between December 2019 and March 2020 (we’re guessing COVID-19 had something to do with that). And NewsCred expects that voice searches for healthcare topics will continue to rise.

    Add to that the 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.

    HawkSEM: Paid Search Marketing for Healthcare: Advice from an SEM Agency

    Read over the ad guidelines so you can make sure you’re not spending time on a campaign that’ll end up getting rejected or pulled. (Image via Unsplash)

    Understand the healthcare paid search regulations

    Because healthcare is such a highly regulated industry, it makes sense that paid search guidelines would be, too. Luckily, both Google and Microsoft Advertising (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 Canada, New Zealand, and the United States (over-the-counter meds have a much longer list). 

    Additionally, they now prohibit pharmaceutical manufacturers from promoting prescription opioid painkillers or targeting locations where they aren’t licensed. You can use the handy drop-down menu to see which types of PPC ads are allowed in each country.

    Google’s healthcare paid search ad policies include regulations related to:

    • Restricted drug terms
    • Unapproved substances
    • Unauthorized pharmacies
    • Speculative and experimental medical treatments
    • Clinical trial recruitment
    • Addiction services

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

    HawkSEM: Paid Search Marketing for Healthcare: Advice from an SEM Agency

    A Microsoft Advertising verbiage example (via Microsoft Advertising)

    Microsoft’s healthcare paid search ad policies include regulations related to:

    • Invasive treatments and cosmetic surgery
    • Weight loss
    • Pharmacy and prescription-only medicine
    • Non-prescription medications and health supplements
    • Family planning

    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 makes it easier for people 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. 

    Keep your message simple

    Picture it: You’re frantically 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 paid search 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. 

    HawkSEM: Paid Search Marketing for Healthcare: Advice from an SEM Agency

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

    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. That’s why it’s key 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. (Learn more about the ins and outs of keyword research here.)

    Know how to speak to your audience

    A successful ad will speak to the user, but not in a ‘buy now’ sense. A common misstep many brands are having to walk back now is talking in a “marketing voice.” 

    Google may penalize sites that suggest users need to buy a certain product or claim that someone needs to call a company immediately if they’re showing certain signs. This, perhaps rightfully, forces marketers to think more like users. The result: brands with copy that includes actual facts — with the authority to back them up — are more likely to be the ones that see the most success.

    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. 

    HawkSEM: Paid Search Marketing for Healthcare: Advice from an SEM Agency

    Getting proper, accurate health information to people is arguably more important than ever. (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 visit the company’s website, and 53% of searches come from smartphones.

    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

    Things like masks, hand-washing, and staying healthy are at the top of everyone’s minds right now. Because of that, getting proper, accurate health information to people is arguably more important than ever.  

    There’s a huge opportunity for those in the industry when it comes to healthcare paid search. 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 follow the proper guidelines, you can be sure your healthcare PPC is slated to succeed.

    Looking for more insight on creating strong healthcare paid search campaigns? We’d love to chat. 

    Caroline Cox

    Caroline Cox

    Caroline is HawkSEM's content marketing manager. She uses her more than 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 Nov 6 , 2020

    If you’re not currently using call tracking, here’s a guide to filling in this attribution gap.

    Here, you’ll find:

    • An explanation of call tracking
    • A breakdown of various tracking tiers
    • How tracking can help optimize campaigns
    • The latest call-tracking updates

    People want multiple options for connecting with companies. That’s why most businesses have a phone number, even if most marketing, communications, and customer service happens online. And it’s a wise choice, since phone calls convert at 10 to 15 times the rate of clicks, according to CallRail. 

    The question is, are you taking full advantage of all that phone calls have to offer your business? As Marketing Land explains, “If your marketing strategy involves driving potential customers to the phone, you could be missing out on important attribution data as well as the best source of first-party customer data.” 

    Basically, if you’re not tracking calls, you could be missing a key element in your conversion tracking. Here’s how to set up call tracking for your ads, and why you should.

    call tracking for digital marketing

    There are various solutions available when it comes to call-tracking options for your business. (Image via Unsplash)

    What is call tracking?

    Call tracking is the process of gathering information about the phone calls people make to your company. Basic tracking helps you make sure you’re attributing calls to your ads to help optimize campaigns. More advanced tracking allows you to accrue data that will tell you more about your prospects and customers. This includes their wants, pain points, frequently asked questions, and more. 

    Phone calls can be a key part of your buyer’s journey. Call tracking serves to help bridge the gap between online and offline touchpoints, giving you a clearer picture of your prospects and customers.

    Know your call-tracking options

    There are various solutions available when it comes to call-tracking options for your business. You can choose from a variety of softwares and tiers depending on your budget and needs. 

    Tier 1 tracking

    The basic, standard level of call tracking is simply to track phone number clicks on your website. This allows you to properly attribute the click to your campaigns. You can set up this level of call tracking through Google Tag Manager. 

    It will give you some basic data about calls to your existing phone number, such as when someone clicks the phone number on your website via their smartphone to call you. 

    Tier 2 tracking

    The next level involves implementing call tracking into your Google Ads campaigns. At this level, Google will assign you a forwarding phone number. If someone clicks on your ads, the number on your website will route to your Google forwarding number.

    This level also offers more sophisticated call data. When you implement Google call tracking through Tag Manager, you can set parameters for what counts as a conversion, such as calls only over a certain amount of seconds. This way, you’re not counting irrelevant phone calls (like accidental clicks, spam clickers, and quickly unqualified leads) as conversions. 

    Pro tip: While Google call tracking is free, the number you’re assigned won’t necessarily be permanently assigned to you. Further down the line, someone could call that number in search of your business and not be able to reach you. 

    Tier 3 tracking

    If your company has the means to invest in paid call-tracking services, there are a ton of benefits to be found. For one, you’ll be able to purchase a dedicated phone number that won’t be in danger of being changed. 

    With call-tracking services, you pay for dedicated tracking phone numbers, including a ZIP code that matches your area. In terms of data, you’re able to record phone calls (the caller is given a heads up, of course). You can go back and listen to how customer service was handled and get more information about the callers. These services also allow you to capture customer contact information in the platforms

    Top-tier call tracking can often tell you what caused the person to call, what stage of the buyer’s journey they’re in, and it can even sync with other programs like Google Analytics, Salesforce, or your preferred customer relationship management (CRM) tool.

    Pro tip: Think you’ve got tracking covered with your call center? While these centers track things like hold time and client satisfaction, proper call tracking can provide valuable data for marketers that can help optimize and improve campaigns. 

    call tracking to enhance paid ads

    With the rise of mobile search, it makes sense that a rise of Google call-only campaigns would follow suit. (Image via Unsplash)

    How call tracking can improve your marketing

    Gathering data is only half the battle. After all, what good is all that data if you don’t take the time to analyze and leverage it? Call tracking allows you to review calls and pinpoint patterns. What are some common issues customers seem to have? What products or services are they asking about most? It can also help you make these calls more efficient by allowing you to personalize and tailor the call experience.

    This type of tracking can help maximize ROI by painting a more complete picture of what’s driving people to your business. According to Business2Community, “most marketers find immediate bang-for-the-buck by applying newly discovered call insights to optimize their marketing programs and media spend.”

    The future of call tracking

    In October 2020, Google began testing a new Google My Business featured dubbed “call history.” According to Search Engine Land, the feature was “designed to help businesses see and respond to missed calls coming from Google Search and Maps.” At the time, the option was voluntary and only available to a select group of U.S. businesses. 

    And with the rise of mobile search, it makes sense that a rise of Google call-only campaigns would follow suit. If you’re a business like a doctor’s office (or if you have a stellar customer service team trained to quickly solve problems), this ad type is worth exploring.

    This way, you have the chance to catch someone’s attention and allow them to immediately connect with you, rather than risking them not finding what they’re looking for on your website.

    The takeaway

    In marketing, the more data you have, the better. If you’re not tracking phone calls on some level, you’re missing out on a key component of your conversion tracking. It’s the same idea behind tracking forms on your website. You want to track all ways people can contact you. 

    The result: Improved customer service, better insights into why people aren’t converting via phone, help training employees, and a fuller picture of your buyer persona.

    Caroline Cox

    Caroline Cox

    Caroline is HawkSEM's content marketing manager. She uses her more than 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 Oct 28 , 2020

    Managing your pay-per-click (PPC) program shouldn’t feel like wandering through a haunted house.

    Here, you’ll find:

    • A few of the most common PPC problems
    • Actionable solutions to help you overcome them
    • Pro tips to boost your PPC program
    • Best practices to help you stick to your budget

    Ghouls, monsters, zombies, an underperforming PPC campaign — all pretty scary, right?

    When it comes to paid search, it can be easy to spend your whole budget and still see 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: 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

    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 getting 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. As we’ve said before, quality traffic can lead to more conversions, sales, and a better-performing digital marketing strategy. 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 often a matter of quality over quantity. 

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

    Automated marketing 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 center of any marketing strategy or initiative if you want to see long-term success.

    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.

    Get solutions to even more PPC problems here: Our Ultimate Guide to Problem-Solving for Your PPC Program and Getting the ROI You Deserve.

    HawkSEM blog: 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

    One of the PPC problems we often see is how easy it can be 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 return on investment (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. You don’t necessarily need to modify your budget just because you’re consistently underspending and not hitting your goals. 

    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 branded keywords are a different story, as these can help boost your quality score, even if they don’t result in conversions.

    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: Not hitting budget? Try increasing your cost-per-click (CPC) bid limit and expanding your audience location. By creating a simple budget tracker that includes your overall budget, average spend rates, and actual monthly spend rates, you can get a grasp on where you are and where you want to be. 

    The takeaway

    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.

    Need more PPC help? Let’s talk. 

    This article has been updated and was originally published in October 2019.

    Caroline Cox

    Caroline Cox

    Caroline is HawkSEM's content marketing manager. She uses her more than 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 Sam Yadegar on Aug 17 , 2020

    Saving time on your marketing campaigns is always a win. Luckily, there are Google Ads shortcuts that will streamline your process and boost campaign efficiency. 

    Here, you’ll find:

    • Reasons for using Ads shortcuts
    • Helpful Google features to simplify your work
    • Ways to access and use these time-saving tools
    • Expert advice to stay ahead of the competition

    Google Ads is one of the most effective and nuanced PPC platforms in the market. Its comprehensive approach means that there are hundreds of sections to work on. 

    When it comes to ad upkeep, common tasks include text optimization, bid management, keyword research, and reporting. These alone — not to mention analysis and other formalities — can take up a good chunk of your time.

    Of course, it’s crucial to put plenty of time and effort into your campaigns for optimized ads. But leveraging a few shortcuts that exist within the platform allows you to work smarter, not harder, to get the results you want to achieve. 

    Here are some Google Ads shortcuts that’ll save you time without sacrificing quality. 

    google shortcuts

    Usually, accounts are managed by multiple people over their lifespans, particularly for accounts that have been around for years. (Image via Unsplash)

    1. Delete keyword clutter

    Keywords have always been an integral part of digital marketing. The strategy a few years ago was to come up for every keyword term and all their variations. Google’s Phrase and Exact policies at the time made aspects like plurals and misspellings necessary.

    Since then, Google’s Phrase and Exact policies have changed. Nowadays, such variations in keyword phrases are achieved by matching close variants. This means that you no longer need thousands (or hundreds of thousands) of keywords to stay ahead of the competition. Google recommends doing away with these variations under the “Opportunities” section of your account. 

    Keep up with the changes by removing duplicate keywords. Luckily, you don’t have to search for every keyword term. Simply use Google Ads Editor to define duplicate keywords and identify them in seconds. You’ll find this feature under the “Tools” category, and you have many options when it comes to how you define duplicate keywords.  

    2. Customize your ads

    In a way, repetition is necessary for successful marketing (see: the effectiveness of remarketing). The idea is to keep your brand and products in the spotlight perpetually so they stay top of mind with your target audience. 

    Some types of ads require systemic repetition. For example, running a timed promotion with a limited number of days to go may require you to update your ads every day until the promotion runs out. While this is necessary, it’s also a bit of a time-waster.

    Google’s Ad Customizer will save you effort and update your ads in real-time with impressive precision and quality. This feature requires you to specify standard attributes about your campaign, including factors such as:

    • Start and end dates
    • Target demographics
    • Schedules
    • And more

    The Customizer will then use a refined code to implement these parameters at the set times.

    3. Use notations

    Maybe you have one single person who handles anything and everything pertaining to your Google Ads account. But, usually, organizations’ accounts are managed by multiple people over their lifespans, particularly for accounts that have been around for years.  

    Depending on how experienced and organized your team (or the agency you’ve tasked to handle your ads) is, it can be difficult to keep everyone on the same page. This is especially true when you factor in employee turnover. Many account managers who have been in this situation often find themselves wishing for guidance from past account managers. Fortunately, this is possible using notation.

    Google recommends you make notes as you manage your ad campaigns. This will help keep your ads organized, since you can visit your notes and track activity. It also makes it easier for account managers who come after to catch up and tailor their marketing campaigns to fit in with past parameters for continuity, including streamlining metrics and performance analysis.

    You can add notes via the “Campaign” and “Ad Group View” tabs. Look for the link to performance metrics and click on the option to “Add Note.” Your notes will be stored and can be easily accessible on the reports by account managers who come after you.

    hidden shortcut

    Take some time to explore the features available to your marketing account and exploit ways of leveraging them. (Image via Unsplash)

    4. Test faster using creative Ad Variation

    Testing and streamlining ad creation is necessary for every marketing campaign’s organization and success. But doing it manually can be time-consuming. The quicker, easier, and more efficient way? Using Google’s Ad Variation feature.

    The Ad Variation feature enables you to automatically streamline ad creation and test the subsequent ads based on your precise parameters. For example, you can split the percentage of your target audience whichever way you choose (this is not an option using Google’s auto-optimization). 

    All you have to do is set and specify your desired parameters and fill in the details, including the type of ads you’re making and which campaigns they affect. The Ads Variation feature is available under the “Drafts & Experiments” section. Hover over this section until the “+” sign appears, and click on it to access this feature.

    5. Take advantage of the right tools and automation

    Google is consistently improving its marketing and advertising features. A huge chunk of these efforts involve automation and making the work easier using specialized tools. For example, Google’s updated scripts can automate the time-consuming task of reporting.

    While automation can make life easier, it’s worth noting that you shouldn’t automate everything in your campaigns. After all, robots can’t compete with the expertise and experience of a human.

    As far as Google Ads shortcuts go, take some time to explore the automated features available to your marketing account and the different ways of leveraging them. And if it all feels overwhelming? Consider consulting a professional for guidance.

    The takeaway

    It’s wise to keep up with Google’s updates, as they often include upgrades to its features that make the platform quicker and more efficient. 

    Many marketers waste precious hours working on the technical aspects of their marketing campaigns. But with Google Ads shortcuts, you can explore easier and quicker ways to work on the technicalities and put your time to better use elsewhere.

    Need more help with your Google Ads campaign? That’s what we’re here for.

     

    Sam Yadegar

    Sam Yadegar

    Sam Yadegar is the co-founder and CEO of HawkSEM. Starting out as a software engineer, his penchant for solving problems quickly led him to the digital marketing world, where he has been helping clients for over 12 years. He loves doing everything he can to help brands "crush it" through ROI-driven digital marketing programs. He's also a fan of basketball and spending time with his family.

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    Written by Sam Yadegar on Aug 7 , 2020

    Maximize your online reach with Bing and capture traffic you might miss with Google.

    Here, you’ll find:

    • The benefits of advertising on both Google and Microsoft’s Bing
    • How the Microsoft Ads platform compares to Google Ads
    • How to create top-quality ads for Bing
    • The importance of checking your Quality Score

    Many businesses raise an eyebrow when first introduced to the idea of using Microsoft Advertising (formerly Bing Ads) to attract new customers. But you might be surprised to learn that all that the Bing search engine has to offer. 

    A recent ComScore report from 2019 found that 126 million unique users were behind around 6 billion Bing searches in March of that year alone. If you want to capture the millions of users out there who use Bing, it’s necessary to explore Microsoft Advertising in addition to Google Ads.

    Bing homepage

    To make your job easier, Bing Ads allows you to import Google Ads campaigns seamlessly. (Image via Bing)

    Microsoft Advertising vs. Google Ads

    Of course, there are plenty of similarities to be found between Google Ads and Microsoft Ads, which show up on the Bing search engine. They’re both used to push highly relevant ads to users, with the goal of using targeted marketing to help attract more high-quality leads who are more likely to make a purchase. However, there are also a few key differences to keep in mind.

    One notable difference is that, while Google Ads has a balanced network of both PPC  (or paid search) and display ads, Bing has a much more limited display ad network that’s relegated to Microsoft-owned products including Windows operating systems, Outlook, Microsoft Edge, and Xbox.

    You may also find that each platform uses different language to describe their functions and metrics. For example, Google tends to use cost per acquisition (CPA) along with the cost of conversion, while Microsoft Ads only uses the term CPA. 

    Using both platforms can provide a noticeable boost to your marketing campaigns. However, it’s important to know how to use Microsoft Ads properly if you want to make the most of it and effectively supplement your Google Ads campaign. Below, we’ve laid out some best practices to help you create winning ads that attract the ideal customer on Bing. 

    1. Make sure all high-performing Google Ads campaigns are imported to Microsoft Ads

    To make your job easier, Microsoft Advertising allows you to import Google Ads campaigns seamlessly. Simply use the import feature to bring your campaigns over to Microsoft’s ad platform. 

    While you can test your most successful Google Ads campaigns using Bing, keep in mind that things may look and work a little differently when creating your ads on Microsoft. Knowing the subtle differences when importing can help you transition from one platform to the other and use both to your advantage.

    Bing SERP

    A smaller budget could take you much farther on Bing than it would with Google. (Image via Bing)

    2. Create high-quality copy and images for your ads

    You should always optimize your ads for people, not search engines. Keywords are important, but you’re ultimately creating ads to appeal directly to your target audience. With this goal in mind, try to:

    • Use on-brand colors that attract attention
    • Highlight a certain element of your product, service, or brand in your images
    • Create ads using high-quality images without degradation or pixelation
    • Use images of people without accompanying text or logos
    • Keep your ads clean and simple without overwhelming the user
    • Avoid long ad headlines and stick to concise, easy-to-read phrases

    3. Start broad and specify your audience based on the results

    To pinpoint the ideal audience, it’s a good idea to begin with a broad ad campaign that targets as many users as possible without going over your available budget. From there, you can begin to narrow down your audience based on the demographics and other traits of users that are likely to click on your ads. 

    In the process, you can create more valuable ads that target the people who are most likely to be interested in your product or service offerings.

    4. Make the most of your budget

    Even if you’ve maxed out your Google Ads budget, you can still tailor your budget to help you perform well on Bing. Thanks largely to the lighter competition you’ll find on Bing, you could discover that a smaller budget takes you much farther on the platform than it would with Google.

    You’re also likely to find less expensive CPAs with Microsoft Ads while targeting potentially millions of daily search engine users.

    5. Know your target audience on Bing

    You might find that your Bing audience is different from your Google audience. If so, you should tailor your campaign audiences accordingly. Bing’s demographic tends to include older users who aren’t as quick to go to Google if Bing is their default search engine. 

    While you may think this means your audience is potentially less tech savvy, know that many of these users have accumulated more wealth and are willing to spend more money online than their younger counterparts. The fact that your audience on Bing is likely different from your Google audience only further emphasizes the importance of using both.

    Microsoft Advertising

    Using a combination of Bing Ads and Google Ads can help you find better paid search success and maximize your business’s overall reach online. (Image via Microsoft Advertising)

    6. Make use of the UET tag

    Microsoft Ads enables you to set up customized event and conversion actions using Universal Event Tracking (UET). With the help of this tool, you can create custom audiences as people perform certain actions. 

    For example, you might create an audience that spends a certain amount of time on landing pages or visits only a few other pages before leaving your website after clicking on an ad. With a better understanding of user behavior through UET tags, you can cater campaigns to specific individuals to improve your campaigns’ overall performance.

    7. Keep an eye on your Quality Score

    One key component of a successful Bing campaign is page or domain authority, which will help gauge the authoritativeness and popularity of a website. You can use Bing’s Quality Score metric to determine how much influence your website has on the search engine, which can help you determine your ads’ competitiveness. 

    The Quality Score ranges from 1 to 10, with the best score being 10. If you notice that your Quality Score is suffering, try to adjust your ads by:

    • Conducting more keyword research
    • Ensuring your published content is always high-quality
    • Optimizing your landing pages
    • Checking your ad group targeting

    The takeaway

    Using a combination of Microsoft Ads and Google Ads can help you find better paid search success and maximize your business’s overall reach online. 

    Using these best practices, taking the time to develop high-quality ad campaigns, and understanding your target audience on Bing can help you craft ads that are highly effective, no matter the search engine. 

    Want to get the most from your PPC campaigns with Bing and other opportunities? Connect with us today.

    Sam Yadegar

    Sam Yadegar

    Sam Yadegar is the co-founder and CEO of HawkSEM. Starting out as a software engineer, his penchant for solving problems quickly led him to the digital marketing world, where he has been helping clients for over 12 years. He loves doing everything he can to help brands "crush it" through ROI-driven digital marketing programs. He's also a fan of basketball and spending time with his family.

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