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Written by Sam Yadegar on Jul 1 , 2020

PPC marketing is a proven way to get fast results. But just like any other strategy, it needs regular tweaking, updating, and optimizing.

Here, you’ll find:

  • Why Google Ads isn’t the only pay-per-click (PPC) player in town
  • Why manual bidding is worth your attention
  • Ways to optimize your PPC ads in 2020
  • What Core Web Vitals are and why they matter

We like to say that digital marketing is part art, part science. Sure, there are guidelines and processes and steps, but without a heavy dose of creativity, your program isn’t likely to shine. 

Well-versed paid search marketers know this. They also know that experimentation, analysis, and optimization are key components to creating a PPC strategy that isn’t just successful, but lasting too. 

Behaviors, competitors, and algorithms change fast. To stay on top of your game, you have to catch on before someone else does. Let these PPC optimization strategies guide your paid search efforts for the rest of the year — and beyond.

1. Switch to manual bidding

No matter how stellar your PPC ads are, they won’t achieve proper results without the right bidding strategy. The tactic you choose for your bids depends on your campaign goals.

If you want to achieve the largest number of clicks according to the set budget, you can use the traditional automatic cost-per-click (CPC) bidding system.

However, allowing Google to do the job for you comes with a couple of downsides. One of them is lack of an easy way to adjust your campaign if it’s not performing properly. Manual bidding can fix this problem. This hands-on, more customized bidding approach:

  • Increases ad visibility
  • Lowers your cost per action (CPA)
  • Allows you to prioritize keywords that convert better

Switching from automatic to manual bidding is an advanced strategy that requires paying close attention to tactics such as:

  • Focus on one campaign at a time since the process can be time-consuming
  • Lower your bids for keywords that receive solid impressions but don’t generate sales
  • Increase bids for keywords that convert to increase the position of ads containing them and generate more conversions
  • Choose the default bid, which is close to the average CPC in your automatic campaigns

When you leverage manual bidding, it’s a good idea to run the manual campaign for a couple of weeks to see if it achieves the goal of lowering CPC and generating sales. If the process seems like too much, partnering with a well-rounded PPC agency might be the right solution for you. 

hawksem: ppc optimization blog

Creating an ad group that consists of people who have already visited your landing pages can be the key to improving your conversion rate. (Image via Unsplash)

2. Take advantage of remarketing

Research shows that only about 2% of potential customers convert on their first visit. Does that mean you’re wasting your money on PPC ads? Of course not. You just have to boost their success by pairing them with remarketing (or retargeting) campaigns.

This process involves using ads to follow potential clients who have already clicked your ads once or visited your site. Placing your ad in front of them serves as a tasteful reminder of the action they may have wanted to take on your website.

Google Ads allows you to segment your remarketing lists to show ads to visitors based on their needs and the landing page the initial PPC ad brought them to. Creating an ad group that consists of people who have already visited your landing pages can be the key to improving your conversion rate.

3. Explore Microsoft Ads

Google Ads is an unmistakable leader in the PPC marketing realm. But that doesn’t mean others in the space aren’t worth exploring. For some companies, using Microsoft Advertising can be just the solution they’ve been waiting for. What’s more, you could potentially see more success with Microsoft Ads, depending on your industry, as there’s often less competition on these platforms. 

But simply importing a campaign over from Google Ads and forgetting about it means missing highly useful tools other ad platforms have to offer. For example, Microsoft advertising has:  

  • Action extensions: add CTA buttons near your ad that link to the landing page of your choice
  • Review extensions: feature reviews from third-party sites below your ad
  • LinkedIn targeting: view the reactions of the LinkedIn audience to your ads for further adjustments
  • Competition insight: see how your visibility compares to competition, which shows up for the same search queries

4. Pay attention to Amazon Ads

Another PPC optimization opportunity is Amazon Ads. While the audience covered by Google, Microsoft, and Facebook Ads is huge, those who see your ad on those platforms aren’t necessarily in the decision stage of the buyer’s journey.

Amazon audiences, on the other hand, are geared toward spending money. People who visit this shopping giant are likely ready to buy, which increases your chances of conversion tremendously.

These are the types of sponsored Amazon ads at your disposal:

  • Products: keyword-targeted ads that allow you to promote a certain product
  • Brands: help promote the brand while including up to three products in the ad — the users are directed to the Stores page or custom landing page on Amazon
  • Display ads: send those who click to Amazon product detail pages, a custom landing page on Amazon, or an external website

Plus, you don’t need to sell your products on Amazon to take advantage of this advertising option. 

Pro tip: The average CPC on Amazon typically ranges between $0.02 and $3.

hawksem blog: ppc optimization

Core Web Vitals show how good of user experience you should aim to offer your visitors. (Image via Unsplash)

5. Take advantage of responsive search ads

After first appearing in 2019, Responsive Search Ads quickly gained tremendous popularity. That’s partly because these ads allow you to create four headlines and fifteen different descriptions for your ad. Google then tests various combinations of these elements and selects those that perform best depending on:

  • Keywords searched for
  • Devices used
  • Browsing behavior
  • And more

Responsive ads save time and money on A/B testing while allowing you to reach your target audience faster.

Want to learn more about optimizing your PPC campaign in 2020? Let’s talk.

6. Optimize your website

Your PPC campaign results can fall far below expectations if you don’t optimize your website to welcome your target audience once they arrive there. In 2021, Google has said they will consider Core Web Vitals when determining the ranking of your pages. These vitals include:

  • Loading performance: the page should load in under 2.5 seconds
  • Visual stability: the page’s elements shouldn’t move when the user is reading the text (it usually happens when a piece of media loads), forcing the visitor to search for their lost place
  • Interactivity: the time between the visitor taking action (like clicking a button or tab) and the website responding should be under 100 milliseconds

Core Web Vitals show how good of user experience you should aim to offer your visitors. Improving them won’t just improve search engine optimization efforts, but it’ll also help your PPC ad clickers actually convert.

The takeaway

PPC optimization is an ongoing process. And with multiple new options and updates happening every year, it’s nearly impossible to thrive without analyzing regularly so you can keep enhancing your strategies.

At the end of the day, the best PPC ads are clear, consistent, targeted to the right audience, and follow through on what they offer.

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.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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Written by Caroline Cox on Mar 19 , 2020

Instead of window displays, we’ve got e-commerce ads.

Here, you’ll find:

  • How to determine the best e-commerce ad platforms for your brand
  • Display ads vs. PPC ads for e-commerce
  • What elements make up a successful e-commerce ad
  • Pro tips to give you an edge over competitors

Remember the mall? We barely do too. And let’s be honest: Depending on what you’re in the market for, perusing through physical aisles and racks to make a purchase isn’t the hyper-common process it once was.

These days, the bulk of shopping happens online. In 2019, reports showed that online shopping overtook a major part of retail for the first time ever — and it’s a trend that doesn’t appear to be slowing down.

If you’re an e-commerce brand looking to stay in the game, online ads are a great way to do it. Search, social, and display ads allow you to target your audience, boost your clickthrough rate (CTR), increase sales, and more. For best practices, agency tips, and expert advice when it comes to e-commerce ad platforms, keep reading. 

hawksem: e-commerce ad platforms

Before you go all in on one ad platform, you need a solid understanding of where your audience is already shopping. (Image via Unsplash)

1. Work with cohesive vendors

Working with vendors that can easily integrate with the other programs your company uses will be hugely beneficial, especially as your e-commerce business grows. When you’re launching digital ads, it’ll be a more streamlined process when you’re using hosting options (like Shopify or Nexcess) that integrate well with search engines and social media platforms.

For example, if your e-commerce biz doesn’t use a customer relationship management (CRM) tool or has a custom site, you may have to jump through a few more hoops to make sure everything is synced and reporting properly when it comes to your ads. 

If you’re just starting out on the paid ads route, you can set yourself up for success by integrating with a CRM, keeping your site simple and easy to navigate, and making sure you can easily integrate with search engines and social platforms where you’d potentially want to show your ads.

2. Understand the pros and cons of paid search vs. display ads for e-commerce

Once you’ve decided to invest in digital ads, the next step is deciding which ad type to leverage. E-commerce brands can certainly find success with paid search or pay-per-click (PPC), particularly through dynamic search ads. Simply put by Google, these ad types “are the easiest way to find customers searching on Google for precisely what you offer.”

Dynamic search ads use content and keywords from your e-commerce site to help better target your ads to the right people (all the more reason to have a strong e-commerce SEO strategy). Simply add a thought-out description, and let the search engine take care of the rest, from the headlines to the landing pages. 

Hawksem: E-commerce ad platforms

An example of a paid search e-commerce ad from Herbal Dynamics Beauty

If you want to opt for display ads, e-commerce brands can try their luck with dynamic remarketing (also called retargeting). These ads populate for people who have already visited one of your product pages vs. those who have clicked an ad. These ads are a good money-saving option — you don’t have to have any other forms of advertising for them to work. You can run these on platforms like Google, Facebook, Instagram, and Amazon.

Pro tip: How frequently you want your remarketing ad to resurface for each person is up to you. With Google, you can set a frequency cap, but with Facebook, you can’t. Depending on your offering, your ad may need to show up four or 10 times to be successful. Test out a frequency, then access the data to see how well your ads are performing and determine if you need to modify from there.

3. Determine where your audience is already shopping

Before you go all in on e-commerce ad platforms, you’ll want to have a solid understanding of where your audience is already shopping. After all, you want to meet your customer where they already are — the easier you make it for them to purchase your product or service, the higher ROI you’re likely to see.

PPC ads on Google and remarketing ads on Facebook are great places for an e-commerce brand to start. If more of your buyers are on Amazon or even Instagram, then those could be good options as well. Just make sure you’re not competing against yourself. For example, running Amazon ads may cause you to outrank your own Google Shopping items, and you don’t want that. 

hawksem: e-commerce ad platforms

Social ads are a great place to start when you’re working with a limited budget but want a decent-size reach. (Image via Unsplash)

4. Keep in mind what makes up a successful e-commerce ad

When it comes to what e-commerce ads resonate best, feel free to be your own test subject! Search for a common item, like “blue t-shirt,” on Google or Amazon, then check out the results. Which images and ad copy blurbs stand out most to you?

The elements of a successful e-commerce ad will vary by product, industry, and audience, of course. But there are few good rules of thumb that are likely to benefit brands across categories. Clear, high-quality images without cluttered backgrounds are a good place to start. You also want to be sure your products are easy to view on smartphones. Business Insider predicts that mobile shopping (aka m-commerce) will reach $284 billion, or 45% of the total U.S. e-commerce market, this year. 

Hawksem: E-commerce ad platforms

An example of a paid social ad from Intel on Twitter

Social ads are a particularly great option when you’re working with a limited budget but want a decent-size reach. For these e-commerce ad platforms, think about how you can make your ad seamlessly fit in with organic posts on that specific platform. Depending on which site your ad will appear on, consider elements like GIFs or videos, hashtags, platform-relavant verbiage (like “retweet” on Twitter, for example). Just make sure you’re still being authentic and try to your brand — a joke that falls flat is worse than no joke at all!

Pro tip: Got a brick-and-mortar location? Make sure your Google My Business (GMB) page is set up correctly with tags in place and the most up-to-date info. If people can’t easily find your physical space (or if your page looks low-quality because Google auto-populated it), they may opt to go elsewhere instead. 

5. Don’t forget about seller ratings

Especially for highly competitive markets, having seller ratings on your ads can be a game-changer for your CTR. As we’ve mentioned, peer recommendations, research, and product reviews are some of the most influential factors that affect purchasing decisions. If you’ve ever compared an item with 3 out of 5 stars to one with 5 out of 5, then gone with the latter, you know what we mean.

As with any ad, think about what sets you apart from your competitors. Something like free shipping may not be as appealing if most of the brands similar to yours are offering that as well. Don’t be afraid to get creative — is your product the softest, fastest, the first of its kind, or something else? Use that angle in your copy to help the item shine. 

6. Perform tests to see what appeals most to your audience

Predicting is one thing — analyzing the data is, of course, another. Once you begin launching e-commerce ads, keep in mind that continued testing will be one of the most effective ways to understand your target audience and what resonates with them. 

Do they prefer free two-day shipping or a coupon code? Do they click more on white backgrounds or real-life images? Consistent testing and measuring will help you answer these questions.

hawksem: e-commerce ad platforms

With so much shopping taking place online these days, having ads for your e-commerce brand just makes sense. (Image via Unsplash)

Pro tip: Before beginning, determine the goals of your paid ad strategy. Especially if you’re working with an agency, it’s crucial that everyone is aligned on budget, KPIs, and what success looks like. Even if you’re just starting out with e-commerce ads, you can still look at your spend and product costs to determine what numbers would mean a campaign was successful.

The takeaway

With so much shopping taking place online these days — for everything from necessities to luxury goods — having ads for your e-commerce brand just makes sense. It’s a great way to expand your reach, boost your sales, and beat out your competition.

By following best practices — like having goals in mind, determining where your audience likes to shop, and making sure you’re putting your business’s best face forward online — you can leverage e-commerce ad platforms and be on the right path to getting the ROI you seek.

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.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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Written by Caroline Cox on Dec 17 , 2019

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 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.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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