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.
You can also establish credibility through showcasing:
- 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.
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:
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.