PPC Strategy is a highly debated topic in the digital marketing industry. Marketing agencies and Google AdWords consultants all over the world have their own SEM strategy and their own “proprietary” methods of getting you the best results out there.
Oddly enough, however, there are companies that have great success without these amazing processes.
If you look closely and do your research, you’ll find that a marketing agency’s PPC strategy has very little to do the success of a company.
I’ve worked with Google Premier Partner agencies (agencies recognized all across the world for their expertise in certain areas of PPC), and other marketing agencies with brilliant and amazing ad managers. Every one of them has had PPC clients they couldn’t help.
Every agency comes across Google Ads accounts they can’t fix, Facebook Ad accounts that won’t turn a profit, and Bing Ads clients that leave empty handed after 90 days.
Every one of these agencies had clients that experienced great success and saw huge return on investment, but they also experienced failure.
Why is this the case? Why do great digital marketing agencies lose clients when they have a solid PPC strategy?
What Is A PPC Strategy?
To answer the question above, it’s necessary to look at what a PPC Strategy actually is. At it’s core, a pay per click strategy is a set of guidelines that dictate how to advertise for a company using paid ads on search engines or social media platforms.
The guidelines usually dictate how to select the target audiences, how the ads should look, how to minimize costs, and how to get the highest possible conversion rate.
For example, let’s say I’m a Google Ads specialist at a digital marketing agency. We get a new client and it’s my job to execute on our SEM strategy.
I’ll perform keyword research to find keywords that have a balance of high search volume and high purchase intent, maybe set up a brand campaign, build out search campaigns structured to get a high quality score, and set up display remarketing ads.
I can follow all of the rules to make Google happy, but the truth is that sometimes it will work and sometimes it won’t.
As mentioned at the start of this article, not everyone agrees on what makes a good digital marketing strategy.
It doesn’t really matter, though, because most strategies do fairly well at accomplishing their goal for some PPC accounts, and fail miserably for others.
Why Isn’t My PPC Strategy Working?
Failure in PPC advertising usually has less to do with the PPC marketer and more to do with the client and their goals.
A particular scenario I’ve seen time and time again is when e-commerce stores that are successful on Amazon and Etsy hire a online marketing agency to design a campaign strategy that will increase sales on their website.
The PPC marketer sees that the client is successfully selling plenty on Amazon and Etsy, racking up positive reviews and showing that the market wants the product.
It should be easy to set up a successful ppc campaign, right? Wrong. The campaigns perform miserably. You either get no search queries at all, or the search intent is showing that the potential customers are only researching.
The PPC marketer decides to shift the campaign strategy. They ab test keyword and ad copy, adjust audience targeting, add remarketing lists for search ads, suggest different landing page design and a different call to action, change the bidding strategy, and everything else they can do for more immediate results.
They’ve tried their Google Ad strategy, so they suggest a Facebook Ad strategy with minimal focus on search engines and more paid and organic social media focus. Conversion rates stay stagnant and money is wasted.
Meanwhile, Amazon and Etsy are still selling just as much, but are taking big chunks of the profit margins so the client is left with beans. Why is this happening?
The Reason Your eCommerce Store Isn’t Getting Sales
Because Amazon and Etsy are online marketplaces, each with a massive flow of potential customers.
The sheer amount of traffic with buyer’s intent makes each marketplace an easy entry point to ecommerce success. Seeing success on these platforms has more to do with product-market match.
There are some marketing tips and tricks that can help products stand out in searches, but much of the success depends on supplying a product for which there is already demand.
The problem with marketplaces, though, is that they require highly-competitive pricing and they take a large percentage of each sale (even more if you’re allowing them to fulfill your shipping). It’s often worth it, though, to get started.
You get nearly immediate results by adding a desirable product the the marketplace because the search intent of every search, and even the very fact that the user is on a marketplace, usually implies that they are potential customers who are ready to buy.
The problem comes when the owner of the ecommerce store wants to increase profit margins, so they shift to get sales from their own site. They hop on Google AdWords and fire up a shopping campaign. They struggle to get more than a sale or two, spending hundreds of dollars to sell a single product, and get desperate.
They do some keyword research, write some compelling ad copy, and crank out some search campaigns. They shift the bidding strategy of their shopping campaign to target ROAS, and run an ab test on each of their top landing pages.
The next few months don’t show any more results, so they try a display ad or two, add in some remarketing lists, write a blog post, and dump the rest of their slush fund into ad spend. Nothing.
The reason your marketing strategy isn’t working is that there simply isn’t any reason for the customer to shop on your site instead of Amazon. Many people go to Amazon as a default now, if they want to shop for something.
Maybe your price is lower on your site because you have the extra margin without marketplace fees. It doesn’t matter. You’ve not done anything to provide value to the user and they usually don’t even know that they’re buying from your brand.
To them, they’re buying from Amazon.
How Do You Create A PPC Strategy?
There are 3 elements that you need to keep in mind for paid advertising strategy:
Number 3 is the end goal of the best pay per click specialists, but you can’t get it without Number 2. Number 2 is the focus of good paid ad managers, but you can’t get it without Number 1.
Number 1 is the focus of many pay per click courses, but it doesn’t make a difference if you don’t get Number 2. Number 2 doesn’t help you if you don’t get Number 3. Do you follow? Let’s dig in a bit deeper to each of these.
Traffic is where it all starts. Our story about the ecommerce store? This was the missing element. Why wasn’t it enough to turn on search ads or shopping ads and start driving traffic?
Not all traffic is created equally. This is obvious to most marketers. The goal of most paid search campaigns is to get compelling search ads in front of people with the right intent. Getting ads in front of people who are ready to buy is one of the keys to increased conversions.
However, most people aren’t ready to buy right away, and waiting until they’re actively searching to show them ads leaves everything up to the quality of your copy and your ad position.
When you engineer your conversion funnel, you have to consider how people are getting into the top of the funnel. If all of your ad targeting focuses on the middle and bottom of the funnel (the times when people are trying to decide who to buy from and then making the purchase), your marketing funnel will dry up and you’ll end up paying more and more for each conversion.
Targeting the top of the funnel is a focus of more successful paid advertising professionals who know that it takes a steady flow through the whole funnel to keep the lead flow churning.
Getting in front of people who are a good fit for their products or services with display ads, youtube videos, and text ads for more broad search queries is a good way to move them through your funnel.
Only the most successful marketer (or the one with the most budget) targets audiences outside of the funnel. Most marketers don’t even think about people that don’t need their product or service yet, but this is the market segment that holds the future of your business.
This segment moves down into the segment than can then be filtered into the top of your funnel and move through to be paying and nurtured customers.
Regardless of who you’re targeting, if you don’t have traffic, you don’t have the currency needed to generate Conversions or ROI.
You can have a million hits a month on your site and still make no money. Many content marketers are well aware that writing the best blog post in the world isn’t enough to make money.
You can do all the search engine optimization and paid campaigns you want to drive traffic to your site, but if there’s no offer and call to action, you’re wasting your time.
At least one offer is needed for Conversions to take place. A Conversion is any action that leads website visitors one step closer to doing business with you.
Google splits up Conversions into micro conversions and macro conversions. A micro conversion is each tiny step on the way to a macro conversion. A macro conversion is the action you actually want them to take.
It might be a phone call or quote request, it might be booking a consultation or making a purchase. Regardless, it’s a way to track the effectiveness of your marketing efforts.
Conversions are the most important actions a person can take on your website, and since PPC marketing involves paying for every website visitor, the goal becomes to make sure that all of your paid traffic is of the highest quality (has the intent to convert), and that your website is designed to make it as easy and attractive as possible to convert (conversion rate optimization).
The problem with focusing on Conversions as the end-all-be-all of marketing, however, is that you view the unconverting traffic as wasteful.
This leads to attempts to minimize wasteful traffic and increase traffic that converts. You generally mimize traffic altogether, but end up with a higher rate of conversion.
A higher conversion rate is great, but not at the expense of future conversions! This mindset is one of the biggest problems with modern marketing and is why many marketing efforts fizzle out.
If you’re a normal human being, you probably don’t need every product and service under the sun at all times. You’re bombarded with advertisements and info from every direction and it’s overwhelming.
The rare times you do need a product or service, you’re going to go with a personal recommendation first (depending on the person recommending it, of course), a trusted brand second, a brand you like third, or a brand you’re familiar with in the absence of the other options.
People without direct word-of-mouth referrals generally rely on the reviews and testimonials of others to make their conversion decision. Sometimes, with lower value sales, price and need are all that matter.
In the absence of reviews and with competitive pricing, it usually comes down to which brand resonates the most with the person deciding (which one they like more). If everything is really balanced between all of the options, the most familiar generally has the most trust.
This being the case, our odds of converting actually increase if we increase our marketing efforts to the top of the funnel and those outside of the funnel altogether.
Collect reviews, put some personality in your brand, improve your customer experience, and improve efforts to build awareness. Conversion optimization is not simply a matter of changing your landing page desing.
It’s a comprehensive business strategy.
3. Return On Investment
ROI is a buzz word among the elite in the online marketing world and those who listen to and mimic them.
The only true way to measure if you have a successful ppc campaign is to check the return on investment.
Subtract all costs from revenue and see what you have left. If you’re ROI positive, keep going. If you end up negative, you’ll need to change something.
It’s really a simple way of determining if your campaigns perform well or not, but there are some caveats.
Focusing exclusively on ROI at the campaign level means that you’ll probably only use text ads or shopping ads. Display campaigns perform miserably if conversion and ROI are your KPI for everything.
You might decrease ad spend on campaigns that show less ROI in the last 30 days, only to see fewer conversions and even less ROI.
Alternatively, you can increase ad spend and see increased conversions in a window, but come up ROI negative because the extra spend put them into the next tier of your management pricing (or you just spent too much on ads).
Online marketing has given us the wonderful ability to track virtually every action a person takes in our paid campaigns, but we can’t track everything.
We don’t know the conversation they’re having with their spouse over dinner. We don’t know what they’re thinking about as they drift off to sleep.
We don’t know what they’re telling their friends and family at their get-togethers. We don’t know the subconscious thoughts that they don’t even know themselves.
We don’t know these things, but we can influence them.
If ROI is our only concern, we will never care about the person we’re trying to influence as marketers. You need to make money with your PPC advertising, that’s obvious.
If you don’t make money, your business will shut down fast. You might be surprised to find, however, that ROI can come many days, weeks, months, or years after you influence someone.
Customer Experience is one of those nebulous concepts that everyone gets but nobody acts on.
Everybody has their tips and tricks for CX, but the core principle is the same no matter what spin you put on it: treat people like valuable human beings and you will stand out. Companies that stand out make more money.
You can’t measure the impact of a few kind words or patiently waiting on someone who is slow to decide, not even with the NPS, but you can see and feel the results in person.
The weird thing about ROI is that it’s often harder to get if you’re focused on getting it. If all you want is profit, you’ll usually neglect feelings of the people you have to serve to get it.
If you serve from a place of authenticity and love, you’ll have to really try hard to lose money.
You do have to be smart with how you spend, of course, but how you serve affects the most powerful form of marketing: word of mouth.
In online advertising, this comes in the form of reviews and repeat business.
The things you can’t track, though, the offline word of mouth, is the real ROI. One click on a Google ad could lead to a sale that ripples out into hundreds more because you changed someone’s life with true, genuine care.
It’s not guaranteed, it’s not trackable, but it’s worth doing.
The alternative of treating people like just another credit card or conversion always leads to increased costs and negative ROI as people refuse to buy from you again, don’t tell their friends, and your funnel dries up over time.
Success With PPC
Hopefully you can see now that a successful PPC strategy goes far beyond Google Ads, Facebook Ads, and Bing Ads.
It goes far beyond ad spend, conversion optimization, and quality score.
PPC advertising is most successful when it’s viewed and used properly as one piece of a comprehensive business strategy.
For those out there who are still viewing online marketing as your ticket to growth, I hope you’ll see in time that it’s just a piece of the puzzle.
Keep in mind everything you need for your SEM strategy: Traffic, Conversions, and ROI.
Keep these in mind and remember to keep the right perspective with all of them, and you’ll have made your piece of the puzzle as good as you can make it.