We’ve written a fair number of blog posts about pay-per-click channels in the past, focusing on both tactical tips and strategic recommendations. Both elements are equally important, as the best PPC specialists have an incredibly strong grasp on the mechanics of the channel, but also understand the marketing fundamentals of their product or service. This means they can deliver the right content to the right people at the right time – ensuring that the ad text and landing page copy is not only on-brand but tailored to where the user is in the buying process.
This “customer-centric” approach to paid search means providing answers to informational queries for people that are just beginning to do research – for example, promoting a buyer’s guide for the person searching for “best small cars 2015”. Based on this search term, it’s likely that the person knows that they’re interested in buying a compact car, but really don’t know which brands or models they should consider. Knowing this, the advertiser can adjust their ad copy and landing page accordingly; if I am wondering what the best small car on the market is, it would be inappropriate to take me to a page where I can customize my car or schedule a test drive with a dealer. I haven’t even decided what brand I’m looking for! At this point in the buying process, content that is educational, rather than “sales-y” or overly self-promotional, is what users are looking for.
Consider a different search query – “buy a sweet fake beard online” (don’t judge my search history, please). Based on the wording of this search term, the user is likely ready to make a purchase, so it’s okay for the advertiser to take them to a page that is more overtly promotional than in our SUV example above. It would be a waste to take them to an informational page (say, a video about how to apply a fake beard, or a history of great moustaches in film) – since the user has already done their research and is ready to buy, the ad copy and landing page should reflect user intent.
Let’s look at a few ways to ensure that your paid search campaigns are built around your customers’ buying process.
- Campaign Structure. Since keywords, ad copy, and landing pages all have to be tightly controlled in this approach, you may have to dramatically expand the scope of your campaigns. Consider allocating two campaigns for each product or line of service you offer – one “informational” campaign, one “conversion” campaign. Within each one, build out multiple ad groups around similar terms. It’s okay to get pretty granular here – for example, “small car buyers guide” and “small car reviews” can be segmented into two different ad groups, which will let you tweak the ad copy to be as specific as possible.
- Extending Your Landing Page. Visitors to your site from informational queries may not be ready to buy just yet, but this doesn’t mean they should just consume your content and leave! Extend the impact of your landing page and marketing by providing next steps – for example, a white paper download in exchange for their email address can be an excellent way to begin a drip campaign to guide them down the sales funnel. Similarly, you can reconnect with visitors and encourage further engagement with a remarketing campaign.
- Tools and organization are your friend. With highly targeted campaigns and ad groups, you may soon become a victim of “PPC sprawl” – a mass of keywords, ad copy, rules, and extensions that can become unwieldy over time. Consider developing a naming convention for your campaigns and ad groups that is easily extended and scaled as you grow. Multiple campaign and account management is also greatly aided by Google’s AdWords Editor; larger advertisers may want to consider a third-party management tool such as Kenshoo or Marin.
- Are You Testing? You Should be Testing. You really should. Even with a great understanding of your audience and the buying cycle for your product or service, there are always insights to be found by testing out different ad creative, landing page creative, keywords, and more. There are tons of tools available for A/B and multivariate testing (including landing page platforms like Unbounce and Optimizely, which can help you deploy highly specific landing pages quickly and at scale – ideal for bigger campaigns), as well as qualitative research platforms like ForeSee. But remember: test results are only as good as your insights! Make sure that you design tests in a way that makes the results actionable; for example, testing ad copy variations to answer the question, “do users respond better to ‘Free Shipping’ or ‘10% off’?” will provide you with data you can use across other channels, promotions, and media.
With the customer-centric approach to paid search, you, as the advertiser, are awarded with much greater flexibility and control. For example, you may want to increase top-of-funnel awareness by focusing on informational queries. Alternately, you can target more educated, ready-to-convert users with ad copy and landing pages that are designed to drive immediate action. Finally, since users are seeing highly specific content that matches their intent, you can expect to see better click-through-rates, Quality Scores, behavioral metrics, and conversion metrics.by