As a small business, it can be hard to figure out how to make PPC ads worthwhile. While initial setup on ads seems simple, actually making them worth what you're paying for them is the hard part. We're going to dive into some of the basics of PPC ads and how you can use them to your advantage!
PPC – or pay per click- ads are a type of paid, digital advertising where you pay companies such as Google, Bing, Facebook, or LinkedIn to put your content in front of more people on social media or different websites. These ads don't cost anything to show usually, you pay when someone clicks on your ad to go to your website.
There are several different ad types you can choose from. The ones you should be using depend on several factors, including where in the buying process your prospects are when they see your ads. Different ad types require different creative, different budgets, and a unique understanding of the systems involved.
Search ads are the 'ad' results or 'sponsored' results you see when you are using a search engine. The most well used ones are Google Adwords and Bing Ads. Yahoo has its own ad engine, but Bing owns enough of Yahoo that their ads show up on Yahoo's search results. Undoubtedly, other search engines (Altavista, Duck, Duck, Go, etc) have paid search ads, but approximately 99% of all search traffic online is through Google, Bing, and Yahoo, so you'll want to focus here.
You use search ads primarily to bypass SEO and search results for searches related to your business's products or services. People are usually looking for a particular product or service when they see your search ads.
Display ads are image-based ads that are shown on partner sites to Google Adwords. These are the ads that are often blocked by browser extensions such as Adblock Plus. If you have looked at a website or product and seen an ad about it on another website (not social media sites), you've seen a display ad. These tend to be most commonly used in remarketing campaigns.
Because they're so easy to block, display ad campaigns tend to be some of the least effective campaigns overall. They do have their purposes, but in general they aren't worth the money you spend on them, and tend to be mostly used by large corporations with multi-million dollar ad budgets.
Social Media Ads are any sponsored or paid content on social media. These come in as many forms as there are social media sites! Facebook as boosted and sponsored posts, LinkedIn has sponsored messaging and sponsored posts, Pinterest has special types of pins for paid advertisers, and it doesn't stop there. Advertising space is an easy way for social media companies to make money, so all of them have – or quickly create – an ad system.
Because of the vast amount of social media companies and ways to create sponsored content on these systems, social media ads are usually the most versatile of all ad types. They also, because they're the easiest to set up, tend to be the most well used (particularly Facebook).
The types of ads you should be using are directly impacted by your product and service offerings, who your audience is, what their goals are, and where they hang out online. It's common even for small businesses to have campaigns running in multiple different places online.
If there are so many kinds of ads, how do you know what ad type to use? That's fairly simple: you use sales funnels. A sales funnel is simply the method you use to turn prospects into clients. Using different kinds of ads, you can touch people at every stage of the buying process.
People at the top of your funnel, otherwise called the cold audience, are those who don't know who you or your company are. Often, the goals with Top of Funnel Ads are to get your company's name out to new people, placing yourself as an expert in your field, or sharing helpful information with people who may soon be purchasing something you are selling.
The most commonly used ads at the top of the funnel are social media ads. Social networks usually have information about your interests in their systems. While they do not share that information with marketers, they do connect you with ads from companies that you may be interested in, based on those interests.
The middle of your funnel, or warm audience, are those who know about you and your company, but simply aren't ready to purchase what you're selling. The range of goals for warm audiences is wide. Many companies work at this stage to turn prospects into buyers by selling them a very small item to eventually incentivise them to purchase something larger later. Sometimes, the goal is to get people a free trial, or to trade their emails for a free resource of some sort.
Because the range of goals for middle of funnel ads is so wide, it makes sense that you can use any types of ads here. The type you use depends on your goals. Social media is almost always a solid decision here. Display ads are going to function best in the middle of the funnel, particularly in campaigns designed to keep the brand or product top-of-mind.
The bottom of your funnel, also called hot audience, is made up of people who know who you are and what you offer, and are ready to buy your product or service. The goal here is usually simple: purchase. However, sometimes your audience knows what they're ready to buy, but not about you, which is where search ads come in. Simple purchases are a goal that can be easily achieved with a social media ad campaign. But if your audience knows what they want – but not your name- then you'll want to set up search ads so that you can appear at the top of their search results.
If you're using Google Adwords or Bing Ads, there are many issues that can cause you to not be getting the conversions that you're looking for. These are some of the items that we have found the most issues with.
The demographics of your audience will define what search engine you use. Normally, Google will be your best bet. However, certain demographics use Bing more than anything else. One primary demographic that prefers Bing are people over 55 or so. But sometimes you may be surprised at how much more successful a campaign will be on Bing – the clicks are cheaper and you tend to get more impressions.
If you aren't looking to go nationwide yet, dialing in on your local area will make your ad spend more worthwhile. Even if you're only narrowing down to certain states, it will still get your ads in front of a more valuable audience.
If you aren't converting on your ads, check your budget! Sometimes, if you have extremely competitive keywords, it's worthwhile to increase your budget a little bit. This will give you a bit more wiggle room in winning high value keywords.
One great feature of search ads is the use of 'negative keywords.' If your ad pops up on a search for something unrelated, you can often use negative keywords to make sure that you're not paying for unhelpful traffic.
For example, if your keyword is 'insulation', and your business installs insulation, you want to make sure there are certain negative keywords such as “DIY,” “Lowes,” or “Home Depot.” People will search for “insulation home depot” if they want to purchase and install their own – not someone who will be interested in professional insulation installation.
Both Google Adwords and Bing Ads have areas where you can view what was searched when your ad was shown. These areas are great places to figure out ideas for negative keywords.
Your ad copy is, obviously, one of the most important parts of setting up search ads. Unlike social media ads, you want to focus on using keywords and informing the potential customer. Giving them a short overview of the products or services they're interested in, or perhaps an offer related to them, are what you will want to focus on.
Search ads have what's called extensions. These extensions can do all sorts of great things including display a phone number and display calls to action for other, similar, services or other pages on your website. Google ads has a great recommendations area that will walk you through how to set these up.
If your ads are getting clicks but not conversions, it's time to look at your landing page. Having great ads and a bad landing page isn't going to help anyone! Make sure your offer and copy are consistent, and that the landing page is clear.
Social media ads are entirely different from search ads. Your main goal with social media ads is to look like a native part of the social media platform. On top of that, there are many different 'sub-types' of social media ads thanks to different platforms (image-based, text-based, messaging based, etc). Because of this, your social media ads will look and feel drastically different from other types of ads, and often drastically different from each other.
The first thing you'll want to do is choose what social media platform will be best for your ads. The Facebook/Instagram platform is almost always a safe choice. However, because of the competition for ad space, you may want to look into other platforms' demographics. Every social media platform aside from Facebook has a particular demographic that prefers it.
For example, Pinterest tends to be used primarily by women over the age of 25. LinkedIn tends to be used by younger professionals, or for business-to-business connections. If your audience is primarily made up of business owners, you may want to try advertising on LinkedIn.
Most social media campaigns can be done much more cheaply than search or display ads. A simple Facebook ad campaign can be run for around $5/day, and still get good impressions and click-through-rate. However, for best results, you will want to run social media ad campaigns at around $20-25/day.
Audiences on social media ad campaigns can be extremely specific. Making sure your audience is as clear as possible will make your campaigns more successful! On Facebook, for example, you should make sure your audience has between 500k and 2 million people. Too few, and your ads won't get shown. Too many, and you won't get the right traffic. Try a couple of different audiences when you start your ads, you may be surprised where potential customers are hiding!
Your ad copy and creative are directly linked to your audience, and thus your social media ad campaign's success. Make sure you're choosing topics and images that will resonate with your audience. If you aren't sure exactly what to do or say, find one of your competitors and examine their social media ads. Facebook at least, allows you to view any ad that a Facebook page has running. Other platforms likely have something similar.
Check and optimize your social media ads often. While you aren't needing to check on things such as negative keywords, you do need to make sure your audience and your ad creative/copy are working effectively. The first week or two, check your ads every 2-3 days at least. After things have stabilized, then check weekly.
In many social media ad platforms, there are several different options for placements. For example, some of Facebook's placements are desktop feed, mobile feed, Instagram stories, and sidebar. Each placement uses a different image size ratio, and shows different amounts of text. If possible, create multiple images in different sizes to ensure your images are being shown in the best light possible.
As with search ads, if your ads are getting clicks but you're not getting conversions, consider that the landing page is the issue. Test different landing pages to see where the problem is. Make sure the ads and landing page are consistent and well functioning.
An important use of PPC campaigns is in remarketing. If you've ever been to a website and then seen an ad for that site, or a product or service they offer, you've experienced remarketing. While many people are worried about their behavior being followed around the 'net, it's actually a fairly simple process that doesn't share your data with others.
When you visit certain sites, they will save a tiny file with a number in it in your browser (ever been asked about 'cookies?' This is it!). If you go to certain social networks or other websites, they read the number(s) in your browser that they have access to, and show you a selection of ads based on those numbers.
The code that generates these numbers is called a pixel, and Facebook and Google will automatically generate them for you to hook your site to your ads on either site. They're fairly simple to implement, but you may need access to your website's code.
While Google does this to an extent, Facebook is famous for its ability to create intricately detailed audiences for remarketing. You can dial in on people who have completed certain actions but not others, people who have abandoned items in a cart, those who have downloaded free resources but haven't purchased, and more. Using these audiences, you can create campaigns to catch people at any stage of the buying process.
Awareness campaigns are the simplest way that remarketing is used. These are usually executed with Google Display ads. Often, you'll be on a website (most often a big box store, such as Target, Ulta Beauty, or Best Buy), and you will see a visual image ad for the same company. There's rarely anything particularly unique on the ad, and often they're unnoticed.
Another way that remarketing is used is to keep people moving through sales funnels. If, for example, someone has downloaded your free resource, you can now start showing them ads for a paid resource that they may be able to make use of.
Tied into that is plugging leaks in sales funnels. If you often lose people at a certain spot in your funnel, having ads served to those who don't continue with the process can drop the rate at which you lose customers or potential customers.
Pay per click advertising is a complex, but necessary part of ensuring that your small business is as successful as possible. Once you've chosen your types of ads and your campaigns, take the time to optimize each ad to the best of your ability. Make sure that you're running search and social media ads in ways that bring you more valuable traffic. If you're losing traffic, consider remarketing! And if PPC ad campaigns seem like more than you can handle on your own, don't stress, just call us!