If you’re looking to get more leads and sales through online marketing, it can get a little overwhelming with all the different channels to choose from.
There’s also remarketing, email marketing, influencer marketing…Okay, I’ll stop…you get the idea.
And while each of these different channels has its advantages and disadvantages—some build brand awareness, some educate, and others close sales—you’ve got to pick and choose your battles, especially when your budget is limited.
If you’re in business to make money (who isn’t?), then more sales or revenue is your ultimate goal, and there’s one marketing channel that trumps all those mentioned above when it comes to generating sales…
And that’s pay per click marketing (or PPC as the cool kids call it).
But before you can start generating sales with PPC, you have to understand important concepts like the buyer’s journey, searcher’s intent and more. Then, and only then, will PPC help you profitably scale your business.
Luckily, that’s exactly what I’m about to share with you, plus a few actionable tips on how to make it happen.
Here’s what you need to understand in order to seal the deal and close more sales with pay per click marketing.
Step1: Understanding the Buyer’s Journey
Before you can turn PPC into a profitable marketing channel for your business, you’ve gotta master your understanding of the buyer’s journey. When a potential customer is searching online, they tend to go through 3 stages: Awareness → Consideration → Decision.
The Awareness stage is where a potential customer realizes they have a challenge or problem. This can range from “my stuffy nose is bothering me,” to “I don’t have any flip flops for the summer.”
In the Consideration stage, a potential customer has identified what his problem is and is now evaluating all available solutions.
Finally, the Decision stage is where a potential customer has narrowed it down to one or two solutions and is weighing the pros and cons of each in order to make a final decision.
Unfortunately, the decision stage is where the least potential customers are, but there’s a big plus: people at the decision stage have their wallet in hand, ready to buy!
They’re aware of their problem, they’ve considered various options, and they’re ready to purchase something that will make their lives better.
This is where pay per click is most effective—targeting people at the decision stage and giving them an incentive to buy.
Jon Cosley goes into even greater detail on the customer journey in paid search in his article on search engine land.
Warning: cheesy yet necessary baseball analogy incoming…
Think of paid search as your all-star closing pitcher, while the other channels are your starters and relief pitchers.
Just like in a real baseball game, the other channels (pitchers) have got you where you need to be—that is, through the first two stages (awareness and consideration).
But now that you’re in the 9th inning you need that phenom that will close out the game and seal the win—or get prospects in the decision stage to choose your product or service.
Pay per click is what allows you to do that. Pay per click is your phenom that closes the game.
But before you can target customers at the decision stage with pay per click, you need to understand the concept of search intent.
Step 2: Understanding search intent
Understanding search intent is key to making any pay per click strategy work effectively.
When setting up your campaign, creating keywords, ads, etc., you should be putting yourself in your potential customer’s shoes.
Since most of us aren’t telepathic (I think…), you’ll have to brainstorm a bit. What would your ideal customer type into Google in order to find your product or service? What’s the logic behind their search query? How informed are they? What do they want and when do they want it?
Pay per click is easy when you’re telepathic.
Kirk Williams said it best in his recent post about audience targeting on Moz:
“A keyword is still my favorite form of targeting in paid search because it reveals individual, personal, and temporal intent”.
Being able to choose keywords in paid search is so valuable because you can determine what stage of the buyer’s journey you want to target. It allows you to be in the right place at the right time.
If someone is searching “best material for kitchen counters,” it gives you insight into what the user is thinking, and ultimately what stage of the buyer’s journey they’re at.
We can safely assume that most people conducting this kind of search are still in the early phases of their research on kitchen counters and don’t yet know what they want.
On the other hand, if we look at a search query like “discounted granite counters,” we can assume that the searcher is very close to making a purchase decision and is looking for a discount. In other words, this query tells us there’s an intent to purchase.
High-Intent Is Key
Since most businesses don’t have $100K/month to spend on pay per click, paying for thousands of clicks at the Awareness, Consideration, and Decision stage won’t be possible. (NOTE: if you happen to be swimming in leftover ad budget like Mr. Krabs here, create campaigns for each stage!).
For small to medium sized ad budgets, it’s critical to focus your ad spend on high-intent users. These are the people who have identified a problem, researched a solution, and are ready to buy your product or service. By doing so, you will increase sales & conversion rates while lowering your cost-per-acquisition.
Unfortunately, many marketers still make the mistake in thinking that an increase in traffic is the key to success. Don’t let the idea of maximum exposure get in the way of your marketing success.
When you remember that paid search has you paying for every click of your ad (..and 99.9% are not converting) you’ll quickly realize how much money you’re wasting on the wrong traffic.
Sure, a general increase in traffic can bring more leads and sales. But if you focus on getting more high-intent traffic, you’ll be rewarded with a killer ROI.
Here’s how to actually put this to work for your business…
Step 3: Sealing the deal with pay per click
So about now you’re probably thinking,“Hey Colin, this all sounds fine and dandy, but how do I actually apply this to my campaigns?”
Glad you asked.
Here are a few things that you can do to seal the deal with PPC.
Tip #1: High-Intent Keywords
First, make sure to be using proven high-intent keywords that place the user in the Decision stage. Some keywords that tend to perform well:
- On Sale
- Branded Terms
- In “Targeted Location” (i.e. in Montreal)
For more high-intent keyword ideas check out Wordstream’s awesome post about commercial intent.
What your potential customers are really saying at the decision stage.
Not all of these keywords will perform the same for different accounts and industries. But it’s safe to say that someone searching “where to buy Japanese green tea” is much closer to a purchase than someone searching “is Japanese green tea good for you.”
Don’t be fooled and think this only works for e-commerce. Local services and brick & mortar stores can take advantage of the same keywords.
Say you own a local antique shop, which search query do you think is closer to a store visit: “is antique furniture expensive” OR “cheap antique furniture in Portland”. I think you know the answer…
The search query that includes in Portland tells us someone wants to visit a store near them that sells cheap antique furniture—for this reason, it has high search intent and is the clear winner.
But just choosing high-intent keywords is only the first step. You’ve also got to…
Tip #2: Match The Search Intent
If the user is searching with high intent, make sure their intent is matched from the time of the search to the time of purchase. Everything in the campaign should be in-line and consistent along the user’s path to purchase.
The search query, the keyword that’s triggered, the ad they click, the page they land on…they all need to have consistent messaging that speaks to the stage the user is in.
This is true for all stages, but you will see the best results by creating tight and focused search campaigns targeting users that are ready to purchase.
Let’s look at real example. Say I happened to try green tea at work and loved it. Now I decide to head online and see where I can buy some online. I Google “buy green tea online” and see the results:
The first ad highlighted in orange calls out exactly what I searched in the headline, along with the benefit of low cost shipping. This sounds good so far. So I click through and land on this page:
The page is nothing exceptional but it shows exactly what I had going through my mind at the time of search: “I want to buy green tea online”. Also, notice that the page doesn’t display just any kind of tea. It specifically shows me green tea and the price to purchase it online.
Now when I go back to the search results and take a look at the fourth ad highlighted in blue from President’s Choice, I notice that the ad not only forgets to mention that I can buy online, but it doesn’t even mention green tea! Nevertheless, I had some time on my hands so I decided to click through to the landing page:
Even though the page looks beautiful, where’s the green tea?
That’s what I searched for. How do I buy green tea online from this site? Odds are they probably do sell green tea somewhere on the site, but the fact that I don’t see it right when I land on their website causes me to hit the back button—and never come back.
I had my credit card in hand, ready to buy some green tea, and President’s Choice missed out on a sale.
Don’t do that with your PPC campaigns. Match the search intent all the way through!
Tip #3: Say Goodbye to Broad Match
The third thing you can do is a little more broad (pun absolutely intended): eliminate broad match keywords! Modified broad match is great, but broad match has got to go.
Broad match can show your ad for anything that Google or Bing believe to be somewhat relevant to the user’s search. As a result, you’ll be paying for clicks from users who can be at any stage of the buyer’s journey. This is an easy way for your campaigns to lose focus and destroy your ROI.
We’ve consistently seen improvements in clients’ conversion rates, cost-per-conversion, and cost-per-sale by simply eliminating broad match keywords.
Putting it all together
Being able to target by keyword with PPC is extremely powerful when marketing your business online. By choosing your keywords wisely, you’re able to target someone at a specific stage of the buyer’s journey.
There are other effective targeting strategies out there like audience targeting, but someone’s age, gender, income, interests and life events don’t allow you to gauge purchase intent as much as keywords do.
Don’t get me wrong, paid search is definitely not the “be all end all” of online marketing. Social media, blogging, display, influencer marketing, etc. all have their own purpose in generating revenue for your business. But paid search is that all-star closer, the Mariano Rivera if you will, that you can rely on to close sales for your business.
Focus your campaigns on high-intent users, use purchase-intent keywords, eliminate broad match keywords and watch your ROI skyrocket. And if you throw in some retargeting for those who don’t convert on the first visit, then you’re really on your way to a winning campaign. But that’s a topic for another day…
What are you currently struggling with in regards to pay per click? Leave a comment below and I’ll do what I can to help!
Colin spearheads the paid search department for Webrunner. He spends a lot of his time analyzing data and optimizing campaigns to improve ROI. He has an unhealthy obsession with sports and dares anyone to challenge his knowledge of the NHL. Connect with him on Twitter.