Online marketing has become a pay-to-play game, but you don’t need to pay more, play more and win (or possibly lose) more to beat the competition, You just need the tricks to create a Google Ads Campaign that will let you play more and pay less,
Whether you are looking to sell pet accessories or SaaS products, pay-per-click ads are one of the most effective ways to reach your target audience.
Your competitors are also paying— and they might have much larger budgets. Or, they might just have better brand awareness, to begin with, making it easier for them to get customers through paid ads.
This article will give you what you need to know to create a successful Google Ads campaign that stands out and helps you beat out your competition,
The average advertiser on Google makes approximately $2 in revenue for every $1 of spend. Is it enough to give Google ads a try?
While highly effective, Google Ads are also one of the most complex areas of digital marketing, as any PPC marketer can tell you.
Key term lists can be long, there are dozens of targeting options, and just one wrong move can waste thousands of dollars.
Plus, you aren’t the only one paying to reach customers.
Figure Out Who Your Competition Really Is
Too often, brands make assumptions about who they are competing with.
Sometimes this is emotional — for example, you want to be more successful than someone who started around the same time as you or graduated from the same school. Other times, brands just assume the names they hear the most are their biggest competitors.
But, there might be a few wildcards you haven’t considered.
To figure out who your competition really is, the first step is a good old-fashioned Google search for the top keyword related to your industry.
Let’s say you run an online store selling pet supplies. A quick Google search will show you that there’s a lot of competition:
You are competing with a major pet food supplier (Chewy), a pet food brand (Blue Buffalo), and even local pet food stores in your area.
That is a pretty broad key term, though. Let’s look at the results for a specific item, such as a dog collar.
Now you’ve got the carousel ranking first, with Tiffany & Co., Wild One, and Atlas Pet Company ranking high.
Chewy.com and Petco come at the top of organic results but are nowhere to be found in the paid ads section.
APC, Petco, and Chewy are obvious competitors, but Tiffany & Co. is a jewelry company, not a brand you might expect to be a competitor. Can you outspend Tiffany & Co.? Probably not.
You’ll have to make a strategy call here — maybe you don’t bid for dog collar key terms at all, but instead bid for terms where you can rank, and then use your website to push conversions on dog collars.
It will all depend on your business, of course, but the lesson here is that you need to know who your actual competitors are before you can build an effective strategy.
Otherwise, you could waste thousands of dollars on a Google Ads strategy that won’t work.
Get a Deeper Understanding Your Competition
Once you understand who your competition really is, it’s time to figure out what strategies they are using to be successful.
The goal of this step is to learn, so (for now) focus on companies that are doing better than you.
Get Comfortable With Google’s Keyword Planner
Google’s Keyword Planner tool is a gold mine for paid search marketers.
You can search up to 10 key terms at a time to understand whether something is worth bidding on.
The tool provides insights into how often key terms are searched, bid estimates, and gives you an idea of how competitive each term is.
You can also include your website to get more personalized key term suggestions.
For example, cat food and dog food terms have a lot of competition. For smaller brands without a massive PPC budget, these terms might be out of reach.
But, the Keyword Planner can also help you find some lower hanging fruit. By sorting competition from low to high, you can see there are several key terms with much lower competition.
“Puppy keeps spilling” could be a good target key term for a raised water dish, for example.
“Cat stopped using the litter box” might be a term you can target with an ad for a self-cleaning box or a special type of litter.
These terms show less purchase intent, to be fair. But may still be worth considering.
The keyword planner tool has undergone a ton of changes recently, which you can read about here. If it’s been a while since you’ve used the tool, it might be time to brush up on its capabilities.
Use Third-Party Tools
While Google’s Keyword Planner tool gives a ton of great information, you need to bring in the big guns when you are looking to win a Google Ads throwdown.
SEMrush and Spyfu are both fantastic tools that offer tons of insight you simply won’t find in a free tool.
SEMrush provides data about key terms search volume, CPC, trends, and more. It also provides examples of competitors’ ads (so you can see what other brands are doing), organic search results, related key terms, and more.
It is a bit pricey, but there are tons of features beyond key term research that makes it useful. Plus, there is a free 7-day trial.
SpyFu is all about finding out what your competitors are doing.
You can figure out exactly what key terms they are using, and how much they paid, and how many clicks they got.
This means you can see what works and might even save yourself from testing a strategy that will flop. You can also use Spyfu to spot and track emerging brands before they take over.
Spyfu provides individual recommendations to help you improve campaigns by suggesting key terms you aren’t already targeting.
The tools above will give you tons of information, but what will you do with that information?
It is now time to ask: Why are your competitors beating you? It’s easy to assume they simply have more money to spend.
But, a bit of self-reflection will go a long way here. Look at every aspect —- the terms they use, the pictures they include, where their links go, etc.
Can you use the same or similar strategy, perhaps on a less-competitive key term they aren’t targeting?
Take An In-depth Look at Your Key Terms
Selecting the right keywords for your campaign is critical to showing your ads to the right customers, and is a basic step that often gets overlooked.
Start by creating a list of the main categories of your business, and then look for words or phrases that fall under each of those categories. Be sure to include words your customers would use to describe your products or services.
To stick with the pet store example, you might start off with some basic categories that customers would use, like “dog food.” Broad key terms are often highly competitive, though.
You might also add “dry dog food” and “wet dog food” if you find out these are commonly-used terms. Expand your list further by including brand and product names of items you carry, such as “Purina dog food” and “Purina Beneful.”
Another way to find key terms is by reviewing your internal site search data.
You may find, for example, that a lot of users search for “cat food for diabetic cats” or “grain-free dog food.” These may be terms you should consider targeting.
Don’t forget to regularly review your negative key terms to reduce ad spend.
Most marketers either don’t bother setting them up or set negative key terms up once and forget them. Don’t make this mistake!
Bid On Branded Terms
Branded key terms can be search terms that include your brand name or your competitor’s brand name. It might seem pointless to bid on your own brand, especially when you think your organic listing will rank high.
But if you don’t, your competitors will — and their ads will show up above those organic pages you’ve worked so hard to rank.
Casper mattress, for example, is actually the third-ranked ad for their brand name. Both Sealy and DreamCloud rank higher.
Targeting branded terms also makes it easier to send visitors to a targeted landing page, which lets you address very specific pain points.
The DreamCloud ad in the example above sends visitors to a landing page that compares Casper to their mattress.
It can feel risky, but you don’t want to risk a competitor stealing away customers searching for your brand name.
Improve Your Quality Score
The Quality Score is a rating that Google uses to show how relevant and high-quality your ad is. If customers are constantly clicking on an add only to get lost in a maze of unrelated content, your quality score is going to suffer. And while creating a high-quality ad does make logical sense, there’s another benefit to keep in mind.
In most cases, a higher quality score correlates with a lower cost per conversion.
Remember, a great Quality Score is Google saying that your ad meets your potential customers’ needs. When this happens, Google will charge you less per click — and you will likely see a higher rate of conversions.
Start by creating dedicated landing pages and using Dynamic Keyword insertions to make your ads more relevant. Just those small changes can save you a ton of money on ad spend by increasing your Quality Score.
Improve Your Conversion Strategy
In a successful Google Ads campaign, the ads are just half of the equation.
Once you earn that click, what happens?
- Do you take them to a landing page or your homepage?
- How do you engage with them?
- Co you make it easy to check out?
- Do you ask for an email address or offer a free consult?
- Do you offer a discount or free trial entice them to take the next step?
- Are you offering customers enough information about the products or services you offer?
- Do you include trust signals, such as HTTPs?
- Do you include social proof in the form of reviews and case studies?
Once you’ve improved your ads, you need to ensure you improve every part of the conversion process.
Google Ads can be a cut-throat business.
Brands bid on other brand names, marketers spend thousands of dollars trying new strategies, and only the top two or three ads get any real traffic.
It can be frustrating, but (luckily) quality scores level the playing field nicely.
Don’t worry about not having the same ad spend as Tiffany & Co.
Worry about creating a targeted ad and providing customers with the information they need to make an informed decision.
And no matter how good your current campaign is doing, make sure you’re testing and trying new strategies.
This will keep you one step ahead of your competition.