Even though organic search can be a massive driver of revenue, it’s an arena that’s simply too challenging for many businesses — and those that do manage to thrive in the SERPs often only reach that point after many months of hard graft and investment in SEO.
Paid search is much more practical in various ways: it offers near-immediate results, and operates in a much more transparent way than the confusing nest of vagaries that is Google’s ranking algorithm.
If you’ve decided to invest in paid search, then, you’ve made a solid choice — but investment doesn’t guarantee success, and you need to keep that in mind.
Too many businesses allocate healthy budgets (the classic throw-money-at-the-problem tactic) only to see those budgets achieve nothing of consequence, leaving them wondering what to do next.
Should they give up on the notion of paid search, despite all its promise? Continue throwing money away as they get nowhere? Neither of those things, obviously.
Instead, they should start again with revised strategies that factor in the tips we’re about to cover — while you can keep them in mind from the outset.
Here are 5 ways to make the best of your paid search budget:
#1. Polish your ad copy
While some PPC platforms allow elements such as images, animations, or even videos (videos are highly valuable for sales), you can’t get those things through Google Ads (the most prominent paid search platform, given that Google’s search engine is utterly dominant).
This places even more weight on your copy. Is it good enough to get searchers to pay attention?
Remember that brevity is essential: you only have so much room and so many characters to get your message across, and bland utility won’t get the job done.
Use ad extensions as they allow you to skirt the copy limits.
Additionally, focus on achieving an excellent message match between each ad and the landing page it leads to: getting a click is just the start, and if the clicker reaches their destination only to find that it doesn’t deliver what they expected, they’ll simply leave the website.
#2. Avoid the biggest hitters
PPC allows you to compete in search quickly, but it doesn’t make it any more likely that you’ll be able to succeed when up against massive brands: in actuality, it makes it considerably less likely.
If you create a piece of online content that’s better than anything comparable, it can rank highly in organic search regardless of the relative strength of your brand.
It certainly helps that there are so many viable content marketing routes: everything from teaming up with influencers to creating long-form tutorials can factor into a blogging-based strategy.
Even if you write fantastic paid ads, though, you won’t be able to make any inroads unless you can afford to win the keyword bids.
Trying to fight for core keywords will massively inflate your cost-per-click and make it somewhat unlikely that the visitors will end up choosing you.
This is why it’s so vital to target long-tail keywords that face little competition by comparison: avoiding the biggest brands will give you space to get noticed.
#3. Stick to the PPC model
Although PPC is almost synonymous with paid advertising for some, it isn’t the only payment model, and some make the mistake of paying for impressions.
Are there instances in which that payment method is warranted?
Yes, but when you’re just starting out with paid advertising, you need to minimize your expenditure and maximize your ROI — and paying for impressions doesn’t generally suit that approach.
When you pay for impressions, you can get through your entire budget without earning a single visit.
PPC, as the name makes clear, is about paying for clicks.
If someone sees your ad but doesn’t click on it, you don’t pay anything at all.
Provided you can achieve a conversion rate that’s even vaguely respectable, you can recoup some of your budget before exhausting it.
#4. Work on your targeting
Targeting the right audience is mission-critical, because even the most finely-honed ads can fail to get anywhere if they’re shown to the wrong people (imagine showing a critically-acclaimed psychological drama to a group of children).
Any two shoppers can have radically different needs and preferences. Fail to understand your audience and you’ll get nowhere (this applies just as much to SEO and other forms of marketing).
This is why the concept of the buyer persona is so ingrained in the marketing world.
While you can’t know that much about individuals, you can identify general traits and desires belonging to broad groups and use those to tailor everything from the content of your ads to the landing pages they target (more on both of those things next).
Glean as much as you can about the people you’re trying to reach, and ensure that you make tweaks accordingly.
#5. Start small and ramp up
Let’s say you’ve identified a certain amount that you’re willing to spend on paid search each month.
Should you commit to spending that amount in your first month, regardless of how it happens?
No, of course not.
The whole point of that budget is to return more value, so until you’re sure that your paid search efforts are working, you should keep that money in reserve (instead of acting like a company with a year-end surplus to use or lose).
Realistically, anything up to your first few months can go towards testing and iterating upon your tactics to identity opportunities for improvement.
During this time, you should spend carefully: do a lot of A/B testing to see which ad versions come out on top.
Only once you’re confident that your strategy will bear fruit should you max-out your budget. That way it won’t matter if you burn through your monthly budget very quickly, because it will have returned the needed value.
Paid search is a fantastic marketing method, but only when used sensibly.
It isn’t about dumping whatever money you have available into some ads that might not work.
Follow these tips to minimize your expenditure and maximize your results.
This post is authored by Kayleigh Alexandra, founder of Micro Stratups.