How to Leverage Paid Search: An Expert’s Perspective
While Search Engine Optimization (SEO) can play a vital role in a company’s marketing success strategy, paid search campaigns actually drive twice the number of visitors to your high-priority web pages.
This doesn’t mean you should neglect your SEO strategy. But you should be placing a heavier emphasis on your paid search campaigns—you are spending your cash on them after all. On average, small and medium businesses spend around 10 thousand dollars on paid search advertisements each month. Shelling out this amount of money and not ensuring they’re optimized correctly could result in a very poor ROI.
In this article, we’re going to take a look at how you can leverage paid search through the lens of an expert who’s been at it for years. Sam Fiorillo is our Head of Paid Search here at Möve, and we recently sat down with him to discuss what he’s learned during his time. Whether you’re just getting started or have been testing strategies on your own, you’ll leave with a unique perspective you can apply to your own campaigns. But first, let’s unpack what exactly paid search is.
Breaking Down Paid Search
What is Paid Search?
You choose your platform, then craft compelling ads to reach your specific audience. Your ads will be displayed whenever your audience is searching for information related to your chosen keywords. With paid search, you have a pay-per-click (PPC) option that allows you to bid on certain keywords. This means you’ll only be paying for results, as opposed to wasting money on impressions.
“With PPC, you don’t pay a penny unless someone is getting to your website and viewing your messaging. So it’s much lower risk than other traditional forms of advertising,” says Sam.
The ultimate goal of any paid search campaign is to boost your brand's online visibility, drive traffic to your website, or generate more sales. Before we get into ways to leverage paid search, let’s take a look at an outline a PPC campaign typically follows.
Each campaign might look a little different depending on a number of factors. However, this is a brief overview of what you can expect each campaign to follow.
1 - Define your campaign objectives
Identify the goals you want to achieve with your new paid search campaign. Be realistic here and do plenty of research beforehand. Do you want to increase website traffic? Boost your brand awareness? Drive more sales?
2 - Choose your platform
Before choosing the best location for your campaign, you need to have a clear understanding of where your target audience is searching for their information. If you’re not sure, Google Ads will be your best place to start.
3 - Set your budget
Consider how much you’re willing to spend per click on your ad. Generally, you’ll want to target a monthly budget and allow the platform to allocate the funds on a daily basis.
4 - Create your campaign
Now it’s time to set up your campaign by creating ad groups, selecting your keywords, writing the copy, and choosing the images if needed. Most platforms have strict guidelines to follow, so be sure to adhere to their specific rules.
5 - Monitor and optimize
When it comes to paid search, you can’t just set it and forget it. You must keep a close eye on your campaign performance as the data rolls in. You should also periodically audit your campaigns and make adjustments as necessary.
So that's a quick overview of running a paid search campaign. While this high-level outline may seem simple, there is much more to running successful campaigns. It will require several steps to properly leverage paid search. Let’s jump into more of what Sam, our Head of Paid Search, has to say.
How YOU Can Leverage Paid Search
Almost anyone can kick off a paid search campaign—no seriously. If you have the cash and a laptop, the large search engine platforms would love to take your money and run. The truth is, they will if you let them.
In order to run successful campaigns without the tech giants picking your pockets, you need to know some vital industry insights. When done correctly, you’ll be able to leverage paid search in your favor. Let’s work from the ground up.
Taking Control of Your Campaigns
According to our Head of Paid Search here at Möve, Sam believes setting it and forgetting it is a recipe for disappointment. “Startup founders and CEOs typically say they set up their ads, then let them play out. All of a sudden, they are spending thousands of dollars a month on their campaigns and seeing no results. Constantly monitoring and tweaking things is honestly the biggest difference maker between a successful paid search campaign and one that is just burning through cash.”
While not easy, as most people are strapped for time, keeping a watchful eye over your campaign can make all the difference. But what exactly should you be looking out for? “You want to make sure everything is set up correctly from the get-go,” noted Sam. “So having all of your conversion tracking set up, making sure the information you put into your account is accurate, and ensuring your keyword research is up to par. If it’s not, you can’t accurately promote content in your campaign that will resonate with your audience.”
And you can’t let these search engine platforms push you around and make the decision for you. If you do, you could be wasting your advertising dollars. “The trend we’re seeing right now with Google and other ad platforms is they’re definitely trying to keep as much control over what happens with your ads and budget as possible. The more you can push back and retain control over the tiny details, the better off your campaigns will be.”
It’s no surprise Sam has seen the best results from quick, punchy content pieces either. “Particularly for high-growth companies, checklists, how-to guides, and infographics tend to capture the most attention and generate the best leads.” So when pondering on what collateral you should use in your campaigns, consider these options. You want to offer something of high value and appropriate for the user’s search query in exchange for the click.
Get these things right and you’ll be off to a great start. Now, let’s dig into the individual ads. Each campaign will have its own group of ads you’ll be sending out. Ensuring each is up to par will further help you leverage paid search.
How to Make a Good Ad Great
The main factor in taking your ad to the next level comes down to testing. According to Sam, having the right testing structure in place upfront will allow you to truly leverage paid search.
“You should always have at least two or three ad variations in rotation at all times. These ad platforms don’t automatically test things for you or offer any helpful information to better your messaging. Guesswork and assumptions based on limited data won't help you improve your ads.”
“Clearly defining A/B tests throughout your campaigns will allow you to generate meaningful data you can use to improve your brand's messaging and ensure that your campaigns and collateral are properly resonating with your audience,” explained Sam. You’ll need plenty of patience, though. Testing can take your ads from good to great, but you have to be willing to let the full story play out.
“Slightly tweaking and making adjustments to gradually improve your ads will take time. I’d say at least consider allowing around two to three months to let the data play out. Then you’ll have the data to turn up the heat on the best-performing pieces.”
With his years of experience in paid search, Sam has made his fair share of mistakes along the way. These lessons learned have only made his workflow more efficient. Take note, so you aren’t wasting money learning them later on.
Avoiding Paid Search Pitfalls
The ad platforms and algorithms are constantly changing—and keeping pace can be difficult. But there are a few things you should be looking out for, such as broad match keywords.
“Broad match keywords are just bad practice. Don’t even consider them. They are just high-level topics that could land clicks outside of your target audience, costing you extra spend minus the results,” says Sam.
Also, not having your conversion tracking set up correctly could be doing you harm without you even realizing it. “Accurate conversion tracking is one of the most important foundational parts of running a good campaign. Knowing where your campaigns stand and collecting clear, actionable data is so critical to gauge any sort of return on your investment,” Sam stated. “On top of that, with inaccurate conversion data, Google may unintentionally punish you by allocating more investment to areas of your account that aren't actually getting you results.”
Lastly, you don’t want to be driving your audience back to the homepage of your website. Here’s Sam again. “You want to send people to a landing page that has clear instructions for the next steps to take. They’re not going to do it themselves. The easier you can make it, the better results you will see. So avoid sending them to your home page or other generic pages of your website at all costs.”
What can an Expert do for your Paid Search Campaigns?
You may be thinking that running a successful ad campaign can be too strenuous or time-consuming. If you want consistent, profitable results, there’s no other way around it. Though possibly bringing an expert on—either consulting or building and running the campaign from scratch—could be a great option for you.
But what exactly would you be getting for your money? Would it actually be worth it?
“Having someone in your corner who knows how to leverage paid search and avoid the pitfalls is the biggest factor” explained Sam. “Along with the years of experience, you’ll get someone who can get your campaigns up and running relatively quickly, while having the observability to troubleshoot and make adjustments as needed.”
Although it may initially seem like an unnecessary expense, given that anyone can technically launch a new campaign, hiring a paid search expert can ultimately result in significant cost savings. Here’s a brief example from one of Sam’s clients:
“I was recently working with a client to update our bidding strategy in response to a bit of a shift in their competitive landscape. We had to pivot our strategy several times to get them back in a competitive position. Knowing how to react to shifts in the data and what levers to pull behind the scenes is critical, and simply something you wouldn’t get unless you’ve been in the game for a while.”
While the barrier to entry is low, the learning curve can be quite steep. Newcomers quickly realize their budgets are draining without moving the ROI needle. It can be discouraging, yet having someone on your team that can stay one step ahead in predicting the algorithm (and the way the systems work) can make all the difference.
Hiring an expert to help you leverage paid search will not only yield better results in a faster time frame, but you’ll also be spared countless amounts of cash trying to guess Google’s next move.