The classic way businesses use the Google Ads platform is to bid on keywords with commercial intent which in turn convinces potential customers to click through to visit your website. Dermatologists bid for keywords like “cure my acne” and “dermatologist London” whilst a gardening business might bid for “grass cutting service.”
It’s quintessential cost-per-click (CPC) advertising, and it’s often a great way for business owners to allocate their advertising budget.
The only problem is that Google Adwords can get really expensive when your competitors are bidding on the same keywords with the highest commercial intent. The keywords “Insurance”, “Loans” and “Mortgage” were the most popular this year and all go for huge amount per click.
Behind the seductive simplicity of this input-output relationship lies a highly sophisticated technology – there are many alternative ways to use Google Ads (previously known as Google Adwords). Here are advanced features that can help you gain that vital competitive advantage.
Target those who are ‘undecided’
Most advertisers bid on high buyer-intent keywords because Ads is seen as a conversion engine. Instead, why not see Ads as a traffic engine? You can bid on lower buyer-intent keywords to bring traffic to your site, and put people into funnels to be targeted in other ways.
By looking at Ads in this way, a non-conversion on the first visit can be seen as an opportunity and not a loss. Ensure you have marketing funnels in place to capture and nurture your leads, you can get potential customers for a fraction of the cost.
Only target those you want to sell you
No matter how great your product is, there are some people you simply aren’t selling to. The trick is to work out who those people are and think of keywords around them. Ads lets you add them as ‘negative keywords,’ meaning they will not show your ad to people who use those search terms.
An example is if you offer retail training for small independent retailers. Using the keyword ‘retail training’ in Ads means you would attract all retailers, both the small and the large corporates. By using negative keywords such as “department store” and “large,” you can remove those people searching for your keyword but who you couldn’t provide a service for. Another negative keyword to use is “free” because that eliminates those look for a free service. Remember: you pay for each click in an Ads campaign. You don’t want to pay for clicks if the clicker most likely will never be a customer so by using these negative words you are saving on money.
Using negative keywords also improves the quality score Google assigns each of your ads. A better quality score means higher ad rankings and in turn a lower cost per click. The ultimate win-win!
Poach your competitors’ clients
When customers get close to making a purchase, they often Google the businesses they have found along the way to do some final comparing. But what if your business isn’t one of the businesses on their shortlist? Easy! Why not try using Google Ads to intercept customers during this final research phase. Instead of bidding on your industry keywords, try basing your keywords on the brand names of well-established competitors. This enables you to insert your business into the conversation when consumers are researching your competitors and gives you the opportunity to attract purchases from those who still haven’t decided.
This can all get extremely expensive, especially if other competitors are trying the same tactic, or if the established brand is protecting itself with its own Google Ads. If this means poaching is out of the budget, another option is to bid on misspelt versions of your competitors’ brand names. In some cases more than 10% of searchers misspell brand names – so why not capitalise on this with a relatively low ad spend?
Support your organic SEO initiatives
According to 2017 data, Google searchers click on Google ads about 15% of the time. The other 85% goes straight to the organic results i.e. the search results that are not Google ads.
Hence search engine optimisation (SEO) should remain a fundamental part of your digital marketing initiatives. By creating valuable content and optimising it to rank for carefully-considered keywords, you convince Google to rank your website for key terms and phrases in the long run without having to pay each time someone clicks. Adwords data is invaluable for SEO keyword research – if people are willing to pay for traffic from certain keywords, it’s worth making an effort to get that same traffic for free. Then, by determining which keywords are most effective in driving traffic to your website, you can double back and include those in your SEO strategy and create new content to reflect this.
Gauge customer sentiment
Another great way to use Google Ads is to test out new ideas. Want to see if your new brand messaging will resonate? Then Google Ads has this kind of data that may be more accessible than research.
Here’s an example. Before launching a new product or service, run several campaigns designed to test product offerings. Put ads next to similar products or in the broad category. Anything with over a 4% click-through rate is a great opportunity.” This is also great advice for start-ups, considering that 50% of them fail in the first four years.
Optimised ad rotation
Google made some very notable changes to its ad rotation settings in late 2017. In essence, ad rotation constantly tests different ad variations to find the optimal version for your audience and campaign KPIs. Google’s machine learning technology is rapidly developing, so it is no surprise that Google wants to take much of the ad rotation process out of the hands of advertisers and turn it into a slick, automated feature. To use ad Google recommends providing at least three ads in every ad group. Their official stance is, “The more of your ads our system can choose from, the better the expected ad performance.” Creating a range of ads provides the resources Google needs to run statistically significant tests.
Indeed, beyond getting the most out of Ads, the broader lesson to be taken should be that even the most advanced technology requires the right quantity and quality of inputs. Although more and more elements of Ads management can be automated, this doesn’t mean we can leave the machines to their own devices – have a look at our Adwords walkthrough to remind yourself of the best practices.