Pay-per-click (usually shortened to “PPC”) advertising is everywhere nowadays. It’s on Facebook, Google, YouTube, Twitter, and more — and subscription businesses are using it to great effect. You’ve heard the PPC ad success stories, and you’re considering dipping your toe into the wide world of pay-per-click yourself.
When you do, you deserve to get the most from your pay-per-click investment. However, this form of marketing can get very costly, very quickly. You need to be crystal-clear on what your budget is (including overall campaign budget, cost per lead, and ideal customer acquisition cost), long before you even think about starting a PPC campaign.
As digital marketing expert Kiva Schuler frames it, don’t spend money on ads, especially Facebook ads, that you aren’t ready to throw away. Even the best of the best in the business are constantly tweaking, course-correcting, and launching ad campaigns that, yes, flop. It’s important to tread wisely and carefully. Don’t move into PPC advertising until a failed ad campaign won’t ruin your overhead for the month.
That said, how do you use PPC ads to find your target audience and deliver a decent return, without overspending?
Step one: Solve their problem
Search for the audience’s pain point and address that pain. This sounds like a no-brainer, but a surprising amount of well-intentioned marketing misses this key starting point.
Your product or service is solving a problem for your target audience. That problem might be knowing what gear to wear when hiking in different locations, so they don’t end up with wet feet or blisters at the end of the day. Or it might be knowing how to automate their email marketing, so they can spend their limited time where it counts – closing sales and serving clients.
Focus your ad copy on your product’s benefits. Choose words, video, photos, or graphics that tell a viewer, “I feel your pain and know how to solve it. This is exactly what you are looking for.”
Step two: Give potential customers a good place to land
If your ad copy promises a much-wanted product or service, your next step is to deliver on the promise. Send potential customers to a landing page that:
- loads fast (did you know page load time has a huge effect on conversion rates?)
- has a compelling headline (tweak yours with this free headline analyzer)
- has content that reinforces the benefits mentioned in the ad copy (more on that here)
- doesn’t have a menu or prominently feature links to other pages on your site
Don’t send click-through visitors to the front page of your website. They’ll get lost clicking on other pages, lose interest, and move on before taking the action that you want them to do. Whether that action is signing up for your email list, becoming part of your online community, or registering for your next webinar, if they aren’t doing it, you’re effectively pouring money down the drain.
Make it as easy as possible for visitors to do what you want them to do by sending them to a landing page with a call-to-action.
Step three: Individualize and personalize the funnel
Your ad appears only when someone searches for terms on a specific list, or – on sites like Facebook – when that individual is part of a group you’ve specified. Generic terms (like “rugs”) can be as important as specific terms (like “blue wool rugs under $500”).
To make sure that your prospects are landing on pages that are as specific as possible, create multiple different keyword strings and landing pages. Each landing page should be tweaked to align with the specific keywords and ad copy the visitor clicked on.
Step four: Attract the exact customers you want with keyword matching
Exact keyword matches reduce the number of responses that match your PPC ad…but those responses are much more likely to result in a sale. For example, “six-axis robotic arm with laser” will attract searchers with a specific and probably immediate need for the exact item you’re selling.
In other words, go narrow rather than wide, using what’s known in the industry as a “long-tail” keyword. A long-tail keyword is a keyword phrase that contains 2-3+ words, and targets niche demographics rather than mass audiences. They’re more specific and often less competitive – which means you can get more bang for your PPC buck.
Also, investigate placement advertising. You can choose specific websites where you want your PPC advertisement to appear (and reject specific websites where you don’t want to appear).
Refine your keywords and audience carefully to get the best results possible. According to research by Harris Interactive, 74% of consumers become frustrated with ads, promotions, and websites that do not match their interests.
Step five: Avoid attracting customers you don’t want by using negative keywords
Many PPC advertising providers are now counting responses that include almost exact matches. This increases the number of responses, but lowers the conversion rate.
That change has increased the importance of negative keywords. Negative keywords target those locations or audiences that you do not want to attract. When the negative keywords match the content on a website or search, your advertisement will not appear.
If your subscription service is a monthly delivery of curated, high-quality and well-sourced meats like Butcher Box, your negative keywords might include “wholesale” since you are selling direct to consumer, or “cheap” if your offering is decidedly high end. You might also list “free” among your negative keywords.
Step six: Make sure every visitor remembers you with retargeting
They clicked on your advertisement. They read your web page. But they hesitated, they moved on, they didn’t close the deal. All is lost and there’s no way to recoup those costs…right?
Not if you use retargeting in your PPC strategy. “Retargeting” is when you use the data gained from a previous visit to your website to reach specific visitors who have already been to your site.
For example, you can create a retargeting campaign aimed at potentially-profitable visitors by showing them a promotion based on the pages they viewed. The promotion could be a free trial or 10% off an annual subscription for the specific product they looked at. For more about getting started on retargeting, head here.
Step seven: Engage trust
You need to find out more about your target audience. They need to trust you enough to share their personal and precise details. According to the Harris Interactive survey cited earlier, 77% of consumers would divulge more information if they knew how it was going to be used and how it would benefit them.
You need to give your target audience the information they need to feel trust, including your information sharing policy. If possible, give them an experience that uses that information to their benefit. For example, they share their biggest pet peeve about successfully onboarding subscription customers, and you suggest a blog post or other resource that matches that need.
Step eight: Remember the magic word
In this case, it isn’t “thank you” or “please” — the magic word is “you.” Address your customers as real people, because they are real people. If an ad sounds like a robot wrote it, it doesn’t matter how targeted or personalized it is. If possible, run your ad copy by existing customers and get their feedback on whether it’s addressing their wants and needs.
Step nine: Anticipate the trends: Video & connected TV
Slowly, static ads are losing their edge in PPC in favor of video. Video gives audiences a personalized and immersive experience that words often fail to provide. In fact, Cisco Visual Networking estimates that video content will soon consume 80 percent of internet traffic.
Connected TV advertising is one of the newest trends. With this form of advertising, ads go directly to YouTube videos playing on a consumer’s TV. Cisco predicts that this trend will increase 3x by 2022, to make up 27% of consumer traffic. This doesn’t mean you have to completely change your PPC strategy, or skip trying out written copy. But you should be keeping an eye on this and planning to incorporate video and other multimedia ads into the mix when you can.
Step ten: Continue to measure costs after your lead converts
You’ve followed the other guidelines here and created a PPC ad campaign that’s converting well, and you’re keeping an eye on the metrics to make sure your ad costs are optimized. Your work here is done, right? Nope. You need to make sure that you’re keeping track of your CPL (cost per lead) and CAC (customer acquisition cost) from your ad campaigns, and which customers go with which campaign. (Head here to learn more about CAC and CPL.)
Both of these metrics relate to your customer lifetime value, which is the lifeblood of a subscription business. You need to make sure that you’re making back what you’re spending on customers in a reasonable amount of time, or your business outlook is pretty grim. Much like optimizing your prices and reducing involuntary churn, evaluating your acquisition costs from pay-per-click ads is one part of the larger subscription puzzle of maintaining (and increasing) your customer lifetime value.
Following these guidelines will help maximize your marketing budget and get the most from your PPC advertising. From there, as you get more customers and refine your ad strategy, you’ll want to work on optimizing other parts of your business…like your prices.
Not sure where to start with that? Get tips on pricing for revenue and long-term stability with our Price Optimization Guide. It has a list of experiments you can start today, categorized by funnel stage and difficulty. Download it now:
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