Paid Search Do’s and Don’ts: Doing What’s Best for your Business

Paid search is an inexpensive and effective customer acquisition strategy. It’s also a very scalable form of digital marketing. It allows you to generate sales leads and connect with buyers who are actively seeking what you have to offer.

The paid search strategy consists of advertising within the sponsored listings of a search engine. You either pay each time your ad is clicked (pay-per-click, or PPC) or follow the CPM (cost-per-impression) model and pay whenever your ad is displayed. The logic behind the strategy is that you are bidding for ad placement.

Due to the amount of noise in the marketplace and competition for customer’s attention, paid search is on the rise. According to eMarketer, ad spending for paid search has seen an 8% increase in the last 12 months.

Paid search is a great strategy for any business looking to connect with prospects who are ready to buy. While it has the ability to be a cost-effective way to reach your target audience, it can be easy to overspend your budget if you aren’t using best practices for your campaigns.

The advantage paid search has over Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is both speed and precision targeting. While they work very well in tandem, SEO can take longer to achieve the desired rankings, and requires a concerted effort to maintain them, as search algorithms change without notice. With paid search, you can show up at the top of page one within 24 hours; if you’re willing to pay the bid price for the top ad positions.

To increase your success with paid search, consider these do’s and don’ts:


Know your client avatar

The better you know your prospective client, the better you’ll be able to target them via paid search. Taking the time to build out your client avatar — basically a detailed profile of your ideal customer that includes demographics, psychographics and geographic information — will help you identify what keywords or terms they would use to search for a product or service like yours. These details will build the foundation of your targeting tactics.

Mine your own data

Another key factor in successful paid search (really all marketing today) is to mine your own data. Every company has data, whether they’re aware of it and using it to track and measure their efforts, or not. This data can make the difference between flat sales and exponential business growth. It can be culled from your websites, newsletters, advertising campaigns and a variety of other sources. It can include buyer interest (what pages they visit first on your website, where and when they leave your website, what path they take before they buy, etc.) geographic information and more.

By combining your own data with readily available public data, you can put together very detailed, precise buyer profiles. By targeting only those people who are likely to be interested in your products or services, you are maximizing your advertising dollars.

Know your buyer’s journey

Marketers have identified the process through which consumers advance from prospect to buyer, and labeled this the ‘buyer’s journey’. If you study and map out your own buyer’s journey, you will be able to target your future buyers at specific points in that journey.

Armed with this insight, you can develop marketing and ads to connect effectively with the buyer at each step, to help move them along this journey to becoming your customer. This can also help you decide the allocation of your marketing budget; what percentage of your ad spend you want to allot to each step of the buyer’s journey. While it can be tempting to just target them at the step before they buy, providing quality content and information targeted to the other steps adds the necessary touch points, increases brand awareness, and can help build the know, like and trust needed to convert them to buyers.

Use geotargeting

Paid search offers precise location targeting. It’s good practice to take advantage of this ability to only display your ads to those who live or work within the desired geographic area. This can be a local client who only services their immediate area, or a national company that can identify their customers’ lifestyle and geographic choices, such as city dwellers vs. suburbanites.

Track your conversions

The rich tracking capabilities of paid search are another benefit. By designing your campaign properly, you can track each step in detail. Simple tracking will include the ratio of ad displays to clicks; or whether the visitor then takes the next desired action. It can get even more granular, allowing you to determine which component of your campaign is working well, and which is not. By continually monitoring and analyzing your tracking, you can adjust your campaigns and continue to make the best use of your advertising dollars.

Incorporate paid search into your broader marketing initiatives

Paid search can stand on its own as a marketing strategy, with the ability to target prospects very specifically. That said, like most marketing initiatives, you can achieve greater success by having your marketing campaigns support one another where possible. For example, a tweet featuring the text from the ad displayed in paid search, using some of the target keywords as hashtags, can cross-pollinate and expand the reach of your campaign.

Additionally, let your team know about campaigns you’re running. If a prospect bypasses your funnel and reaches out to sales or customer support with a question you want them informed; nothing undermines confidence quicker than a prospect’s inquiry being met with confusion and lack of knowledge.


Don’t rely on a one-size-fits-all keyword approach

The careful selection of keywords is key to paid search. It’s easy to think you might as well include every word or phrase you can think of. However, being as precise as possible, then doing some testing is a better approach. Don’t use keywords that are too broad, as you will be paying for clicks that will never convert. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket by running your ad with all the keywords you’ve selected. Create adgroups – select keywords that you group together to test with your ad, to determine which combination is yielding the best results.

Don’t send your ad traffic to your home page

An important ingredient in paid search success goes beyond the ad itself to the entire visitor experience. Once you have your prospect’s attention and they’ve clicked on your ad, you don’t want to send them to your website where there are many choices where to look or click. To get the desired campaign results, direct visitors to a specific page, typically called a landing page. A landing page is designed to continue to deepen engagement with the visitor, and get them to take a specific action — whether it’s buy now, download this, or sign up here.

A visitor coming from an ad could get lost if sent to your homepage, which often has generalized information and multiple actions they can take. Use a landing page specifically designed for the visitors clicking through from your ad. Traffic coming to you via paid search is cold traffic, and as such needs to be warmed up and directed as to what action to take.

Don’t forget negative keywords

Smart paid search is based on knowing your customer avatar and how they buy. The same knowledge is needed for keywords and phrases. A novice mistake is not using the negative keywords feature when setting up your campaigns. This can result in paying for keywords that aren’t buying terms and running up your budget in the process.

It’s important to know the best buyer keywords that your audience would use to search for your offer, and it is just as important to know which keywords to eliminate, and to bar them from your campaigns. This makes for much more precise and cost-effective paid search campaigns.

Don’t give up on prospects too soon

The number of touchpoints a prospect needs to become a buyer can vary from 2-13 or more, depending on several factors. This is especially true for cold traffic off the internet. Don’t presume that a prospect who views your offer, then leaves, is lost and will never become a buyer. As mentioned, you should direct buyers from your ad to a specific page designed to continue the engagement that your ad has garnered. Your strategy should not stop there if the visitor doesn’t take the requested action, whether to buy your product, sign up for a product demonstration, or subscribe to your list. With proper tools in place, you can implement a retargeting campaign to keep in front of the prospect. Allowing you to continue to try to engage with them until they become a buyer.

Don’t scale before you test

It’s easy and prudent to start with a small campaign to test out your ad copy and see how well it is converting. Allow enough time to do some testing before ramping up your paid search initiatives. Make sure to use a large enough sample over a few days to a week to obtain realistic feedback. Once you’ve seen your results, made necessary adjustments, and optimized your campaign to where you are seeing good conversions, you can now scale confidently.

As with any proper testing, you don’t want to change multiple variables at once. By changing one at a time, you can be sure that any improvements are directly related to the latest change.

Paid search can be the most cost-effective, scalable marketing strategy when done right. It can also return results as quickly as within 24 to 48 hours. The ability to analyze campaigns, measure (ROI), and test and optimize campaigns, means you can tweak your campaigns with great precision, enabling micro corrections practically in real time. And being able to accurately analyze ad spend to ROI — and maximize your cost per lead so effectively — is part of what makes paid search a must-have in every company’s marketing plan.