How small businesses can compete with big brands on PPC advertising
Monday July 20, 2015
By Andrea Lotz
Many small businesses and young startups feel totally overwhelmed by PPC (pay-per-click) advertising. They assume worthwhile keywords are too expensive, that lack of brand recognition will decrease their engagements, and they aren’t sure how to tell how well a campaign is working.
The reality is, PPC can be incredibly profitable and rewarding even for very small businesses. It’s a great way to reach new qualified eyes, reinforce your brand, and convert customers. You can even do it without totally blowing your marketing budget.
But your strategy will look very different from the approach of a larger business. Here are some tips for small businesses and young startups who want a piece of the PPC action.
Pick your channels and targets
There are a few different channels that might work well as PPC campaigns for your business. You’ll need to do research to figure out where your target market is browsing for products or services like yours.
You may want to target new audiences, but it can also be very effective to do remarketing PPC campaigns, where you only target people who have been to your site before. Those are more qualified leads, who might just need a few more branded touches to convert.
Choose your keywords carefully
Your resources as a small business are limited—you can’t afford to throw money at keywords that aren’t bringing in new leads and new business. Here are some tips for choosing keywords that will get results.
Don’t bother with “competitor campaigns”
A competitor campaign means you pay to rank for when someone searches for the name of one of your competitors. It’s usually not a strong strategy for small businesses.
If someone’s searching for a competitor, they probably want to buy from that competitor, not from you. Instead, focus on keywords specific to your business.
Target “long tail” keywords
Large businesses (with large budgets) can afford to bid on expensive, high volume keywords that cover broad topics. This is usually not a good option for small businesses.
Instead, many small businesses use much more specific keywords, called “Long Tail” keywords. Long tail keywords are usually multiple words, and are targeted at a niche audience that is generally further along in the buying process.
Long tail keywords are often very specific descriptions of your product or service, and may also contain locally-specific keywords, like your city or state. These words tend to be less expensive, and though there are inevitably fewer people searching for those terms, anyone who is will be very likely to convert.
Limited amount of high-volume keywords
This doesn’t mean you never get the chance to go for those higher volume keywords. Most PPC platforms give you the option to only bid on keywords during specific times, to specific markets.
You might choose to target the lunch hour, early morning, weekends, or other specific times depending on your target audience.
Make sure to set a maximum bid so you don’t end up paying more for these opportunities than you wanted to, and always ensure you’ve got your best on display for these campaigns.
Put your best forward
Your business has a lot of value to offer—there are good reasons for people to choose your service over a bigger brand. Make sure you put that value and quality on display in your PPC campaigns.
Offer a great value
One of the best ways for small businesses to stand out is with a higher-value offer. Can you compete with your competitors on price? Quality of service? Speed? Put your strong suit, whatever it is, on display in the copy of your ad.
Then, make sure that your landing page delivers on that promise of value.
Optimize your landing page
Your landing page is just as important as the ad that brought your audience there. Getting a click through is less than half the battle. Now your website needs to convert those visitors, so the money you spent to bring them in doesn’t go to waste.
Make sure your landing page is highly relevant to the offer in your ad copy. If your ad was about one specific product, link it to a page all about that product. Your homepage is not specific enough.
Your landing page also needs to be highly persuasive, containing a clear call to action. Attractive design also matters. Keep your page simple, direct, and focused to convert the most visitors.
Never assume the campaign you have is the best possible campaign. There’s almost always room for improvement: better design, stronger copy, different target keywords. Always track your campaigns yourself—don’t just rely on what your PPC platform tells you.
I recommend investing in a dashboard that tracks all your campaigns from all your different channels. This makes it easy to compare the performance of different platforms, different ads, different landing pages, and different offers.
Decide what success looks like for your campaigns. Is a sale the only kind of success? Rarely. Gathering information about the lead, getting strong engagement with your site, visitors reading your content, and simple brand recognition are all valuable. Decide what you want to get out of your campaigns, and continue tweaking them to get what you want.
You’ll be surprised how successful you can be with PPC, even using just a small budget. You can compete with larger companies by taking advantage of your small size and playing to your strengths.