Continuing to scale your company without going broke on sales and marketing costs — it’s an ongoing struggle in the world of business. That's where pay-per-click advertising (PPC) and inbound marketing come in.
Both can help reduce your customer acquisition cost, but they’re designed for very different things.
PPC puts targeted advertisements in front of users who are searching for terms related to you and your business, in traditional “interruption-style” messaging.
Inbound marketing, on the other hand, is a collection of techniques designed to organically attract new visitors to your website with content that is useful, relevant and valuable.
Of all the online marketing tactics available, PPC advertising will get you new website visitors and new leads more quickly and more consistently. Unfortunately, it comes at a steep cost: You pay for every single click, whether or not the person clicking turns into a sale or even a lead. Also, the most sought-after keywords and phrases can quickly become prohibitively expensive.
Fortunately, there are a few inbound marketing strategies that can rein in your PPC spending. The best way to get the most bang for your PPC buck is to use proven inbound marketing principles in your PPC campaigns.
Decide whether you really need a pay-per-click campaign.
At the risk of oversimplification, PPC buys attention, while inbound marketing earns attention.
Inbound marketing is a better strategy over the long term, because the content you create has a long shelf life and will continue to attract new visitors and leads even years down the line. PPC, on the other hand, is a “sunk cost.” If the clicks and eyeballs you buy don’t lead to a sale, too bad; you’ve spent the money on them anyway.
But PPC still has its place, most notably when time is of the essence. Inbound marketing can be great, but it’s always going to be a long-term initiative, with lots of different blog posts and long-tail content snowballing until your website becomes a reputable authority in your industry.
When you need results fast, an initial PPC campaign can be a great way to buy some attention and begin building buzz while your inbound marketing strategies catch up. (And then, you may find that inbound is so successful you can drop your AdWords spending completely!)
Whether you’re interested in PPC as a means to jump-start your inbound lead generation, or you view PPC advertising as just another component of your overall inbound strategy, you’ll want to deploy those ads as effectively as possible.
The best way to do that is with some really, really great targeting.
Target your audience as directly as possible.
The No. 1 thing you can do to make your PPC ads effective is to target them with laser-like precision at your demographics and user personas.
Pay-per-click means that you’re paying for each click, so you’d better make sure you’re showing the ads to as targeted an audience as possible. You want to know that every set of eyeballs that lands on your ad belongs to someone who could need your product or service.
“Casting the net wide” doesn’t make sense when you have to pay for every fish you catch, whether or not you’re going to throw them back into the ocean.
You might think a high number of views (also known as impressions) will equal a high click-through rate. It might, but you’ll be paying for a lot of unqualfied clicks from people that, under other circumstances, you might not even bother to show a demo to.
Focus on a lower number of impressions, tightly targeted at your potential customers, while still aiming for a high click-through rate.
Build great landing pages.
When someone clicks on one of your PPC ads, where do they go? Does it just take them straight to your home page?
So many people still do this, and it’s a shame because it’s just such a waste. When you’ve spent so much time, effort, and money crafting the perfect PPC ad, and targeting it at the right keywords and the right demographics, why would you drop the people who click the ad onto your home page with no other context?
Because of all your keyword research and user persona research, you should already know an awful lot about the people who click on your PPC ads. Most importantly, you should know their primary pain points.
If your ad targets women looking for a new mountain bike, whose primary concern is the cost, then your landing page’s header could be “Yes, you can get the mountain bike you want, without paying an arm and a leg.” That’s going to be so much more effective than dropping them onto the more generic copy and CTAs of your home page.
Get really, really good at Google AdWords.
You don’t have to have a PPC expert on your team to do this (although if you happen to have one, they’re really going to prove their worth!). Google AdWords is just a tool that needs to be learned like any other.
For example, did you know that AdWords, by default, sets its parameters to maximize your ad’s reach? That’s a good idea in theory, but not in practice. Like #2 above, we want a narrow, targeted reach that means each click is likely to result in a conversion.
While of course I want you to stick around the madison/miles blog for a while, if you need some help getting started with the nitty-gritty of Adwords, these blog posts are a great place to start. They come from people in the business of inbound marketing, which means they’re happy to provide you with all the useful, relevant resources you need:
- 6 Ways to Reduce Wasted AdWords Spend, from HubSpot
- 5 Lazy Tips to Cut Your PPC Budget in Half, from Business 2 Community
- How to Create a Profitable Google AdWords Campaign (from Scratch), from Kissmetrics
Look into social media advertising.
This one depends on what you sell and who you sell it to. A B2B consulting firm probably shouldn’t take out ads on Facebook. But if you’re selling a monthly pet treats subscription, targeted ads on Facebook could be your best friend. If you’re selling beauty products, maybe you need promoted pins on Pinterest. If you sell to males 18-35 who are heavily into gaming, you could look into advertising opportunities on Steam.
PPC advertising on social media is becoming almost as prevalent as on Google AdWords, and the reason for this goes back to point #2, targeting, yet again. When you’re on the right social media channels for your brand and your products, you have the ability to be immensely targeted and the people who click your ads are even more likely to become customers.
It’s like handing a flyer for your italian restaurant to everyone on the street, versus handing your flyer to a room full of italian food enthusiasts. Social media groups essentially come pre-segmented for you, so aiming PPC ads at them can be incredibly effective.
Don’t forget everything you learned about inbound!
Somehow, just the thought of an advertisement makes inbound marketing copywriters, myself included, start writing like used car lot commercials (“Act fast! Save now! Come on down to Crazy Al’s truck depot! Our prices can’t be beat!”).
This is just plain silly. Just like the rest of your inbound marketing, your PPC ads should be user-focused, educational, and helpful, not just traditional in-your-face shouting.
Take a look at the two examples below, both of which I saw as I browsed the internet last week:
The one from Staples is traditional interruption advertising: products and prices with no context. This could be a junk-mail flyer in my mailbox without even having to change the formatting.
And while Staples gets points for knowing I was looking at fountain pen sets (for a friend’s birthday), I guess they couldn’t tell that I’d already made a purchase decision and bought the pen I wanted, so this was essentially a wasted ad.
The one from EverString, on the other hand, makes my heart sing. Not only does the copy show some personality and make me smile, they’re also offering me a free resource (an ebook) rather than just shoving their products and services in my face. That’s a beautiful example of leveraging inbound principles for PPC ads.
If your PPC budget has skyrocketed out of control, take heart. Refine your parameters, make your ads user-focused, and go to town. You should be able to get better results with less money. Best of luck!