Every time someone searches for content on the internet, there are thousands, sometimes millions, of webpages available. How Google figures out which results to show starts long before a searcher begins to type.
In brief, Google evaluates the search terms a user enters into its search engine and matches them to the content on the web, seeking the content that is most likely to be helpful and reliable and then automatically putting it all together in a search results page designed to provide the information desired.
Google has been mapping the web since 1998, which creates an “index” of content. The index is like a library, except it contains more info than in all the world’s libraries put together.
In a fraction of a second, Google’s Search algorithms sort through hundreds of billions of webpages in their Search index to find the most relevant, useful results for what searchers are seeking.
Google’s ranking algorithms are constantly evolving in an ongoing attempt to better understand and serve relevant results to users.
The search words used are analyzed with respect to the same or similar words on websites (keywords).
Additionally, existing web links leading to the pages are also analyzed, which helps inform relevancy.
Furthermore, geographical locations and how recent the content was published are a few other factors that help filter the final results searchers are presented.
Google’s algorithms are also continually being developed to better identify scam websites to remove them from search results.
Google engineers continue to refine search results by conducting hundreds of thousands of experiments every year, resulting in thousands of improvements. It’s a never-ending process of attempting to provide a better search experience since that’s what keeps users coming back — some of whom will click on ads, which is how Google makes money.
With the advent of modern advertising, and internet marketing technologies in particular, has marketing and advertising become easier, more efficient and less costly?
Or in fact, has marketing become more complex, more misunderstood, less efficient and more costly? (And I’m not even talking about integrating artificial intelligence into your marketing and advertising mix).
In brief: I would answer “Yes” to both questions.
21st-century marketing, particularly internet marketing services, are prone to misunderstanding.
On the one hand, the technologies of internet marketing may seem so alien to some, that the whole subject may appear confusing.
On the other hand, there are some aspects of internet marketing that are simple enough, that given an understanding of certain basics (like, say, how to create a blog), that one may consider the entire subject relatively simple.
Therein lies somewhat of a danger. As an analogy, some individuals might believe they are competent photographers because they have a digital camera and have taken some good photos. However, the difference between a competent amateur photographer and one who is a true professional can be so significant, that it defies logic and rational economics at first blush. Why will companies and/or advertising agencies pay thousands of dollars to utilize the services of a top pro as opposed to a photographer who would potentially charge a lot less, but lacks pro experience?
One reason is because the cost to re-shoot an unsuccessfully executed project can be higher than the original shoot, and in the process, careers may be damaged as a result of a failed project. Stated another way, the cost of failing now may be considerably higher than the cost of getting it right later.
In simple terms, what it takes to provide PREDICTABLY good images, under specialized and/or pressured circumstances – on demand – is so different than what it takes to turn out good photos at one’s leisure, that the value difference between an amateur and top level pro can be exponential in terms of cost.
Returning to marketing, and achieving PREDICTABLE results, the difference between an experienced marketing professional and one who is not, can, in some circumstances, equate to the success or a failure of a company. Which is why some companies will pay large sums to consult with outside marketing professionals, when they are already funding large budgets internally for marketing services.
The understanding and misunderstanding of professional marketing is further complicated by the fact that the rate of change in marketing technology, and the execution of such, has evolved in more ways since the advent of the 21st century than at any point previously. Even highly successful marketing executives who may have retired several years ago, are out of the loop in terms of modern marketing technologies.
Internet marketing has not only dramatically changed the calculus of marketing in general, but the changes are still evolving every day!
MODERN MARKETING: GOOD NEWS, BAD NEWS
The good news is that such changes have resulted in lowered costs in certain areas and simplified services in others. For example, setting up a website has never been easier. Nowadays, it’s possible to set up relatively sophisticated websites for a fraction of the cost of only a decade ago. Furthermore, the skill required to set up such a site is also less than what was required a decade ago.
However, the bad news is that the simplicity and low cost of setting up websites has led to misunderstandings about the “marketing” of products and services via the internet. The problem is quickly realized by any business which has set up a website and then experienced the unhappy reality of very few visitors and the website not making anywhere near the profit that was anticipated.
21ST CENTURY MARKETING: BEST NEWS
In brief, 21st-century marketing changes have resulted in good news and bad news. Here’s the best news: never before has there been so many ways to measure and quantify the results of marketing, via the internet. This means the results of “professional” and/or “amateur” marketing services are now subject to the level of scrutiny and evaluation that have long-been required in the realm of scientific discovery and advances.
Stated another way, never before have marketers, and purchasers of marketing services, been able to so effectively gauge what they are gaining from their marketing investments. The relative merits (or not) of marketing campaigns and marketing services are more transparent than ever.
“How much sales increased” is a vital statistic. But it’s also invaluable to know where those sales came from and how to improve sales further. The application of market testing in combination with modern analytics, speeds up the efficiency of marketing campaigns while reducing costs.
More importantly, in terms of establishing a marketing campaign or professional marketing services, one can better understand what lies ahead through the guidance of a marketing pro who can embrace the existing technologies, as well as a specific company’s circumstances and business goals, and coalesce these components into a customized strategy for the benefit of the client and the client’s expansion.
CUSTOMIZED, PROFESSIONAL MARKETING STRATEGIZING
For example, following is the Skyworks Marketing 4-Point Propulsion Strategy, which is a relatively simple approach to resolving dynamic and complex marketing problems and opportunities:
Conduct a consultative Analysis of a company’s current and/or past marketing activities.
Prepare and present a customized Marketing Program to expand the company, with an emphasis on low-cost, hard-hitting technologies for the most economical and sustained expansion possible.
Oversee execution of the Marketing Program (using the company’s staff and/or Skyworks Marketings’ resources).
Train company staff to apply cost-effective marketing technologies to continue to propel the company higher.
The net result of applying standard marketing principles, with modern marketing technologies (internally or externally), for the purpose of achieving marketing goals, all in combination with performance measurements, is an effective way to increase a company’s bottom line.
New marketing technologies do create marketing efficiencies. Simultaneously, they create confusion for those who do not understand the technological opportunities. This creates an apparent paradox of simplicity and complexity; efficiency and inefficiency.
The net result as it applies to you revolves around time and money: Do you have the personal bandwidth to learn it all? Or should you hire a marketing professional to guide your business growth?
To marketing and advertising types, the technology of getting a message out can be beguiling. Regardless of whether it’s online, or (particularly in the past) via direct mail, magazine ads, radio, TV commercials, etc., each media type demands a certain amount of attention to make everything work effectively.
Sometimes the technology can take center stage when you have imagined, produced and executed an idea that generates impressive returns on investment.
Alternatively, it can be disheartening when the increase in new sales does not surpass the money and resources it took to create and get the message out.
Nowadays what can be accomplished with technology — particularly regarding the use of the internet, databases, data science, artificial intelligence, instant information processing and video production — is beyond the reality of many.
Sure, text messages, video-on-demand, social sharing and related channels are readily embraced by a massive chunk of individuals in our world.
But what about emerging ways to personalize a message so that a marketing ad can be more relevant to a consumer at the instant they view it?
How about marketing videos that allow viewers to engage with the video subject in real time?
How about video advertising that includes subtle elements like a clock in the video that displays the correct time of your current geographical location?
Or a marketing video that displays the same weather as your location, or even geographic elements from your location?
And what if such personalization were tied to something as inherently ignored as a traditional online banner ad viewed on a computer, tablet or any smart phone?
As intriguing as this or any new or future technology may be, what is rightfully emphasized in the world of marketing and advertising is “the story (or idea).”
As obvious at that may seem, it’s worth emphasis and re-emphasis and even over-emphasis as it’s too easy to be allured by the magic of technology in and of itself.
Without a compelling story to sincerely capture the attention of real people to then engage their attention, the technology is for naught.
Of course, now, more than ever, determining the most effective idea, or story, is perhaps more magical than any technology might ever be.
It’s been about thirty years since I read the original text by Al Ries and Jack Trout and I just finished reading the 2001 version. It’s a classic marketing book. Here are a few excerpts from the book.
Positioning is not what you do to a product. Positioning is what you do to the mind of the prospect.
Positioning is an organized system for finding a window in the mind. It is based on the concept that communication can only take place at the right time and under the right circumstances.
The basic approach to positioning is not to create something new and different, but to manipulate what’s already up there in the mind, to retie the connections that already exist.
Advertising is not a sledgehammer. It’s more like a light fog, a very light fog that envelops your prospects.
In the communication jungle out there, the only hope to score big is to be selective, to concentrate on narrow targets, to practice segmentation. In a word, “positioning.”
The best approach to take in our over-communicated society is the oversimplified message.
In communication, as in architecture, less is more. You have to sharpen your message to cut into the mind. You have to jettison the ambiguities, simplify the message, and then simplify it some more if you want to make a long-lasting impression.
If you have a truly new product, it’s often better to tell the prospect what the product is not, rather than what it is.
To find a unique position, you must ignore conventional logic. Conventional logic says you find your concept inside yourself or inside the product. Not true. What you must do is look inside the prospect’s mind.
In a product ad, the dominant element is usually the picture, the visual element. In a service ad, the dominant element is usually the words, the verbal element.
The solution to a positioning problem is usually found in the prospect’s mind, not in the product.
Trying harder is rarely the pathway to success. Trying smarter is the better way.
Never be afraid of conflict.
An idea or concept without an element of conflict is not an idea at all.
With a given number of dollars, it’s better to overspend in one city than to underspend in several cities. If you become successful in one location, you can always roll out the program to other places.
With rare exceptions, a company should almost never change its basic positioning strategy. Only its tactics, those short-term maneuvers that are intended to implement a long-term strategy.
Creativity by itself is worthless. Only when it is subordinated to the positioning objective can creativity make a contribution.
Objectivity is the key ingredient supplied by the advertising or marketing communication or public relations agency.
To be successful today in positioning, you must have a large degree of mental flexibility. You must be able to select and use words with as much disdain for the history book as for the dictionary.
Language is the currency of the mind. To think conceptually, you manipulate words. With the right choice of words, you can influence the thinking process itself.
The first rule of positioning is: To win the battle for the mind, you can’t compete head-on against a company that has a strong, established position. You can go around, under or over, but never head to head.
In our over-communicated society, the name of the game today is positioning.
In brief, freelancers are usually less expensive than an agency. As well, often you could expect a larger commitment from a freelancer than an agency. On the other hand, you can anticipate more diversified experience from an agency, relative to a freelancer. However, such is not always the case with freelancers or agencies. Like anything else in life, buyer beware.
PPC Freelancers Based on Price
The rates that a PPC freelancer charges are not the only factors to consider when hiring. But generally speaking, a more expensive freelancer has more experience. It’s a good idea to check references. But even so, it’s important to ensure there’s communication compatibility. This is a position that is key to the very lifeblood of your existence: generating leads and sales for your business.
Here are some approaches to consider when evaluating pay rates.
a) Hiring an inexpensive and inexperienced PPC freelancer is the most unpredictable. It would be more acceptable if you, personally, are very experienced with PPC yourself and can therefore closely scrutinize the details of their work.
b) Hiring a PPC freelancer with mid-pricing is less risky than hiring the least expensive resource. You should expect they’ll be able to follow your instructions. Although you’ll still need to scrutinize their work to confirm the job is being done per your requirements. But it’s a good bet that any required modifications will be done swiftly and competently as your needs come more info focus, from their perspective. Hiring a mid-tier PPC freelancer can be most workable if you are trying to save money compared to more expensive resources. Nevertheless, later on, you may still want to try a more expensive PPC freelancer to see if your PPC performance can be further improved.
c) In an ideal world, hiring the most experienced PPC freelancer at the top of the price range will generate the best results — at least in terms of seeing how effective the PPC advertising will be. But an ineffective marketing and sales funnel will not be made profitable by PPC alone (more on that below). Also, hiring the most experienced/expensive freelancer is a particularly good idea if you are not sufficiently experienced with PPC advertising and can benefit from more informed guidance. In other words, the less you know, the more expertness and experience you should hire.
Having said all that, the focus of this article is not on whether you should hire a freelancer versus an agency, or what approach to use when making hiring decisions; this is about how to make the overall experience more valuable and profitable after you’ve made the hire.
Marketing and Sales Funnel
In this article, when referring to Marketing and Sales Funnel, I mean the online evolution of:
Raising awareness in the minds of potential buyers that your product or service exists
Becoming a candidate in their decision process
Closing the sale
PPC Search vs PPC Display
There’s a lot one can learn about PPC advertising. For the purpose of this presentation, I’m going to overly simplify PPC into two general categories of “Search” and “Display.”
Search PPC is getting your ads in front of people who are searching for your product or service right now. If someone is searching for “red shoes” and they click on your ad about “red shoes,” then your PPC ad did a good of targeting the right prospects. Now, of course, just because they clicked your ad and went to your website, does not mean they will buy your red shoes. But the point is that with this kind of search PPC ad, you are able to get in front of potential buyers right now.
Display PPC is a different animal altogether and it’s what most of us are already familiar with because we see them almost every time we go online — whether we want to or not. We may ‘not’ be searching for red shoes. Instead, we might be reading a sports article or a new recipe. However, we may also see an ad for red shoes. In this case, the display ad is hoping to take us away from the content we are consuming to visit their shoes. Display PPC is not as effective as Search PPC. There’s also a substantially larger pool of placements for an advertiser to get their message out to a broad public via display than search. For both these reasons, display ads are less expensive than search ads.
Both search and display advertising have their respective merits. Your business might benefit from one more than the other, but many businesses benefit from using both, particularly for different parts of the marketing funnel (more on that below).
About Retargeting and Remarketing
Retargeting, also known as remarketing, is a form of online advertising that can help you keep your product or service in front of visitors after they leave your website. For the majority of websites, only 2% of web traffic converts on the first visit. Retargeting is designed to help businesses reach the 98% of users who did not convert right away. Retargeting allows you to strategically position your ads in front of these audiences on other websites they visit later to remind those past visitors about your brand and/or to make a purchase.
PPC Marketing and Sales Funnel Advertising
PPC advertising is often only one part of an overall marketing funnel. But different PPC campaigns can target different parts of the funnel. For example:
“Top of the Funnel” campaigns are about introducing potential buyers to your products or services. Although display PPC or search PPC can be used here, if there’s not enough search ad volume, you can find more robust volume via display ads. And “what” is being advertised might be content that is relevant to the type of prospects who would buy your product. For example, if you sell financial services, you might promote financial “How to” guides to get in front of potential prospects.
“Middle of the Funnel” campaigns are intended to insinuate your offering into the potential buyers’ decision process. Depending upon the product or service and market, these types of ads might be directed to more detailed descriptions of your product or service. To continue the above example, if you are promoting financial services, you might direct retargeted ads to those who got your “How to” guides to direct those prospects to detailed information about your financial services.
“Bottom of the Funnel” campaigns (often remarketing and retargeting) are intended to generate sales. These have a call to action and often some type of special “Buy Now” offer. And just like ads for the other parts of the funnel, you’ll want to test many variations to find better-performing messages.
Many business owners want to focus on bottom-of-the-funnel advertising. If that works for your product or service, by all means, do it. On the other hand, unless you have an inexpensive product and known brand, many prospects will need to see your ads multiple times before they’ll buy from you. Hence, the whole idea of providing different PPC ads to different types of prospects is to make your PPC advertising more effective and provide more value for the same expenditures.
PPC Freelancers vs Marketing and Sales Funnels
For some businesses, PPC may be the primary means of generating traffic and sales. Nevertheless, it’s still only a part of the entire marketing and sales funnel.
PPC freelancers are generally not hired to inform your overall marketing strategy. They focus on the platforms themselves, whether that be Google Ads, Facebook Ads, YouTube Ads, Amazon Ads, LinkedIn Ads, etc. There’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, that’s the industry norm.
To underscore the obvious, a PPC freelancer or agency is only one part of a solution towards making your sales funnel more effective. What this boils down to is if you are hiring someone to administer your PPC, ideally you would also be savvy enough with PPC and marketing yourself to maximize the value of the partnership.
If your marketing and sales funnel is already well-optimized, then the PPC advertising will amplify your sales, as long as the cost-per-conversion is profitable. But if you don’t have an efficient funnel and offer, then the PPC will result in more traffic but the conversion costs will run in the red. (Even so, the PPC may still be desirable in a number of businesses, since the financial loss on the initial conversion may be surpassed by the percentage of buyers who make further purchases after they become a customer).
PPC Opportunity – Use the Data!
It’s a wasted opportunity if a business owner or marketing manager is not using the PPC platform data to inform improvements in the overall marketing strategy and sales funnel (not just the PPC strategy). Yet, in most cases, it’s not the freelancer’s role to consult the business owner about overall strategy or the business sales funnel, even if/when the freelancer or agency is aware of such.
As a simple example in another field, if you were hiring a company to execute your direct mail campaign, in most cases, you wouldn’t expect them to also inform your strategy or even your copywriting. Their job is to print the letters, stuff and stamp the envelopes and get the mail to the post office. In many cases, they aren’t even qualified to discuss strategy or copywriting — that’s simply not their job.
As a comparison, any PPC freelancer or agency should, of course, be technically qualified to interact with the details of their respective platforms. But that does not suggest their expertise extends outside the platform itself. For example, a common suggestion PPC freelancers or agencies may make when asked about increasing ad performance is to “spend more money.” Although that may generate more traffic and sales, it may also be contrary to the best interests of your business if it’s not going to increase ROAS (return on ad spend).
A more meaningful suggestion would be “Look, we’re spending 30% of your PPC budget on a product that is only generating about an 8% response. If we move that budget to the higher converting products, we’ll see a better ROAS.”
As a business owner, you may say, “Thanks. Let’s do that right away.” Or, on the other hand, “Yes, I see, but that 8% response is for our highest-profit product.” In the latter case, dedicating 30% of the budget to a lower PPC performing product may be a perfectly valid business decision. In certain cases, it might even be worth increasing that part of the budget, regardless of the lower response, if it’s making more money.
Additionally, significant data is available from the PPC advertising that can inform your overall marketing: such as demographics, geographic locations and keywords used by those who engage with the ads. For example, what if you’re selling motorcycle jackets and you find that 20% of your buyers are women but all your messaging is targeted to men? Or what if you are marketing consulting services to divorced parents and the PPC data reveals a significant percentage of respondents are also using legal keywords as a basis of their search and you barely mention this part of your service on your landing page? These represent important opportunities to change your marketing strategy and sales funnel. In the former, you would be wise to set up special landing pages for women with photos of women wearing the jackets. In the latter, you would be wise to expand the messaging of your legal-related services and test specific ad campaigns and landing pages targeted to those visitors.
Greatest PPC ROAS
The greatest ROAS re PPC expenditures can be derived from adjusting the overall strategy and sales funnel, not merely optimizing the logistics and details of the ad platform. (Although, of course, optimizing the on-platform PPC performance is mandatory).
The strategy and sales funnel (as well as PPC) may be best viewed as a living, dynamic entity that needs continual maintenance, evaluation and optimization, as opposed to something that is left on automatic.
For example, the best PPC technicians are worth their weight in gold because they may be able to generate a few percentage points better ROAS than someone who is competently experienced but not at the highest echelon of PPC performance.
Companies spending enough advertising money recognize it almost doesn’t matter what the high-level freelancer charges because the improved performance surpasses the money the advertiser would save on someone less experienced.
Regardless, the biggest gains are on the over-arching advertising/marketing strategy and funnel, not the PPC logistics.
Hence, you can hire the best PPC expert in the world and lose money if the PPC expert is only focused on maximizing the platform value of driving traffic to the funnel rather than leveraging the data to optimize the funnel. (Again the former is typically all they are expected to do. It’s YOUR responsibility to strategically leverage the data).
In other words, the existing funnel may simply not provide enough opportunity. Furthermore, the PPC expert is typically not getting paid to consult the business owner on sales funnel points, even when the PPC freelancer is aware of them.
You can derive much greater value and ROAS when hiring a PPC expert if you personally are:
1) Experienced enough to provide optimal instructions and know when the instructions are being followed, or not.
2) And most importantly, able to evaluate the ongoing PPC data yourself.
Unfortunately, that’s not practical or real for many business owners and it’s an understood fact by the freelancers. Hence, the overall value of the partnership with your PPC provider may be lower.
You need a well-conceived marketing and sales funnel and it needs continual optimization. And the PPC metrics are a source of important data that can inform the sales funnel and strategy, not just the advertising on the specific platform.
Whether the PPC advertising is successful or not is relative to how much it costs to keep a stream of traffic flowing through your funnel profitably, while continuing to revise and optimize the ads and funnel before consumer response begins to lag while going through natural longer-term performance cycles.
A PPC freelancer or agency represents a partnership between the PPC platform and your own website and strategy. But the PPC platform can provide more value than just the PPC itself if you harness the data that it’s aggregating each and every day while you’re paying for advertising.
For Google Ads, this means you should have access to the online Google account controlling your ads so you can regularly analyze the data. For Facebook advertising, the Facebook Ad Manager is where you will gain the available info. For every other PPC platform, there is a respective interface to monitor analytics.
Log into them.
Look at them.
If you use the metrics, your marketing and business will benefit from more than just the PPC advertising itself. It’s part of what you are paying for on a PPC platform, so take advantage of it. Furthermore, it will provide more value in your relationship with whoever is managing your PPC.
Pay-per-Click (PPC) advertising used to be relatively easy. 15 years ago you didn’t need to know much about the technology, because it was vastly simpler and required a fraction of the choices (and decisions) that are available nowadays. There was also much less PPC competition, so your ads (whether good or bad) had a higher probability of driving sales because consumer expectations were much lower. Nowadays, if your entire marketing process is not as smooth and intuitive as consumers have come to expect, they move on to a competitor.
But the biggest advantage of PPC of the past compared to today is cost. Back in the early days, some (many) people scoffed at the notion of paying a few pennies or a nickel a click. Particularly if you had effective SEO generating clicks for no cost (other than the labor necessary to gain higher rankings). However, new guys to the PPC game can’t even imagine that clicks could ever have been that inexpensive.
Nowadays, the cost per click in all industries has skyrocketed. Furthermore, the strategies to make PPC more productive (more sales with less cost than when starting a new campaign) have gotten considerably more sophisticated.
The net result is that some number of average small businesses became disenchanted with PPC stating that “It doesn’t work anymore” or that “It’s too expensive.” Well, it’s certainly true that it’s no longer working for the person expressing the statement that it’s not working and it’s quite true that it’s more expensive. But what’s missing from such complaints are “Why” did the costs go up? And the short answer is simple: PPC works.
PPC does increase sales for those that know how to use it. In fact, it’s increased sales so substantially for so many businesses that they’ve been moving record amounts of money into digital advertising for years. But the guys who are winning with PPC are not doing the same type of advertising that was done 15 years ago, or 10 years ago, or 5 years ago or in many cases, what a number of advertisers were doing last year. In fact, the amount of ever-increasing ad choices and opportunities that Google has provided to better serve sophisticated players has had a dampening effect on their biggest potential market: small and medium-sized businesses.
OVER-SIMPLIFICATION OF PPC VS. REALITY
In response to becoming somewhat out-of-touch with small to medium-sized businesses, Google has been attempting to woo more of them back through educational videos, such as the one above. At just over 8 minutes, it does pack a lot of information into a relatively short amount of time.
Personally, I think these videos are a valuable contribution to the marketing and advertising landscape. However, valid criticism points to the tendency (or necessity) for these types of videos to over-simplify concepts to such an extent — for the purpose of attracting new Google ad buyers — that they don’t alert these same new ad buyers to the reality that in many competitive industries, new players may start out losing money. And if these new advertisers don’t step up their game quickly, their experience will be disappointing.
In my opinion, the first thing any business owner or advertiser should confront when entering into the current PPC arena, is that it requires work. If you think all you need to do is post some well-worded ads online and people will come flocking to your website to buy stuff in sufficient volume that it will surpass the cost of advertising right away — well, you may also be a Google Ads complainer-in-the-making.
The reality is traffic can be generated immediately. Make no mistake about it, you can post ads today and start seeing website visitors right away.
But the cost of turning that traffic into sales may be unprofitable at first. And for businesses that sell lower-cost products or services, the cost for every first sale may never be profitable. Hence, the marketing game becomes one of balancing the cost of new customer acquisition vs the lifetime value of each customer, so that the business can make real profits on the latter sales.
REALISTIC PPC ADVERTISING GOALS
When we contemplate advertising goals for a business, we already presume the high-level objective of increasing revenue and reducing costs over time.
Sort of like when many of us buy a car, we take for granted that we want it to be able to transport us from point A to point B. Since all cars that are in operating condition support that objective, we focus on more specific car purchase goals. Perhaps we want a car that’s economical. Or, maybe we want a car that’s highly rated for safety. Or, maybe we need a car that has the most storage capacity. Or maybe we consider environmental factors. Or maybe how it looks is the primary objective. Or luxury and status may be the prime determinants. These are just a few examples of specific yet real decisions unique to someone contemplating goals related to making a car purchase.
In the realm of business, when we contemplate advertising to increase revenue and reduce the cost of leads and sales, there are fundamental measurements that are monitored for all ad accounts to reflect basic ad performance, often referred to as “Key Performance Indicators” (KPIs).
Although KPIs vary per business, they can include things such as:
Time Periods (Example: How many leads or sales per week or month?)
Geography (Example: What area is generating the greatest profit?)
Audience (Example: Which demographic is driving the most revenue?)
After considering such basics as above, your specific advertising goals can be informed by additional fundamentals such as:
Your industry (Long sales cycle? Short sales cycle?)
Your competitive positioning (Are you a market leader? Or a new business?)
Some more specific basic goals might be to:
Expand Market Share
Increase the lifetime value of customers
Build brand equity
Note that “grow profits” in this sense is not identical to the highest-level objective of “Increasing revenue and reducing costs over time.” That higher objective is already presumed and is part of a strategy that contemplates a longer time frame because there’s a natural dynamic tension between growing business and reducing cost. For example, any business that wants to boost revenue as fast as possible can just spend more money on a new and non-optimized ad campaign. This can be executed with the goal of driving as many new sales as possible, regardless of Return on Ad Spend (ROAS).
But such an approach would be in a natural state of conflict with reducing ad cost and increasing ad efficiency since that takes time. And the more time the better.
Hence, you can’t have both in the beginning.
In fact, in a normal state of professional PPC application, the ad costs at the beginning of a new campaign are going to be the most expensive. The question then becomes, “How much can we bring that cost down and how fast?”
If you’re newly advertising in an established market against competitors who have been optimizing their PPC campaigns for years, you’re going to be at a disadvantage. They’re going to be paying less for their online ads and generating more results.
On the other hand, what if you’re competing against less sophisticated advertisers in your industry?
What if your PPC competitors are doing minimal ad testing and minimal ad optimization?
What if your competitors are complacent with their current PPC results, regardless that their costs are going up, because they are still making money?
Or better yet, what if they made the decision to reduce PPC labor by “not” optimizing their advertising because it’s “good enough”?
Any of those types of PPC competitors represents a much greater opportunity to surpass them in a shorter time frame because their competitive guard is down. And if they are rather lax about monitoring their own performance, they may not be watching competitor performance. This means that by the time they get surpassed by a more sophisticated and/or aggressive competitor, they may not be able to catch up because they’re the one that is now at a disadvantage and may also be resistant to learning and/or investing in the most modern ways to make PPC advertising productive.
PPC GOALS TO DRIVE MORE SALES
The ultimate goal is to sell stuff.
And selling more stuff naturally begs the questions:
1) How can I get more leads? 2) How can I get higher quality leads? 3) How can I increase the number of non-converting leads to converting leads? 4) How can I get leads to convert faster?
Unless you have a low-cost product that consumers can purchase with minimal evaluation, a more fundamental goal is to move people from low purchase intent to high purchase intent. Or, moving even earlier in the marketing process, which means moving cold traffic through a funnel that turns some of them into warm traffic and some of those into customers.
In other words, PPC goals need to be defined along the consumer decision path, or through a marketing funnel; not just the end result of new sales.
Although you never want to lose sight of the ultimate goal of selling stuff, if your focus is always on converting only the people who are mostly like to buy today, then your PPC strategy will be more expensive and less effective because for most businesses, there are fewer people ready to buy now when they first learn about you then there are prospects who would be willing to buy from you a little later if they became more aware of your services and benefits over a time period. (And that time period can vary with each individual).
So, to emphasize the obvious, a goal of developing more prospects early in the sales process, also known as “top of the funnel,” is just as important as the bottom of the funnel which emphasizes “buy now” PPC ads. Stated another way, there will be more willing “warm” buyers today if you started developing them earlier.
Otherwise, your sales volume and revenue may become stagnant and in fact, may actually decrease, since the nature of business and particularly advertising is that the costs are slowly rising and industries are getting more competitive.
The key takeaway here is that if you focus only on sales as your primary KPI, then you may not be paying enough attention to the earlier part of the process which cultivates prospects and drives them toward sales.
PRACTICAL PPC EXAMPLE
As a practical example — and one that you are likely familiar with — is advertising a lead magnet or some informational content to find prospects interested in your general product or service. Depending upon what you are selling, you might choose a lower-cost PPC strategy such as YouTube ads or Display ads targeted to an appropriate demographic to find prospects who are in an exploratory process. A tried and true goal here would be to get them onto your email list so you can build a relationship with them by providing value to them related to their purchase journey.
But regardless of whether they opt-in to your email list or not, you can use PPC retargeting ads to get in front of them again as many times as necessary to solicit their further interest. And if they’ve already learned something about your business, then they’ve already graduated from being a cold prospect to a warmer prospect.
Whether your average prospect needs to see your brand 3 times or 10 times or even more before they consider your brand relevant and on their radar screen for a purchase decision, you will find your “Buy Now” offers will be more meaningful at that point then if they hadn’t touched your brand at all.
PPC GOALS SUMMARY
Anything you can do to foster growth in the early part of the sales funnel will ultimately result in more sales. That’s not to suggest that the end of the funnel should not be continually optimized. It’s just that too heavy an emphasis on the last part of the marketing funnel at the expense of the earlier phase of the sales process can mean that your leads and sales may be more expensive and less plentiful.
In brief, it’s to your benefit to have clearly defined PPC goals for each part of your funnel.
Sales and marketing funnels are similar, although not identical. The number of steps and naming of the steps can vary from presenter to presenter. But the idea of moving cold traffic to warm prospects and ultimately to paid customers is an apt depiction for the purpose of any funnel. In the above video, the funnel steps are only 3 in number and the naming of the steps are as follows:
In this presentation, the 3-step funnel is further correlated with basic sales and relationship building such as “know, like and trust.”
Awareness = Know
Consideration = Like
Conversion = Trust
Extending the concept of this funnel even further, this presenter (Dennis Yu of BlitzMetrics) also appends the following: “why, how and what.” These latter concepts are intended to inform a storytelling framework in conjunction with the funnel.
Awareness = Know = Why
Consideration = Like = How
Conversion = Trust = What
In terms of promoting on Facebook, the gist of the presentation here is to be authentic, more story-driven and less overtly promotional.
A fundamental idea is that people want to learn, be moved or entertained; so once again, the idea is to tell a story that will resonate with the audience, rather than being purely self-promotional.
Although much of this presentation is common marketing and advertising knowledge, my favorite part is the emphasis on low-cost message testing by strategically boosting short posts on Facebook (a form of pay-per-click advertising). Once a test shows that your video is productive towards your marketing goals, then it’s time to increase your investment with that message, since Facebook will show the video more frequently for lower cost and you may even benefit from social sharing.
The above presentation also touches upon the reality of Facebook advertising by noting that the majority of your video ads may not work, as well as what would actually constitute being effective (“hitting a home run”).
Although the “formula” itself is informative and useful, personally, I would emphasize the testing over and above the funnel, since you can do the steps upside down and backward and still get results if you prioritize the testing. But if you do the steps perfectly without an emphasis on testing, there’s still no guarantee that you’re going to be successful.
In short, if you want to get your message out effectively via video, then tell stories, build relationships and test, test and test. And most importantly, never stop testing.
After 1984, when the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) eliminated regulations to govern the commercial content of television, infomercials began to proliferate the late-night airwaves because they were cheap to make and proved to be a highly profitable media, selling anything that could be easily shipped.
In fact, infomercials became so profitable that more and more money poured into the industry and by the dawn of the 21st century, big brands were pumping money into the infomercial profit party in a much bigger way. This raised the profile of the infomercial industry as a whole, and furthered the acceleration of rising rates.
Having been involved with some of the most successful infomercials, I have observed that infomercials, as an advertising media, have matured in a way somewhat analogous (although not nearly as fast), as what has happened in the Pay Per Click advertising channel. As PPC became a successful advertising model, over the years advertisers have driven up PPC costs.
Further, the level of sophistication in PPC strategies to stay profitable has also increased.
In a similar way, the costs and risks associated with creating and testing infomercials have skyrocketed since their humble beginnings.
And yet, the investment to test for sales and profit potential via PPC is less than TV.
So, when someone asks me if they should produce an infomercial, rather than delve into the relative merits of their product or service and how broad the demographics are for the market that buys it, I simply ask “How much testing has been done through less expensive media?”
When that has been refined and scaled up to optimize the response and profits, enough marketing data will have been gained to determine the best keywords and messages that underlie this product’s success. And all that data will be very important as a research basis for scripting and producing an infomercial TV “test,” to see how it would do on a limited trial basis as a TV advertisement.
There is much more to know about creating infomercials, but the simple answer about whether you should create an infomercial for your product would be based upon how well it’s selling on the internet and using the supporting data to help evaluate a translation to TV.
Stated another way, for most business persons, the question about whether a product would be successful as a national infomercial shouldn’t even be considered until it’s been tested online and then tested in smaller geographical regions on TV.
For some business owners, particularly those who may be new to video, there’s a certain formality they may ascribe to the medium, even though YouTube is famous as an informal media — as well as everything else. That’s not to suggest that informality is, or is not, the best way to present your brand via video; certainly controlling your message and brand presentation is pertinent to TV and YouTube. Yet it’s still helpful to include among one’s opportunities the notion of informality as a way to increase consumer and client engagement.
Shar Caesar Douglas, Head of Creator Marketing at Google EMEA (Europe, the Middle East, and Africa) discusses YouTube with Gordon Ramsay, who is a Michelin-starred chef and TV personality.
Ramsay talks about his business strategy centered around video and the difference between YouTube and TV. Although the video may be even more interesting if you are a foodie, nevertheless for me, the key takeaway is when Ramsay states, “Big, glossy formatted [TV] shows [that are] cleverly edited is the opposite of what we do on the [YouTube] platform.”
He elaborates upon the informality of the platform and embraces making mistakes and even showing them off. In other terms, the idea would be described as providing an authentic viewer experience.
Of course, a basic purpose of the video is for Google to promote YouTube. And Ramsay has a successful YouTube channel. Who wouldn’t want that?
But what’s not mentioned is that his celebrity would have been a factor in drawing attention to his channel to achieve its growth in the first place.
You and I could leverage a tremendous amount of promotion, including paid ads, and not come close to his level of viewership. (Ramsay has over 2.5 billion views so far).
Nor should we under-emphasize the real work that would be invested to create and maintain the content for the channel. But as a model for others, few noncelebrities would be able to achieve the level of viewership as Ramsay, even by putting in the same or more work.
Regardless, what’s even more pertinent to the world of small- and medium-sized businesses with low to moderate budgets, is how much more attention and customer connection that can be established through video.
You can certainly post a video now and again on YouTube to gain a few views. That may not generate enough interest to support the effort of creating and posting the video. And although there are some examples of people posting videos that went viral with no paid advertising and no effort, that’s analogous to winning the lottery. It does happen, but it’s a low probability — especially if your video has any commercial implications.
A more predictable path towards generating meaningful results from YouTube is to implement a marketing and advertising strategy and see it through.
You don’t necessarily have to invest a lot of money (although some brands do), but you do need to determine some part of your marketing dollars as a way to establish and sustain a YouTube channel or even one paid video advertising campaign (whether YouTube or Facebook or elsewhere).
With even a moderate budget and some amount of effort (depending upon how much you want to outsource), a powerful marketing opportunity is at your fingertips to generate tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of views — again, depending upon your budget.
Video marketing is something that should not be ignored, and YouTube is front and center in that sphere.