As a startup, your marketing budget is probably a bit tighter than you’d like it to be. It probably feels like you can’t let a single penny go to waste — and for good reason! The way you allocate your startup’s marketing dollars could very easily determine whether or not you’re one of the 50 percent of startups that fail during its first four years.
Unfortunately, while plenty of startups have the general right idea about which marketing tools they should invest in, they don’t always go about it in the best way. There are few places where this is more common than pay-per-click (PPC) marketing.
When done right, PPC’s advanced targeting capabilities give you direct access to the audiences most likely to turn into paying customers. But if you’re not careful, a poorly-planned PPC strategy can eat through your budget without delivering any of the results you want.
So how do you make sure your PPC campaigns reach the right people without destroying your marketing budget? One of your best bets is to start by avoiding these common — and devastating — PPC mistakes.
1. Poor copy
Writing copy for your PPC ads can be especially challenging — you have an extremely limited space for both your headline and description, which means you can only include the most essential information, and do so in a way that will entice people to click.
Sound challenging? It absolutely is, but utilizing enticing, descriptive copy for your PPC ads can make all the difference in whether or not anyone clicks on your content in the first place.
Your headline is especially crucial — in many cases, it’s the only thing consumers will read before deciding whether or not to click on your link.
As such, your headline absolutely needs to include your call to action and targeted keywords, as well as any promos (like a special sale) or other unique elements. Failure to deliver a clear, concise message in your ad copy won’t help you gain any traction.
2. Neglecting ad extensions
Ad extensions are another basic element of PPC advertising that frequently go ignored. Google wants to make it easy for interested customers to get in contact with your startup — that’s why AdWords offers a wide range of extensions designed, in their words, to give “people more reasons to choose your business.”
AdWords extensions allow you to beef up your ads by displaying your phone number, location, product pricing, or even reviews of your product or service alongside the rest of your ad content. Each of these extensions essentially serves as another attention-grabbing element of your PPC ad; one that lends further credibility to your business and can even serve as an additional call to action.
The right ad extensions can significantly improve your clickthrough rate and help engaged consumers get to where they need to go to make a purchase—ensuring that your marketing budget doesn’t go to waste.
3. Ignoring negative keywords
There’s plenty of talk about targeting the right keywords for your PPC campaign, and obviously, focusing on the right keywords can have a huge impact on your marketing results. But far too often, PPC budgets go to waste because “negative keywords” are ignored.
Essentially, as Google tries to match keyword searches to phrase-matching and broad-matching PPC ads, it isn’t unusual for your ad to appear in completely irrelevant searches — such as a company trying to sell plant products getting matched with “plants vs zombies cheats.” Not exactly what you’d like to pay for.
Thankfully, Google allows you to dodge this bullet (or zombie bite) by submitting negative keywords for your campaign — or search results that you don’t want your PPC ads to appear in.
By adding negative keywords (both initially and throughout the campaign), you can ensure that your ads aren’t placed in irrelevant results.
4. Do you bid on your brand?
Sure, you might think that you don’t need to bid on brand-specific keywords for your PPC campaign, but neglecting to do so could ultimately give your competition a major opportunity to steal your business.
As Rory Witt of DigiMar explains,
If somebody is searching specifically for your brand, they’re already highly interested in what you have to offer. These are the customers who are most likely to convert. You might not have a whole lot of competition for your brand keywords when you first launch your startup, but as you grow, others will bid on your branded keywords to try to hack your brand.
When you bid on your brand keywords, you’ll be able to dominate both PPC and SEO results — ensuring that your most invested customers don’t get waylaid by the competition.
The last thing you need is for customers searching for your brand to be tricked into buying from your competitors instead.
5. Failure to learn customer lifetime value
Do you have any idea how much money you’ll receive from a customer over their lifetime engagements with your startup?
For startups, it’s essential that you figure out how much you can expect to earn from your PPC customers, as well as how much it costs to acquire them. Unfortunately, many startups tend to spend more money acquiring their customers than they’ll ever receive in return.
Do you know how much you spend to acquire a customer? Do you know how much money you can earn back from that customer? If you don’t take steps to ensure that you’ll at least earn back the money you spent to convert a customer, you’ll find yourself running out of money in less than a year.
6. Not finding the best AdRank for conversion
While you would naturally want to rank in the top position for your own branded keywords, research regarding the effectiveness of PPC ads at generating conversion goes against what conventional wisdom would suggest: If you want to achieve the best conversion rate possible, your PPC ads should rank between third and fifth — not first.
The reasoning is that many of the people who look at these slightly-lower ranked ads are more heavily invested in their search. They’re more interested in making a purchase, and as such, they aren’t necessarily going to just click on the first ad they see.
As with many other elements of PPC marketing, split testing is often your best way to determine which position is most effective for your brand.
In some cases, the second position might be the best spot for generating conversions. In other instances, a lower bid that lands you in the fourth spot could very easily help you achieve the results you need — while saving money in the process.
7. Using the wrong matches
The Google AdWords keyword match system can be confusing — and if you don’t understand how these different categories work, you could very easily waste money by investing too heavily in the wrong type of match.
As a quick reminder, a broad match will serve your ad in any search that includes your targeted keywords in any particular order. Phrase matches will only serve your ads when a search includes your keywords in a specific order (though related searches can still appear). Finally, exact matches only display results for an exact term.
Each of these matches generates differing levels of conversion — while phrase and exact matches yield higher conversion rates, they don’t receive as many searches as broad matches. Because of this, it’s best to use a strategic mix of all three types.
Focusing only on broad matches would get your ads to appear in more search results, but it would also include many irrelevant searches. Focusing only on exact matches would yield better conversion rates, but you might not get the quantity you need to generate a profit.
With all the mistakes listed above, it can be tempting to write off PPC as too dangerous of a digital marketing strategy. Don’t. PPC is an essential ingredient for digital marketing success; one that can easily generate thousands of dollars for your business — if not millions.
Best of all, now that you know some of the mistakes to avoid, you’ll be better equipped to use PPC to reach your startup’s long-term goals, while dodging the pitfalls that would suck away your budget.
This post is part of our contributor series. It is written and published independently of TNW.
This post is part of our contributor series. The views expressed are the author's own and not necessarily shared by TNW.