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Successful World Cup Advertising: How to Compete in a Hyper-Competitive PPC Environment

Successful World Cup Advertising: How to Compete in a Hyper-Competitive PPC Environment

Soccer Match

If you haven’t noticed, soccer’s World Cup 2014 is here. It’s one of the world’s biggest sporting events and this time it’s being held in Brazil. It addition to the souped-up competition on the field, the World Cup creates a hyper-competitive market for pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, especially if your product or service has anything to do, even remotely, with the event. (Think soccer t-shirts or national paraphernalia)

Thankfully, we’ve got the tips and techniques you need to keep your cost-per-click (CPC) reasonable while attracting buyers in a heated advertising environment like the World Cup.

First, a Few Words About Hyper-Competitive PPC Advertising

So, what exactly is a hyper-competitive environment? To us PPC folks, it means a waterlogged vertical full of advertisers shouting at you for attention. It looks like soccer t-shirts during the World Cup or cars during Memorial Day weekend. It sounds like the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

And it means there are a few things PPC specialists and clients should be aware of.

PPC Will Get More Expensive

Ad spends are going to go up during a crazy event like the World Cup. It’s a simple issue of supply and demand. Even though there are things we can do to mitigate costs, you need to get comfortable with the idea of higher CPCs during this peak period.

More People (Who Don’t Know What They’re Doing) Will Play in the Space

During a hyper-competitive event like the World Cup, more buyers means more advertisers, even if the advertisers don’t know squat about PPC. But, quite frankly, you shouldn’t handle a loaded gun if you don’t know what you’re doing. In the same respect, you shouldn’t play around with a PPC campaign if you’re ignorant about PPC advertising. But a lot of people do, with predictably disastrous results.

There’s nothing more annoying than an advertiser who doesn’t track their ROI. In such cases, overbidding becomes a huge problem for the rest of us.

Imagine somebody who isn’t afraid to bid $50 per click for a product that retails for $20 because they don’t know how to attach CPC to cost-per-acquisition and all they’re trying to do is rank first. Simply put, there’s no way to compete with somebody like that. Not only do those people mess up the playing field for all the other advertisers, they’re not doing their company any favors.

And yet, these people will be busy during the World Cup, throwing their money away in pursuit of a false goal.

But take heart, all you need to do is wait these people out. They’ll deplete their inflated ad spends quickly. And then you can move in and target the same keywords — more efficiently and effectively.

Meet Jon Bowers

Meet Jon Bowers

Ranking First Doesn’t Always Mean You Come Out On Top

On its face, ranking first in PPC means little for advertisers or clients, whether you’re in a hyper-competitive space or not:

  • Like the ignorant over-bidder, coming in first means nothing if the CPC is higher than your target cost-per-acquisition.
  • First place generates a lot of “idiot clicks,” which means unqualified prospects are simply clicking on your ad because it comes up first, not because they’re interested in what you’re selling. These result in wasted ad spend.
  • The sweet spot for CPC tends to be in 3rd, 4th, or 5th place; a high enough position to garner qualified clicks that aren’t overly expensive.

Now that we’ve gotten a few words in about the nature of hyper-competitive environments, we can get on to the brass tacks of getting your PPC campaigns to compete effectively.

And Now: Our 5 Tips for Successful PPC Advertising During the World Cup

Let’s say you have a shirt company. And your shirt company sells soccer shirts, maybe even World Cup jerseys from some of the tournament’s national teams. Simply competing for the phrase “World Cup” is silly. In fact, doing so would be insane.

But there are five things you can do to ride the wave of soccer fever and reach soccer-shirt-loving prospects through PPC this World Cup season.

1. Engage in Smart Remarketing

Remarketing — the tactic of reaching prospects who have visited your website, gotten cookied, and left — is normally a valuable online marketing strategy. But during a hyper-competitive event like the World Cup, a smart remarketing plan becomes critical for successful PPC campaigns.

Setting Up Remarking Before the Big Event

You gain tremendous benefit by setting up and running a remarketing campaign prior to entering a hyper-competitive space.

In the case of the World Cup, getting to market first by creating brand mindshare and an audience for your product or service would make competing with key terms like “world cup” a non-issue. You’d be in a much better position to compete on brand strength alone.

For example, promoting your World Cup t-shirts a month before the World Cup would allow you to create brand mind share and demand: “The World Cup is coming! Get your favorite team’s World Cup t-shirts today at great prices — before they sell out!” Not only will people start buying, but your CPC will be far lower.

Obviously, if you haven’t done that it’s already too late for the 2014 World Cup. But keep remarketing lead time in mind for future events like Independence Day, in a few weeks, or the World Series, later this fall.

Regardless of lead time, you have essentially two options when it comes to remarketing.

Option A: Banner Ads

Banner ads, while less targeted, allow you to sell to prospects directly, in a channel that doesn’t compete at the keyword level and isn’t limited by text character length. Even though prospects may not have even looked at products or services related to the World Cup — just shirts — you could say “hey, come look at my World Cup shirts.”

True, banner ads constitute less specific advertising and operate more like billboards, but with CPCs closer to $1.50 instead of $50, they’re far cheaper and should win on volume alone.

Option B: Remarketing in Search

Unlike banner ads, remarketing in search is far more targeted, in part because it relies on the effective use of keywords.

Prospects go to your website and are cookied. When they leave and later search for “World Cup t-shirts”, your site’s ad will show up before others because they already have a proclivity to like t-shirts from your website and are already familiar with your brand.

2. Create a High Degree of Differentiation

When conceiving and writing your PPC ads, it’s important to communicate a benefit that you can stand on, one that’s highly differentiated from your competition.

With World Cup t-shirts, that doesn’t mean green shirts versus red shirts versus yellow shirts. If the competition is running ads for price and fast delivery, you could run ads for selection and quality. Better yet, create a specific promotion that makes you stand apart.

A Personal Story: Differentiation in Retail Energy

I once worked client-side in the retail energy provider (REP) industry.  To be blunt, you won’t find a more commoditized or less sexy product to sell.  A quick search on Google for “electricity provider” will show you a line of ads all offering the “lowest rates.” Some even offer the empty promise of “best service.”

In the end, you have 40 voices all saying the same thing and making the same promises, which devalues them all.

The solution: find a differentiator you can stand on and make that the focus.

A prime example of this is a major REP we had as a client. They couldn’t really compete on price and services had been marginalized, so they started offering a Nest thermostat with a two-year commitment on a plan that was priced a little higher than most others.

The result: the REP offered something nobody else did and made the unsexy, sexy — and probably signed up a lot of people for an extended period who would never have considered our client before.

Additionally, with customer churn (rollover) a top metric concern in the REP industry, those sign-ups were 50–100% more valuable than the average six-month to one-year sign ups.

3. Refocus on High-Performing Keyword Sets

You can’t rank for every possible keyword phrase, so don’t even try. Instead, refocus on the specific keywords that are performing best. To do this, isolate your highest performing keywords and set the others aside. Then take the selected keyword phrases and build each of them out into its own set through research.

For example, if “green soccer shirts” is performing well, it could be broken out into “green soccer shirts for men”, “green soccer shirts Brazil”, “Brazil soccer shirts for women”, or wherever else your keyword research leads. Then run your campaign with those keywords until you’re ready to refine again.

4. Commit to Continuous, Real-Time Monitoring

A commitment to continuous, real-time monitoring is the hallmark of any good PPC campaign, not just those run in hyper-competitive spaces like the World Cup. But the World Cup matters. It matters a whole lot.

Just think of all the great soccer players in the World Cup. They perform at a high level year round and they do what’s expected of them; they exercise, they eat right, they take their vitamins and supplements, they get enough sleep, and so on. But when they make it to the World Cup, they completely elevate their game; everything they did during the normal soccer season pales in comparison to their commitment while performing on the highest stage.

And for your PPC advertising to be effective in the World Cup, you’ll need to do the same.

Most PPC experts won’t have a hard time meeting this challenge. We’re all fairly OCD, and that’s not a knock. You almost have to be. In fact, the good ones already check the status of their campaigns seven days a week. Doing so helps prevent critical problems and creates opportunities for wins. But clients have to share the same commitment.

For example, one of our PPC experts, Davis Baker, was checking his campaigns while others, including clients, were leaving for Memorial Day weekend. That’s when he found that one of the clients, an auto dealer (can you think of a more hyper-competitive space during Memorial Day weekend?), was about to exhaust his ad spend — and we hadn’t even gotten to Saturday.

Thankfully, the client was eventually reached and the crisis was averted by increasing the ad budget for the holiday weekend.

But can you imagine what a disaster it would have been if the problem wasn’t caught, or the client didn’t check their email or answer their phone?

5. Develop a Budget Contingency Plan

If the auto dealer had a budget contingency plan, the problem we just described may have been easier to solve. Our advice to everyone — PPC specialists and clients — is don’t wait. Have a conversation about developing a budget contingency plan for your PPC campaigns.

Whether that looks like an escrow fund or some other solution, develop a plan and make sure it’s in place before an event like the World Cup. If you haven’t developed a contingency plan, it’s not too late. Contact your PPC specialist today and set something up.

That pretty much covers our advice for running successful PPC campaigns during the World Cup and other hyper-competitive advertising spaces. If there’s anything our fellow PPC specialists out there would like to add, feel free to leave your comments below.

If your company needs help with PPC advertising, just give us a call. We’ll be glad to help.

Photo by Jaroslaw Popczyk

Jon Bowers
Jon has seen it all. He is a digital team lead at Forthea and has been part of the online marketing community since its emergence in the 1990s, but don’t worry, he’s vowed to never use phrases like think outside the box, ninja, rock star, or visionary entrepreneur.


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