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Tips to Win in a Competitive PPC Vertical: How You Can Remain Competitive if CPCs Are Really High

Tips to Win in a Competitive PPC Vertical: How You Can Remain Competitive if CPCs Are Really High

Is your business in a highly competitive market like law, real estate, or retail services? Are you finding it difficult to compete on search because of rising CPCs without additional budget to spend? Here at Forthea, we have helped many businesses breakthrough these digital advertising barriers by using some of these tips below!

Implement granular audience targeting for search

The best paid search strategy is a granular approach that speaks directly to your targeted audience. Because varied markets and target segments behave differently and interact in different ways with products or services, a personalized approach gives you the chance to speak directly to each of those audiences. The initial step in this process is to be knowledgeable of your customer base and how those segments differentiate – Who prioritizes saving money for the sake of quality versus who may be willing to spend more for a luxurious or high-quality product or service.

Layering demographic targeting is a great way to reach the audience that is most likely to convert or purchase. For example, if you are advertising luxury apartments with average rents of $3,000 or more, serve your ads only to the users that Google classified to be in the top 30% of household income. This can help prevent wasted clicks by users who may not be able to afford the apartment, thereby leaving you with more budget to reach those who can!

You can also layer in age, gender, and parental statuses if you have the data to prove who is most likely to convert. One thing to always remember when using Google’s demographic targeting is to never exclude the “Unknown” audience since Google can’t always confirm the true demographic makeup of a user. These unknown users literally become the “unknown” and could contain your targeted audience.

Utilize ad scheduling and bid modifier settings

If you see positive trends with conversions behind certain times of the day, location, or device, make sure you implement bid modifiers to boost your positioning and capture the traffic that is more likely to convert. Start this strategy with a small +25% bid modifier for a month or two of testing. After testing is complete, analyze the data to see if both ad positioning and conversions have increased.

This same strategy applies as well with negative bid modifiers. If you see that a specific time of day, device, or location doesn’t convert well but you still want some paid advertising exposure without blowing through your budget, set bid modifiers to reduce your bids according to those trends.

Starting with negative bid modifiers is typically the best initial step to take when testing out a bid adjustment strategy. For example, if you notice your traffic isn’t converting well on desktops but is spending a decent amount of your budget, implement a -25% bid modifier to test for a month or two. Ideally, you’ll start saving some budget that can be reallocated to top converting traffic on mobile or tablet devices.

Identify your pay per click competition, and conquest

At Forthea, we recommend using a conquest campaign to target your competition.  This type of campaign uses your competitor’s brand as keywords to target ads to anyone who searches them. Once you have identified who your competitors are, craft out an aggressive search strategy.

Get creative with your ad copy and give users a reason to click your ad. Conquest campaigns work best when you use special offers to entice searchers away from your competition. If you’re in a highly competitive service vertical, offer a “50% Off” coupon or “Buy One Service, Get One Free” promotion for new customers. Other creatives that work best include customer testimonials and market differentiators that stand out from your competition.

Be knowledgeable of what your competitors are doing with their marketing strategy and create ways for your business to stay top of mind with consumers. For example, if you notice a competitor is setting up shop near one of your store locations, launch a conquest campaign to target a small radius near your store location with ad copy directly offering an incentive to searchers near your store.

Use RLSA for verticals with long conversion lag times

If you’re in a highly competitive market with high CPCs and your conversion window is typically longer than 2 weeks, consider running a Remarketing List for Search Ads (RLSA) campaign to recapture users who are still in the research-phase for your product of service. If you’re unsure about your average conversion window, pull your conversion time-lag report in Google Analytics to get an accurate average conversion window.

RLSA is a great way to reach those who have already visited your website yet are probably higher in the purchase funnel and in the research phase. Through RLSA, your business can bid on highly competitive and costly keywords (ones you wouldn’t want to blow budget on for just any searcher) while only showing to those who are aware of your brand.

For example, if you’re running ads for an MBA program, bidding on the broad match keyword mba would be costly. However, by only targeting this keyword to your remarketing list, you’re able to show up for more general searches by users who are not only still deciding on a program but are also already aware of your program!

Be sure to use highly specific language for your ad copy, since this audience is more likely to remember your brand from their prior website visit. Also, depending on your strategy, you’ll want to make sure that you negate this audience from a general campaign (such as if your have an MBA campaign targeting top-funnel searchers) to prevent your remarketing audience from triggering these keywords.

Evaluate Branded vs. Non-Branded pay per click campaign strategies

If you’re in a highly competitive vertical, decide upfront what you want to spend on search for branding. Brand campaign are extremely low-cost and can allow you to show up twice (paid and organically) on SERPs, which has been shown to increase CTR and brand recognition. They also allow your business to control ad messaging at the click of a mouse. For example, if your business always has new promotions, running a brand campaign will allow you to push these promotions front-and-center in ad text. Brand campaigns can also help you leverage ad space to compete against competitors, some who may be conquesting your brand – which we don’t want!

While a brand focus may be less costly, non-brand campaigns provide the opportunity to reach searchers who are not aware of your product or service and are higher up in a sales funnel. Determining the proper budget for non-brand really relies on how competitive your industry’s keywords are in relation to how much budget you can spend. If you’re limited on budget, consider only running with keywords that have been shown to convert and move them into a top converters campaign.


Augustin Gallion
Augustin (or better known as AJ) is a Paid Media Specialist at Forthea. When Augustin isn’t optimizing paid search campaigns and driving leads for clients, you can find him walking his amazingly adorable dog, Jasper, around the Montrose neighborhood. An avid photographer and architecture fan, Augustin loves to travel across the States for the best city photos to share on his Instagram (which you should check out!).

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