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Beat high-cost paid search clicks by sweating the details
Paid search can be difficult in competitive industries where CPCs are higher than average, but columnist Pauline Jakober believes it's still possible to succeed with the right tactics.
In some industries and sectors, the per-click cost of search keywords is notoriously expensive — so expensive, in fact, that it dissuades some businesses from even stepping into the fray. When a click can cost you $200 or more, that reluctance is understandable.
At the same time, the costs of not stepping into PPC might be just as pricey, even if they’re not as obvious. In industries where competition is stiff, you could stand to lose a lot by being conspicuously absent from PPC.
So, what’s a business to do?
Fortunately, expensive clicks — even really expensive clicks — don’t have to stop you from venturing into PPC. You just have to make sure that every click counts.
Industries where clicks are costly
Before we get into a discussion about how to make sure every click counts, let’s get clear on the industries and sectors we’re talking about.
Though most advertisers aren’t paying more than a few dollars per click, some industries have average CPCs of $50 or more. Which keywords are garnering these high rates? Here are a few:
- Business services
- Bail bonds
- Asset management
- Cash services & payday loans
- Cleanup & restoration services
- Medical coding services
My agency has clients in education, insurance and legal sectors, and I can attest to the sky-high rates. In fact, I’ve seen click costs of $200 or more with some clients!
How can a business justify playing on this field? Mostly, it comes down to sweating the details to make sure every one of those clicks counts. And by sweating the details, I mean doing the following:
1. Pay more attention to Quality Score
Normally, my team doesn’t manage to Quality Score. This is partly because most of our clients already have excellent Quality Scores, so it’s a non-issue. But sometimes we onboard new clients that have Quality Scores that are just okay.
Usually, we won’t worry too much about these scores because we know they’ll improve over time as a byproduct of good account management. But when a client is in an industry with high costs per click, we give these Quality Scores more attention.
As you know, Ad Rank is determined by a combination of factors, as stated in AdWords Help:
We combine the components of Quality Score (expected clickthrough rate, ad relevance, and landing page experience), the max. CPC bid, and the expected impact of extensions and other ad formats to determine Ad Rank. When estimating the expected impact of extensions and ad formats, we consider such factors as the relevance, expected clickthrough rates, and the prominence of the extensions or formats on the search results page.
Consequently, in a high costs-per-click environment, we’ll look closely at ad extensions, keywords, ad relevancy and landing pages to make sure everything’s set up perfectly to boost the Quality Score.
Recently, we went through this with a law firm client. The firm came to us with a decent Quality Score, but we wanted to get it even higher. We ended up creating additional landing pages to make sure that our keywords lined up perfectly with our landing pages. In fact, we ended up creating one set of landing pages for “lawyer” themed pages and another set of “attorney” themed pages to make the match seamless.
2. Keep a tight handle on location targeting
Again, this is something my team does for all accounts, but it becomes even more critical in a high-click-cost environment. Obviously, you want to minimize “wasted” clicks as much as possible — and having your client’s ad display in areas they don’t serve is a big waste!
You might think this point is self-evident, but we recently on-boarded a new client and found that its ads were showing up across the US, even though the bulk of its business was in one particular city. Needless to say, we quickly clamped down on location targeting.
The lesson here? Target the geographic radius of the company’s business, and check traffic periodically to make sure nothing extraneous is getting through. Then exclude as necessary.
3. Look for lower weekend bids
Amazingly, some advertisers turn off their ads on weekends. I can’t fathom why this is. Perhaps they think no one researches universities or lawyers on the weekend. However, weekends can present an excellent cost-saving opportunity.
In some cases, we’ve lowered bids by as much as 75 percent on weekends, and the ads continue to display in the second ad position. More importantly, we haven’t experienced a dip in leads over the weekend or during the week.
4. Focus on what’s converting
Generally, it’s better to have a handful of well-converting campaigns with generous budgets than a wide swath of campaigns with limited budgets.
The problem with campaigns with limited budgets is that those budgets can get used up quickly. In fact, a severely limited budget might not even meet minimum bid thresholds. Consequently, your campaign ends up sitting there, doing nothing.
It’s much better to cut back on the number of campaigns and give more generous funding to those that are actually converting.
To give a simplified example: You have 10 campaigns with a total budget of $100. You assign each campaign a budget of $10. If clicks rise to $12 each, nothing is going to happen.
Instead, pick your one or two top-converting campaigns and assign them appropriate budgets so they can actually convert.
5. Experiment with shared budgets
Another way to address the above scenario is to set up a shared budget. A shared budget is a single budget that’s shared among several campaigns. With a shared budget, you don’t have to try to guess which campaigns are going to convert. It’s also an excellent option when costs and campaign volume vary significantly from day to day.
We’ve deployed this strategy with some of our university and law firm clients, and it’s worked well. It avoids scenarios where some campaigns have used up their entire budget allotment, while others have budget remaining but aren’t seeing any action.
6. Lean into the Google Display Network
Often, we find that costs per click are lower on the Google Display Network (GDN) — sometimes much lower. In fact, I’ve seen $200 Search Network clicks priced at $5 on the GDN!
In addition, the GDN has all kinds of options for placement and targeting, which allows you to get super-specific and thereby minimize waste.
That’s why we’ll often suggest starting on the GDN before moving to the Search Network when industries are hypercompetitive, and clients are competing against big brands with big budgets.
7. Choose your devices wisely
Sometimes, clients feel they should run their ads across all devices: desktop, tablet and mobile. But this isn’t always the case.
Sometimes, click costs are lower on some devices (e.g., mobile) than others, which can create another cost-saving opportunity.
We recently came across a retailer who was running all of their campaigns on mobile — and just mobile. This may seem surprising (especially for a retailer), but for this client it made sense. They were getting great performance on mobile — and cost per acquisition was lower there, too.
8. Spend more time looking forward than back
We constantly look at comparative month-over-month and year-over-year data. But when clicks are super-pricey, there’s a danger in putting too much emphasis on this data. Things always change. New competitors enter the market. Google raises their prices. Or any other number of things can happen.
So rather than getting tied up in knots wondering, “Why are we paying $59 per click when we paid $50 last year?,” you’re better off spending your time on the things you can control.
Don’t stop sweating the (right) details
Sweating these details won’t turn expensive clicks into cheap clicks. But it can sometimes bring down costs a bit and, more importantly, help make sure that every click counts.
Because at the end of the day, the question to ask isn’t, “How much does each click cost?”
The questions to ask are, “How can we get more leads?” and “How can we convert more leads?”
Because even if you’re spending $200-plus per click, if you’re getting leads and conversions that return a healthy ROI, then no one can complain.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.