Digital advertising isn’t a novel idea. From Google and Facebook ads to sponsored content on LinkedIn to banner ads on other websites, advertising online has been around for a while. Just because it’s an established marketing channel, though, doesn’t mean it’s lost any of its relevance. If anything, the importance of advertising in general, and of paid search in particular, has increased in the past few years.
So let’s take a closer look at paid search. Why does it matter for your business? How can paid search assist in lead generation? And what can you do to get the most out of your campaigns?
It’s Not Just for Retailers Anymore
Some business owners have written off the concept of paid search because they’re not a retailer or B2C. The fact of the matter is that while certain industries, like retail, have already learned how to harness the power of paid search, businesses in any field can benefit from it.
Increasingly, Google is where people head to find information about businesses. And it doesn’t matter what kind of business it is—B2B or B2C, retailer or service provider—people are opening up a search browser to find you online.
This is true of prospects who are looking for new solutions to their problems. But it’s equally true for existing customers! Have you ever wondered what time your go-to coffee shop closes, and typed their name in on Google search or Maps to scope their hours? Or maybe you’ve searched for your regular hair salon to find their number to call for an appointment? Searching for businesses we already know and love has become common practice in the Google age.
Businesses of all stripes and sizes need to be easily searchable on Google because that’s where everyone goes to find the information they need about your business.
Paid Search is Taking Up More Real Estate
So you understand that having a presence on search engines, particularly Google, is important. But why not just focus on SEO and call it a day?
With each passing year, we’re seeing the expansion of Google Ads. Google now offers dozens of types of ads, from traditional text-only ads to photos and carousels to map listings. And with all of the various ad products available, they’re giving paid search results more and more space at the top of SERPs.
I recently did a search for a local business: I Googled plumbers in my hometown of Kansas City. And I discovered that the first page of results on Google was filled with paid search and aggregator results (things like Angie’s list and Yelp). In fact, the first organic result for an individual company didn’t appear until page two!
Research has shown that the listings at the top of Google SERPs capture an outsized share of all web traffic. In fact, only five percent of websites found on page two of results get any clicks at all! Even businesses with an incredible SEO strategy can still be completely overlooked by searchers who click on one of the many ads that appear ahead of any organic results.
Get Involved in the Process
By now I hope I’ve convinced you that paid search is an essential element in any small business’ marketing strategy. But if you’ve never run a Google Ads campaign before, you may feel overwhelmed. There are a number of technical elements to consider when it comes to building out a campaign—from bid strategy to identifying audiences—not to mention the creative side of crafting your ad content.
While it might be tempting for you to hand over full control to a PPC firm, that’s risky. Even if you don’t have the technical know-how to handle the whole process on your own, you want to be sure you understand the concepts behind paid search so you’re able to be a smart consumer. Do you research on PPC firms. Speak with a number of them about your needs, and then select the one that understands your goals and has a clear roadmap to help you meet them.
And that means focusing on something beyond the number of clicks they garner for you each month. Many PPCs will proudly report to their clients that they generated X number of clicks. But the reality for the business owner is that the number of clicks means nothing if those clicks don’t ultimately result in purchases. The right PPC firm will understand that distinction and look to prove results beyond that one metric.
Focus on Purchase Intent
How do you ensure that those clicks are actually resulting in revenue for your business? Focus your paid search efforts on people that are actually looking to make a purchase.
SEO is great for those long-tail searchers. They’re seeking information about your industry and may make a purchase from you at some point in the future. If you maintain a strong, content-focused SEO strategy, you can dominate in those long-tail searches and build a relationship with prospects who will come to know, like, and trust you over time.
To connect with prospects in need of immediate solutions, however, paid search is the way to go. If a homeowner is looking for a plumber to repair a burst pipe, they don’t have time to read through page after page of thoughtful content from a dozen different providers and carefully narrow things down to their number one choice. They need a solution right now, and they’re going to go with one of the first names they come across.
When you position yourself well in paid search, bidding on keywords and search terms that indicate an urgent need and high purchase intent, you set yourself up to be one of those first names they encounter (and you’re that much more likely to be the business they ultimately hire).
Keep an Eye on Local Services Ads
Which brings me to the topic of Google’s Local Services Ads product. While Local Services Ads started out with a narrow focus—in only a few major cities and specifically for providers in the home services realm (think: plumbers, contractors, and housekeeping businesses)—their reach is rapidly expanding. The categories of businesses listed in Local Services Ads continue to grow, and the ads are now available in even more regions.
I only expect the reach of these ads to expand further. Soon, I anticipate that we’ll see everything from law offices to hair salons being listed in the Local Services framework. My advice here, then, is to sign up with Local Services right now if you can. And if you’re in an industry that’s not yet in the Local Services universe, keep an eye on that space and be ready to dive in when your field does become added to the platform.
Paid search has always been an important tactic in any small business’ overall marketing strategy. But as the Google landscape continues to shift, it takes on an even greater significance. Following the advice above can help you to build out a paid search approach that facilitates lead generation and gets the greatest possible ROI.
If you liked this post, check out our Small Business Guide to Paid Search.