Paid SERP Domination Strategies: Why and When You Should Use Them.

More and more, it is becoming imperative that your business has a presence on the first page of search. Ranking organically is always the holy grail of goals, but SEO takes months (or years) and you want leads now. That’s where paid ads come in. Paid search, most commonly Google Ads, can generate instant website traffic and with proper management, and can drive a high return on ad spend that improves as your campaign is optimized over time as you learn how your business can best perform in search.

It’s clear why the pay-to-play approach can be attractive to businesses to drive instant results, however, just like any marketing, it needs to be done correctly to positively impact your bottom line. Here are a few strategies and considerations we take with paid search campaigns.

Believe It or Not, You Don’t Need to Always be Number One.

Contrary to what most people believe, you don’t need to be number one to drive traffic to your site. Oftentimes users’ eyes actually skip over the first search result, with their eyes naturally landing on the second or third ad. This happens particularly on mobile, which is contributing to more and more searches. For many of my clients, we find that ranking in position two or three actually sends more traffic, as well as saves them cost with a lower cost-per-click (CPC) —that’s more clicks for the same budget.

Regardless of which ad position your ad appears in, it’s important to ensure that you’re filling in all recommended ad text fields. Ad requirements change often, and we often see fresh ads become outdated from Google’s latest update. Adding the extra headline and description that Google has provided with expanded text ads provides you more real estate in search for no extra cost. With the added bonus of expanded text ads being favored by Google, you could also see your ad ranking higher and cost-per-click decrease. So, why not take the time to properly write your ad copy?

With that common misconception out of the way, let’s jump into a few strategies for using paid ads in tandem (or in place of) SEO.

Competitor Targeting/Conquesting

Paid search is often used as a strategy in place of SEO to outrank the competition and/or show up when a competitor is being searched. Since it’s nearly impossible to have high organic rankings for target competitor brand names, many brands choose paid search as a strategy to keep brand visibility amongst competitors. If you’re looking to keep up and beat out the competition, here are a few paid search strategies.

1. Target terms that your competitors are targeting 

Clients use this strategy when they don’t want to have too high of CPCs and want to be seen next to competitors.

  • Using SEMRush or Spyfu, you can research what terms your competitors are ranking for both organically and with paid traffic.
  • Target these keywords with the goal of ranking next to your competitors
  • Ensure your ads are doing their job. Fully fill out your ads to dominate as much real estate as you can and make your ad copy compelling, so searchers will want to click your ad over your competitors.

2. Directly target competitor names
Also known as conquesting, this strategy is generally recommended when you have a higher budget to work with. Since the keywords you would be targeting are not your brand name or general terms, you will naturally have a lower quality score and a higher CPC. If conquesting is a strategy you’re pursuing, consider the following.

  • Separate these terms into tightly themed ad groups with specific ad copy that targets each competitor and have them in a separate “conquesting” campaign. This allows you to control spend on these terms.
  • Consider creating a competitor comparison landing page. By doing this, your website has landing page content with the competitors term / brand. This strategy can help increase your quality score for  competitor terms, resulting in lower CPCs and overall cost for your conquesting efforts.

Can’t Rank Organically? Try Paid Search.

Paid search ads work right in tandem with SEO efforts. As you develop your target keywords, you can use paid search to instantly rank for terms that you aren’t ranking for (or not in the top 3) organically. A few key considerations:

  • Use SEMRush or Moz to pull together a list of keywords that you are ranking for, what you’re not ranking for, and what you want to rank for. Fill in the gaps with paid search by targeting the keywords you don’t rank for.
  • Pay attention to the keywords that you don’t want to rank for or spend money on. These terms are called ‘negative keywords’. Oftentimes, this can include terms like ‘free’, ‘cheap’ or ‘how to’, but it really depends on your particular business.

Brand Awareness – Dominate in Search

If you have healthy organic rankings, you can still utilize paid search to dominate Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). This allows you to show up as an ad, and then again organically as searchers scroll down the search page. If they don’t click on your ad, but recognize your brand name, you’re more likely to get that organic click, even if you’re 3-6th down on organic rankings.

This strategy is utilized often by larger businesses such as Amazon, Walmart, or United Airlines (who care more about lifetime customer value), but for most small to medium businesses with the goal of immediate profit / ROI, this may not be a wise investment of budget.

Before jumping into this strategy, start with what works, then expand. Invest in maxing out impression share on the keywords that are driving conversions. Once there is full coverage for the terms that are converting, then expand to the next layer of terms and begin refining. Over time, you should begin to maximize low hanging opportunities, while dedicating separate budget toward discovering new opportunities.

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