Every dollar you make is a dollar off someone elses table. I do not mean that making money is a zero sum game where one person makes and another loses, but rather, Every dollar a consumer spends with you, they could have and likely would have spent with your competitors.
What this means is that no matter what angle you have or strategy you implemented, you can be sure someone is coming up the hill guns a’blazin looking to take you out of the game.
Like most advice, these tips, tricks, and tactics are nothing earth shattering. It is mostly common sense, and obvious to those who choose to open their eyes. In my experience, the one of the biggest differentiators between the 1% that get really rich and the 99% that don’t is their ability to acknowledge and face reality. It might be a tough pill to swallow, but the sooner you do it, the sooner you will be able to use it to your benefit.
There was a recent discussion on Hacker News, where a website owner “proved” that advertising with PPC in Google is no longer cost effective. His evidence was demonstrating that his Cost Per Clicks were going up, and his clicks were dropping, leading to an increase in cost per acquisition. This is actually a very common misconception about paid search which is actually the key to killer success. Most people believe that Search Engine Advertising is no longer profitable and too difficult to compete because of the nature of it being an auction, and the much larger number of advertisers getting smarter about it today. Luckily for us, the skeptics of Hacker News, ripped this guy to shreds, starting off with showing how his website was not utilizing best practices about conversion optimization. Basically, they concluded that the original poster never adapted to change, and expected his campaigns from two years ago to be working just as effectively today.
The Golden Rule of PPC Advertising is… Your Competitors Will Do Unto You, So Do Unto Them Before They Know What Hit Them.
It wasn’t rocket science when I figured out that my bail bonds client, who only needed one or two bonds a day, and was paying $65 a click for Bail Bonds in Middletown, NJ, and was a victim of click fraud from competitors, to simply turn off his desktop ads, and just advertise on Mobile. This produced excellent prospects, who often were calling right after their boyfriend got arrested, and desperate for a solution asap. This fits into my pain index I use to determine whats most likely to work on mobile. This is a high pain point, looking for immediate relief, so mobile ads done right should easily turn into click to calls, and if you are any good, you should easily convert such a call. My client converted every single phone call, and he was getting about a 30% CTR on his landing page. I simply went where his competitors weren’t and dug a little into the prospects head, and had a winning combination. This is my favorite part of running PPC Management for my clients.
When my client who sold discount international business class flights couldn’t afford clicks for $12 in the United States, I simply targeted only English speaking searchers throughout the world, and shut off the United States, we got 75 cent clicks, and $3.00 leads. Sure, its an easy sell when you are offering 70% off business class flights, and true, these opportunities are plugged now, but they worked well for a year.
Here is what I found about PPC,”The higher the cost per click, the more likely the competition is lazy. That’s right, LAZY. Raising bids is the lazy mans way to optimize campaigns.”
The non-lazy paid search manager optimizes every other metric possible. What do they optimize? They optimize where they advertise, when they advertise, they consider what device their user is on, they use custom landing pages, they track calls back to clicks, they constantly add negative keywords, and not just obvious ones, but synonyms for every possible variation.
Here’s a bunch of things that you can analyze about your competition with a simple Google Search.
1. Are there arbitrage sites advertising on your keyword? If ebay, info.com, ask.com or other non-relevant sites ads show up, there is probably room to easily compete in the space.
2. Are there lead generation sites advertising in your niche? If you see companies that are clearly not end users, like a servicemagic advertising, you can be sure there is room to compete.
The above two strategies work based on the first main way to compete – Having better margins. If you are delivering the full value and operate on a typical industry margin, and the above advertisers are in place, you are good to go.
3. Are your competitors using the same ad for multiple ad groups? This is easy to tell by using Keywordspy.com or one of the many other keyword spying tools. alternatively, you can just run a search for two different keywords and see if their ads are the same. If they are, there is a clear Quality score win waiting to happen.
Hint: Remember, you don’t need to outcompete every advertiser, so it’s ok if a couple are doing a good job, as long as you are a head and shoulders ahead of everyone else. Afterall, there are more than one ad on each search results page.
4. Are your competitors sending visitors to custom landing pages or their home page. This is such an obvious quality score and conversion win that It’s shocking how many businesses still do this.
5. Are your competitors tracking their destination URL’s? this is as easy as looking at the destination URL to see if it has a “?” and string of characters after it. In fact, if you are a little savvy, you can tell what tracking software they are using based on their URL tags. This is such an easy thing to implement with Google Analytics, it’s almost criminal not to. Yet, so many advertisers fail to do this.
6. Are they using call tracking? This is a little more advanced, but by looking at the source code of their page you can check for a tracking tag for Mongoose Metrics, or other number switching software or other call tracking code. Even Adwords has a call tracking conversion code for click to call they can implement, and you can easily see if it’s on the site.
7. Are they tracking conversions? This requires converting on their website, and looking at the source code on the thank you page, but uncovering this insight can open a world of opportunity to crush them.
8. Are they using their ad copy in their landing page? I can’t confirm this, but i have heard that including ad copy in your landing page will improve quality score, but even if it doesn’t, It should help your conversion rate.
Think of your paid search like a continuing conversation. They start the conversation by asking a question with a search query, You answer their question with your ad copy. They continue the conversation by clicking on your ad, and you respond to their click with your landing page, at which point they decide to either bring the conversation to the next level and convert into a lead or sale, or bounce and end the conversation. With this in mind, remaining consistent and congruent throughout the conversation should keep them engaged and get them to continue the conversation.
9. Are they using an easy to understand headline that grabs the users attention?
10. Are they using trust signals to improve conversions? Are any of these signals something you could easily get and use? (i.e. BBB, Chamber, industry associations, verisign, etc…)
11. Are they asking for action from the visitor (a CTA) or is the next step not clear to a visitor?
12. Are there navigation links on the landing page giving them the option to click elsewhere? While you should test this for your own site, it is widely believed to be a best practice to force the action of either converting into a lead, or bouncing.
13. How quickly does their landing page load? There is empirical evidence that page load times greatly impacts whether people stick around. Google says that it could translate into a 20% drop in traffic to their site if it takes an extra half a second to load. Regardless of the truth, this is certainly a BIG FACTOR in quality score. You can use google’s page speed tool to optimize your page speed. In fact, you can even use their servers to deliver an optimized version of your site to visitors.
14. Are they tracking different phone numbers to different keywords? For one of my clients, we use a pool of 800 unique phone numbers, and every visitor, in every state within a 24 hour period is shown a different phone number. This lets us figure out which keywords are producing which clicks and conversions, leading to much more profitable advertising. You might not need to use an expensive service if you have a small website, but if your competitors aren’t doing this, you have a clear opportunity to focus your spend on the profitable keywords.
15. What features of your competitors offering is being highlighted?
16. What benefits are your competitors promoting? Is there a common feature benefit set amonsgt all your competitors? if so, this is a clear opportunity to differentiate yourself.
17. Which ad serving cookies are being dropped on the browser? This is important because you can see if they are running a retargeting cookie or other get an idea of other places you can advertise.
18. Which keywords are showing the same ad and landing page? You can probably use Keywordspy to reverse engineer your competitors ad groups, but this can open up some clear opportunity. Specifically if there are keywords in the ad groups that don’t match well with the ads. This is a simple opportunity to break out this keyword into its own ad group with its own targeted ad, and you will likely have a better quality score.
19. Who is running your competitors ads? Sometimes you can figure this out by looking at a footer link pointing to the management company. You can also search for your competitors name and the keyword portfolio and see if any ppc management companies are linking to it as a client or case study. You can also analyze the backlinks of their site to see if an agency is linking to them.
20. Run a few user tests but having random people search your keywords and click on atleast 3 ads, and talk about the sites. Make sure not to tell them which one is yours, and you will see all sorts of easy win insights they uncover.
21. Are they missing out on keyword opportunities. My guess is that every advertiser has 80% overlap and 20% of keywords the other site doesn’t target. This cannot be reiterated more, but finding new keywords can easily be your biggest win. When I was working in junk cars, our first year we never bid on the keyword Salvage Cars, and now its by far the biggest search volume keyword. The country, and world are really big places and people use different language in different locations. It is SO IMPORTANT to realize there is a ton of opportunity outside of your comfort zone. The best way to uncover this is to use lots of different keyword tools and dig through all of your competitors keyword lists.
22. Are they using customer display URLs targeting visitors? If not, you can probably score some extra click throughs with these easy wins.
23. Are they using ad extensions? Right now there are a bunch of different ad extensions you can use. These can dramatically increase your CTR, and lead to much higher conversions. These are especially useful when a keyword can have two different types of searchers looking for different things.
24. Are they using dynamic keyword insertion. This by itself doesn’t indicate much, but odds are if they have a broad keyword list and arent using it, they don’t know about it. Also, if they are using it too much on irrelevant search queries, that’s an easy win. Ultimately, you need to take a lot of things into consideration before jumping to conclusions.
25. Are they advertising around the clock, just at day, night, what about in other markets? This is harder to analyze, but if you see their ads dissappear between 4-6pm, there is a decent chance they run out of budget. If they aren’t running on weekends or nights, what does that mean? I know that there is data showing that weekend and after hours leads convert just as well as work hour leads, because they aren’t expecting an immediate call back, and your competitors arent a click away. I highly encourage testing running ads day and night until you figure out how to adjust your bids to turn a profit no matter when you run your ads and bid adjustments.
26. NEVER GET COMPLACENT OR LAZY… This is so important. Above you have over 25 ideas that are readily available to your competitors to see right through your ad campaings and strategies, and there are probably hundreds more that I didn’t list above.
More importantly, remember, The More Expensive the Bids, the more likely there are wins in other places. Keep searching and keep that bread on your table.
Why bother competing, if you aren’t prepared to crush your competitors?
I can assure you…They Won’t think twice about crushing you!
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