Even medium-sized businesses struggle to keep pace with the larger enterprises and monopolies of the world. Thankfully, digital marketing and its many facets have helped create a fairer playing field – especially when it comes to search ads.

While companies with big budgets and dedicated marketing teams might still have an easier battle, the strategy with search ads is to think smarter. If you understand how to use search ads strategically, you can compete with the “big guns” of the world – no massive budget or massive staff required.

How do you make the most of search ads? These five tactics will help get you started.

1 Optimize Your Landing Page

Most search ad campaigns get funneled to a landing page. It doesn’t matter how brilliant your ad campaign is or converts; if that landing page is subpar, then your results will be, too. The more prominent brands know this. It’s why they invest just as much (if not more) time into crafting and testing the perfect landing pages.

How do you optimize your landing page? Here are some tips:

  • Have an attractive design – Ugly web pages won’t convert.
  • Make sure your headline is relevant and convincing – The first headline on your landing page needs to use the same keywords and verbiage as your ads. Otherwise, people are going to think they’ve landing in the wrong place. If your headline’s copy isn’t as good as the ad copy was, forget about keeping the traffic. They’re bouncing out of there.
  • Focus on the copy – Your copy needs to be convincing. It needs to communicate the value of what you’re trying to sell. If the words on the landing page fail to do that, you will not convert visitors.
  • Include clear CTAs – Put visually appealing buttons and clear call-to-actions on your landing page. Leads won’t buy or take action if they don’t know-how.

Ultimately, you need to split-test your landing page and continue testing it (just like you do your ads) until you find a page that converts for you. Landing page design, copy and flow all need to contribute to the lead’s journey and your ultimate goals.

2 Determine and Bid for Branded Keywords

If you want to beat the big guys, why not pretend to be them? Is it a little morally grey? Sure. However, it’s a common strategy, and it’s one you should take advantage of. Essentially, many people search for the bigger companies, and if you offer a competing service, you can bid on search terms related to these searches and get some of that traffic.

However, there are some rules you should keep in mind.

  • You can’t use trademarked brand names in your ad’s text
  • You can’t use trademarked brand names in your display URLs

Things can get a little dicey, though, because if your competitors see that you’re bidding on their branded keywords, then they can start bidding on yours, and all of a sudden, you have to pay premium prices to bid on your own brand. That’s not what anyone wants.

Thankfully, there are a few ways to be smart about this. Instead of just bidding on their branded keywords and saying something bad about them, beat them where it matters. Offer lower prices or value propositions.

Let’s say that one of your biggest competitor, “XYZ Businesses,” is offering 25% off their business valuation calculator. You can bid on their branded keyword “XYZ Businesses Business Valuation” and display 35% off in your ad text. Now, keep in mind that bidding on competitor’s brands isn’t always worth it.

Most of the time, customers search those brands because they’re already loyal to those more prominent brands. So, if they end up on your page, they might not convert. However, bidding on competitor’s branded terms can be a great way to build brand recognition quickly. Just be smart about it!

3 Make Use of Ad Extensions 

PPC ads have limited space. This can make writing compelling ads really difficult. Sometimes it just feels like there isn’t enough room to put everything in there that you need to. Thankfully, ad extensions exist, so you don’t have to waste any space on common CTAs and contact information.

Some of the most popular ad extensions include:

  • Call extensions – these allow mobile users to call your business directly from the ad.
  • Callout extensions – allow you to offer and promote distinct offers, like free shipping or time-sensitive discounts.
  • Sitelink extensions – these extensions link to important pages on your website (other than the landing page) that visitors might find useful.
  • Price extensions – these show your product’s price in the ad so that you don’t waste clicks on people who can’t meet the price point.

Ad extensions allow you to say more in a limited space. They also result in your ad taking up more space on the search engine results, which can increase click-thru rates as well. Take a look at the bigger players. They’re all using ad extensions, so you should be, too – especially since they don’t cost extra!

4 Constantly Monitor Your Paid Ad Performance

Want to know one of the biggest secrets that the big guys won’t tell you? Despite their massive budgets and hivemind staff, they have to do a lot of testing to get it right. They don’t simply know the correct answers or strategies to get amazing results.

You need to test, too. If something isn’t working, you must change it. Also, since you likely have a smaller budget than the larger players, don’t use any of the automatic bidding options Google offers. Know how and why you’re bidding the way you’re bidding. This will prevent you from sinking massive amounts of capital into failing strategies.

What sorts of metrics should you be monitoring? These are all important:

  • Bounce Rate – If your bounce rate is high, your landing page needs work, or the ad traffic isn’t mating the page’s purpose.
  • Impressions – this number shows how many times your ad was shown.
  • CPM – cost per thousand impressions.
  • CTR – Click-through rate, how often are people clicking your ads? If it isn’t very often, then your ads need work.
  • CPC – cost per click, how much are you paying per click?
  • Conversion Rate – Are those clicks converting?
  • CPC – cost per conversion, how much are you paying per each conversion?
  • CPA – cost per acquisition, how much are you paying to acquire a new customer?
  • Lifetime Value – What is the lifetime value of your customers?

These are just a few metrics. Ultimately, you want to be able to look at numbers like your CPA and LTV and see that you’re getting a good return. Are you making a profit on your ads, or are you spending more than your making? If you aren’t making a profit, you need to reevaluate your ad strategy until you have a good ROI.

5 Have a Retargeting Strategy. 

Retargeting was all the rage when it first came out. Now it’s the norm. You might think you aren’t familiar with retargeting, but you are. You might just not know it. If you’ve ever put something in your cart on Amazon but didn’t purchase, and then had an advertisement for that thing follow you around the web – you’ve been retargeted.

It’s common knowledge at this point that prospects need to see an ad at least seven times before they buy something. Retargeting allows you to show your potential customers your ad several times. Retargeting can boost conversions by as much as 50%.

You can easily retarget your email lists, past customers, and more using Google AdWords. Simply go through Adword’s retargeting portal to get started using retargeting.

You can upload your email list (or other lists), and Google will deliver ads directly to these people. This allows you to show them an ad on your website, email, and then rest easy knowing they’ll be delivered ads via search, too.

Like all the other tactics, the large companies are already doing this one, so you should be, too.

Start Trying These Search Ad Tactics

These five search ad tactics are tried-and-true methods to get you the results you need to compete with the best of them. Just remember test and test again. Don’t ever lose sight of your budget and continue to research best practices.

Search engine and pay-per-click ad techniques are continually changing. The more you can stay on top of the trends, the better you’ll be poised to take on the bigger brands. Think smarter. Be strategic, and one day you might be one of the bigger brands.

Skylar Ross is a contributor at Raincatcher and a blogger. His contributing site, Raincatcher, provides useful tools and advice for business owners such as a business valuation calculator, exit planning strategies, and selling a business checklist.

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Skylar Ross
About Author: Skylar Ross
Skylar Ross is a contributor at Raincatcher and a blogger. His contributing site, Raincatcher, provides useful tools and advice for business owners such as a business valuation calculator, exit planning strategies, and selling a business checklist.