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Whether you are an in-house marketer, battle-hardened agency exec or a small business owner who has managed your company’s Google Adwords account single-handed up till now, you have probably noticed that the market(s) you operate in are becoming more competitive each year, with every man and his dog now giving advertising on Adwords a go.

Well, the good news (and the bad news, really!) is that you are not suffering from digital marketing paranoia; Google’s Q1 2015 financial results reported a 25% increase in paid clicks on Google websites, compared to Q1 2014. Given that not every company will be able to increase their marketing budget by 25% each year, there must be new players entering the market to receive all of those clicks. This is confirmed by the other noteworthy stat from the report; cost per click on Google websites has increased 13% compared to Q1 2014.

The fact that paid click numbers are still rising faster than the cost of paid clicks spells opportunity for the brave marketer, so what is to be done?

  • Tip 1: Get the basics right: It’s amazing how many people advertising on Adwords aren’t doing it very well, especially the newer additions to the market. A recent post on the reef blog by Hadrien Brassens about quick wins which can improve performance is a great checklist of basics that every account should get right.
  • Tip 2: Expand your reach: Look for synonyms or related keywords which you may not have thought about bidding on before. You may well find that your competition aren’t yet bidding on these keywords either, so you can attract a similar quality of traffic as you see from your existing keywords but with less competition, and hence less expensively.
  • Tip 3: Segment and remarket your audience: Not all clicks are equal. This is an opportunity! You can use Google Analytics to create remarketing lists based on visitors to your website’s browsing history and then serve them ads while they are browsing sites on the Google Display Network which take them back to a relevant area of your site. The creative and destination url you use for each ad should change for each segment of your audience. For instance: if you are an ecommerce store and someone adds an item to your shopping cart but doesn’t complete the purchase, an ad creative with a time-limited discount to complete the booking and a destination url which takes them straight back to the shopping cart will be very effective in raising conversion rates. For someone who just reaches your home-page before bouncing off the site, a much more general ad creative focusing on brand awareness would be most appropriate.
  • Tip 4: Think about conversion rate optimisation: Similarly to step 3, if you can increase the conversion rate of the traffic you have, it will increase your return on ad spend (ROAS) for channels like Adwords, which makes bidding on those ultra-expensive keywords less of a scary prospect, as each click will bring more revenue to your business. Using an A/B testing tool like AB Tasty can allow you to run tests on any area of your site to see which layouts, designs, website copy or products will be more effective at getting your website traffic to turn into paying customers. Kiss Metrics have an excellent beginners guide to AB testing if you need some inspiration to get started in this area.
  • Tip 5: Abandon ship!: If you have tried all of the points above and you still find the competition on Adwords too expensive, you must be up against some serious players! Luckily, Adwords is not the only channel which can deliver large volumes of quality paid traffic to your website. Bing’s ad network is improving and adding new features all of the time, and the competition is not yet as intense on this platform as on Adwords. Some brands, particularly those with an older target market, can actually find that Bing users are more likely to convert than Google users, so testing this platform out for yourself is highly recommended.

Do you have any tips or questions about how to deal with intense PPC competition? Let me know what you think in the comments or drop me a message.

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5 tips for competitive PPC markets

time to read: 3 min