The paid channel advertising landscape is booming. Two of the world’s biggest search engines -- Google and Bing -- collectively reach hundreds of millions of dollars each month.

Each quarter, PPC marketing agencies are witnessing growth in their average advertiser budgets and costs-per-click. The Search Agency, for instance, reported a 37.4% percent increase in ad spend between Q4 2012 and Q4 2013. During this same time period, CPCs grew 27.6% year-over-year and 5.8% between quarters.

Growth in the PPC ecosystem means one -- and only one -- thing. The landscape is getting more competitive each day. As marketers build sophisticated tracking frameworks and analytical models, they’re likely to increase their marketing spends. When more advertisers enter already-competitive marketplaces, costs of acquisition increase.

To make more out of your already-limited marketing budget, you need to outsmart this trend. Here’s how:

1. Increase Click-Through-Rates (CTRs) on Ads

PPC networks weight two variables highly in their algorithms -- click-through-rates (CTRs) and costs -per-acquisition (CPA) such as a cost-per-click (CPC) or cost-per-impression (CPM). The way to counteract an increasing CPC is to craft ads that are highly aligned with your experience.  Here are some ideas to make your advertising message more compelling:

  • Conduct qualitative research with your customers to see what message resonate
  • Communicate your product or service as succinctly as possible
  • Strategically target (and re-target) specific stages of the conversion funnel
  • Ensure that your ads are reaching the right audiences at the right time
  • Make sure that your ad’s call to action is clear and compelling
  • Eliminate any and all cognitive dissonance to ensure that ads are straightforward and compelling
  • Consistently test ad variations to determine which messaging is generating the highest engagement with your audience.

Here are some examples to inspire you. Notice how each of the ads have clear, compelling value propositions, are comprehensive, and make sense to a range of audiences. In addition to emphasizing what your brand delivers, be clear about what the consumer is going to get.

Research what your audiences care about, so that you can incorporate that information in your ad. For instance, vintage retailer Twice knows that its audience cares about second-hand items at ‘steal-worthy’ prices:

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Be clear and concise about the action you’d like your audience to take -- check out the inspiration from this Zappos swimsuit ad:

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Be straightforward with your value proposition -- it’s a simple concept to keep in mind, but audiences should know exactly what your ad is talking about and offering.

By increasing the CTRs on your ad, you’ll position your brand to achieve the highest possible performance at the lowest possible CPCs.

2. Target Specific Funnel Stages

The biggest reason why PPC advertising fails is that it targets the wrong funnel stage at the wrong time. If you blast early-funnel audiences -- who are just discovering your brand -- with an aggressive sales pitch, you’ll risk scaring them away. If you target late-funnel audiences with a brand-building message, you’ll risk missing out on a low-hanging sales opportunity.



Technology can help you optimize your messaging by conversion  funnel stage and reach the right audiences at the right time.

For instance, Facebook’s Custom Audience feature allows marketers to target their users by email address and by specific website activity. Retargeting pixels can help re-engage audiences based on buying patterns.

For instance, e-commerce retailer ModClotch consistently targets me with specific images that I’ve browsed on their website:

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Sometimes, I’ve even added these images to my cart. I am a low-funnel buyer -- with every message that ModCloth sends my way on Facebook, I am likely to click through and make a purchase.

3. Augment the Performance of Your Landing Pages

Landing pages are important for two reasons:

#1) They are the crucial link between audience acquisition and conversion

#2)  On some PPC networks (like Google),  they directly influence your cost per acquisition

With respect to #2 -- ad networks like Google are constantly assessing your ad quality by measuring how users respond to your landing pages. AdWords will give each of your PPC ads a landing page quality score based on user experience signals -- how long audiences spend on the page, whether they bounce, etc. Higher quality scores translate into lower CPCs.

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Personalization can help to create a more relevant, high-performing landing page experience. Here are some ideas to get started:

  • Dynamically generate landing pages based on keyword search queries
  • Deliver targeted messages based on traffic sources
  • Generate interest-driven pages for audiences who are logged in
  • Use real-time technology to customize messaging based on specific audience interests

Gardener’s Supply is one example company that improved its landing page performance based on personalization.

As a consumer products company, Gardeners was naturally generating significant traffic through Pinterest. The problem is that this traffic wasn’t converting. The company wanted a way to acknowledge,capture, and more effectively convert these visitors -- all of whom were new to the Gardener’s brand.

Gardener’s Supply launched a welcome message popover that included a discount and email address to capture leads. The popover was non-spammy and designed to trigger based on specified behavioral signals and interests.




Gardener’s Supply generated a 3x increase in conversions from Pinterest. Even more importantly the popup was used to collect email addresses that could be used for future remarketing.

Final Thoughts: Focus on Generating Value

When optimizing your PPC campaigns, it’s tempting to chase costs like budgets and CPCs. Remember, however, that your goal is to drive revenue. If your campaigns are always ROI positive, your marketing spend will be well worth it.  Landing page optimization through web personalization and real-time marketing are key parts of this equation.