Become the MVP of SEO: Does Paid Search Suck?

Getting that top spot on Google is a powerful way to stand out among the crowd of MSPs, but is paid search advertising worth the price?

Axcient welcomes Tyler Mandroian from C1 Partners, a Denver-based SEO and digital marketing agency, to discuss the strategy of paid search advertising. Also referred to as search engine marketing (SEM) or pay-per-click (PPC), paid search can help a business increase its chances of being seen in search engine results and thus increase website visits, lead generation, and brand identity. While this tactic can be massively beneficial for SMBs like MSPs, it can also be complex and confusing. Unfortunately, Google doesn’t make it easy but understanding your goal, how to win, and what’s most important to the search can help you succeed.

In this article…

  • Gain insight into how paid search works so that you’re better equipped to choose relevant keywords and optimize advertisements over time.
  • Understand the differences between paid and organic search to best manage expectations, ROI, and upfront costs.
  • Find out how to maximize paid search, so it doesn’t suck but delivers leads, customers, and brand awareness.

What is Paid Search Advertising?

The most important thing to remember about paid search is that it’s an auction. The goal is to get your business advertisements in front of people searching for topics relevant to your website. The search term could be “IT help” or something particular to a problem – for instance, “My email isn’t working” or “I can’t get Microsoft installed.” Unlike a traditional auction, you’re not bidding with cash. Instead, you’re bidding with the keywords you choose to trigger your search results, so you better choose wisely (more on that later). If you do, the user is likelier to see the ad, click it, engage with your business, and, hopefully, convert to a customer.

Once you’ve told Google what keywords you want your ads to come up for, the search engine assesses your website for relevancy around those keywords and assigns you a quality score. That score is added to the price that everyone at the auction is paying for clicks on the same keywords. Then, when and if someone clicks on your ad, you pay. The most significant benefit to paid search is that the right people see and click on your ads for the right purpose – versus everyone clicking on your ads regardless of their intent. Keyword specificity and relevance are critical for achieving the ROI you expect from paid search.

How Do You Choose Winning Keywords?

To choose the right keywords, you must think about who else is competing at your auction. Let’s say we have three competitors with the following keywords:

  1. Microsoft
  2. Microsoft installation
  3. Microsoft installation help

Due to the similar nature of the keywords, all three competitors enter into the same auction, but the winner depends on what is typed into Google. If someone searches “Microsoft,” then the actual Microsoft company has the best chance of winning for the lowest cost. Why? Because Google rewards the most relevant result of the search query. We can assume that Microsoft ads are highly relevant and have a good quality score.

That example was pretty basic, so let’s look at something similar we often see in the channel. Most people agree that calling Microsoft directly for installation help is inefficient, and that’s why many MSPs provide Microsoft business assistance. If you want to advertise your Microsoft services, you could use the keywords “Microsoft customer service” and get a lot of clicks. Still, those users are probably looking for a Microsoft phone number rather than managed services. Because Microsoft is such a broad term, you want to use trigger keywords to better understand the intention of the person searching. Something like “Microsoft installation help” responds to a particular use case and, with the right ad copy, could provide the ROI you’re looking for.

For example, if the ad triggered by “Microsoft installation help” says, “We help SMBs install Microsoft. Call us today or sign up for a consultation,” you have a good chance of winning the auction. Google will reward you with a higher quality score because of the following three best practices. Failure to deliver on these three components is what costs most businesses their advertising budget.

  1. The ad copy matches the exact search keyword.
  2. The keyword and ad copy are specific.
  3. After clicking the ad, the user lands on a webpage that provides the thing they were searching for (i.e., Microsoft installation help).

Number three is important because it highlights the significance of what happens after your advertisement is clicked – which is just as valuable as the keywords. The CTA, or call-to-action in your ads, shouldn’t go to something general like your homepage or contact page. Instead, it needs to answer the user’s search query. Relevancy throughout the funnel is what drives good online search results – whether it’s paid or organic.

Do You Need Both Paid and Organic Search Models to Win Big in SEO?

Positive organic search results can take anywhere from six months to a full year to realize. Google isn’t transparent with how its organic search engine works because it doesn’t want everyone to figure it out, game the system, and devalue the platform. For this reason, there’s a lot of guessing when refining your ads and gaining insights on the “why” behind the performance.

With paid search, however, you can start seeing results immediately. As soon as you enter the auction, you could end up at the top of Google, depending on how the campaign is set up. Another benefit to paid search is the instant results and data that can be used to optimize the ad. Because you’re paying Google for each click, it’s much more willing to provide insights and information to help you improve. To pinpoint the specific search terms and keywords you want to target, you can use the Google Ads and Google Analytics dashboards to see how people search for services like yours. Ask yourself, is someone actually going to use this keyword in their search for my services? Are they going to find what they need in my ad? Am I able to help this person? Do I want to help this person?

“Often, small to medium-sized businesses or local businesses fail to take the steps necessary to go the extra mile. What’s really common in this industry is for someone to buy the term ‘IT services.’ It’s very generic, so it might get a lot of clicks, but there’s a high cost for those clicks – probably about $40 to $60 for each click. ‘Car crash Denver’ costs about $300 per click.” – TYLER MANDROIAN

What Data Should I Utilize in Google Analytics?

Google gives you a lot of valuable information about your competitors. Not only can you see how often you lose or beat them in each auction, but you get an idea of how much they spend versus what you’re spending. That can help you set pricing thresholds consistent with the average price in the auction.

In addition to the standard advertising metrics like click rate, click-through rate, cost per click, and conversion rates, a big metric to pay attention to is search impression share. This number tells you how often your ad comes up versus your competitors using the same keywords. If your share is 30 to 40 percent, you’re not winning a lot of your auctions. Generally, that means you need to go back to the drawing board and do some work on relevancy. If you have a share of 70 to 90 percent, however, your ad is being seen by most of the people you’re targeting via your Google parameters.

Google also provides a keyword research tool that lets you see the monthly search volume, the average cost per click, what most businesses pay for that click, and the average competition on any keyword you search. This is a great starting point for choosing keywords based on analytics rather than just what you think might be popular.

Are Paid Search Campaigns Expensive?

It’s up to you how much you want to spend. You can set caps on how much you’re willing to pay per click and still get good results. Let’s say you don’t want to pay more than $10 a click. You can set that limit, but the likelihood that you win the click goes down depending on the market and keyword. If a keyword is averaging $40 a click in your auction, and you only want to spend $10 per click, you may still get a handful of impressions. Still, your position will be much lower because you’re not paying as much as the other businesses in the auction.

It’s easy to get lost in the cost fight and burn a lot of cash. Instead, focus on standing out among the competition by focusing on what people use Google for – solving problems. For example, buying the keyword “Microsoft 365 help with email setup” is longer but much more exact to a problem. Sure, fewer people search for something this specific, but you gain a higher quality score for relevancy, and you won’t have to bid as much in the auction because there’s less competition. That term might only cost $5 per click, but it will probably convert users into leads or customers at a higher rate. It’s all about responding accordingly to the exact and purposeful nature of the search – that’s what you’re chasing.

Does Paid Search Suck?

The short answer is it can. Google does help businesses win on their platform by providing insights via Google Analytics, but their bottom line is the same as any other business – to make money. So, if you don’t know what you’re doing, you can lose a lot of money without having anything to show for it. With that said, Google is not impossible to learn and can be relatively straightforward. Businesses can also partner with SEO and digital marketing agencies that can guide you toward success and enhance your understanding of the process.

“The reason why paid search tends to suck for most people is that they either don’t have the proper guidance, or they’re just not able to match the technical difficulties of Google Ads with their actual business objectives.” – TYLER MANDROIAN

Download the Free MSP Marketing and Sales Guide: 4 Ways to Grow Your Business on a Budget

In addition to paid search advertising, MSPs can take advantage of lower-hanging marketing and sales fruit like events, social media, referrals, upsells, and other low-cost, high-reward tactics. In Axcient’s free Marketing and Sales Guide, we’re helping MSPs improve their results on strategies you may already be using. Apply these simple, straightforward, actionable best practices to grow your client base, increase qualified leads, close more contracts, and conserve your budget.

>>>Download the MSP Marketing and Sales Guide: 4 Ways to Grow Your Business on a Budget

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