Paid search ads have been a staple of retail and B2B marketing for nearly 20 years now, and there’s still a fair amount of confusion about PPC and its role in advertising and digital marketing. In this article, we’ll define the key differences between search marketing, search engine optimization, search engine marketing, and pay-per-click advertising.
Definitions & Differences: SM, SEO, SEM, PPC
Let’s first make sure we all have a clear definition of PPC and the key differences between PPC, SM, SEM, and SEO.
Search Marketing (SM)
Search Marketing (SM) is an umbrella including a variety of tactics to increase website visibility on search engines. It can include marketing techniques, such as Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Search Engine Marketing (SEM), Pay Per Click (PPC), and others, including Reputation Management, Listing Optimization, Link Building, Content Marketing, and more.
Generally, there are two types of search marketing: strategies that improve search results in native search and paid search marketing that target ads.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the effort designed to achieve web traffic through native search engine results. This includes a broad swath of on-page and off-page methods to improve your ranking in organic search results. Search engine results pages (SERPs) can fluctuate significantly for non-paid positions. SEO is an ongoing effort that requires strong content writing, website authority, mobile optimization, speed loads, links, and keywords. A solid SEO strategy can improve your rankings in the organic search results but rarely replaces paid search and PPC.
Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
Search Engine Marketing (SEM) refers to all paid search ads. Any type of online advertisements where you pay to display in search engine results pages (SERPs). SEM encompasses techniques that include keyword research, ad copy, land page optimization, bid management, and cost-per-impression (CPM) and cost-per-acquisition (CPA).
Pay Per Click (PPC)
Pay Per Click (PPC) is pretty much what the name implies. The terms PPC and paid search are often used interchangeably, but there is a difference. All PPC is paid search advertising but not all paid search is PPC. PPC is synonymous with cost-per-click (CPC). This form of advertising is used across the Google search network, Bing ads, and social media.
Well executed ad PPC ad campaigns show up at the top of the SERPs. Every paid search platform is highly competitive so following best practices including keyword research, audience segmentation, and bid strategy are vital to successful PPC campaigns. Search engines do not always display ads based on the highest bid. Because advertisers only pay when search engine users click an ad, Google and other search engines are incentivized to display the highest quality ads. The aggregate factors include quality scores, landing pages, mobile load speed, and a variety of other factors. Google is looking for the ad with the best chance to convert in order to get consistent business.
Why Paid Search Ads Makes Sense For Your HVAC Company
HVAC and all home services marketing is highly transactional. Paid search, specifically PPC, puts your ads in front of customers searching for the services that your HVAC company provides. There are three key reasons paid search ads are far more valuable for HVAC than other forms of marketing.
Unlike traditional media where ads show up to a large audience who may or may not be in the market for what you are selling, PPC ads show up right when consumers want information.
For example, your paid search marketing will bid on ad placement for the query, “heating repair.”
When customers initiate a search, paid search ads become more than a broad commercial. Dynamic copy and powerful landing pages provide a solution to a problem. Paid search is a whole lot more effective than general market advertising.
High Return On Marketing Spend
Within paid search, you can target specific geographical areas and key demographics. Google ads use exceptionally rich data about users to promote your paid search ads to the most relevant audiences. This means your audience is far more accurate.
When a paid search ad appears on Google search results pages you are far more likely to convert that lead into a new customer.
PPC Can “Google-Proof” Your Marketing
All HVAC companies want to be the #1 result on Google. While SEO strategies can help your rankings in search engines, it’s always a moving target. Google is constantly tweaking its search engine algorithms. In fact, every year it makes changes to the algorithm with updates that ripple across organic search results. Some updates are major changes and get lots of press, and some are minor variations. Every one of them has an impact on your search engine rankings.
What is not affected by an algorithm change to organic search listings?
Paid search advertising.
Pay Per Click is an effective safeguard in “Google-Proofing” your marketing. It also provides a lift by supplementing your SEO efforts.
Why Hire Paid Search Specialists for Ad Campaigns?
Paid search is more than just using Google keyword planner and building PPC ads. While you need PPC advertising to promote your HVAC company, ultimately clicks need to translate into leads and new customers. Professional HVAC marketing companies like Valve+Meter optimize your paid search advertising to reduce wasted marketing dollars and maximize your share of the local market.
Highly Targeted Marketing
More accurate data is the real answer to the question, “What is paid search?”
“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted,” said marketing pioneer John Wanamaker way back in the 1900’s. “The trouble is I don’t know which half.”
It’s even truer today – you simply can’t afford to waste half your precious online marketing dollars. PPC allows you to target with a laser-like focus on your target customers. You can go way beyond demographic targeting by targeting specific categories, including lookalike audiences.
Traditional advertising may target a wide range of individuals – women aged 25-54, for example. PPC allows campaigns to target wildly specific niches making your ad spend more efficient such as: moms who own a home, attend church regularly and have elementary-age kids.
By understanding your target customer and building a profile, you can show ads to those most likely to buy. Through optimization techniques, you can serve the right ads to the right people at the right time – the key to effective advertising.
Landing Page Optimization
Once users click your Google ads and other paid search ads, professional marketing paid search campaign links to a landing page. Landing pages are a key part of paid search advertising. The design, copy, page speed, images, call to action, and other elements focus on maximizing the conversion rate.
The goal of every paid search advertising is to generate revenue. Consistent improvement of land pages optimizes conversions. Professional marketing firms include designers, copywriters, and web developers to ensure the best possible conversion rate optimization (CRO) for your campaigns.
Retargeting Your Visitors
Professional paid search advertising retargeting people who visit your website but do not convert. You can define which ads to show them based on what actions they’ve taken when they visited. For example, someone who spent time on your website looking at air conditioner installation may see a different ad than someone who was looking at furnace repair.
Accurate Data And Repeatable Strategies
Reporting on PPC is near real-time, which means you can go in at any point and see exactly how your paid search ad campaigns are performing. By setting up the right parameters, you can measure how many times your ad has been seen, how many times it’s been clicked, and how many times it led to a successful result on your website.
Like optimizing landing pages, professional paid search advertising demands constant improvement. One important measurement is the Click Through Rate (CTR). This is calculated by comparing the number of people who viewed your advertisement versus the number of people who took action by clicking on your ad. Conversion Rates (CR) allow you to track what the visitor does once they click on your ad. Do they take the action you desire – calling, filling out a form, signing up for emails?
Professional paid search advertising relentlessly uses data to create repeatable strategies and improve less effective tactics.
Flexibility To Test And Pivot
Because you can see the results immediately, it makes it easier to optimize your campaigns by analyzing what keywords and strategies lead to the biggest returns. You can test multiple versions of your ads and see which performs better. By constantly analyzing the results, you can eliminate spend on keywords and continue refining ad copy for the best results. This optimizes your campaign for the best results and most effective spend.
At Valve+Meter, we’re huge fans of tests. It speaks to our performance marketing model. We believe in testing small and scaling big. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of performance marketing agencies, it means building compensation agreements on goals such as lead generation or conversions rather than billing for activities performed or products created.
CRO (Conversion Rate Optimization) allows for similar strategies. By tracking which PPC campaigns have the best conversion rate (CR), you can optimize the ad serving, or impressions, to use the ads leading to the most conversions.
While you can take the “set it and forget it” approach to your PPC, it’s best to monitor the results. Automation allows you to test all sorts of variables and let the software automatically optimize the campaign – serving the best-performing ads. Setting down automated rules at the beginning of the campaign allows you to focus on the important aspects and avoid drowning in the deluge of data from Google AdWords.
Still, you’ll want someone who knows what they are doing to regularly analyze the data and manually attack the optimization strategies… for now. PPC expert Melissa Mackey has predicted, the utilization of Google’s Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning will continue to skyrocket, leading to even better results through automation – If you have experts who know how to maximize it. Paid search advertising experts focus on this ever changing digital landscape so you can focus on running your HVAC business operations.
Complete Budget Control
Google ads and other paid search accounts can become expensive. Setting the maximum bid too high is wasteful. Likewise, setting your bidding strategy too low will not display your PPC ads to the potential customers. Professionally managed campaigns garner better paid search results. You can set your maximum bids and let the auction process take care of bidding for you. You can set maximum spend limits, setting daily or monthly budgets, and even choose how to distribute the spend: Do you want it as fast as possible, or do you want it spread evenly throughout the period? Digital marketing specialists will find the ideal times to run campaigns that help paid ads convert to paying customers.
The best part is you are empowered to make changes to your advertising budget at virtually any time, or even pause your campaign. This allows you to adjust mid-campaign, to accelerate to take advantage of seasonal or weather-related circumstances or temper leads if your operations are struggling to keep up.
Mobile And Features
There’s no question mobile is driving web traffic. 80% of internet users own a smartphone, according to Smart Insights. More than half of all search engine traffic comes from a mobile device.
The Google display network allows for mobile optimization through responsive ads designed to recognize the device searchers are using and adjust ad sizes and content to provide the optimal experience based on the specific device. You can also direct your bidding to adjust for mobile.
One of the most significant adoptions by consumers in PPC includes Call to Click. Searchers are able to click on your phone number in your search ad and, because they likely have a mobile phone in their hands, call the number without having to type it.
Professionally managed campaigns ensure your paid search works across all devices seamlessly.
Achieve Brand Recognition
HVAC companies need to earn the highest ad rank possible for two reasons: convert leads from the search results page to your website and keep your brand name top of mind with potential customers.
An important part of any successful marketing campaign is brand recognition. Often people don’t know the name of a business until they are in the market for their services. Ideally, it’s best to be a name they know and trust before they start searching.
In the days of the yellow pages, the branding game was to make sure your name had Top of Mind Awareness (TOMA) so when they opened the book to look for a service provider, they recognized your name. If you looked at the list and recognized any name, you’re more likely to pick up the phone and call.
PPC can help establish brand awareness. Instead of paying for impression-based advertising (the more people viewing your ad, the more it costs you), you can advertise using PPC or CPC (cost-per-click). Your ads will be served to more people, get greater visibility, and you’ll only be charged when someone clicks on your ad – someone interested in your product or service.
Before You Start Your First (Or Next) PPC Campaign
Before you dive into PPC ads for the first time, or the next time, you will want to take a moment and do the research you need to launch an effective campaign.
Define Your Results
The first step is to determine what results you want from your PPC ad campaigns. Is it to generate phone calls, fill out an information form, convert to an online sale, or something else? Once you’ve defined the result, confirm all the elements you need are in order. If you want someone to fill out a contact form, design a landing page with a great Call to Action to get the user to fill out the form. If you are looking to sell a specific product, make sure it’s linked directly to the product page and have an easy path to complete the sale.
There’s a pretty good chance your competitors are using PPC advertising in your marketplace. The easiest way to tell is to search for keywords you think someone searching for your goods or services would use and see which companies pop up. Try various keywords and phrases and take notes. Always remember to step outside of your industry jargon.
Regular homeowners, for example, may call the product or service by a less formal or technical name than you. Though the search term may be inaccurate, perhaps, to a professional like you, just remember you’re trying to think like a prospect, not a veteran within the HVAC industry.
While this will give you a quick idea of who is using PPC, you’ll want to do a deep dive into this area by conducting a gap analysis, which involves comparing your HVAC company’s digital assets along with the competitive landscape of your competitors. Google ads can be challenging especially for busy HVAC companies. Wasting money on ad placement is unfortunately a common obstacle to growing your business.
Still ignoring PPC is, in effect, conceding important online advertising and marketing space to your competitors. Think about this: when people go online to search for services within the HVAC industry, they are likely great prospects for both you and your competitors. If you’re in the HVAC business and a user searches for air conditioner repair in your area, it’s a safe bet they have a problem and need a solution. Ignoring PPC means your competitor may get the first call instead of you, giving them a higher chance of converting.
As humans, we tend to go with the path of least resistance. For a homeowner with a broken air conditioner, it’s about solving a problem and solving it fast. The PPC ad at the top of the search page is the epitome of the path of least resistance. While other factors might come into play, there’s a good chance that a customer will choose the first business that comes up in their search results, especially if they have an urgent need.
PPC Keyword Research
Choosing the right keywords is one of the most critical decisions you will make in crafting an effective PPC campaign. It can be time-consuming and choosing the wrong keywords can lead to an expensive mistake. It’s definitely a case where putting effort into the front end of the project will pay off.
Get started by thinking about the reasons people come to your HVAC business. List the specific products and services you provide. Pay attention to the Return on Investment (ROI) of the products or services and decide which items you want to highlight. After all, you can’t afford to spend money advertising everything you offer.
Once you’re there, you can provide exceptional service and gain a customer, sell maintenance agreements, or upsell to a replacement system. You’ll also likely get the first call when they realize they are ready for an HVAC system upgrade. If you had chosen relevant keywords that only revolve around replacement water heaters, you would have missed the biggest source of leads for your HVAC business.
It’s also important to know what keywords you don’t want to buy. Traffic to your website or business for services you don’t provide is a waste of your time and the customers, not to mention costing you money for the click you don’t want. Negative keywords are one of the most underutilized strategies when it comes to PPC, and one of the most important to avoid wasted spending.
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Frequently Asked Questions
My Competitors Are Not Doing Any Ppc Advertising. Do I Still Need To Do It?
What great news – your competitors aren’t being aggressive in PPC! The fewer competitors in the space, the less you have to bid to get great ad placement. It sounds like a great opportunity to get top-of-page results at a lower cost point.
What About Voice Search?
Voice search is broken down into two categories right now, and it depends on how voice search is used. Using Siri, Cortana, or Google Assistant via your smartphone will still lead you to PPC and search results on your screen. A more recent development is voice search through devices like Amazon Echo (69% market share), Google Home (25% market share), and HomePod, Apple’s recent entry into the field. These devices use major search engines to answer questions asked by the user, rather than taking them to a search engine results page.
You may need to adjust your keywords to reflect how people naturally phrase things compared to just typing them.
What Else Impacts My Paid Search Campaign Rankings Besides My Bid?
When it comes to PPC, it’s not just about how much you’re willing to pay. If, for example, your site isn’t mobile-optimized, it will be penalized by Google. Slow load speeds for your website will hurt both your ranking for organic and paid search campaigns. Your site should load in two seconds or less.
Google wants the searcher to have the best possible experience and get the best search result to keep them coming back for more. Anything producing a less-than-optimal performance will negatively impact your business.
Quality Scores, derived from your website, will impact your organic and paid search. So the best solution is to have SEO and PPC work together.
Is PPC Just Google?
While Google dominates the marketplace, there are other competitors. Google accounts for 87% of all searches, according to Statistica. Other search engines account for millions of searches per day, like Microsoft’s Bing which has a 5.8% share of the search market. Yahoo has about 3%. Nobody else rises to the 3 percent threshold. So while it’s important to utilize Google Ads, there are other paid search platforms as well that shouldn’t be neglected.
What About Amazon, Facebook Marketplace, And Google Shopping?
Great question! PPC is not just for search engines. A study by Kenshoo showed 85% of searchers started their product search on Google. However, shoppers typically use more than just Google search when looking for a product. 72% visit Amazon and 27% visit Facebook to do product research.
A growing number of people are now starting their searches for products directly on Amazon. When someone’s checking the price of a product on Amazon, would you want your ad to show up?
Can I Do Paid Search Advertising By Myself?
You can, but it’s hard to do well. Doing it poorly wastes money and opportunity. One recent study put the wasted paid search ad spend at 25%. It doesn’t include all the sales you miss so it’s likely a lot more. If all of this sounds intimidating, it can be. We understand. Consider Valve+Meter Performance Marketing for PPC and for all of your marketing needs. We have helped multiple HVAC businesses navigate the PPC playing field and achieve outstanding results.