Paid Search Marketing for Your Software Company: Is It Worth It?

Paid search advertising isn’t for everyone. It’s a specific tool, just like a hammer. If you need to sew up a hole in a shirt, a hammer is the wrong tool for the job (unless the shirt is made of hammers).

In this article, we’ll help you determine if paid search marketing is the right paid advertising tool for your tech company. But first, just so we’re all on the same page, here’s a quick description of what paid search marketing is:

Paid search marketing (also called search engine marketing, SEM, or PPC) is a type of digital advertising in which you pay to have your URL placed at the top and bottom of search results pages for specific keywords. You are only billed by the search engine when someone clicks on your ad.

Here’s a handy illustration to show how paid search marketing fits into the bigger picture:

PPC in digital marketing

Here are the steps you’ll need to take to decide whether Google Adwords PPC (or Bing PPC) is right for you or not. We’ll also weave in some tips to help you squeeze the most success out of your pay-per-click ads.

Identify Your Objectives

Are you looking to boost site traffic, increase brand awareness, or get more conversions? Are your goals related to the beginning stages of your potential customers’ journey, or to the final stages?

Though PPC can work for all stages of your marketing funnel, research has shown that paid SEM campaigns get the best results for businesses when customers are ready to buy. In fact, when bottom-funnel buyers conduct a search, paid ads get a whopping 65% of total clicks (Wordstream). On the flip side, organic search marketing (SEO) is a lot more popular with leads who are still in the early stages of the buying cycle.

And it’s not surprising, is it? When you’re first researching a problem you have, you’re not sitting with your wallet out. You don’t want to be sold to: you want to learn.

And you want an unbiased source (or, at least the illusion of an unbiased source) to help you understand your options. Google strives to provide the most relevant and timely responses to searcher’s queries, and so most of us trust Google’s organic search results with our top-funnel queries.

If you’re the VP of marketing and you search “CRM vs marketing automation” because you want to know which is better, you’re probably not going to click a sponsored ad from a CRM company just yet. But when it’s time to buy? If you search “all in one CRM for agencies,” you’re ready to look at brands -- and all of the sponsored results may be worth checking out.

A caveat about brand awareness

Now, we did just say that sponsored ads aren’t great for top-funnel search queries -- but what we really mean is that these ads won’t often result in conversions. What they do result in, however, is increased brand awareness.

According to Google, search ads can increase brand awareness by 80%. If brand awareness is on your priority list, expect to see a boost in brand recall after running your PPC campaign. Just don’t expect a lot of conversions from broad, top-level keywords.

Plan Your Campaign

There are two major requirements for your first Adwords campaign: the keywords you want to bid on, and the creative assets you’ll be using to convert clicks into customers.

Planning your keywords and creative are essential to the success of your campaign -- not only because your potential customer will see them, but because Google actually grades you on the quality of your ad.

That’s right: just like with organic search, Google rewards the highest-quality paid ads with more exposure to internet users. It’s not just about how much you’re willing to bid (though Google obviously considers that, too). However, it’s really worth it to invest in a copywriter and graphic designer to ensure your landing page, link text, and meta description are all top-notch.

Pick the right keywords.

Use a tool like SEMrush, Ahrefs, or Moz to study your competitors’ keywords and discover new keywords you can bid on.

51% of searches are longer than four words, and searches are becoming more conversational as voice search rises in popularity. Gone are the days of typing oddly-constructed phrases like “business intelligence software affordable” or “web design tool illustration.” Focus on long-tail keywords that searchers are already using to find a product or service like yours.

Ask Yourself: Can You Afford It?

Google isn’t a nonprofit organization, and neither is Bing. It can be very easy to accidentally overspend on your first PPC campaign if you don’t plan ahead.

But when executed well, paid advertising can actually be less expensive than organic search marketing. After all, SEO requires an investment of time and resources to create fantastic, optimized content. A paid search marketing campaign can be a shortcut to getting more visibility for your tech business in a competitive environment -- if you do it right.

The average cost-per-click (CPA) in AdWords across all industries is $2.32 on the search network. For a more detailed rundown of Adwords costs, check out the linked article from Wordstream.

You Do You

It’s so easy to get caught up in “best practices” and what the Jones’ are doing with their small businesses. Your competitor turns up in paid search results, so shouldn’t you, too?

Not necessarily.

Here are a few more thoughts to run through before you buy your one-way ticket to PPC land. You’re a really good candidate for paid search if:

  • You’re targeting local customers. Research backs up the power of search marketing for local businesses, with over 7 out of 10 consumers visiting a local store within five miles after conducting a local search (Clix Marketing). If you’re hoping to attract more local customers, both PPC and SEO should definitely have a spot in your digital marketing arsenal.

  • You’re B2B. If you’re a business-to-business company, you’re in luck: the average click-through rate (CTR) for B2B on Adwords is the third highest out of all industries, at 2.55% -- outshined by only dating & personals, and eCommerce. For tech and software, the average CTR for paid search ads isn’t too far behind, at 2.38%.

  • Your target keywords are high search volume, low competition. If the terms you’re hoping to rank for are popular but not very competitive, you’ll have a better chance of ranking (and keeping your campaign expenses low).

If search marketing is, to you, as nebulous as a nebula, consider subscribing to our blog. We’ll send a tidy roundup of our top posts to your email once a month to help inform and inspire you when the marketing gets rough.

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