Travis Rice

by Travis Rice | Search Marketing Strategy

The buying funnel is not a new concept – it’s been around since about 1898. Despite this, it’s easy to overlook this simple concept when evaluating business performance, and more specifically paid search performance. It’s almost impossible to develop an effective account strategy without first understanding what segment of the buying funnel you are targeting.

Paid search can contribute to any level of the buying funnel, but deciding where to focus your efforts is not as straightforward. A well-established brand with a loyal following for a known product will likely have much different marketing goals than a startup with a product no one has ever heard of before. Once you clarify your business goals, you can hone in on where paid search will best contribute to your marketing efforts.

First, you must determine your overall goal for the paid search channel. Below are some common goals and where they fit into the buying funnel.

purchase funnel

You should utilize information already available to you as you decide what goal is most appropriate. With Google Analytics, you can see which digital channels drive primarily new site visitors, and which channels mostly drive repeat visitors. If you see that the majority of new site visitors are coming from your paid search channel, then you will probably want to choose a high-funnel, awareness-focused goal to maximize the number of new visitors you bring to the site. Similarly, if paid search has the highest conversion rate of all of your channels, you should consider a lower-funnel goal to drive as many conversions as possible, or to convert those visitors as efficiently as possible.

Awareness Strategies

If your goal is to build awareness, you should develop a paid search strategy that will help you reach potential users who are not yet aware of your product. For example, if you are a startup marketing a new product that most people don’t realize exists, you can bid on keywords related to existing solutions that your product can replace, problems that your product can solve, or pain points that your product can ease. You should also look at specific, highly-relevant web pages to show image ads via a managed placements campaign on the Google Display Network.

The key to a successful awareness-building campaign is not to hold yourself to a strict efficiency goal. The initial traffic you drive via this campaign should be at the top of the funnel, and will likely take more than one visit to your site to convert. Consider using site engagement metrics (bounce rate, time on site, etc.) as intermediary metrics to measure how effectively you can drive site traffic from different keywords sets. You should also look for increases in conversions from other channels. If paid search drives the majority of your first time site visitors, but organic traffic drives most of your conversions, then additional conversions via organic search are likely coming from visitors who first visited your site via a paid ad.

Volume Strategies

If your goal is to focus on driving up the number of sales or leads on your site, you should look to expand into new areas where you can still convert visitors efficiently. RLSA audiences and remarketing are effective tools to increase conversions by remaining top-of-mind for users continuing to shop for a solution. Consider building an RLSA-only campaign with broader and more generic keywords than your regular search campaigns. This campaign will allow you to continue showing ads to previous visitors, and you can also mine the search query report for new keyword ideas.

If you have a newer product, or a lesser-known product, you should try remarketing to people who have been on your site for a minimum amount of time. If they spent over 60 seconds, they were more engaged, and more likely to purchase, than visitors who left after 15-20 seconds. You can find this data, and build remarketing lists based on it, via Google Analytics and GA Remarketing.

With a volume strategy, you need not move completely away from trying to fill the top of your funnel, but your account strategy should emphasize closing the segments that are most likely to convert.

Efficiency Strategies

If your goal is to spend your marketing dollars most efficiently, then you will likely use a strategy focused on the bottom of the funnel. You can do this most effectively by shifting investment away from awareness-building efforts to obtain traffic with the highest opportunity to convert. You should start with brand campaign optimizations. Your brand campaign likely has the highest conversion rate of all campaigns, so you should make sure to maximize branded traffic. Update your settings and ad copy, and employ proper filtering negative keywords to make your brand campaign as efficient as possible.

For non-brand campaigns, focus on increasing your relevancy. Add long-tail keywords that allow you to take visitors to highly relevant landing pages to improve your conversion rate. Focus on adding negative keywords, both to negate irrelevant traffic and to shift relevant traffic to the most relevant ad copy and landing pages. If remarketing performs well, invest more in image remarketing and bid up RLSA audiences in search and shopping campaigns. All of these adjustments will help you zero in on searchers who are most likely to convert, thereby improving your CPA or ROAS.

A focus on one level of the buying funnel does not exclude a focus on all other levels. In fact, any marketing campaign needs to hit all levels of the funnel to find new costumers, educate them about a product, and then close the final conversion. Different marketing channels will perform differently at each level of the funnel, which is why it’s important to understand your marketing goals when setting strategy. Focusing on which level of the buying cycle you want to emphasize will help you determine which goal is most important for your paid search account, and will help you drive strategy to reach that goal.