- By Jake Van Paepeghem
If you have done any probing into “what is search engine marketing” for use in your HVAC, home performance or solar business, you’ve no doubt run into pay-per-click, also known as PPC. And perhaps you’ve even tried your hand at search engine marketing, through a third party agency — but to what success? A lack of clarity around the nuances of our industries is one of the biggest challenges we encounter when it comes to paid search advertising, and here we will unpack what our in-house PPC strategists wish you knew, from our recent webinar on “Paid Search Marketing Tips from Our Experts”.
Google Ads, PPC, Search Engine Marketing; all of these terms refer to paying for prime real estate on a search engine result page, based on particular search queries and keywords (you can read more about PPC basics here). These ads are priced on a per-click basis (hence “pay-per-click”) so you are not charged for how many times an ad is displayed, only for each actual click.
But as Google continues to make search engine result pages more robust with new advertising products, the previous focus on organic results is beginning to shift.
With Local Services Ads becoming available nationwide (we will get more into that later on), there are now three Google products (two of them paid products) that appear before any organic results. Searchers will likely see a Local Service Ad, a Paid Search Text Ad and even a paid Local Pack ad before they even get to the organic search results. So what does that mean for the importance of your organic ranking? It is still pivotal to rank as high as possible in organic results, but the weight has certainly shifted.
In short — absolutely. Alphabet reported first quarter earnings of $342 Million per day this year on PPC ads, and since PPC ads only make money if searchers click on those ads, it is clear that internet users are not being deterred by the little ad badge that shows up on PPC ads:
This Google Ad icon will show up on any Google Ad,
below Local Services Ads (if present).
When we sought to answer the question of “does PPC work”, we took a look at our own data from 65 HVAC, home performance, and solar clients over the last 12 months. It was clear, PPC is the winner when it comes to clicks that actually convert.
Google and Bing paid ads was the highest converting channel among 2018 Energy Circle clients throughout the HVAC, home performance and solar industries.
Why? We are only showing ads to users that are using search terms with buying intent. And though keyword research is instrumental in capturing users with a need and an intent to purchase, a PPC ad is just the first step in your sales funnel. So what happens after someone clicks on your ad?
One of the biggest oversights that we see across the board with digital marketing for the HVAC, home performance and solar industries is not asking the question “where is the user going next?” How well do you know your sales funnel? After you know someone is looking for your service, what information do they need in order to take the next step?
We attribute the above 15.07% conversion rate to a coordinated attack of relevantly placed PPC ads, that send the user to a robust, targeted , and well optimized landing page.
A Coordinated Example: A PPC ad with messaging about indoor air quality links to this landing page, complete with an educational video, as well as iconography and messaging that revolves around the symptoms on an unhealthy home (“Is your home making you sick?”)
To further coordinate all of your digital channels, how can you leverage your PPC ads in tandem with the audience-building capabilities of Facebook? Using your unique Facebook pixel, you can capture any users that have clicked through your Google Ad to your website and retarget them with Facebooks ads for exactly what they were searching for on Google . We have found this practice can nearly double the usual click-through-rate for Facebook Ads, as it offers a more relevant experience that’s customized to the target audience.
Coordinating PPC and Facebook Ads for retargeting shows your ads to a targeted audience, improving the click-through-rate for this electrification campaign nearly two-fold.
As we mentioned before, Google has now opened the floodgates after the slow rollout of Local Services Ads. We have written extensively on LSA’s since they first started showing up on results pages. If you don’t yet see LSA’s in the search results in your area, don’t panic. They will not show up until there are at least three advertisers signed up in the area.
*LSA’s do NOT impact insulation and solar service providers...yet.
Combining LSA’s, the local pack, and a solid organic ranking makes your brand hard to ignore when it comes to SERP’s.
It goes without saying, the more visible you are the better. When all of your search engine marketing tools are working together, it is hard for the user not to take notice. But make sure to pay attention to where you are ranking organically! It may not be necessary to spend money on an aggressive Paid Search campaign, when you are listed in an LSA at the top of the page, in the local pack, and within the top two organic results. Consider investing those Paid Search dollars in other PPC products, like Display or Video campaigns, to improve your online visibility beyond search results.
The internet is where we go to have our questions answered. So when it comes to your keyword strategy and creating your ad copy, keep in mind the nature of our question based world. For example, in solar, the search volume for queries related to “cost of” are much higher than other terms. They also come with a higher click through rate and conversion rate, so capturing these searches can be critical to a successful PPC strategy.
Make sure to utilize all of the available Google Ad extensions. This makes your ads more robust, provides the user with as much relevant information as possible, and gives your ad the maximum amount of real estate.
Using all of the available ad extensions for your Google Ad not only make your ad more visible, but more relevant as well.
It used to be that you had to test and optimize all of your ad copy, CTA’s and messaging yourself. But with the innovative power of responsive ads, Google can do that work for you and automatically choose the best performing combination for your ad based on a set testing period.
Google’s responsive search ads feature will automatically pick the most effective combination of messaging and copy for your PPC ad.
The world of search isn’t perfect — sometimes the existence of one search term may not match the intent of the searcher. In solar, for example, there can be some confusion around users looking for “solar systems”. Is this person looking for solar installation? Or information on all of the planets in our solar system for a 6th-grade science project? Or perhaps someone is just looking for the latest gossip surrounding Elon Musk. This is where negative keywords will save you from spending money on clicks that are not relevant to your ad at all.
Using negative keywords to exclude certain terms and phrases from your targeting strategy in your PPC campaign prevents confused searchers from accidentally landing on your ad, and costing you money!
Once you have a PPC campaign set up, you can monitor your impression share via the Google Ads dashboard. Not only will this show you what percentage of all impressions your ads are getting for particular keywords, but it will also show you the percentage share your competitors are getting. This can help you uncover competitors you didn’t even have on your radar. It is also an opportunity to learn from your competition — what are they doing with their messaging? Are they offering a seasonal promotion?
Learn more about your PPC competition by checking in on your impression share in the Google Ads dashboard.
In this example, Xfinity is showing up near the top. We initially thought this was a mistake, why would an internet provider be showing PPC ads in the solar sector? After some research, we found out that Xfinity does, in fact, have a partnership with Sun Run, and are actively marketing around solar.
As you can tell, there is a lot that goes into a successful PPC campaign. Coordinating all of the available tools with each of your digital channels, and being very thoughtful about how you structure your digital sales funnel can provide targeted results. But beware! PPC is not an on/off switch. It takes time and energy to develop a PPC strategy that will pay off in the long run, and provide qualified leads throughout the year to help even out the effects of seasonality inherent in the HVAC, home performance and solar industries.