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3 Big Budget Roadblocks (And How to Blast Past Them)

January 24, 2019

One of the hardest tasks in digital marketing is setting the budget for your campaign. Too high, and it leaves room for unspent budget and an elevated cost per acquisition (CPA). Too low, and your budget won’t allow for enough clicks in the day to generate enough leads for your campaign to be profitable.

budget cat

Budget Cat wants all the budget, but should he get it?

Getting Started with Paid Search Budgets

A great place to start is figuring out what the average cost per click (CPC) is for your industry. Then multiply that number by 10 (ensuring you can fit at least 10 clicks in your day banks on a 10% conversion rate, which is above average for non-branded search).

For example, a pest control company may offer services focusing on rodents and bugs. If rodent clicks come in between $5-$8 per click, while bug clicks are closer to $2-$3 per click, the company would want two campaigns. By having a campaign for rodents (set at $50-$80 per day) and a bug campaign (set at $20-$30 per day), the company would be able to budget for the auction price range in services, honor the value the service brings to their bottom line, and have ad groups that honor the variants on those services.

If that number isn’t realistic for your business, have no fear, there are ways to bypass budget restrictions through compromises on what traffic you receive and when it occurs.

Here are the top three budget-related roadblocks that your campaigns might face, as well as the compromises you can make to get past these blocks and get conversions.

Roadblock #1: Your desired keywords don’t fit the budget, and the budget can’t move.

Compromise: Leverage close variants to get cheaper versions of the keywords you need.

Close variants have been a sore subject for many marketers, as their impact on account structure and the search engine result pages (SERPs) grows. However, this presents an opportunity to select auction prices that make sense for you.

For example, the keywords “personal training,” “personal trainer,” and all the misspellings humans are capable of will bring you the same traffic. Yet, on the average, “personal training” is a cheaper variant than “trainer” because there’s implied transactional value in the “er” variant.

personal trainer SERP
personal training SERP

If you can’t live without the traffic coming from that idea but also are strapped for cash, consider only bidding on variants that fit your budget. This is done by pausing close variants with higher auction prices (first position and top of page CPC).

You will still be eligible for the more expensive variants, but because you set your bid for the cheaper one, you’ll only win on those SERPs when the auction price is in line with your business. 

Compromise: Turn your expensive ideas into extensions and apply them to branded, competitor, and cheaper service/product campaigns.

Trusting automation to craft extensions may seem seductively practical, but if you find yourself in a budget bind, you’d be best served to resist the urge. There is no limit on what parts of your business site links, price extensions, and other action-oriented extensions can represent. It may make more sense to build extensions highlighting that you offer a service, rather than actively bid on it.

For example, motorcycle accident keywords are more expensive than generic auto accidents. If you’re a lawyer who specializes in all things auto, you’d be better served to include motorcycle accidents as a site link, while bidding on general car accidents. If a prospect really needs you for a motorcycle accident, they can engage with you at the cost of the term you bid on, instead of the premiums associated with the service.

Price extensions are another way to not only get folks to engage with you at a discount, but also prequalify those who engage with you at all. By including the price (even if you use a qualifier, like “starting at” and “up to”), you ensure that only those who have bought into spending that amount with you engage.

PPC budget roadblocks race

Roadblock #2: You need to quickly ramp up leads but don’t have the budget to let Google Search be your volume play.

Compromise: Leverage networks with cheaper auction prices and blitzing power so your search campaign can remarket to them.

Google Search is a powerful lead gen tool because you’re able to put your messaging in front of people actively searching for what you offer. You will also pay a premium for the privilege. When budget’s tight, it’s okay for Google Search to be a second or third phase part of your marketing strategy.

Consider deploying Display, which allows you to blitz your market with your brand, taking advantage of much more affordable CPCs. Display recently started allowing you to bid on a “cost per lead” basis, which will have a slightly higher average CPC, but is still a bargain compared to search.       

Facebook charges on a CPM model, and the calculated CPC is dependent on how engaging your copy is (i.e., how many people click on the copy). While it’s true Facebook audience targeting is no longer as robust as it used to be, there’s still a lot of opportunity there to create conversation. Consider leveraging lookalike audiences of your existing customers or page’s fans.  

Bing search is often overlooked, and it’s done at an advertiser’s peril. Bing represents close to 40% market share and often is a safe harbor for the priciest industries in Google Search. Bing offers more control over ad group level settings (schedules, location targeting, etc.), and it can be kept up to date via auto-import. Leveraging Bing is especially important if there is no negotiating room on what SERPs you serve for. With an average CPC of $1.54 vs. $2.69, your budget will go further and give you access to Yahoo SERPs.

impression share

Impression share lost to rank dominates

Roadblock #3: Budget isn’t exactly the problem – you’re not allowed to bid more than a certain amount per click.

Compromise: Use Bidding strategies designed to teach the source of the bid limit what auction prices you need to deliver value.

I’ll admit, this isn’t a compromise so much as a lesson in profit pragmatism. When a brand doesn’t want to pay more than a certain amount per click, but still wants competitive leads, my favorite tactic is to use “Target Page Location” with a bid cap that is 10% of the daily budget. If we suffer from impression share due to rank, or if the quality of the queries isn’t sound, I now have data to back up why focusing on individual bid cost as opposed to overall ROI is sabotaging the account.

Compromise: Bid only on locations/times that fit your bid restriction.

Just like different ways of searching have different auction prices, so too do different locations, times of day, and devices. If the brand won’t relent, you can set a schedule to only advertise when the auction prices align with the brand. Similarly, you can also add in location bid adjustments, targets, and exclusions honoring the affluence of an area, as well as how easy that location is to service. It’s worth noting that if you target the US and don’t set bid adjustments, your budget will be concentrated in CA, NY, FL, and TX in varying orders. If their auction prices or serviceability do not align with your bottom line, absolutely be empowered to set adjustments.

At the end of the day, so long as bids align with budgets and campaigns are asked to perform one strategic objective, you will be able to fully realize your account’s potential. Don’t be afraid to branch out to other networks to build an audience to focus your budget, especially if you are in an expensive industry.

Navah Hopkins

Navah Hopkins is part of the Customer Success and Thought Leadership teams at WordStream. Since 2008, she’s worked in digital marketing helping SMBs and the agencies who serve them across the globe unlock the full potential of their budgets, as well as turn PPC into a scalable part of their organizations. When she’s not working with clients,  Navah shares lessons learned through international conferences including SMX, PubCon, Search Marketing Summit, Google customer events, as well as local workshops. She was named one of the top 25 most influential PPC marketers and likes to pay it forward by mentoring future marketers at local universities. When she’s not empowering customers or speaking, Navah loves gaming with her husband and playing with her rescue dog, HK-47, and Ocicat siblings, Chinook and Kiowa.