Five Signs Your Outdoor Brand is Wasting Money on Paid Search

Pay-per-click (PPC) or Paid Search advertising is a powerful marketing channel that can rapidly grow revenue for outdoor brands. Without a clear, informed strategy, however, runaway spending is a constant risk. Here are some of the biggest reasons for unprofitable paid search campaigns. Even if you are confident that you are getting a good ROI (return on investment) on your paid search dollars, these areas to check can give your paid search advertising performance a boost.

1) Your PPC Account Lacks Specificity and Organization

How close have you looked at your outdoor brand’s PPC performance? Have you mined the data to see where your ad dollars are best spent? Whether your PPC campaign is a raging success or an outright failure, it needs a thorough audit from time to time. By looking into the right metrics, you can find inefficiencies and plug up any areas where you might be leaking money.

If you’re lucky, a few tweaks will get the job done. You will need to utilize your existing paid search data to understand how people search for your products and discover what search queries (notice we didn’t say keywords) do not convert. A conversion is the goal of your paid search program and in most cases that means e-commerce but in some cases that could be a different user action such as “find a retailer”, “subscribe to a newsletter”, or explore a product in more detail. Regardless if the goal of your paid search campaign is direct to consume (DTC) revenue or nurturing consumers towards offline purchases, here are several starting points::

  • Look for all the historical search terms that didn’t convert and remove keyword phrases that bring in irrelevant traffic
  • Use hyper-segmentation to isolate specific audiences and apply the right messaging to the appropriate consumer
  • Closely analyze your existing PPC data to create and grow in-depth keyword lists that target super-specific keywords to gain efficiencies you aren’t getting from campaigns or ad groups that rely heavily on broad and phrase match keywords
  • Audit your negative keywords list to make sure you aren’t showing up for irrelevant keywords. (An outdoor brand that sells food products wouldn’t want to overspend on “free backpacking meal recipes,” for example).

With the steps above you can see significant decreases in your average cost per conversion. The ultimate goal should be to eliminate waste and create efficiencies that maximize your paid search ROI while driving more conversions.

2) You Aren’t Focusing on Your Brand

By bidding on branded queries, you can dominate your Search Engine Results Page (SERP) and elbow out competitors who might seek to profit off your name. There’s a big difference between a search for a general product and one specifically manufactured by a unique brand. In most instances, someone searching your specific brand closer to making a purchase. A branded search query is the last mile of a long hike and with a paid brand search ad you can make it easier for the consumer. You can control the consumer’s experience on the SERP. When it comes to seeing a return from Paid Search, even low-volume branded terms can pay big dividends because the conversion rate is likely to be higher. In many instances, these branded keywords will also be relatively inexpensive.

It’s important to engage in aggressive keyword bidding for any search terms that contain your company’s name and products. This is where you can really boost your Return on Advertising Spending (ROAS) for PPC by capturing high-quality leads that are near the point of conversion. At the same time, it’s important to bid high on your branded keywords to guard against competitors who may be trying to move in on your territory. When someone searches for your branded outdoor product or service, you don’t want them to see an alternative at the top of the page. This is especially true on mobile searches where often only two results are “above the fold” or top of the page.

3) You Don’t Have a Clear Understanding of Your Audience

Seeing a return from PPC depends on your understanding of your audience and how they buy or interact with your products. For example, if your highest-converting consumer profiles are single, in their mid-20s, and located near popular hiking and backpacking destinations, you don’t want to waste clicks targeting older married audiences who live amid urban sprawl. That said, you still don’t want to completely miss out on the urbanites; you just want to bid less aggressively on that geo. You simply should pay the same to reach both those audiences.

Analyze the data to see where people are most likely to purchase your products (cities/counties/states/regions). Then, optimize your PPC by GEO-targeting your Google Ads with a tiered bidding structure based on geographic performance.

You should also look over your metrics to see how people are buying and interacting with your products. Do you get a ton of mobile traffic that doesn’t covert especially well? This could be a sign that you need to improve the user experience on your mobile site and then adjust “device-type” bidding accordingly.

4) You Haven’t Refined the User Experience

You can spend a fortune directing thousands of potential customers to your website, but it will all go to waste if you haven’t optimized the user experience. Poor navigation, technical errors and slow load times will turn users away. You also want to avoid conflicting user objectives that confuse visitors and pull them in different directions.

A great website and landing pages are a crucial part of cost-effective PPC. You want clean aesthetics and a logical, intuitive structure. “Don’t make them think,” is a user experience mantra at Parallel Path. Ask yourself, are you making it easy for consumers to purchase?

You also want to consider trying to increase engagement by surprising and delighting consumers by adding discounts, special offers and reasons to sign up for email updates. Many times, companies fail to realize that they are losing money on paid search—not because of bad paid search ads—but because of bad websites. Much like a fisherman with a torn net, they keep letting opportunities get away because they haven’t optimized the user experience.

5) You Aren’t Leveraging Ad Extensions

Google Adwords allows you to enhance your ads with several different customizable ad extensions, including: business phone number, address, user reviews, product images, special offers, and additional links to other pages on your site. By adding more content to your paid search ad, these extensions give you prominence and increased visibility on the search results page, which can result in higher engagement.

To nurture engagement and maximize your paid search ROAS, try to leverage every element of each search ad and to occupy as much real estate on the SERPs as possible. Ad extensions are a great way to stand out from the competition while providing more targeted information that attracts attention and increases engagement.

The Bottom Line

PPC has developed into a highly specialized field that requires the skills of a marketer, analyst and technician. Running a successful paid search campaign that maximizes your investment is not easy. Anyone who says they can select a Google bidding algorithm, set it, and forget it is not getting the best ROI they can out of their dollars. When it comes to increasing your paid search ROI, the bottom line is to regularly optimize your ads based on data that matters and best practices that have proven to win. You will need to be flexible and patient: remember you are not alone if you are still not seeing the ROI you expected (or hoped to see) on your search ad campaigns.

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