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Nov 14

Taking a full-funnel approach to paid search

When we talk about effective channels for reaching customers, the first that often comes to mind is paid search advertising. It promises to put your message right in front of the people and raise brand awareness. A lot of top-of-the-funnel channels do a great job of finding large amounts of people who might be interested in your product, all while providing little tangible proof that your advertising did the job. Additional studies show that just five percent of a brand’s audience is “in market” at any given time.

If you only use paid search for capturing customers at the end of the purchasing process, you’re shortchanging yourself. Every click, whether it’s for research or quick clicking, is part of a potential customer’s journey to a sale. So you might as well take advantage of paid search across all three stages of the marketing funnel. Oh, and by the way, if you’re not already hip to what a marketing funnel is, we’ll give you a brief primer after we make our case.

The benefits of a full-funnel approach

A connection is formed from top to bottom in a full-funnel strategy that aligns resources, goals, and measurement. The strategy also learns from the testing of off-brand assets that paid search can be present at every stage of the funnel and when it is, it has a significantly better effect than in-funnel assets. In a willful inversion of the received wisdom on paid search, we argue that the best way to grow the business impact of your paid search programs is to invest more in off-brand assets that drive more prospects into the funnel.

How you use search to improve key performance indicators (KPIs) hinges on the stage of the marketing funnel you are trying to optimize. Each stage benefits from a somewhat different way of doing paid search.

At the top of the funnel, you use paid search to increase the number of people who see your ad (reach), which can be done via broad keywords, generic ad text, and open targeting. As you move down the marketing funnel, you use paid search to try to get these same people to take some sort of action (conversion), and you try to get them to take action sooner (influencing the timeline toward conversion). At the bottom of the funnel, you use paid search and paid search alone to create demand and ensure that, whenever a potential customer converts, you get the credit.

Top of funnel

Using paid search at the top of the funnel—also known as the awareness stage—offers many opportunities to reach prospective customers. Non-branded paid search is an effective awareness tactic that zeroes in on the “I’m searching for info” moments in a job search to connect with people using your top-of-the-mind terms. When you’re new to the scene, these are the non-name search terms or queries that (when tapped) then create that first important connection with a searcher that gives them increased awareness of your brand and what it has to offer.

Attempt running distinct paid search initiatives for keywords that aren’t associated with our brand. You’ll bid on the names of our competitors as well as general industry keywords. Make sure the ad copy is friendly and informative, creating the appearance of a company with which the prospective customer might like to do business. For calls to action, invite the prospect to “learn more” or “browse now” rather than “buy today.” Remember, you’re creating a top-of-funnel campaign to generate the interest that is the very first step toward conversion. And then, pay attention to the awareness metrics. You don’t want a top-of-funnel campaign to just appear as though it’s generating a lot of impressions. You also want to make sure you’re achieving that impression with a lot of people.

Mid funnel

Your goal in the middle of the funnel is to get searchers to consider your brand after they click on a paid search ad. If you have remarketing tags set up, you can come at searchers from all sides and send them deeper into the funnel. At the middle of the funnel, you can start using keywords that lean more into specific details within your industry or speak to a potential direct comparison between you and a competitor. Knowledge of your audience is really key for this stage.

Bottom of the funnel

In the final stages, your paid search should target keywords for branded searches. At this point, you’re searching for customers who already have a strong affinity for your brand. They likely already know your name and are using you as a trusted source. Their searches will include product names and the like, ensuring that you make appearance when they’re interacting with the SERP.

You can also bid on very specific product names, ensuring that, for example, you’re the first result when the user inputs “Nude Palette.” Because these keywords have such a strong connection with your brand, they tend to have lower competition and click rates. Finally, after passing through this stage, we’re able to track mirrored revenue.

Some final ideas

Achieving brand growth and conversions at all funnel stages through the use of a full-funnel paid search strategy is not easy, not every business can pull it off. It takes a high level of expertise to get it right, and not every account manager at every paid search agency is skilled enough. However, when it is done right, it works. And we’re not just talking about paid search at the very top of the sales funnel either; we’re also talking about driving people back to your site with top funnel content.

And yes, we’ve talked a lot about “full funnel” and the various stages within it, and that’s because it truly is a funnel and not a straight line. If you’ve somehow fallen into thinking otherwise, then hopefully the final image of this series will give you a better perspective.



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