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How to hack startup growth with Pay Per Click advertising

Here’s the thing with PPC (Pay Per Click): it’s a live-action, real-time slugfest. Everything happens so quickly on the paid advertising front that if you don’t get it right, you might very well end up pouring buckets of money into a vast sea of nothingness. While it might seem that PPC could be pretty straightforward, it is and it isn’t.

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But even before you get into anything to do with actual dynamics of PPC advertising, it’s an advertising channel that can help startups in many ways.

As Jonathan Long, founder of Market Domination Media, explained in this article on Huffington Post, PPC advertising truly gives your startup a winning marketing edge. It allows you to turn website traffic on and off, get a solid, user-centric concept of proof for your idea, and accomplish some real market testing.

Here are a few ways PPC helps your startup right away.

Swift Validation of Ideas

Dan Norris – author of 7-Day Startup and founder of WPCurve – is an advocate of bootstrapping. He has written about umpteen ways validation of your business ideas won’t work. These include coverage in tech press, random people telling you it’s a good idea, target market surveys (paid or free), email opt-ins, and feedback from beta users.

There’s certainly an easier way to make sure that your idea isn’t your average shower room inspiration, and indeed has business potential. Perry Marshall – author of the bestseller Ultimate Guide to Google AdWords – recommends a two-step, tried-and-tested method:

  1. Quickly create a website (use a template from a DIY website builder such as IM Creator), microsite, or even a minimalistic landing page, to test your ideas.
  2. Turn on traffic from paid advertising and validate your business proposition in real-time from users who’ve never known you before.

Nothing gives you better data than real campaigns optimised for search, display, retargeting or native advertising.

Quick Wins from Keyword Research

Startups are always pressed for cash and their marketing budget is fairly limited. But budget constraints need not mean lost opportunities.

You can find out a lot about your target audience (and the accuracy of your suppositions about their behaviors) by identifying search terms and phrases your potential customers use to find you. To do that, you need to put yourself in their shoes and do some deep thinking. You need to resist the temptation to accept what keyword tools throw at you and use innovative methods to zero in on words that are part of your customers’ vocabulary.

Read more: Ideas to Reality: 5 creative ways to quickly validate your product

While you do your due diligence, avoid words and phrases with broad match and broad meaning (they’ll burn through your budget like propane) and zone in on specific terms and queries tightly themed around your ideas, offers, products and services.

In the process, you’ll know exactly what phrases, expressions and questions people use to look for information versus keywords with a strong intent to buy.

Turning on the Traffic Tap

If you use organic methods to drive in traffic to your web or mobile properties, the principal problem you’d face is the sheer amount of time it takes to get a reasonable flow of traffic that can come close to justifying your efforts.

PPC, however, sends in the traffic instantly. That gives you an adequate sample size, a large database of users,  which you can use to scientifically test your hypotheses.

The results of each of these tests are solid foundation to make strategic decisions about demand, supply, interest, consumer behavior, pricing, and pretty much every other aspect of your business.

Now that’d be hard to uncover from a slow (albeit, steady) increase in traffic over a period of time from organic efforts like blogging, social media, or email marketing.

Inching Ahead of the Competition

PPC campaign management is not just about researching and identifying keywords, launching campaigns, and then sitting back to crunch numbers. In a way, you could call it a process of revelation. You’ll have to mine, discover, sort and reuse all the keywords that you’d have “somehow missed” during your planning phase. It will happen. Trust me.

Having gained a Zen-like understanding of your own capabilities, you’re now poised to go after the competition. Some popular tools to dig up their keywords, rankings and what not are SEMrush, SpyFu and Searchmetrics, in no particular order.

Using these, you’ll get reams of insights on the keywords your competitors are chasing and their content strategy. You might even uncover a flaw or two in their campaigns that might prove to be nuggets of gold for you.

Stirring the Conversion Pot

For marketers, conversions are the report card. For businesses, conversions mean money. Tracking your conversions across your paid campaigns helps you dig out problems and back your decisions on real results instead of banking on half-baked theories, whims, and random guesses. And all you need to measure your ROI from search marketing on Google is AdWords, Google Analytics and Excel.

Conversion tracking and analytics helps you let data speak for you.

  • You’ll know for sure if your ad copy, image assets, graphics, data feeds, calls-to-action, and even incoming calls are really working or not.
  • You’ll be able to tell if the target demographic you’ve chosen to throw the ads at are even interested in something you have to offer in the first place.
  • You’ll discover the “real” demand (or the lack of it) before you go full-steam ahead and spend an insane amount of dollars on product development, marketing, and for everything else you’d do as a startup.

Multiple Options to Hook

Conversions in online marketing are chiefly built around links and landing pages. If you go the content marketing way, you’d be promoting a landing page where you could offer a whitepaper, a free trial of your software, or something similar. Email marketing and organic social media do work great for a variety of purposes, but you might eventually want to draw your audience to your website or app, unless you’re directing users to physical stores with platform-specific coupons.

Where are the options to experiment, without spending eons in creating finely formatted copy? You’ll find them with PPC advertising. You’ll have the freedom to try out endless permutations and combinations of ad settings, copy and automated scripts.

With a single feature like sitelinks alone, you can have prospects take an assortment of unrelated actions such as read customers’ reviews on your Google+ business page or call you up (you can track these calls) with simply a click or a tap.

Google AdWords also has in-your-face lightbox ads that you can test out in tandem with the old workhorses – remarketing (for all those users who visited but left because life comes in between) and managed/automatic placements.

PPC isn’t expensive if you get it right from the start.

How does PPC in your marketing plan? Can you think of any creative ways for startups to use PPC?

Image by James Cao via Flickr

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