There’s a legend in the digital marketing world of a college graduate who wanted to work at a large digital agency.
This enterprising young graduate submitted his resume, and when he didn’t hear back, decided to leverage Google AdWords by bidding on the names of executives at the large company.
When those executives Googled themselves and curiously clicked on the paid search adverts, they were taken to the graduate’s resume. The executives were both peeved and impressed, and the graduate was ultimately offered the job.
Pretty inventive use of Adwords, right?
It defies the classic way businesses use the platform: bidding on keywords with commercial intent and convincing potential customers to click through to visit your website. Dermatologists bid for keywords like “fix my acne” and “dermatologist nyc” while lawn care businesses bid for “grass cutting service.”
It’s quintessential cost-per-click (CPC) advertising, and it’s often a great way for business owners to allocate their advertising budget.
The only problem is that Google Adwords can get really expensive when your competitors are bidding on the same keywords with the highest commercial intent. (The keyword “asset management” goes for $49.86 per click, and “lawyer” goes for nearly $55 per click.)
Thankfully, this isn't the only way to use Adwords. In fact, it’s not even close. Here are six unusual ways to use Google Adwords that you probably haven’t tried yet.
Poach Your Competitors’ Clients
When your consumers get really close to making a purchase, they Google the vendors they found along the way to do some final comparing. But what if your business isn’t one of the vendors on their shortlist?
Don’t fret. With a little clever engineering in Google Adwords, you can intercept customers during this final research phase.
Instead of bidding and focusing on industry keywords, try setting up your ads on the brand names of well-established competitors. By inserting your business into the conversation when consumers research your competitors, you give yourself the opportunity to attract purchases from those who are still on the fence.
In fact, a little Googling shows this is pretty common practice. When you Google the content discovery platform “Outbrain,” you find an ad from its competitor: Taboola. And when you search “Taboola,” you find an ad from Outbrain.
The mattress company Tuft & Needle takes this a step further. When you Google “Casper,” Tuft & Needle’s advert suggests there is a shocking flaw in the competitor’s product. “Do Not Buy a Mattress,” it reads, “Before You Learn the Truth.”
When you click through, you land on a custom Tuft & Needle landing page with explanatory videos that discredit higher-priced competitors and offer a potentially better solution. Ethical quandaries aside, I have to admit this is a pretty genius use of Google Ads.
This can all get wildly expensive, especially if other competitors are trying the same tactic, or if the established brand is protecting itself with its own Google Ads. If this means poaching is out of the budget, another clever option is to bid on misspelled versions of your competitors’ brand names.
“Bidding on a misspelled version of your competitor’s brand can produce wonders, especially if your competitor is a big name in your industry,” explains Nick Ilev, Director of Marketing at Gabriel Marketing Group. “In some cases, more than 10% of searchers misspell brand names. If you capitalize on those misspellings, you can shoot to the top of the page with relatively low ad spend.”
Target People Who Aren’t Ready To Buy Yet
It sounds counterintuitive, right? Why would you want to go after the people who aren’t ready to buy yet?
According to John Leo Weber, the VP of Marketing at ProjectManager.com, it all boils down to different interpretations of the value Google Adwords provides.
“Most advertisers bid on high buyer-intent keywords because they see Adwords as a conversion engine,” says Weber. “Instead, advertisers should treat Adwords as a traffic engine. You can bid on lower buyer-intent keywords to bring traffic to your site, and put people into funnels to be targeted in other ways."
In this mindset, a non-conversion on the first visit is an opportunity, not a loss. As long as you have marketing funnels in place to capture and nurture your leads, you can get potential customers for a faction of the cost, and then use those other marketing channels to convert them down the line. In other words: remarketing with a twist.
When you have high commercial-intent keywords going for $50+ per click, this top-of-the-funnel tactic starts to seem pretty appealing.
Figure Out Who You’re Not Selling To
Imagine you sell software that helps independent physicians manage their medical practices. Your product is not designed for large healthcare systems, so you wouldn’t want one as a customer.
If you target keywords like “medical office management software,” you’ll reach your target audience. That’s great, but you may also get people searching for software to support the management of large practices.
This exact scenario happened to Beth Cooper, Marketing Manager at KNB Communications.
“The fact is, no matter how great your product is, there are some people you simply aren’t selling to,” said Cooper. “The trick is to figure out who those people are and think of keywords around them. AdWords lets you add them as ‘negative keywords,’ meaning they will not show your ad to people who use those search terms.”
By using negative keywords such as “hospital” and “large,” Cooper weeded out people searching for things like “hospital management software” or “large medical practice management solution.” She also used negative keywords like “free” and “open source” because the client wouldn’t want to pay for clicks if people were looking for a free software product.
Why is all of this important? Negative keywords can save you money, big time.
Remember: you pay for each click in an AdWords campaign. You don’t want to pay for clicks if the clicker most likely will never be a customer. So further targeting your campaigns will give you better bang for your buck.
Using negative keywords also improves the quality score Google assigns each of your ads. A better quality score means higher ad rankings and -- you guessed it -- a lower cost per click. The ultimate win-win.
Support Your Organic SEO Initiatives
According to 2017 data, Google searchers click on Google ads about 15% of the time. The other 85% goes straight to the organic results -- that is, the search results that are notGoogle ads.
That’s why search engine optimization (SEO) remains a cornerstone of digital marketing initiatives. By creating valuable content and optimizing it to rank for carefully-considered keywords, you convince Google to rank your website for key terms and phrases in the long run without having to pay each time someone clicks.
Of course, writing high quality content is incredibly time-consuming, and it can sometimes take months before the results of a SEO campaign come to fruition. So how do you know which keywords are worth your attention before you dedicate months of writing, optimizing, generating traffic and building backlinks?
Google Adwords can help.
“Adwords data is invaluable for SEO keyword research,” explains Elliott Brown, an SEO and marketing consultant. “If people are willing to pay for traffic from certain keywords, it's worth making an effort to get that same traffic for free.”
While it may take weeks or months to push organic results higher in search, you can see the results of your PPC ads the same day you launch a campaign. And writing an advert in AdWords takes way less time than developing long-form blog content.
“By determining which keywords are most effective in driving traffic to your website, you can double back and include those in your SEO strategy,” Cooper agreed.
To that end, remember to share your Adwords data with the team responsible for generating organic traffic. Doing so can help align everyone's efforts around the most profitable keywords for your business.
And once you’ve determined the right keywords to target when you create your new content, try using Google Adwords to drive supplemental traffic there too.
“PPC ads are not going to magically increase your organic rankings; you can't pay to do that,” said Cooper. "But PPC can help to catalyze your SEO efforts by increasing traffic and proving to Google that your page is relevant to certain searchers. This in turn helps your page appear more often in relevant searches, and much more quickly than with SEO tactics alone.”
Create Some Buzz And Go Viral
Every platform that hosts content has the potential for virality, and ad platforms are no different.
Remember the time that auto salesman posted a brutally honest Craigslist ad for his 2002 car that got the Internet buzzing? Or what about the time Geico released that Hump Day camel commercial and that’s all people ever said around the office on Wednesdays?
There’s no reason you can’t apply those same creative tactics to Google Adwords too.
“One of the most creative usages of Adwords I've seen was for Cinema L'Amour, an Erotic Cinema in Montreal,” said Philippe Côté-Léger, Online Marketing Director at Lab Urbain.
“They were bidding on the keyword Kleenex. I don't remember the exact ad, but I guess you can figure out what they were saying!”
To be sure, virality on Google Adwords can be tough to achieve, especially when you’re up against super relevant ads on high-volume keywords. As funny as it may be, an erotic cinema’s ad for Kleenex is likely to earn a low quality score from Google and get buried without much attention.
Instead, try focusing on hyper-targeted and longer-tail keywords with less search volume. Or try targeting something that’s more timely, like an upcoming industry conference or event. Take it from the enterprising young graduate I mentioned earlier: by doing something completely unexpected for the right audience and bidding on the right keywords, you can make a life-changing impact.
Though the use of ASCII art in Google ads is now banned, here's a German auto company’s inspiring approach to textual advertising from years ago.
Quickly Gauge Customer Sentiment
Want to see if your new brand messaging will resonate? Need to know if your latest headline ideas are as good as you think they are?
To answer questions like these, business owners often rely on expensive research studies. But with Google Adwords, this kind of data may be more accessible (and cheaper) than you ever thought possible.
Paul Bromen agrees. He’s a serial entrepreneur with several mobile game apps under his belt that have amassed millions of downloads.
“My favorite way to use Google Adwords is to test out new ideas,” said Bromen. “Before I start a new business I run several campaigns designed to test product offerings. I put ads next to similar products or in the broad category. Anything with over a 4% click through rate is a great opportunity.”
That kind of speedy feedback can be critical for testing out the viability of a new business idea. That’s no joke, considering that 50% of startups fail in the first four years.
“I was once hired by a budding entrepreneur who wanted to launch a vintage-inspired clothing shop online,” said Andrea Atkins, Marketing Evangelist at Revere.AI.
“She was hesitant to launch until she knew the business idea was a profitable one. So instead of building an entire e-commerce store for her, waiting for a large inventory shipment, and integrating with payment processors, I built her a landing page with 8 product photos and PayPal 'Buy Now' buttons.”
The success of the Google Adwords campaign proved the product/market fit.
“It ultimately gave her the confidence she needed to move forward with a complete website build, and a successful business launch,” said Atkins.