*Updated October 22, 2021
Running paid search for a SaaS company has its own unique set of opportunities and challenges, much like any product or vertical. No two PPC campaigns are quite the same and there is no single magic path that leads to universal optimization nirvana. However, through years of working with SaaS companies, we’ve put together this collection of PPC best practices to help you along the way.
Our journey will follow two main paths: organization and strategy. For the same reason that you wouldn’t build a mansion on a mud pile, all good PPC accounts need to start with a solid foundation.
Organization: Don’t Build Your Mansion On A Mud Pile
The first consideration you should give your SaaS paid search campaign is where you want your budget allocated. In AdWords, full control over your daily budgets lives on the “campaign” level. If you only want a certain amount of money going towards branded keywords, then you will also need to know how to separate your campaigns. The more control you want over budget distribution across your entire service portfolio, the more granular you need your PPC organization.
Organizational Tip 1: Start with branded terms + 3 or 4 central services
We would suggest separating your budget among branded terms and 3-4 of your central services to start. Further segmentation might also be needed if you plan to target drastically different geographic areas (such as the United States & the United Kingdom for example).
Once you have your account broken out into specific campaigns that cover your brand and core services (additional segmentation based on geographic location as needed), it’s time to tackle your ad groups.
Organizational Tip 2: Limit ad groups to a handful of related keywords
Commonly accepted best practices still apply for SaaS companies, and include limiting your ad groups to no more than a handful of related keywords and pairing that with specific ad copy that correlates to your landing pages.
Organizational Tip 3: Separate highest performing keywords into separate ad groups
An additional tip to get the most from your highest performing keywords is to separate those into their own ad groups all by themselves (commonly called Specific Keyword Ad Groups, or SKAGs).
Putting your top keywords into their own ad groups allows you to get hyper-focused with your ad copy and final URLs, which is going to positively impact your quality scores. It will also give you a wealth of granular, actionable data to optimize going forward.
I wouldn’t recommend building out SKAGs for your entire account, however, which can quickly turn your campaign into an unmanageable monster. Keep things simple and only build SKAGs for your most important keywords.
Organizational Tip 4: Track conversions with help from Salesforce or another CRM
Even after your campaigns, ad groups, keywords, and ad copy are all in order there is still a final, perhaps most important, step to be taken. You need to track as much conversion data as you possibly can. SaaS companies tend to have a longer sales cycle and rely on services like Salesforce to track their potential customers for months at a time.
If your SaaS company is using a service like Salesforce to track its customer life cycle, that can be a treasure trove of data just waiting to be used in AdWords. It might require additional steps to get that data delivered into the AdWords platform, but any difficulties encountered along the way will be well worth the results in the end.
If you’re trying to produce conversions that have a high monetary value but take months to develop, you might struggle to prove the value of your campaign while your visitors travel along that customer journey. Tying everything together with Salesforce will help you know which campaigns and keywords are helping move that needle, and help you optimize along the way.
With conversion data pouring in from every source available and a sound campaign structure, we’re now ready to talk some strategy.
Strategy: Using Data To Drive Decisions
Our last point on organization leads us directly into our first point on strategy: follow your data! With proper conversion tracking, the data you’re collecting with your paid search efforts will provide you with all the insights you need on what’s working, what isn’t, and where you should focus your efforts and budget.
Strategy Tip 1: Test ad copy to increase the cost per conversion
Look for keywords that have low volume but the excellent cost per conversion as opportunities for expansion. Adjust your ad copy for underperforming ad groups to test different calls to action. Any piece to the PPC puzzle could be the thing that’s holding your SaaS campaign back, so test everything with the data you’ve gathered!
Strategy Tip 2: Own your core keywords
One important note: you should always strive to own your core keywords, even if the conversion results are lacking up to that point. If the keywords fall under your main service offering you shouldn’t abandon them. Keep testing and optimizing until you can make it work. Giving up on your core keywords is like giving up on your biggest potential for revenue.
Do searches for your core keywords and see what your competitors are doing. Look at their ad copy, see what landing pages they are using and find ways you can stand out from the crowd! Are your competitors using your brand name illegally in their ad copy? Contact Google support and request a review. The SaaS world can be brutal in paid search, so you shouldn’t be afraid to stand your ground if it’s going to have a dramatic impact on your key metrics.
Strategy Tip 3: Take advantage of built-in tools in AdWords
Don’t be afraid to try out some of the available Google tools either. Create some automatic rules to help guide your account to the promised land. Figure out a profitability threshold for your keywords, and set automatic rules to warn you when certain parts of your campaign are approaching that danger zone.
Conversion Optimizer might also be a good option for campaigns that have a rich conversion history. Keep your eyes on any campaign using that feature though, as sometimes it can give unexpected results. Annotate when you implemented Conversion Optimizer, and check the results before and after. Let the data you’ve gathered determine effectiveness.
Strategy Tip 4: Focus on negative keywords for your branded campaign
Through all your work on core non-branded keywords, make sure to give your branded campaign some love too. It can be tempting to spend your time optimizing elsewhere, but the fact will almost always remain that you’re going to get branded traffic at a much lower CPC than any other part of your campaign. Make sure to focus your branded efforts with a strong list of negative keywords to keep that incoming traffic relevant to your goals.
Some examples of great negative keywords to include with a branded SaaS campaign are login, password, email, salary, interview, job, hire, and hiring. You’re only looking for potential customers with paid search, so don’t waste clicks on anything else.
This is Our House!
Paid search can be an invaluable part of any SaaS companies marketing efforts, providing you are collecting and utilizing the right kind of data. An organized, efficient, data-driven campaign can make you the hero of your marketing department, and will build a strong foundation for your “SaaS mansion.”