If General Patton were here to helm the pay-per-click battlefield
Illustration by Jonathan Hankin
You’ll find two types of soldiers on the front lines of battle: those who stand paralyzed by fear and those who are emboldened by pure grit and sound strategy. Likewise, the pay-per-click (PPC) battlefield is peppered with franchise players that are either fighting blind or frozen in place, with only a select few who charge forward with a winning strategy.
So if you’re not sure where your pay-per-click campaigns stand, it may be time to map out a new approach.
Know your enemy
Equal parts bold and brilliant, General George Patton earned his place in the history books for his artful leadership of U.S. troops in World War II. In the 1970s biopic “Patton,” the general exclaims, “Rommel, you magnificent bastard! I read your book!” after outsmarting German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel in battle. Referring to the field marshal’s published book of military tactics, Patton basks in the glow of his well-researched victory.
Similarly, before entering the PPC fray, franchisors should spend some time sizing up the enemy. Start by assessing all of your competitors’ PPC campaigns, from keywords to the value proposition of their ad copy to the composition of their landing pages. Your franchise marketing agency should be able to perform a very granular competitive analysis that will indicate which of your competitors are getting results.
The first step should be to identify which keywords your competitors are bidding on and which of these keywords are generating the most interest. And since a Google search of the word “franchise” will generate 195 million results, you should specifically focus on keyword phrases and long-tailed keywords (typically keyword phrases of three or more words).
These keywords will have fewer people bidding on them and thus will likely be less expensive. More importantly, using your competitor’s plan will be sure to put you in front of the same prospective buyer with your message.
As part of your research, make sure you assess the way in which your competitors are positioning themselves with their ads and their landing pages. And in doing this analysis, make sure to click through on multiple ads, as those more skilled in PPC will have multiple landing pages with different messages based on different ads targeting different audiences.
Develop a battle plan
Before developing your plan of attack first understand your resources. If you are like most franchisors, you do not have an unlimited franchise marketing budget and probably cannot afford to get into a bidding war for your keywords.
Set your bids too high and you may run out of resources before each day is done, leaving some of your prospects unmessaged. Set them too low and you will show up lower in the ad rankings—leaving you with a budget surplus, but too few leads to generate the desired franchise sales result.
But these problems can be largely overcome with the right strategy. Search engines will allow you to set daily budgets for each campaign you run. So instead of running a single campaign with a single budget, develop multiple campaigns that have budgets based on the importance of the keywords served in each campaign. Your most important campaigns should have the largest budgets and the fewest keywords.
But strategy alone will not win the war. Patton once said, “Good tactics can save even the worst strategy. Bad tactics will destroy even the best strategy.”
The PPC battlefield is constantly changing, as should your tactics. Remember, your competitors are changing their keywords and their bids on a daily basis, so if you are not monitoring and updating your bids on all of your campaigns on a regular (weekly at least) basis, chances are that you are being constantly outflanked by your more nimble competitors.
Use the entire arsenal
While your position in search engines is largely based on how your bids compare to those of your competitors, it is important to understand that other factors will influence your ranking as well. Google will, at least in part, consider the relevance of your ad copy, your landing page copy, and use an estimate of your ads’ click-through rates (based on historical keyword performance) in deciding where to serve your ad.
So you will want to zero in on the quality and construction of your landing pages to start, ensuring they contain relevant content, are unique to each campaign and feature a form to capture lead data. You’ll also want to offer something of value on your landing pages that entices readers to provide their contact information in exchange—perhaps a white paper, webinar or video. After all, great click-through rates with low capture rates ultimately will sap your resources without providing results.
Another important tool on Google is the use of “Ad Extensions,” which will improve your click-through rates by providing additional information (which Google will show at its discretion based on several factors). All too many advertisers neglect this important tool that costs nothing to implement.
Likewise, don’t forget about adding negative keywords to your campaign. This tactic involves regular analysis of the clicks you receive based on the keywords entered in the search—and asking Google not to serve your ads to the specific search terms that were clearly not entered by your target franchisee.
By preventing your ad from displaying on a search that was clearly entered by a non-prospect, you will avoid paying for inadvertent clicks while improving your click-through rates (thereby improving positioning).
According to Patton, “A leader is a man who adapts principles to circumstances.” If there’s anything we should have learned from him, it’s that there are no bystanders in battle. You must constantly adapt if you want to achieve victory in the franchise sales marketplace.
Mark Siebert is CEO of consulting firm iFranchise Group. Reach him at 708.957.2300 or firstname.lastname@example.org. His new book is “Franchise Your Business: The Guide to Employing the Greatest Growth Strategy Ever.”