The Importance of Focus for Your PPC Strategy

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Note From Melissa: I’m thrilled to have Julie Friedman Bacchini of Neptune Moon as my guest blogger today, covering a topic near and dear to my heart: PPC strategy.

Anyone who works in marketing has certainly heard the advice to “know your audience.” It is such a well-known adage, that honestly it seems like it is often taken for granted when it comes to a lot of marketing strategy. This can be particularly true when it comes to PPC.

Does this scenario sound at all familiar to you?

PPC Pro to Client: Who is the target audience you are trying to reach with this campaign?

Client: We don’t really have a target audience. Anyone could be our client/customer.

PPC Pro: Well, for the sake of this strategy, if you had to narrow your focus to your ideal customer/client, who would that be?

Client: It’s really hard to say, since anyone could be our customer/client.

And around and around it goes…

After suppressing your eye roll, what do you do next?

Any marketer knows, at a bare minimum, there needs to be a target audience that is smaller than “everyone on earth” for any marketing effort. For companies without the resources of a huge brand, proper focus on reaching people who might actually buy what they are selling is even more important. Reaching people who are reasonably likely to buy what they are selling is even better!

When I have a client who is particularly resistant to letting go of the “but everyone is our audience” mentality, I will try asking them a simple question – how much are you willing to spend on clicks that have a zero to very slim chance of converting? $10? $100? $1,000? $10,000? Most clients will answer that question by saying they don’t want to spend any money on this type of click.  They want to pay for clicks for people who will actually buy stuff from them.

OK! We are almost there when it comes to really helping them realize the wisdom in not viewing PPC as a shotgun approach type of marketing. Obviously every click does not result in a sale, but with proper focus on targeting we will greatly increase the likelihood of clicks resulting in the desired conversion action.

Here is an example of a situation where a client moved from “everyone” to “targeted” in their approach to PPC:

WHO: A regional company who serves states east of the Mississippi

ORIGINAL PARAMETERS: Wanted to run their PPC nationally.

WHY DID THEY WANT THIS: Well, someone might be searching outside of the actual states that we serve but want our product in a state where we do sell it.

MY RESPONSE: OK, I get what you’re saying. But, are you willing to spend thousands of dollars in PPC advertising reaching people who you literally cannot sell to just to be sure you don’t maybe, possibly miss a tiny sliver of people who don’t fit what we’ve defined as your target audience for PPC?

END RESULT: Only running campaigns in their actual geographic region.

But let’s say that your client does have an idea of the types of people that make up their target audience. Is that entire set the right match for their PPC initiatives? Maybe yes, maybe no.

Here is an example of a client who further refined their keyword focus for PPC versus their SEO efforts:

WHO: A local home services company

ORIGINAL PARAMETERS: Wanted to target every possible type of term that related to their service, regardless of user intent for their paid search.

WHY DID THEY WANT THIS: All of these keywords are relevant to what we do.

MY RESPONSE: Yes, all of these keywords are relevant to your business. But, your industry is highly competitive and CPCs are high. Do you really want to spend upwards of $40 per click for people who are looking for information about how to do the repair work themselves or do you want to spend that money on someone who wants to have a service provider come to their house right now?

END RESULT: Campaigns focus on terms indicating immediate or emergency needs.

It all comes down to this when defining a target audience for your PPC efforts – who, exactly, are you willing to pay for this directly? I’m not saying that a larger pool of potential audience should be completely ignored, at all. But, reaching those who are not nearly as likely to convert is probably better executed through marketing channels other than PPC. For example, SEO or branding ads through display can be a much better method to try to capture some of the potential customers that don’t completely match your PPC target audience.

So, next time you’re meeting with a client and starting to talk about the target audience for a PPC campaign, remember that the answer can be different from the general “who is your target audience” question, and is for most clients.

Julie Friedman Bacchini is an expert in search marketing with over 15 years of experience in the digital space. She brings a strategic marketing perspective to all her projects, helping her clients boost their revenue and gain coveted market share. You can find her speaking at search and trade group conferences, blogging at, and on Twitter @NeptuneMoon.

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  1. Such a true and insightful story Julie and I fully agree with your advice. That is exactly what I do with these types of clients as well. I start with budget limitations, then with that in mind start presenting filters to reduce the unqualified traffic/audience to meet that budget goal.

    Another way to frame this is to talk about lead generation or sales conversion campaigns or branding nurturing campaigns. Essentially, when you go after the fringes of your target audience you are generating brand awareness and by extension looking to nurture this awareness into qualified prospects/customers.

    Of course there is nurturing involved at with all audiences and at all stages, however the fringe audience represent a very high quotient of nurturing.

    Do they have the ability to conduct a nurturing campaign?
    No? Then why are you pushing for an awareness/branding campaign?

    Red Flag – Generally if a client thinks the entire world is their audience, and is truly unable to determine some level of segmentation from best to worst prospects, they don’t really know their business that well. Time to step back to marketing strategy development and forget the tactical channels like PPC at this point.

    • Melissa Mackey says

      I couldn’t agree more! Their money is better spent on marketing strategy than wasted on PPC. 🙂

    • Great comments!

      I totally agree on the whole more direct types of campaign versus branding or general awareness and their inherent differences.

      I’ve said before too that PPC isn’t something you “just throw a few hundred bucks at and see if it works”. Strategy is so key to any successful marketing effort – PPC or otherwise.

  2. This is one of those classical areas of disconnect between customer and marketing agency and it happens in positioning, content marketing, sales territory and many other facets of sales and marketing, not just PPC. Although I run a marketing solutions company, I can easily empathize with the client on this. After all, they’ve just finished making a product / service and want to maximize revenues / profits / ROI from it. They come from a manufacturing mindset where more machinery or raw material or labor generally means more finished goods. When they apply that mindset to customer acquisition, they naturally believe that their goals would be best achieved by increasing the pipeline of customers. Cut to marketing strategy, which tells them to reduce the target audience, which is diametrically opposite to their belief system. No wonder marketing is always on the dock, trying to prove its effectiveness in driving revenues.

  3. Money talks. Clients get serious about targeting when you start talking about how much they have to spend… bottom line!


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