December 4, 2017

Thinking like an entrepreneur when running AdWords campaigns in hyper competitive industries

With the arrival of tools such as AdWords Express and Dynamic Ads and ever-increasing prominence of local results (i.e. Google My Business) moving the spotlight away from the organic results, the AdWords platform has become more competitive than ever.

Cost Per Click (CPC) rates, too, have been on an upward trajectory, helped partly by the removal of paid ads to the right (as if, they weren’t high enough to begin with).

So, what’s an entrepreneur to do? Ask the competition for help, of course.

Ok, not literally but what I’m talking about here is to start thinking in the same way you would when making a business decision such as how/where to allocate resources, the competition, getting smart and so on.

By looking at the whole picture and beyond data only derived by your typical keyword tools, you can give your campaign the best chance of success and gaining a share in an already crowded marketplace.

Having managed several PPC campaigns over the years for hyper competitive industries such as web design, personal injury, real estate and insurance, I have put this guide together with everything that has helped our own in-house and client campaigns deliver a positive ROI and hope it will do the same for you.

#1 Consult your internal strategic data to decide what to advertise

Whether you’re selling a product or service, most businesses will have a range of options on offer and the worst thing you can do is launch your ad campaign(s) trying to sell all of them right off the bat.

Chances are, your CPC is going to be high as it is and, because it can take some time before your ad will start racking up impressions and then clicks, having lots of small campaigns or ad groups, each focusing on a different product/service will at best, mean an awfully long time before you get any conversions and at worst, few impressions over a long period of time. Yes, impressions…no clicks, no conversions, only impressions.

Instead, put your strategic hat on and come up with a list of a key products/services that you decide you’re going to focus only on at first. To help you find what these might be, it helps to think about your various offerings in terms of:

  • Those where you have the highest profit margins
  • Products/services you offer that not many of your competitors do
  • An area where you might have already built up a niche and therefore, likely to yield higher conversion rates (e.g. if you’re an accountancy firm but with a long list of clients in the tech sector)
  • New areas you wish to tap into (e.g. you want to increase sales of one of your services currently not a significant revenue driver)

You might be able to come up with more factors to consider but the point is to ultimately come up with a list of only a few products/services to focus on.

#2 Configure your campaign settings like a professional entrepreneur

For new campaigns I generally like to run the ad for as long as possible during the times of the day and week that the business is open and generally even beyond that to have a data set to work with.

However, if you’ve got a limited budget and you’re working with high CPCs you might want to pull existing internal business data you might have on enquiries and sales and adjust your campaign settings based on that.

Here are a few suggestions:

Match your ad schedule with busy business periods – if your business has been around for some time, chances are, there are certain days and times of the day where you generally tend to get the best level of enquiries or sales. By starting with an ad schedule which replicates this you increase the likelihood of clicks leading to conversions.

From an analysis of our own business as well client data, for B2B businesses, 10am – 12pm / 4pm – 7pm and between 5pm – 10pm for B2C the times that tend to yield the highest conversion rates.

Most AdWords conversions by the time of the day

Make bid adjustments based on current visitor data – presumably, you’ve got a Google Analytics account setup for a while. Compare how your desktop vs mobile vs tablet traffic behaves to see if there might be any takeaways for your ad strategy.

For example, if GA shows that your conversion rates from mobiles is significantly lower than desktop, its likely you’re going to find this to be the case with your search ad traffic as well in which case you might want to reduce your mobile bids on AdWords.

#3 Look at what your competitors are up to

SEMRush competitor keywords and ad copies

There’s quite a few good competitive analysis tools out there such as Spyfu, iSpionage and KeywordSpy for spying on your competitors and my personal favourite is SEMRush. There’s a detailed post on this over on the SEMRush’s blog but here’s a rundown of the most important things to look at:

  • What keywords are they bidding on – this one is quite easy to uncover. Simply enter your competitor’s URL on the search bar and select ‘Advertising research’ and you will get a list of all the keywords your competitors are running ads for
  • How much are they spending and on which keywords – sort the column by costs % and you will see what % of their budget are being spent on those keywords. if your competitor is spending a significant portion of the budget on certain keywords, there’s a good chance its delivering a positive ROI
  • Analyse cost vs traffic % – where possible, you want to prioritise keywords delivering more traffic % than what its costing to run ads on those keywords. In the above example, those would be keywords such as “posters”, “business card holder”, “poster maker” to name a few
  • Look at their ad copies – SEMRush has a neat feature where not only does it show you the text your competitors are using but also which keywords are being used for those ads which will give you helpful suggesting when crafting your own ad copies and deciding on keyword allocation

SEMRush competitor

Note, it helps to analyse competitor who are spending a good sum on advertising as the SEMRush data will tend to be more valuable and there’s a good chance your competitors are carrying out essential maintenance and account management which makes the numbers more relevant.

#4 The little things

As Al Pacino eloquently put it in Any Given Sunday, success in life is a game of inches and so it is with AdWords.

It’s the small changes that will yield all the results over time and when it comes to configuring your campaign settings you want to do this in a way that is likely to yield the highest quality of traffic.


For campaigns with limited budgets in competitive industries, leveraging on the power of remarketing is an absolute must. Not only can remarketing campaigns help you achieve a lower CPA but for if you’re offering something unique or niche which requires multiple touch-points before the prospect is likely to convert, then you can significantly increase your ROI with remarketing.

Bid with sitelinks for expensive keywords

Site extensions

This one is one of my favourites when running AdWords on competitive sectors. You already know that your CPC is going to be quite high for the short-tail, generic keywords. Referring to our example about the printing company, say you wanted to run ads for business cards, leaflets and brochures. As you will see from the above screenshot, the CPC on brochures is significantly higher than the rest. In this case, it might make more sense to use brochures only within sitelink extensions whilst running your ads for leaflets, business cards and so on.

Landing page

Apart from your campaigns setup, no other factor will have more of an impact than your landing page design, so it goes without saying that you should be doing everything possible to make sure your landing pages don’t become a bottleneck to the conversion process. Not enough businesses understand the importance of landing page which is great as you can use this to your advantage by utilising landing pages that will yield healthy conversion rates not just for your PPC campaigns but SEO, too. Or, check out our dedicated website focusing on Google AdWords and paid media at PPC Agency London.

For further resources on this, here are some articles which you will find helpful. If you need help, feel free to get in touch with us.

For help with your digital marketing campaigns, whether that’s Google Ads, Facebook, LinkedIn or Social Media campaigns, get in touch with us today. Or, view all our services here.

Flow20 now also offers Facebook ads courses and Instagram advertising courses.

About Shirish Agarwal

Shirish Agarwal is the founder of Flow20 and looks after the PPC and SEO side of things. Shirish also regularly contributes to leading digital marketing publications such as Hubspot, SEMRush, Wordstream and Outbrain. Connect with him on LinkedIn.