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Using Google Display Ads to Improve SaaS Marketing: A Guide to Best Practices

August 3, 2017 Andy Beohar

pexels-photo-440581.jpegDisplay advertising on the Google Display Network (GDN) is one of the most underrated lead generation tools for SaaS marketing. However, display ads are not something you can just jump into if you want to be successful. That’s why we’ve put together some of the best practices for using Google display ads to improve SaaS lead generation.

Best Practices for SaaS Marketing Google Display ads

If you don’t already have a Google AdWords account, you’ll want to get that squared away first. You may also want to take a little refresher on how display ads work on Google. This will help ensure that you have what you need to start putting these best practices to good use. Once you’re ready, use these tips to optimize your display ads for more effective SaaS lead generation:

1. Use all the features that Google offers.

When you start to set up your first campaign on the Google Display Network, you will be prompted to choose between “Marketing Objectives” and “No Marketing Objective.” Google uses the marketing objectives to pre-configure the campaign so that you can save time launching your ads. Though your first instinct may be to choose a marketing objective, the truth is that this selection will limit the options available to you.

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Choose the other option (“No Marketing Objective”) so that you have ability to configure all the features. This will allow you to access more than just what Google has predetermined is appropriate for your objective. It will still be easy to set up your campaign, and once you become more familiar with the platform, launching display ads will be quick and painless.

2. Set an effective frequency cap.

It’s important to pay attention to the frequency cap on your Google display ads. A frequency cap is the limit that you put on the number of times that an individual will see your ads. To locate this option in Google AdWords, you will need to go to “Advanced Settings” in the campaign setup wizard. This is not something you will be able to see if you don’t select “No Marketing Objective,” so make sure that you do that first.

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Research suggests that there is an effective frequency for the number of times that a user needs to be exposed to your ad before taking action. Serving an ad to a user too many times can backfire as it may start to annoy them, causing them to develop negative connotations with your brand. On the same note, decreasing the frequency cap on your display ads forces AdWords to find new users to display your ads to, which can help you effectively increase reach.

For these reasons, you need to consider what your frequency cap should be before starting a campaign. Though there is a science to finding the best blend of reach and frequency, this number is ultimately different for every brand. Start with a cap of 15-20 impressions per week or 3-5 impressions per day. Then, experiment to figure out what works best for your SaaS company.

3. Get the most out of geographic targeting.

Most SaaS companies are targeting a specific geographic area for their solution. Even if your brand has international reach, there’s a good chance that you plan to develop different ads for different countries that drive users to different landing pages, especially if you are creating ad content in multiple languages. That’s why it is important to use geographic targeting for your Google display ads.

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Start by selecting a country to target in the basic setup options. Let’s assume that you want to target users in the United States. After choosing the U.S. as your target audience, you will then need to make one other adjustment in the advanced setup options. Underneath “Location Options,” choose “People in my targeted location” to ensure that you are only targeting those who physically live within the United States.

This is important because AdWords will, by default, show your display ads to any users who meets the targeting criteria if they think that these users are interested in your target location. It doesn’t matter whether they are physically located there. For instance, if someone often browsed content about the U.S. and U.S. brands while living in France, they may be served your display ads, even though they wouldn’t be entirely relevant to the user. By selecting this option you are helping reduce wasted ad spend on users who aren’t relevant.

4. Take advantage of Google’s pre-made ads.

One of the greatest challenges for SaaS marketing professionals when it comes to getting started with display advertising is actually creating the ad content. Many marketers may feel that they must create stunning ads before they can even get started. Though you do want to develop ads that compel users to click, you don’t have to start from scratch. Google’s premade ads offer many benefits for SaaS companies who are just getting started with display ads.

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One of the greatest advantages of these premade ads is that they are more likely to be compliant. Google has many ad specifications that can be a hassle, especially for those who have never created GDN ads before. Rather than using a great deal of your ad budget on unique ad development, your brand can utilize premade ads that are ready to go.

Another advantage of Google premade ads is that they are built to be responsive and fit in many different ad unit sizes. It’s difficult to create ad designs on your own that will fit in all the different space choices that Google provides for display ads. The premade ads help SaaS companies save time and money by providing options that work in most ad unit sizes.

It’s simple and quick to get started. Use the “Responsive Ad” ad option or the Ad gallery to start creating ads. Google AdWords will make sure you have the right specs and the ads are sized correctly for your campaign.

5. Start by targeting the lowest funnel.

One of the best parts about GDN ads is the ability to easily target your ideal buyers. Start with the lower funnel prospects as they have the least expensive acquisition cost, and then work your way up. To find these individuals, use the “Similar Audiences” option in GDN. This is a custom audience that Google creates based on your remarketing list that targets users with similar interests and characteristics. These users are more likely to convert than higher funnel prospects, so this should make up your first ad group with the highest bids.

If your vertical is covered by Google’s topic audiences, this will be the next group that you target in the funnel. These are audiences that Google determines as being interested in or in the market for a given topic. Some SaaS companies that might be eligible for this include CRM solutions and collaboration tools. Check the full list to see if this is an option for your brand.

As you move further up in the funnel, you’ll start to target broader audiences. This is when you will start using display keywords and topics to reach out to top of funnel prospects.

6. Begin with a low CPC, and work your way up.

The more specific you get with your targeting, the more expensive your cost-per-click rates get. That’s why it can be beneficial to start with lower CPC bids and then work your way up to higher bids until you are able to find a volume/cost ratio that works for your company. You might start with a CPC of $.10 and then gradually increase it by $.05 to $.10 per day until you start seeing more impressions.

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Once you have developed enough click and conversion history through your Google display ad campaigns, Google will start to manage this process for you using Automated Bidding. This feature takes away some of the heavy lifting when it comes to optimizing CPC bids. It utilizes an algorithm to dynamically change CPC bids based on the calculated likelihood that a user will click or convert. However, you need to build up a solid history before utilizing this feature, so to get started with your display ad campaigns, you will first want to experiment manually with your CPC bids.

Enhanced Cost-Per-Click (ECPC) is a GDN feature that you can use while experimenting with manual bids. This is a Google tool that helps you get more conversions out of your manual bidding by adjusting manual bids for clicks that seem to be more likely to click or convert. ECPC is restricted by the max CPC bids that you set, and it can help you increase conversions while keeping your cost-per-conversion the same as with manual bidding. This is safe to use from the very start of your campaigns as data suggests that ECPC does not need as much conversion data as the Automated Bidding function does.

7. Exclude targeting customers who already know about your SaaS company.

If your SaaS marketing goal is to boost lead generation, you want to use display advertising to reach new clients, not those who are existing customers or those who already know about your brand. One of the best ways to ensure that your Google display ads are working to help you reach new prospects is by using the exclusion list to avoid targeting those who already know about your company.

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You can set an exclusion list for those people who have already visited your website so as not to include them in your lead generation display ad campaigns. If you want to reach out to these people again, you can do that in a remarketing campaign. To make sure that you are not serving your lead generation ad content to these users, set the exclusion list under the “Interests and Remarketing” tab on your Google Display Network dashboard. 

Conclusion

Now that you know some of the best practices for getting the most out of your Google Display ads, you can be on your way to using this powerful SaaS marketing tool to increase quality leads. Remember, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Many SaaS companies partner with an experienced marketing agency that specializes in display ads to make sure that they are maximizing their marketing budget and optimizing their ads for best results.