PPC can be a lethal addiction, here’s how to prevent an overdose

PPC has been and will continue to be a amazing channel to acquire and nurture customers, but little is said about how paid traffic can easily destroy both startups and mature businesses. Google, Bing and Facebook Ads tend to show up at the marketing channels section of most startup business plans these days, but what founders and paid marketing professionals tend to ignore is the fact that solely depending on these channels for growth can easily sentence companies to an inevitable demise. Here’s the reasons behind the risk, and how to hedge against it.

Reason #1: Destructive bidding wars are more common every day

Both paid marketing professionals and business owners tend to forget, perhaps due to similar chemical reactions that occur when our brain experiences addiction, that we are bidding up against a landscape of competitors in constant evolution. We forget that today’s battle ground is most probably less violent than tomorrow’s, and that even though we can do an amazing job at staying ahead from our competition, in the age of ad spying software and industry sophistication, you can almost guarantee your campaign strategy, messaging and creatives will be copied.

Bidding wars are more common than ever, CPCs are on the rise and profitability is almost impossible to achieve in many mature markets. Let’s take Dropbox as an example. Here’s two slides from a well aged presentation exposing their early learnings.

Experiment: Paid search <ul><li>Hired experienced SEM & affiliate marketing guy ($$) </li></ul><ul><li>Picked out keywords...

Cost per acquisition: $233-$388 For a $99 product. Fail.

 They quickly learned that the cloud storage market had already driven PPC costs through the unprofitability red line.

However, did Dropbox fail? No, why? Keep reading.

Reason #2: Saturation of your core demographic

“Let’s find the winning angle, creatives, landing pages and scale up from there”. Sound familiar? Easier said than done right? Why? Because in many niches, as we try to scale paid marketing campaigns, we blow through our core audience pretty fast, and often times it’s all higher CACs from there.

Hitting the roof is more common in smaller niches, but it happens to companies of all sizes. Google or Bing Ads search campaigns will drive you to the point where you simply have to explore further from those high intent keywords into broader, less targeted keywords that will bring extra volume. Will they bring conversions? Sure, but at a lower conversion rate, which often means unanticipated higher CPAs. Similarly when running Facebook Ads, we tend to wrongly assume that profitable audience groups are limitless, and when that call from the CEO comes in requesting to scale up by 5x, sure, more traffic can by acquired, but quite often at a significantly higher CPA.

Reason #3: PPC Platforms are external dependencies

It’s very easy to forget that PPC platforms are external forces that may become threatening. It’s widely known how recent privacy laws and concerns have caused substantial changes to Facebook’s and Google’s ad targeting capabilities. This was just a very recent reminder that platforms can, and will change their rules at any time. In some occasions this will represent an opportunity to gain advantage over our competition, but many other times it will represent a threat to businesses that can see their reach significantly decreased, or in the worst cases, terminated.

Solution: Use PPC to build organic traffic


Google Ads search campaigns are SEO gold mines, period. I’ve been ranking pages and launching search campaigns for a bit more than 10 years, and some of the most successful SEO efforts I’ve had throughout the years have been thanks to search campaign learnings. How? One of Google Ad’s most underrated reports is the search terms report. Inside, Google shows us, along with performance stats, the exact search queries used before clicking on your ads. That makes this report a vast source of proven long tail keywords, some of which are not present in the Keyword planner or any other tool, making them perfect for your next SEO efforts.

“Test with PPC, Scale with SEO”

Search campaigns allow you not only to understand your target audience’s search intent, it also allows you to validate volumes and profitability of keyword categories and specific long tail keywords. On top of this, if you continuously test ad copy (like you should) you already collected the data necessary to understand exactly what you should be using in your title tag and meta description. Having this gold mine of information only leaves you two steps away from SEO rankings. Check how competitive your discovered keywords are (there are multiple tools you can use for this), prioritize those keywords with better performance and less competition, create SEO content and it ASAP! In some ocasions, I’ve gotten top 5 positions in less than of week.

Build audiences

You run ads to drive sales, right? Wrong, you run ads to acquire customers, so if you’re only focusing your ad campaigns on getting people to hit that buy button, you are not only missing out, you’re assuming that either customers will naturally circle back, or that you’ll be able to acquire customers at the same cost in the future. Both are big assumptions and huge risks.

So what can you do? To start out, why the hell aren’t you building and nurturing your email list? Did a friend tell you email is dead? I’m sorry to drop this to you, but that person is either lying or giving advice without knowing what he’s talking about.

Now here’s something that is not talked about often, you can also build super responsive audiences by asking web traffic to download your mobile apps. We recently worked on a large campaign announcing the alliance of one of our clients with a widely recognized brand. To our surprise, on our top channel list, email came in second to a gin push notifications, yes, a push notification.

Leverage for viral strategies

Third type of organic traffic we’ll discuss here is the acquisition channel that made unicorn companies such as Dropbox, Airbnbn and Uber what they are now, viral marketing. Pretty sure you’ve read the case studies, but, what role does PPC play in the viral marketing world?

1. Learn what feature / content has potential to go viral

2. Promote your viral programs

3. Increase referral value to make PPC profitable

Final thoughts

If you scrolled here looking for a brief summary: Don’t be lazy, read this post, it may be pretty important for your career.

If you reached this paragraph after reading the post, well done! Now go start leveraging PPC to grow your organic channels!

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