Here at Hanapin, we have clients in seemingly every vertical with budgets ranging from penny-pinching to limitless. Despite their many differences, nearly all of these accounts have one thing in common: Google AdWords is their most important network.
For these accounts, Google receives the lion’s share of budget and optimization resources. Beyond Google, however, Bing is typically the next step for PPC network expansion. And while Bing is often the target of many punchlines, the platform is definitely no slouch. Bing sports a respectable 31% market share making it a necessity within every PPC strategy. Furthermore, Bing offers a healthy supply of unique opportunities despite following Google’s lead in nearly every major update.
After covering these two platforms, most clients will seek additional avenues to supplement their paid efforts. Despite representing much smaller players, there is still plenty of value to be found within search’s alternative options. Furthermore, increasingly complex purchase funnels call for expansion outside of a search only market. With this in mind, most client’s are turning to social and programmatic to fill the void. In order to provide clarity to this crowded landscape, we’ll walk through a short synopsis of ad network opportunities outside of Google and Bing.
To begin, let’s be clear that network expansion should not occur until efforts have reached a relative ceiling within Bing and AdWords. Once performance has reached a consistent and capped level, mimicking successful strategies in lesser utilized search engines is an excellent opportunity.
- Yahoo Gemini: Gemini is undoubtedly the first step to take beyond Google and Bing in regards to search. While the interface and bulk upload process leave something to be desired, Yahoo’s market share makes it a worthwhile investment for clients in need of supplemental volume. To combat the relatively clunky optimization process, Gemini’s support staff is impressively responsive. Lastly, import tools allow easy adoption of account features from AdWords.
- Ad.net: After Gemini, the next step for search expansion becomes a bit less clear. One strong option is ad.net. This is a network that readily admits it is a secondary player, but excels in the niche it has created. In contrast to AdWords, Gemini, and Bing, ad.net requires a much less hands-on approach for account management. In short, top keywords, KPI goals, and other relevant items such as geo-targeting are provided prior to launch. From there the ad.net team will do their thing through a largely algorithmic based optimization routine. Although fairly limited in volume, the lower demands of account management can make the network particularly useful.
- 7Search: Four networks in and we’ve found ourself pretty deep in the rabbit hole. 7Search provides a self-serve platform that would feel somewhat familiar to most account managers. CPCs can be drastically lower than those found in Google or Bing, however, this platform does come with its fair share of obstacles. High bounce rates and low time-per-session have been a complaint seen in the past. This would suggest possible bot related issues. Despite this, the low cost makes it a potential platform test for clients seeking to maximize volume.
For many clients, the jump to social is a natural progression that can supplement search-based campaigns. Social offers distinct targeting tactics that can be employed to either re-engage visitors or extend reach into a cold audience.
- Facebook – Big brands and small brands alike are turning to Facebook as a pivotal platform for improving their customer base. In the most recent State of PPC, 69% of advertisers reported plans to increase their Facebook budget in the coming year. Facebook performance should be viewed somewhat distinct from traditional search given that social often represents an intermediate step in the conversion funnel. Savvy marketers, however, will transform this obstacle into an opportunity by utilizing a funnel based approach with multiple touch points and a capitalization on each ad format.
- Twitter & Instagram: After Facebook, social engagement typically extends into Instagram and Twitter. For ecommerce brands, Instagram can produce relatively cheap traffic while employing the same targeting tactics utilized on Facebook. Generally speaking, Twitter can be a tough platform for PPC account managers accustom to direct response metrics. Despite this, performing the proper keyword research ahead of time can drastically improve results.
- LinkedIn: LinkedIn is often best suited for lead generation clients. The platform provides an unparalleled opportunity for PPC accounts in the B2B niche. Unique targeting opportunities such as company, job title, skills, and seniority provide audience building capabilities found nowhere else on the web. Despite this, the creation of a successful campaign can be complicated. A lack of inventory on the site yields drastically elevated CPCs for what is essentially display marketing.
Programmatic is a long trending buzzword within the digital marketing community. According to the most recent State of PPC, just under a quarter of advertisers expect to increase their budgets for the following year. Since there seems to be an infinite supply of vendors entering the marketplace, we’ll provide a breakdown of the two primary objectives.
- Prospecting: In order to vastly increase top of the funnel traffic, many advertisers are turning to prospecting via programmatic. To name a few, vendors such as Quantcast, Netmining, and Rocketfuel serve ads via personas and profiles built through a site based pixel. Alternatively, ad exchanges can be accessed through platforms such as DoubleClick to circumnavigate the site served approach.
- Retargeting: Beyond prospecting, programmatic is primarily used as a retargeting tool. From an ecommerce perspective, dynamic search ads are extremely valuable for connecting with past customers via uniquely tailored ads. Criteo and AdRoll are two prominent vendor options that specialize in re-engaging your customer base.
Few industries adapt to a dynamic marketplace as frequently as PPC. Clients and account managers alike have recognized the need for a multi-platform approach that extends well beyond the search marketplace. While Google and Bing remain the major players in search, there is a strong supply of valuable candidates awaiting testing from those hoping to extend their reach.
Cover photo courtesy of Mikael Korhonen