Paid search advertising is an integral part of a brand’s marketing efforts because it’s a highly-targeted form of communication that allows for more relevant and timely communications. The concept relatively basic, but that means almost all companies do it—including your competitors.
In the context of the customer journey, search advertising mainly targets prospects in the awareness (first) stage during the information search. This means that you can poach or steal customers from the awareness-building efforts of your competitors using search ads.
Poaching in SEM entails aggressively bidding on your competitors’ target keywords to have your ad shown above them on SERPs. The word has plenty of negative connotations to it but in terms of search ads, poaching doesn’t necessarily mean stealing, it means offering consumers the best possible alternative.
Think about it this way, if you manage to poach a customer from your competitors, it’s because you’ve managed to convince them that you’re offering a better product. Because you’re better at marketing and providing a great experience. The customer makes the final decision and, in the end, all’s fair in love and marketing.
So, without further ado, here are our top tips for poaching customers the right way:
Research the competition
Who is your competition? The answer to this is the jumping point from which you can base your whole search advertising campaign. Both online and offline competitors count, so make sure to create a comprehensive list. Discover their weaknesses, as well as what they are doing and how they position their offerings to the public.
Find out what customers are saying about their products or services on social media or on review sites like Yelp. Check out what content they’re publishing. How are they engaging users, driving interest, and encouraging conversions? Can you do it better? Look for opportunities to get a leg up on them.
Competitive research through Analytics
Do competitive keyword research through an analysis tool. This will give you an insight into the keywords your competitor is bidding on. If you want immediate answers, tools like SpyFu or iSpionage can give you a list of all their target keywords just by entering the competitor’s domain. From there, identify which keywords are relevant to your brand that you can potentially outrank them for.
Search advertising also entails tracking conversions and sales, and Bing and AdWords will help you do just that. Data from customer actions like form submissions and online transactions are analyzed to know the result of your campaign facilitate improvement.
Executing campaign setup
As mentioned before, your audience and competitor research should be continuous from the very beginning because it’ll lay the foundation for your search advertising strategy.
When building your content assets, figure out where there are information gaps between what your target audience wants and what your competitors provide. Publishing specific content that serves these needs will make your brand infinitely more attractive.
You’ll also need to know where your audience spends their time, so identify which social channels or other mediums they’re on. Then, tailor your ads to fit those mediums, as well as the competitors’ brand or products you are trying to steal leads from.
On creating landing pages
A landing page should show users why you’re the better choice than the competition. Good landing page practices should include having a prominent form, relevant copy, and a suggested package for visitors. Landing pages can also be helpful conquesting tools that offer something valuable, especially for complex products or services.
Optimizing your landing pages should be done to increase your quality score as well as conversion rates compared to your competitors. You can start by checking the competitors’ ad and landing page copy to see how you can make yours better. Once the prospect is on your landing page, provide the exact information they need to make a decision on the next step.
On writing ad copy
Your offer and value proposition should reflect in your ad copy, including the best offer for conquest terms. It should attract the people initially looking for your competitors to generate brand awareness as the primary goal and provide value to prospects before they even visit your landing page.
Experiment with and try out different keyword groups, copy styles, landing pages, schedules, and content resources, but don’t forget to track each experiment’s performance to discover which element changes resulted in the most conversions.
When you increase your ad and landing page copy’s relevancy, you decrease bounce rate and increase conversions for your site. This also boosts your ad relevancy value on search platforms and your ad placement ranking, with the awesome bonus of lowering cost-per-click.
On bidding keywords
- Bid on competitor’s brand names
If your competitor doesn’t bid on their branded keywords, take advantage to get quality traffic meant for them. This is especially useful for their prospects who search for their brand name instead of visiting the site’s exact URL. With search ads, you can essentially hijack their customer journey for yourself.
- Bid on misspellings and modified broad match
Your site should still appear even if prospects miss out a letter or completely botch the spelling of your keyword or your competitors’ brand. Modified broad search or long tail phrases can be used to divert users who are trying to be specific with their keyword searches.
- Bid on “Cancel” keywords
Adding the word “cancel” on your keywords is useful for businesses that are in service or contractual setup, and will target dissatisfied customers as your new prospects. As soon as a prospect is ready to cancel their contract with a competitor, they should also be ready to learn about your offering.
- Remarketing lists for search ads
RLSA will help you adjust bids or ad copy according to past user behavior. Use RLSA to increase bids on previous users who didn’t convert and to show offers to past visitors who are now searching for your competitors.
- Keywords to steal
It is imperative to know which keywords are best to steal and bid on, and this entails testing for at least three months. This is where you can build ads around your competitors’ keywords to find out which ones are profitable.
After three months, find the keywords by opening your paid search account and looking at the data. Filter your keywords for “Conversions < 1” to show all the keywords that didn’t convert, as well as how much were spent on them. You can also reverse the filter to “Conversions > 1” to see which ones converted, making them the best performers for your competitors.
From there, decide which of these keywords to cut out and which need more time or tweaks.
Take advantage of schedule and under-budgeted campaigns
An under-budgeted campaign is one where the number of clicks available cannot be satisfied by the advertiser’s daily campaign.
In this case, Google will economize on the delivery of ads through standard or accelerated delivery. It may be quite tedious to determine which campaigns are under budget, which is done by monitoring how many times the competitor ad appears in a day, but it’ll help you identify ways to outrank your competitors without spending too much.
Do this by bidding on their brand name or keywords at a low cost and scheduling your ads to appear on times when the competitors’ are not being shown. You can also raise the bidding price of the keywords you are both targeting to exhaust your competitors’ daily maximum budget faster (keep in mind that this will also increase your own spending). After which, you can lower your bid price.
Speaking of identifying your competitors’ scheduling, you can also use search engines to run test searches throughout the day with intervals of 15 minutes. This should give you insights into whether they are using an ad scheduler or not. Then, you can then bid on the times that the competitor’s ads aren’t scheduled to run.
For a Better Customer Experience
Until such time that poaching gets prohibited by the powers that be in the world of paid search, it remains to be an effective method that can be utilized to entice your competitors’ prospects and customers to make a big switch.
It’s the “right” kind of stealing because the customer gets the better experience in the end. And since we’re all about being customer-centric these days, what’s better for the customer is better for everyone.
Try out the steps above and experiment with different keywords, copy, landing pages, schedules, and budgets. Don’t forget to track each combinations’ performance to see which elements worked best for you. Each element needs to be measured in isolation over time to gauge its actual effects.
Now that you’ve got your poaching hat on, are you ready to outdo the competition?