If you’re running Google Ads for your SaaS and want to grow, this is the article for you. It doesn’t matter whether you’re offering demos, free trials, or freemium subscriptions, you need more conversions, period!
We’ve helped dozens of SaaS clients scale their campaigns over the years. In this post, I’m going to pass along our top 5 tactics for driving more Google Ads conversions and growing the channel exponentially.
DISCLOSURE: Some of the products mentioned in this post may contain affiliate links that at no additional cost to you, we may earn a small commission. Importantly, we only promote products that we use ourselves.
1. Target Competing Brands
This strategy works whether you’re dominating your niche or an upstart that’s trying to carve off 1% market share. As long as you have solid product differentiators, this will work for you.
Create one or more landing pages that demonstrate how your solution is superior. This might be based on the combination of product benefits vs. cost or because of one dominant killer feature you offer. You might want to consider naming your competitors on the landing page(s) but understand that this can lead to predatory behaviour from said competitor(s).
Create a new search campaign and call it “Competitor Brands” or similar. Create an ad group for each competitor and build out exact, phrase, and BMM keyword variations as appropriate. Build your creatives based on the landing page content/copy, with the most important competitive advantage in one of your headlines. I recommend not including your competitors’ brand in your creatives, but you can do it providing (a) you make it clear you’re not that competitor, and (b) the competitor(s) brand isn’t a registered trademark.
Build out the rest of your campaign paying particular attention to callouts and sitelinks.
One trick here, if you want to stay off the radar, is to add a location exclusion for the city where your competitor is situated. Eventually, somebody that works there will probably find your ads, but you’ll be a lot more low profile for sure.
In terms of bidding, expect to pay a premium here. I would start at $5 CPC and go up if you need to in order to get most of your ads showing up at the top of the page (first 4 ad placements).
Likewise, conversions may cost you a fair amount. But this is a great way to grow by taking market share from your competitors. Your ads will be showing to people already considering another brand, and those already using that brand and looking for a log in screen.
2. Use Audience Targeting to Capture More Search & Display Leads
Google has upped its audience game substantially over the past year or so. Not only can you effectively use preset In-Market Audiences but also Custom Intent Audiences that you build yourself.
Google has constantly added to its library of In-Market Audiences. These audiences target people that have been recently (within about 2-weeks) searching for and/or visiting pages related to the target topic. You can bet that other than a few stray competitors doing research, these people are warmed up and getting ready to purchase a solution soon.
Importantly, these can be used both in display and search campaigns.
Unless you’re in a restricted market such as medicine, there are likely audiences applicable to you what you offer. Some categories to look under would be “business services” and “software” or verticals in which you operate. If you find some In-Market Audiences that are highly relevant I’d start by adding them as “Observation” to your search campaigns and set a starting +50% bid adjustment. Go ahead and add other audiences that aren’t as specific, but don’t set bid adjustments yet.
Watch and wait for a few weeks or months and then tweak your bid adjustments based on average CPAs.
With respect to display, start with only the most relevant In-Market Audiences and also apply some content targeting that’s in context with your offer. If you can use pay-per-conversion in your account, that’s a great no-risk way to start working with display ads. If you can’t use pay-per-conversion, go ahead and test tCPA bidding.
Custom Intent Audiences
Like In-Market, these audiences are based on recent user activity. But instead of choosing from a menu of options, you can build your own criteria for inclusion. Note that these audiences only apply to Display, Gmail, Discovery, and YouTube campaigns. Oh, and when running display we do highly recommend also running a Discovery campaign which tends to offer much higher quality inventory than the Google Display Network.
You can build your audience based either on in-market keywords or google search terms.
When choosing in-market keywords you can add keywords and URLs applicable to the audience; yes you can include competitor URLs. Google will target people based on what they are currently researching, i.e. searching for and visiting.
When choosing google search terms, you can use keywords only. This option tends to work better for non-GDN campaigns.
3. Move Higher Up the Search Funnel
Classically, we use paid search to drive conversions at an effective target CPA. Using broader keywords leads to generating more leads but at a typically much higher CPA. This often prevents us from targeting higher up the funnel.
There is, however, no reason why we should only treat paid search as a lead generation tool. It can be used just like display to target top or middle of the funnel prospects.
Some keyword examples for your “accounting SaaS” might include:
- Bookkeeping best practices
- Streamline bookkeeping process
- Bookkeeping for dummies
- Bookkeeping spreadsheets
None of these keywords are specific to software, but people searching for these may well be looking for a solution, or might start looking as a result of seeing your ad.
Two major innovations allow us to now use target keywords like these while still getting good bang for the buck.
First, Google introduced new conversion attribution models. If you’re still using “last-click” you’re probably not using what’s appropriate to track the value paid search is driving for your business. Using a more appropriate attribution model such as “position-based” will allocate conversions to keywords that are driving performance based on the entire value chain – from first to last click and every click in-between.
Second, we can refer to the tactic we just covered. You can easily use a combination of high-funnel keywords with In-Market or Custom Intent Audiences to cast a wider net.
Using broader keywords alone or combined with audiences can be an effective way to drive many more potential clients to your website.
4. Optimize Your Campaigns For Lead Quality
Most SaaS advertisers track their first user actions such as registrations for free demos and sign-ups for free software versions. But that’s where conversion tracking typically ends.
Tracking follow up actions such as paid subscriptions can be tremendously beneficial. By understanding the revenue that specific keywords, ads, audiences, etc., are driving, you can enhance your campaign optimization efforts.
Even if you are unable to track follow-up actions, there are a variety of ways you can score leads to better define conversion quality.
We wrote an entire article on How to Optimize Google Ads Based on Lead Quality. Head over there now if you’d like to learn more about how to implement this.
5. Work on Your Landing Pages
Increasing your landing page conversion rate will generate more value without increasing direct ad costs. Yet so many SaaS advertisers aren’t performing CRO (conversion rate optimization) on their landing pages.
Issues we often see include:
a) no plan when executing landing pages
b) running way too many different offers/pages without ever analyzing performance
c) running one landing page forever without ever split testing variations
d) never looking at UX (user experience) to see where conversions are dropping off
There are numerous free and paid tools available for CRO, which means there are no excuses not to do it.
As for paid solutions, we recommend and use Instapage, which offers a full suite for landing page design, multivariate testing, and heatmapping. Other popular software options include Optimizely, Unbounce, and Hotjar.
Bonus – UACs
If you offer mobile apps you absolutely should be running Universal App Campaigns (UACs). This campaign type is relatively easy to set up (especially for Android apps) and can turn in app installs at anywhere between $0.25 – $2.00 each.
If you’re struggling with Google Ads scaling for your SaaS, these tactics will help. While Google Ads is not the only channel you should be utilizing, it can be one of your best if well-managed.