The B2B SaaS Marketing Blog

    The B2B SaaS Google Ads Search Campaigns Blueprint


    Last updated: April 15th, 2024

    Google Ads is a staple marketing channel in most B2B SaaS marketing strategies, yet many SaaS marketers are seeing diminishing returns year over year.

    Generating a strong ROI with Google Ads is more challenging than ever, but it’s still a highly effective channel if your strategy is well-optimized.

    In fact, here are some examples of results we’ve produced for clients in the past through the first 4 months of 2024:

    • Increased SALs by 60% for a risk management SaaS
    • 47% decrease in cost per conversion for an employee engagement SaaS
    • Achieved 133% of quarterly SQL goal for a cybersecurity SaaS

    In this post, we’ll give you the 80/20 of the Google ads strategy we have tested and refined across dozens of client accounts.

    To discover the biggest opportunities to improve your Google ads campaigns, reach out to our team today for your Free Marketing Plan.

    Challenges Most SaaS Marketers Face With Google Ads

    It’s helpful to understand why your strategy isn’t working before implementing a new strategy, as poor performance is often linked to just a few common issues. If you address these issues first, the rest of your Google Ads strategy is much more likely to succeed. So here are a few of the most common problems we identify when auditing Google Ad accounts for B2B SaaS companies.

    1. Saturated Market

    The number of SaaS companies entering the market each year is increasing exponentially across most industries.

    For example, if you look at G2, you’ll see that there are over 400 marketing automation tools listed:

    g2 marketing automation

    This level of competition makes Google Ads much more expensive, especially when competing against large brands like HubSpot or Sprout Social, which have significantly higher ad budgets than the average SaaS company.

    While you can’t alter the competitive landscape, you can stand out through strategic positioning. This is why we begin each client engagement with a detailed customer research process and then use that information to craft messaging that stands out and resonates with your target audience.

    2. Wasted Ad Spend

    Many SaaS marketers aren’t actively monitoring campaigns, so we often find a handful of campaigns running unchecked that aren’t contributing to a positive ROI.

    On average, about 20-40% of ad spend doesn’t contribute to the desired outcome (e.g., generating leads or demo signups).

    Therefore, you may be paying for clicks, but if they never convert, you’re just wasting ad dollars.

    3. Lack of A Closed Loop Around Reporting

    Google Ads uses machine learning to optimize and improve targeting to show your ads to the right prospects. Yet most marketers aren’t effectively teaching the system what type of conversion it should strive to achieve.

    Given that your goal is driving trials and demo signups, teaching the machine learning algorithm to prioritize those conversion types and the value of different conversions is essential. Yet many ad accounts we audit, even brands spending as much as $400,000 or $500,000 per month, aren’t using primary or secondary conversion types.

    Additionally, many brands aren’t implementing remarketing sequences and don’t use offline imports from Salesforce or HubSpot to send conversion data back to Google ads.

    As a result, the data becomes siloed and Google’s machine learning algorithm won’t know which leads became MQLs. Without conversion data, Google’s algorithm can’t improve its targeting. Of course, it’s more difficult to set up accurate reporting if you have a longer buying cycle (e.g., 6, 12, or 18 months), so we often spend time fixing reporting challenges at the beginning of each client engagement before implementing any marketing campaigns.

    The Solution: A Proven B2B SaaS Google Ads Blueprint

    We run hundreds of tests each month, and this is the process we’ve developed and currently implement with all our clients.

    The B2B SaaS Google Ads Search Campaign Structure Blueprint

    Related: How to Navigate Cookieless Tracking in B2B SaaS Marketing

    You’ll notice that the diagram is divided into four main pillars of campaigns: prospecting, conquest, remarketing/win-back, and brand.

    The traffic temperature symbolizes the prospects’ familiarity with your brand and rises as you move from left to right. Traffic in the prospecting stages may not have heard of your brand, whereas traffic on the right is already familiar with your brand and has had multiple interactions with your content.

    Here’s an overview of the purpose of each of these pillars:

    • Prospecting: This campaign targets people who may not know that your brand exists yet have declared intent. We can tell if they’ve declared intent primarily based on the types of pain points they’re searching for, though it could also be based on behaviors, customer uploads, etc. These prospects may or may not know your brand exists, so this campaign aims to build awareness and get prospects to enter your marketing funnel.
    • Conquesting: These campaigns are also designed to build awareness, though they’re designed to steal prospects already using or heavily considering your competitors.
    • Win Back: Most SaaS clients don’t convert on their first interaction with your brand (especially if your product has a longer buying cycle), so these campaigns are designed to remarket to prospects who have interacted with your brand yet didn’t make a purchase. We also test different CTAs and messaging to ensure we cater to each person, as every buying journey is slightly different.
    • Brand: Finally, these campaigns are designed to serve people who are actively searching for your brand and resources related to your brand. If people can’t find what they’re looking for when searching your brand name, that poor first experience with your brand will hurt your conversions. Additionally, your competitors are probably bidding on your branded keywords, so owning your own branded searches is important.

    How to Implement the Blueprint

    Now that you can see how the playbook works, how do you use it and get started?

    If we’re building a Google Ads strategy from scratch, we begin building campaigns on the right side (targeting brand aware prospects) and then move towards the left (targeting solution interested prospects who may not have heard of your brand).

    Targeting traffic already familiar with your brand first gives you the quickest time to value, as a prospect familiar with your brand is more likely to convert faster and require less nurturing than a colder prospect unfamiliar with your brand.

    Alternatively, some prospects who approach us already have a Google ads strategy in place and are struggling to profitably expand the ad budget.

    In this case, assuming they’re already maximizing opportunities with warm traffic, we begin building the strategy on the left-hand side.

    Regardless of which side you start with, here’s an overview of executing each step of the process.

    Step 1: Prospecting

    For most clients, we spend a total of about 60-70% of the total ad budget on the prospecting category, and we break down prospecting campaigns into three main buckets:

    • Solution aware (high intent): 40% of total ad budget
    • Problem aware (medium intent): 10-20% of total ad budget
    • Symptom aware (low intent): 10% of total ad budget

    We may break down each bucket into more subcategories by geography, conversion types, customer flow, and experiences. However, these are the primary categories we use to organize prospecting campaigns.

    Solution Aware (High Intent)

    This bucket targets keywords that imply the searcher has already decided to purchase a solution and is comparing different options.

    For example, if you have data governance software, the solution-aware campaign we might set up would likely target keywords like “data governance tools” or “data governance software.”

    Problem Aware (Medium Intent)

    This category focuses on use cases, so we target pain point keywords that the product solves.

    For example, if you have a social media scheduling tool, a problem aware keyword may be something like “how to post more consistently on social media,” as automating your posts with a scheduling tool solves that problem.

    Symptom Aware (Low Intent)

    These campaigns target keywords that indicate the searcher is still at the beginning of the buying journey. Keywords that fit the frameworks of “what is…” “trends,” and “reports” tend to fall into this category, as these readers aren’t actively looking to purchase a solution but are interested in your industry.

    For example, someone searching “what is a social media scheduler” isn’t yet ready to purchase software as they’re just learning how it works.

    However, running symptom aware campaigns is worthwhile because it’s easier to convert a customer who began their buyer journey with you rather than trying to introduce them to your brand, build trust, and convert them after they’ve already decided to make a purchase.

    As a result, your bottom-of-funnel marketing efforts will be more effective.
    Additionally, many of these top-of-funnel keywords are difficult to rank for in organic search (from an SEO perspective). Therefore, targeting these keywords with Google ads ensures your brand is present at the beginning of the buyer journey.

    However, it’s critical to leverage Google’s targeting mechanisms and give it the data necessary to refine its targeting if you’re running top-of-funnel campaigns. This is because the broad nature of top-of-funnel keywords tends to attract a variety of visitors who may not fit in your ideal audience (e.g., students doing research).

    Step 2: Conquesting

    These campaigns target keywords that contain your competitor’s brand names, like brand name and “reviews,” “pricing,” and “alternatives.”

    However, avoid targeting purely competitor brand names, as the intent is often unclear, leading to low quality scores.

    We also target “versus” style keywords. For example, it could be your brand name versus another competitor’s brand name. However, we also target versus keywords that contain two of your competitors’ brand terms (“competitor A vs. competitor B”). In these scenarios, we’ll add your brand name at the end to make it a three-way comparison (“competitor A vs competitor B vs. your brand). This way, you’re stealing high-intent traffic researching your competitors, and inserting your brand into the conversation.

    The key to making your campaigns for these comparison keywords convert is driving the traffic to custom landing pages. Each landing page is designed to be helpful to the reader in understanding how the products differ from one another and obviously highlight the key selling points of your product.

    Step 3: Remarketing

    Products priced anywhere from $5,000 to $500,000 generally have a buying cycle that lasts several weeks, months, or even years.

    If you’re not remarketing to prospects you captured in the early stages of the buyer journey, you’re wasting ad budget as they won’t convert on the initial interaction with your brand. To prevent this, run remarketing campaigns at a cadence that matches the buyer journey.

    We have three main buckets for remarketing campaigns: seven-day, 30-day, and 90-day remarketing campaigns (though we also have longer remarketing campaigns as well, depending on the buyer journey).

    The seven-day bucket is targeted towards people in the market who are actively looking to make a purchase. Therefore, we show them a diverse range of offers frequently.

    Offer diversity (the ads you show them and the landing page you send them to) is important because each prospect has slightly nuanced pain points and will respond differently to each offer. Additionally, a single offer designed to cater to a range of avatars will be generic and ultimately produce a much lower conversion rate than a more specific offer that speaks to a very specific avatar.

    The 30-day bucket targets prospects beginning to research various solutions, and the 90-day bucket is designed to remind prospects of your brand and what you offer.

    Step 4: Brand

    It’s also important to own your branded terms. If you don’t, your competitors could launch their own conquesting campaigns to dominate the search results for your brand keywords. It’s obviously best for you to control your brand’s narrative, so we allocate about 10% to 15% of the budget towards any brand-related keywords.

    If you’re not sure where to start, one of the most basic action items is creating a brand exact match campaign.

    Global Best Practices

    The most advanced marketers consistently execute the basics well, so here are a few of the most important global best practices.

    Use Three RSAs Per Ad Group

    A common mistake we see when auditing campaigns is that marketers rotate only one or two ads per ad group. This limits performance, as fewer ad choices mean fewer opportunities to improve conversion rates. Three RSAs per ad group is a best practice, though the more, the better.

    Sitelink and Callout Extensions

    Sitelinks and callout extensions enrich the ad, which allows it to take up more virtual real estate and offer a different entry point to your website. This gives you more brand awareness while simultaneously limiting your competitors’ brand awareness.

    You can have a primary dedicated landing page with the callouts and site links going to parts of your site rather than a generic page.

    Dedicated Landing Pages

    If someone clicks on your ad to solve a specific problem and then you drive them to the homepage or a generic feature or pricing page, the prospect will simply leave because it didn’t answer their question or solve their problem. Additionally, sending them to a generic page on your website gives them too many options and menu items to click on, distracting them from the goal – taking the next step in the buyer journey.

    So build out dedicated landing pages for your ads. Dedicated landing pages also make it easier to progress the buyer journey because you can give them a highly relevant call to action.

    The only exception to building a dedicated landing page is targeting exact match brand terms. In this case, driving the user to the homepage makes sense because the intent is unclear.

    Exclude Existing Customers

    At the beginning of each engagement, we get a list of existing customers and exclude them from our brand query campaigns. The only caveat is if you have multiple products and you’re aiming to either upsell or cross sell them another product.

    In those cases, we might put them into a brand consideration campaign.

    Maximize Your B2B SaaS Google Ads Performance

    This post outlines the 80/20 of the Google Ads blueprint we implement for clients, and you can use it to establish an excellent foundation. Yet, like any marketing channel, there’s plenty of nuance to maximizing the ROI of your Google ads campaigns.

    This is because every target audience is slightly different, and everything from the ad copy you test to the insights you draw from various tests will impact performance. However, it requires years of experience to refine these skills.

    That’s why Powered By Search exists. Each team member is a world-class expert in their specific marketing channel and has years of experience running campaigns specifically for B2B SaaS.

    To discover the biggest opportunities to improve your Google ads campaigns, reach out to our team today for your Free Marketing Plan.

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