How to Set Up Google Ads to Run PPC for Your Solar Business
While the second quarter of 2020 witnessed a significant slowdown in the installation of new solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity due to restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, experts believe that the future of solar is still bright (no pun intended). Industry forecasts show that the U.S. solar market will continue to grow and that the demand for solar PV capacity will increase by at least 42% in the next five years (2021 to 2025).
Despite the advantages and growing popularity of solar energy, however, a lot of people are still hesitant to make the switch since they don’t realize just how much they will benefit from adopting the technology. Thankfully, there is an effective yet affordable way to turn things around and you’re your consumers see the beauty in solar: Through pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, specifically through the use of Google Ads.
Google Ads: A Primer
In a nutshell, Google Ads is an online advertising program developed by Google that aims to help marketers and business owners promote their business, sell their products and services, raise awareness, and increase website traffic.
In this system, advertisers identify certain keywords or key phrases they want to bid on, set a budget, group these keywords accordingly, and pair them with the corresponding ads. When someone searches for something on Google using the specified keywords, Google will take a look at its advertisers pool to determine which ad to show.
How does Google do this? To determine which ad is displayed for a particular search, Google takes into account the advertiser’s Quality Score (a metric that determines the relevancy and usefulness of the ad to the user) and the maximum bid for that particular keyword.
The ad with the winning bid is then displayed at the top, below, or beside the search results on Google search sites (Google itself, Google Shopping, Google Play, Google Maps), Google search partner websites (Google Video, YouTube, and other Google and non-Google websites), or on websites that are part of the Google Display Network.
Why Use Google Ads?
Advertisers love Google Ads since it allows for precise targeting (the ad is only displayed to potential customers) and can target specific devices that are more likely to convert. Moreover, you only pay for results (actual clicks on your ads) and can track the performance of your ads.
Still not convinced? Here are some exciting reasons why solar businesses should consider using Google Ads as part of their digital marketing strategy.
- The Google Display Network effectively reaches 90% of global internet users. (Google, 2019)
- 51% of shoppers use Google for research when planning to make an online purchase while 49% use it to find a new item or product. (Think with Google, 2019)
- Search traffic generates 65% of total eCommerce sessions. (33% through organic search and 32% through paid search). (Statista, 2019)
- Majority of marketers (68%) believe that paid advertising is “extremely important” or “very important” to their overall marketing strategy. (Hubspot, 2020)
- 33% of marketers use paid advertising to increase their brand awareness while 24% use it to positively affect direct sales. (HubSpot, 2020)
- High commercial intent searches from people who are looking to buy a product get 65% of all clicks. (Wordstream)
- Businesses earn $2 for every $1 spent on Google Ads. (Wordstream).
Before you create your first Google Ads…
The figures sound pretty impressive, right? But before you start tinkering with Google Ads, here are some tips to keep in mind.
Design your website or landing page for maximum conversion.
Keep in mind that when visitors click on one of your ads, it will cost you anywhere from a few cents to a few dollars. Search terms related to the solar industry can be somewhat expensive, so design your pages to lead users to take the desired action, whether it be downloading a whitepaper, clicking a link to demo videos, scheduling an initial consultation, or requesting a free estimate.
For best results, direct your visitors to an appropriate landing page that focuses on a specific objective. Eliminate any distractions (navigation bar, outside links, etc.), use a strong and clear call-to-action, and deliver any promises you made in your ad to move your visitors through the sales funnel and increase your conversion rate.
Define goals and formulate a strategy.
Know what you want to achieve in launching a Google Ads campaign (e.g. raise awareness of the benefits of solar energy, introduce your solar products and services, generate leads for installations, increase sales, etc.), assess the current situation, and build a strategy that will help you accomplish your goals.
Bonus tip: Always use SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) goals.
Zoom into your target.
Define your target audience by creating your ideal solar buyer persona. Profile your ideal PV customers by identifying their demographics, pain points, buying behavioral patterns, and general interests. Visualizing your customers as real humans can help you tailor your messages, decide where to spend your marketing budget, and direct your online marketing efforts accordingly.
Who is buying solar panels, and why? Are they trying to cut down on energy costs, or are they committed to an eco-friendly lifestyle? Keep your buyers in mind when you’re creating your ads for maximum efficiency.
If you need help in developing your ideal buyer persona, consider using free and paid tools to make the job easier. Try Google Analytics, Hubspot’s Make My Persona, and UserForge. Go ahead and take your pick. These tools work incredibly well and the best part is you don’t even have to pay a single cent for using them. Yes, they’re free!
Creating Google Ads
Now that you’ve learned the basics, it’s time to create your first Google Ad. Here’s a simple, step-by-step guide that you can use as a reference.
Step 1. Create a Google account.
Okay, first things first: you need to set up a Google account (if you haven’t already done so). Head on to the Google Ads website and sign up (or sign in if you already have an account) to get started. After providing the necessary details, you need to confirm your business information (be careful, since you cannot change this information) and will be taken to a page where you can create your first-ever campaign for advertising your solar business.
Step 2. Define a budget.
Use the daily budget and bids settings to control your budget. The daily budget refers to the amount you are willing to spend on each campaign per day while your bid refers to the maximum amount you’re willing to pay when someone clicks on your ad.
If you’re a beginner and you don’t have the slightest idea of what works for your solar business, consider spreading your budget evenly across all campaigns. Observe and learn how things work. With a little experience, you will soon be confident enough to adjust individual campaign budgets and bid amounts to meet your goals.
Step 3. Create a PPC keyword list.
You can’t have a successful campaign without doing your keyword research, so don’t take this step lightly. Your success depends on it!
When choosing your keywords (Google will let you choose 15 to 20 keywords that may trigger your ad to appear on the search engine results pages), try to think like your customers. Put yourself in their shoes and try to come up with search terms that they might use when looking for your product and service offerings.
If you need help get started, use Google’s Keyword Planner to come up with a list of relevant keywords for your campaigns. This free tool also gives you an idea of how much it costs to bid on a certain keyword so you’ll know whether a particular keyword fits in your budget or is too expensive for you.
Since many advertisers are trying to rank for highly competitive keywords, they can be extremely expensive so avoid them when you’re starting out. Specific, long-tail keywords (keyword phrases composed of three or more words that are specific to your product and service offering) work better since they are more likely to attract actual users who have a better chance of converting.
For instance, keywords like “solar panels” or “solar installation” are easy and obvious. Something less obvious, but perhaps easier and cheaper to target, might be long-tail keywords like “how do I increase home energy efficiency” or “how do I lower my heating bill.”
It may also be helpful to remember that different keywords work best for different levels in the purchasing funnel. Informational keywords work best for top-of-the-funnel queries, while transactional keywords work for searches made by people who are ready to make a purchase. Thus, they may require different sets of keywords.
Step 4. Set your keyword match type.
You can control which searches trigger your ad by setting your preferred keyword match type. You basically have four options: broad match, broad match modifier, phrase match, exact match, and negative match. What’s the difference between these options and how should you choose which one to use?
The broad match is the default setting for all campaigns. By choosing this option, your ad will show for all searches containing your keyword, including similar phrases and other relevant variations (e.g. synonyms, singular and plural form, misspellings, etc.). While this option allows you to reach more audiences, there’s a possibility that your ad will also show in irrelevant searches, which can easily drain your budget.
If you want more control, use the broad match modifier setting. Simply add the “+” sign before the search terms and you can be sure that your ads will only show in searches that include those keywords.
By choosing the phrase match, you gain even more control, since your ads will only be shown when the search terms are in the same order as your chosen keywords. To choose this option, simply add quotation marks around your keywords.
What if you only want to show your ads when someone searches for the exact keywords or key phrases you specified? In this case, go for the exact match option. Simply put brackets around your keywords and your ads will only show for searches using your specified keywords.
What about negative match? By using this option, you can prevent undesirable keywords from triggering your ad. To specify your negative keywords, put a minus sign before them. For instance, if your business installs solar panels but does not repair them, you can add “solar panel repair” as a negative keyword. Anyone searching for businesses to repair solar panels won’t see your ad, and won’t cost your budget.
Step 5. Set your landing pages.
Where do you send your visitors when they click on your ad? Instead of sending them to your company website’s home page, choose a page that is relevant to your ad. Custom-designed landing pages that delight the senses and encourage interest are some of the most effective destination pages at doing this.
Step 6. Create your ads.
You’re now ready to roll up your sleeves and start writing your first ad! Since your ad is basically the first point of contact most people will have with your business, it should be compelling and interesting enough to make them want to click.
Aside from communicating that you have what they need to solve their problems, it should also include emotional triggers and a strong call-to-action to prompt them to click on your ad. Focusing on the benefits they can get from using your products instead of just listing the features and implementing FOMO (fear of missing out) can also help drive conversions.
For instance, in an area with reliably sunny summers and cloudy, wet winters, you could write ad copy like “Heating bill getting you down? Install solar panels to lower A/C costs in summer. Best prices now!” This connects with a problem they might have (heating bills), demonstrates how you’ll solve it (lower costs for cooling), and gives some urgency (you’re offering the best price now; if they wait, it might be too late).
Step 7. Set your bid.
Google Ads work on a bidding model, so if you and your competitor are on a bidding war for a certain keyword and you are willing to pay more for it, your ad will show up on a higher spot. If you’re not sure of how things work and would want to get a feel of how the bidding system operates, go with automatic bidding. Setting bids manually require ongoing maintenance, although they are also proven to be more cost-effective.
Step 8. Track results.
Track, analyze, and revise your campaigns on a regular basis. Connect your account to Google Analytics to get more insights on how people interact with your ads. Keep a tab on which ads performed best and change those that didn’t work. The insights you’ll get can help you get the most from your marketing budget and further improve your overall performance over time.
PPC campaigns, particularly Google Ads, can be a great tool for promoting your solar energy business, but you need to understand how it works if you want to maximize your conversion potentials. Sure, you can find a lot of tips and tricks online that promise to effectively turn leads into customers but most of them don’t bring in the results you need. To learn more about strategies that actually convert, you can check out this helpful resource on PPC best practices.