How to Niche in PPC
The first thing to realize is that each keyword actually represents a universe of searchers with diverse needs and search criteria. Only a small segment of that universe is of interest to you.
For example, if you sell greenhouse kits, you could be serving any number of markets:
- Serious suburban gardeners
- Rich people who want a beautiful sun room
- Preppers who want to grow their own food so they can eat when society collapses
- Small scale farmers
- Contractors and architects looking add another service to their mix
And so on.
Look at the Google SERP for the keyword “greenhouse kits”:
There’s almost no attempt by these advertisers to target a particular demographic or market segment. The result, from the searcher’s point of view, is a confusing and overwhelming page.
When I teach students about strategic differentiation, I simply ask them to choose a niche and look at the SERP through that niche’s eyes. A serious suburban gardener, for example, has any number of criteria completely ignored by these advertisers, including:
- Safety and sturdiness
- Adding fans and grow lights
- Swapping glass for screening in the summer
- How to determine which greenhouse will work for their climate and hardiness zone
- The technical support they can access while constructing the kit
Rich folks looking for outdoor sun rooms that beautify their gardens have a completely different set of criteria (I’ll let you brainstorm those on your own).
And so do preppers, and parents of young children (remember the gruesome greenhouse murder scene from "The Hand that Rocks the Cradle"?), and small-scale farmers who need to justify every purchase on an ROI basis.
For Each Keyword, Choose a Niche
Once you’ve identified the niches, choose one for each important keyword in your account.
If you can’t decide, run an A/B/C/D split test, with each ad speaking to one of the potential niches. Tally up the results to see which niche is biggest and most responsive.
Empathize with Your Niche
What questions do they have? What features and benefits are most important to them, and why? What preconceptions and objections do they project onto this search?
If you already serve this niche, you might already know the answers. Calling on existing customers is a great way to do market research while reminding them of your existence and demonstrating that you care about them.
If you aren’t familiar with this group, spend some time on blogs and forums and following Twitter feeds to get to know them.
Study the SERP
Look closely at your competitors, both paid and organic. Where do they connect with the needs and desires of your chosen niche? Where do they miss the mark?
Which are the best ads for this niche? What are they doing well? How can you improve upon them?
Write Ads for Your Niche
Using the existing ads as a jumping-off point, write new ads that clearly signal to your ideal prospect that you are thinking of them. In the greenhouse kits for suburban gardeners example, this might mean including a “USDA Hardiness Zone guide to greenhouses” or offering a “free 24/7 installation hotline.”
Test the Ads
Put your market insight to the test and measure both click-through and conversion rates for your ads. You may find that click-through rate (CTR) drops from your control ad, since you’re no longer targeting the big undifferentiated market, while your conversion rate increases, since you’re disqualifying those who aren’t going to buy from you anyway.
Make sure your attention to a given niche is deeper than just your ad. If you send suburban gardeners to a page that isn’t optimized for their criteria and concerns, you might as well not bother.
When you stop viewing competition through a blood and guts lens, and instead take a cue from nature, you can cut through the clutter even with limited resources. The big mind shift required is a willingness to serve a few people extremely well, rather than serving a lot of people in a mediocre fashion.
At that point, you may find the SERP full of potential business partners rather than cut-throat competitors.