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Here’s Why Most People Lose Money on PPC

By Brett Lloyd Abbott, MYM Austin Inc.

When it comes to selling new pools, I’m a huge fan of PPC/Pay Per Click advertising. Over the years, it’s grown from “a non-player” (remember when people used the Yellow Pages?) to quite possibly the single most powerful advertising tool at your fingertips. In fact, PPC is projected to surpass all other major media COMBINED in the not-too-distant future. (See chart below.)

But that tool is being wildly misused, with estimates of WASTE ranging from 76% (Search Engine Journal) to more than 90% (multiple sources). With Internet ad spending currently in the range of about $220 billion per year, that’s a lot of wasted bucks!

So let’s talk about what causes the waste, and how you can avoid it. There are at least 25 different things that will affect your success and ROI with Google Ads/PPC, but I’m going to keep this simple, and talk about the top three.

Mistake #1 – Failure to recognize that the online advertising marketplace has changed. Dramatically.

In 2012, your typical US city had less than 6 pool builders investing in PPC. (Back then, we were all still infatuated with “organic rankings”, and to a large degree, so was the general public. So there was no need for any PPC advertising.) Since then, PPC clicks – and the number of PPC advertisers – has quintupled. Now instead of competing with three or four other pool builders, you’ve got 20 or 30 competitors all vying for that same PPC ad spot on Google. That means:

  • You’ll have to be more aggressive with your ad budget.
  • You’ll have to pay more per click.
  • You’ll have to pay someone who knows what the heck they are doing.
  • And you will have to be a lot better with the rest of your marketing (such as your website, your online reputation, etc.), because that too will directly affect your PPC success.

In my experience, you’ll need to budget a minimum of $2000 per month on PPC, just to get in the game, and you should expect that half of that is going to pay for the management of the program to get you meaningful results. If you are trying to sell new pools AND service AND hot tubs or other retail, and/or you want to dominate your marketplace, you will have to pay significantly more than $2K per month.

Mistake #2 – Lazy / Disingenuous / Inexperienced PPC Management.


If you only had three or four competitors, you could get away with some lackadaisical efforts in PPC. But now that you are spending more, and it’s costing more, and you’ve got 5X more competitors, you’ll want to make sure you are working with a seasoned professional, rather than a slick-talking salesperson. You will recognize this talent by the following:

  • They focus on CONVERSIONS rather than CLICKS. (You want phone calls and Webform submissions, not just visitors.)
  • They are talented copywriters who know how to write compelling ads.
  • They run multiple campaigns, and build unique landing pages for each.
  • They run Facebook ads and Remarketing ads as well as Google ads.
  • They worry about YOUR WEBSITE and your REPUTATION as much as their ads.
  • They don’t ever waste your time bragging about IMPRESSIONS. (This is a pet peeve of mine because it’s the most impressive-looking but also most meaningless metric for you. It basically measures how many people walked by the front of your store but did not come in. The PPC advertiser has no control over this number. And you don’t make money off of people who don’t come in.)
  • And most importantly, they don’t ever say “We just need to throw more money at it. (If it’s broken, throwing more money at it only makes it worse.)

When you’re interviewing a PPC company, ask to see (1) a sample monthly analytics report, (2) some sample campaigns and their associated ads, and (3) the negative keywords they use to prevent waste.

Mistake #3 – Failing to “Nurture” the Leads.


This is typically out of control of the PPC company, but it’s no less important. When you look at how much money you’re spending to generate interest in your company and get people to your website, you should AGGRESSIVELY try to get the most out of every lead that comes in. That’s why every pool builder should have an automated follow-up campaign that sends email messages and postcards to these prospects on an ongoing basis – both short-term and long-term – until they buy or until they die. If it’s costing you $50-$100 to generate a lead, isn’t it worth another $5 to convert them into a buyer?

Bottom line – PPC advertising is no different than any other type of advertising – if you (and/or your ad rep) are lazy, or don’t know what you’re doing, you will most likely lose money. But if you’re smart, and hire experienced talent, you’ll make money many times over, no matter what advertising medium you’re using.

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