PPC Case Study: Fast Capital 360

PPC (pay-per-click) advertising is an indispensable component in any marketer’s arsenal. It’s used by successful brands to increase exposure and drive sales. If you haven’t been using this channel or applying the right strategies to optimize results, you’re leaving money on the table.

Here’s why: 

Google estimated for every dollar a business spends on Google Ads, they receive $8 in profit through Google Search and Ads. It also found that search ads are effective in lifting brand awareness for advertisers. Meanwhile, according to Unbounce, searchers who click on Google’s PPC ads are 50% more likely to result in a purchase than those who visited the same website via organic search results.

However, PPC advertising isn’t the best-kept secret either. With most marketers doubling down their resources on this channel, you need to hone your strategy to maximize your return on investment (ROI).

The good news is that you don’t have to cross your fingers and hope for the best. There are a number of tried-and-true strategies to help you get the most from your ad dollars.

Let’s take a deep dive into how we helped Fast Capital 360 increase conversion rates by 25% and paid acquisition leads by 20% while lowering cost per acquisition by 41% and cost per click by 35% for the company’s PPC campaigns in 90 days. 

We helped Fast Capital 360 increase conversion rates by 25%, paid acquisition leads by 20% while lowering cost per acquisition by 41% and cost per click by 35%.

Project Background: Fast Capital 360

Fast Capital 360 helps users find, compare and apply for business loans online. With a single application, business owners can tap into a nationwide network of lenders that offer competitive rates and terms while getting expert advice on how to navigate the process. Its technology provides users with a funding decision in hours and transfers the funds to their bank accounts within a day.

As an online-only service, Fast Capital 360 needs to be discovered by members of its target audience exactly when they’re seeking business loans. Because most business owners do their research online using Google, PPC advertising plays a key role in driving high-quality traffic to the company’s website.

When Fast Capital 360 came to us, it had been running PPC ads for a while. We analyzed the existing campaigns and implemented a comprehensive strategy to maximize the ROI by reducing costs while increasing conversion rates.

How We Sharply Improved PPC Results for Fast Capital 360

There are many moving parts when it comes to running a PPC campaign and everything needs to be optimized to generate the best results. 

Here are the 4 key changes we made:

1. Create Custom Landing Pages

Before working with us, Fast Capital 360 directed all PPC traffic to its website’s homepage, where the copy wasn’t specific to each ad’s targeted search terms. This created a disjointed experience that likely lowered the conversion rates and the site’s quality score — a Google metric that is affected by the relevance of the landing page content and has an impact on the pricing as well as the ranking of the ads.

We created 8 dedicated landing pages based on the various product types offered by Fast Capital 360, such as small business loans, commercial business loans, Small Business Administration (SBA) loans, SBA 504 loans, lines of credit, etc. Each product-specific ad group is linked to a landing page with content that aligns with the product and search terms associated with the ads.

Product-specific ad groups are linked to landing pages with content that aligns with search terms associated with the ads.

These conversion-focused landing pages are designed to capture a prospect’s information and communicate the benefits of Fast Capital 360’s services. They also use social proof, such as customer stories and testimonials, to build trust and drive conversion.

Last but not least, we eliminated all other links and navigational elements from the landing pages to focus on a single call to action (CTA.) This helps ensure that we can get as many visitors to progress along the customer journey as possible.

2. Use High-Intent Ad Copy

We overhauled all the ad copy from the old campaign by targeting high-intent conversion keywords at the ad group level since users  are more likely to click on ads containing high-intent keywords when they’re ready to take action.

For example, instead of targeting general and high-volume terms such as “business loan,” we bid for search terms associated with specific product types (e.g., an SBA 504 loan.) We also expanded the breadth of coverage by targeting time-sensitive keywords such as “fast business loans,” “quick business loans,” “fast business funding,” “online business loans,” etc., as they are most likely to attract searchers who would take action immediately.

By focusing our bids on high-intent search terms, we eliminated many top-of-the-funnel clicks from searchers who are simply looking for information. Instead, we gained clicks from prospects most ready to convert. In addition, we used copy containing action-based keywords and CTAs such as “Apply for Business Loan,” “Get Started” and “Qualify Now” to attract high-quality prospects to reduce the cost per acquisition (CPA.)

Because we can include 3 headlines in a Google ad, we created copy strategically to help us target the right audience while filtering out unqualified clicks. We included keywords in headline 1 and used headline 2 to filter out unqualified clicks by using copy such as “Requires $500k+ Annual Revenue.”

Use headline 2 to filter out unqualified clicks.

3. Refine Search Terms and Match Types

The match type used in your campaign determines which search terms trigger your ad and, therefore, the quality of the clicks. Before working with us, Fast Capital 360 was spending a large portion of its budget on general search terms such as “business loan” — paying nearly $90 per click.

We replaced phrase match and broad match modifiers (BMMs) with conversion-focused exact match type so the ads are only shown to searchers who are looking for the specific products that Fast Capital 360 offers.

Our strategy targeted a large number of exact match keywords that have high intent and lower search volume. The combination of the 400-plus keywords yielded the same amount of clicks in search volume as the general search terms. However, since we eliminated many top-of-funnel clicks that are unlikely to convert, we increased the conversion rate 25%.

Our strategy targeted a large number of exact match keywords that have high intent and lower search volume.

We also implemented a very tight negative keyword list by adding top-of-funnel search terms such as “how to” or “where to get a loan,” etc., which typically get clicks from new businesses that won’t be qualified for loans. As a result, we got higher quality clicks and reduced the cost-per-click from $68 to $48.

4. Facebook Retargeting Ads

Facebook retargeting campaigns are a perfect complement to any Google ad strategy because they allow you to target prospects who have visited the landing pages associated with specific PPC ads and drive them back to the appropriate product pages.

Facebook retargeting campaigns are a perfect complement to any Google ad strategy.

We tracked applicants who only completed the first part of the application and then used Facebook retargeting ads to direct them back to the site to complete the process. To minimize friction along the conversion path, we sent the traffic back to the application page instead of a landing page or the homepage.

To optimize results, we set up “negative audiences” to eliminate clicks that aren’t likely to convert. We also created a custom campaign schedule so the ads were shown at the best time. 

In addition, we used dynamic text replacement and keyword insertion to make sure the ads are relevant to each viewer while reiterating the benefits of the products and facilitating conversions with testimonials.

The Exact Google Ad Strategies We Used to Drive PPC Results

When it comes to executing a successful PPC campaign, the devil is in the details. Here’s how we planned and executed Fast Capital 360’s ad campaigns to increase conversion rates by 25% and paid acquisition leads by 20%, among other improvements to reduce costs. 

Campaign Structure

First, we categorized the ads according to loan products, i.e., small business loans, commercial business loans, SBA business loans, etc. Then, we layered device type on top so each loan product had 2 campaigns — a version for mobile and a version for desktop.

This allowed us to analyze the conversion rates and understand how the landing pages performed not only for each product but also on different devices. With this insight, we could better balance the budget, control the spending and target the right device for the best results.

Single Keyword Ad Groups (SKAGs)

We implemented single keyword ad groups — a strategy that segments like keywords. It ensures that the keywords you’re bidding on match the search terms you’re paying for to improve click-through-rates, quality scores and conversion rate.

Using SKAGs, we created unique copy for each keyword to deliver a highly-targeted user experience. We also set up multiple ads for the keywords and manually matched ad groups to the relevant ad creatives.

max CPC

To further improve the results, we created 2 variants per ad group. Instead of rotating them with Google’s optimization feature, we served them up equally so we could gather enough data for analytics. If we were to have Google automate for best performing ads, we wouldn’t have been able to test the variants properly and get the insights we needed.

Targeting and Segmentation

Audience segmentation is one of the best strategies to deliver the right content to the right people at the right time. While you can leverage Google’s database to get started, the most effective way to refine your segmentation strategy is by analyzing user behaviors.

Since Fast Capital 360 already had been using PPC before we took over, we started by looking at the historic data of how the existing ads performed. We also did additional research to identify the traffic sources that generated the most conversions.

We then targeted the new campaign based on audience segments including geographic location, age, gender, etc. We analyzed when the highest conversion occurred and then set the campaign to run during those hours. For example, we started the campaign at 9 a.m. and paused the ads at 1 p.m. — the time frame when most prospects were searching and sales reps were available to respond to the leads quickly.

Bidding Strategy

Before we started working with Fast Capital 360, its campaigns were set to enhance CPC, meaning that Google’s algorithm dictated the bid. We changed the bidding to manual CPC across the board to gain maximum control.

We started by bidding low and then rebidding twice a day, paying close attention to balancing budget and intent. Then, we slowly and incrementally raised the bids to reach where we aimed to be in terms of ranking and CPC while balancing ad spend with the conversion rate.

Picking keywords and managing bidding manually is the best way to minimize the amount you pay per click. Otherwise, Google’s automated bidding mechanism would often spend your budget much quicker — reducing the opportunities you have to optimize results.

Retargeting Ads

Customers who see retargeted ads are 70% more likely to convert while the average CTR for retargeted ads is 10 times that of display ads. We set up behavior-based retargeting campaigns, each specific to the actions visitors have taken on the 8 different landing pages.

We applied a similar segmentation strategy to create unique copy and design for each ad based on the specific product featured on the landing page to deliver a seamless customer experience. We also showed prospects different ads depending on how much time elapsed since they visited the landing page, e.g., within the past 30, 60, 90 or 180 days.

We create unique copy and design for each ad based on the specific product featured on the landing page.

Finally, we did “internal lists imports” in the second month to target prospects that already are in Fast Capital 360’s customer relationship management (CRM) database. This allowed us to show retargeting ads relevant to their needs and customer lifecycle stages.

Campaign Transition

We transitioned to the new campaign gradually and strategically to ensure that we maintained the overall performance while minimizing the impact of Google’s learning period during which the CPA and conversion rates may be impacted.

We started by taking 25% of the budget from the existing campaign and allocated it to the new one. Once we built a new “minimum viable campaign” that outperformed the original, we moved more of the old campaign’s budget into the new one. Then, we ran both campaigns simultaneously to maintain the conversion rate.

Click-Fraud Prevention

The last thing you want when running a PPC campaign is to pay for clicks from bots and competitors because they don’t convert. Such click-fraud can burn through your budget quickly with nothing to show for.

We minimized ad spending by using a click-fraud prevention tool, which works by monitoring and blocking visits from proxy servers, click farms or competitors. For example, fraudulent IPs are automatically inputted into our campaign’s IP exclusion list and the software will send a report to Google to get a refund for invalid activities.

We also set up various parameters to prevent the same IP address from viewing an ad more than once in a 30-day time frame to further prevent clicks from competitors. These click-fraud prevention measures have helped us save another 25-28% of the budget.

UTM Parameters and Heatmap Analytics

We used Hotjar, a website heatmap and behavior analytics software, to record user sessions during the first few weeks of the campaign. Then, a dedicated analyst spent 3 hours a day to review every recorded interaction to ensure that the landing pages were working properly — e.g., urchin tracking module (UTM) parameters are passing into the CRM correctly.

Fast Capital 360 uses Salesforce for lead management, so we passed the UTM parameters into the “opportunity” section. As variants of URL parameters used in Google Analytics, UTMs  allow marketers to track the effectiveness of online marketing campaigns across traffic sources and publishing media.

We reviewed the data every week and optimized the campaigns beyond the keyword level on Google Ads. For instance, we made adjustments based on the quality of the leads that clicked on each ad. Using UTM tracking, we could identify prospects that eventually converted into high-revenue customers — giving us invaluable insights by tracking the clicks all the way to the bank.

Maximize Your PPC Results

PPC advertising is an indispensable online marketing tool. Yet, with the fast-changing guidelines and algorithms, you need to stay on top of all the updates and monitor your campaigns constantly to make sure they’re optimized for the best results.

Also, the competitive landscape is evolving and you need to know exactly what your competitors are doing so you can identify the best opportunities for your ads to reach high-quality leads. Last but not least, driving clicks and getting conversions are just half of the story. You also need to minimize your ad spending to increase profitability.

Working with a reputable PPC agency can give you access to a team of experts who are on top of the latest online advertising best practices and dedicate their time to making sure your campaigns are optimized for the best outcomes.

Want to learn how you can get results just like Fast Capital 360? Request a free custom proposal in which we’ll share competitor research, a customized growth plan for your business — and how you can work with us to optimize your ROI.

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