The last few years have seen an idealised view of startups come to the fore, with movies like The Social Network and images of Silicon Valley telling us that those working at startups will spend their day tending to rooftop allotments, having meetings while sitting on beanbags and making organic salads in micro-kitchens as they code away on their paper-thin laptops.

Unfortunately, the reality of startup life is often far from this image. The hours are long, the chances of success are very limited (over 90% of startups ultimately fail) and if you’re the founder of it all, you could be ploughing all of your money and time into something that doesn’t reward you appropriately for it.

Naturally, startups need to do everything they can to maximise their chances of success, especially when the margins are so fine. PPC is one option that simply can’t be ignored.

PPC stands for pay-per-click, and refers to the style of advertising associated with Google Adwords. Paid search advertisements like this can help startups gain crucial traction in their respective markets, attracting new business and even helping them graduate from startup territory into the world of established companies.

But how should startups approach this form of marketing? Is there a knack to paid search that could help them achieve real progress? We’ve put together some top tips for those who want to market their startup using PPC:

Learn the ropes

This may seem fairly obvious but you’d be surprised at how many startup owners simply throw a chunk of their budget at PPC with no strategy or overarching plan, then panic when they don’t see immediate results.

Take the time to properly learn about how paid search works – how to create and manage campaigns, and how to optimise them properly for the best results for your startup. There are a multitude of courses out there that can set business owners on the fast track to full PPC understanding.

Start off by learning the basics of Google AdWords. How do the ad auctions work? How do you properly organise and structure your account? How do you identify negative keywords? How do you set up conversion tracking? You should also determine a budget to ensure you don’t simply keep pouring money into AdWords without seeing definite ROI.

Identify the problem your business is solving for consumers

Startups have little to no brand recognition, which means they won’t achieve click-throughs on the strength of their name alone. This means you’ll need to ensure your ads address the problem that your product or service is solving. Users tend to visit search engines to find solutions to their problems, and if your ad directly offers an answer to that issue, your target audience are much more likely to click.

For example, let’s say you’re a marketing agency from Essex specialising in digital marketing. Rather than simply targeting keywords like ‘marketing agency Essex’, you’d be better targeting keywords around ‘Email marketing’ or ‘Google AdWords’ or ‘Social media management’ to demonstrate how you can help your target audience with their problem.

Be sure to conduct in-depth keyword research beforehand, and try to get into the mindset of the searcher. Create your ad headline and copy to appeal directly to the searcher, explaining succinctly that you’re aware of their problem and know how to fix it. You should also make sure the entire experience is consistent for the searcher – send them to a landing page that also talks about divorce advice and tips, rather than just to a home page packed with your other services.

From small acorns grow huge oaks

Startups tend to have very tight budgets that need to cover a number of other marketing disciplines, so there’s no harm in starting small and working your way up once you start to see ROI. Start with one or two AdWords campaigns that have less than five keywords each. If you get the basics right, you’ll have a strong foundation when it comes to introducing more campaigns and keywords.

Cultivate trust

As a total unknown in the world of business, you’ll need to cultivate trust with your ads. This can be a lot more complicated than it sounds! The vast majority of your searchers will be at the very top of the sales funnel, which means you need to educate them as to what your service or product is and what the benefits are before they’ll even think of buying.

Take a look at your ads and landing pages. If your landing page is offering a free trial or a discount for first-time buyers right from the off, you may be wasting your time – without name recognition and more information about your brand, product or service, the majority of users will not be ready to commit to a purchase. Make your landing pages informative and allow users to explore your site for more details – then you can direct them to an offer or a deal.

Your calls-to-action should also appeal to the educational demands of your users. Instead of appearing over-eager by offering free trials right off the bat, start off by encouraging users to download a free e-book or subscribe to a newsletter to learn more about your offering. Aggressive ‘buy now’-style phrases don’t tend to work with startups, as many consumers are at the very beginning of their relationship with a brand, and need a little more nurturing before they purchase.

Check out your competitors

Always, always, always keep track of what your competitors are doing. Make a list of the companies you are directly competing with – you’ll need to make sure you’re differentiating yourself from them, but you can also take inspiration from their campaigns (especially if they’re one of the lucky few that has graduated from startup to recognised business).

Look at what they offer and think about what you do better than them. If you offer free delivery and returns, while your competitor only offers free delivery, make a big deal of it! You don’t need to point them out by name – your consumers will be smart enough to see that your deal is the better option.

Test, test, test

As a startup, a scattergun approach in an area like PPC could position you at the top of a slippery slope towards failure. To avoid this, you need to test and track your PPC campaigns until the cows come home. For a fledgling business, marketing is all about ROI, and if you’re throwing money at an untested campaign, it’s not likely you’re going to see much return on that particular investment.

Set up conversion tracking if you haven’t already – we can’t stress this one enough! Google Analytics will help you monitor conversion paths and get a picture of the value of your paid search efforts. Make an effort to understand the journey your customers take before they make a purchase – you’ll then be able to adjust your campaigns accordingly.

Don’t panic if your ads have been up for a few days and you haven’t seen instant results. You should give each campaign around one month to bed in and gather enough data for you to effectively analyse. If you can your campaigns after a week, you most likely won’t have enough data to see where improvements can be made, and you’ll have wasted your funds for nothing. If your campaign isn’t performing as well as you’d hoped, at least give it time to accumulate data so you can gauge exactly why it hasn’t lived up to expectations.

You should also ensure you’re only testing one variable at a time. If you try to test too many things at once, you won’t be able to see the real outcome of each slight change, and your results could become confusing.

Branch out to other channels

As a digital marketing company in Essex and a Google partner, our strength lies in Google AdWords, but other platforms like Facebook offer excellent paid advertisement options that will help increase brand awareness amongst your target market. Many startups find that Facebook yields the most noticeable results in their first few campaigns, and it can be a great place to start your social media marketing endeavours.