What to Do When Google Ads Don’t Work

Sometimes it’s fun to reminisce about the good old days of PPC. You know, when the Google Ads platform was called Adwords, things were simpler, and everything seemed to make more sense.?

I was just having a moment like this after optimizing a client’s Google Ads account: I thought back to 2013 when the majority of our Google Ad campaigns required much less work and still yielded strong results. Back then, we created a handful of ad groups with a few ads in each. Creating a great landing page wasn’t necessary since the client’s website usually did the trick. And we might have spent a few minutes per week optimizing ad performance.

Fast forward to today and we’re spending hours per week optimizing ad platforms, but that’s still not enough to create more customers!  In addition, we’re not only A/B testing landing pages with segmented messaging, images, and design, but we’re creating complex sales funnels. These funnels tie together video production, various ad platforms, sequenced email marketing campaigns, and attribution models, all designed to inform a customer, make them feel comfortable, and eventually land the sale…all while collecting all relevant data points.

While this digital marketing arms race has gotten more complex over the years, it’s also created an unintended consequence: the cost to acquire a customer in almost every industry has skyrocketed.

So while Google Ads remains a very viable customer acquisition channel, only the best campaigns produce an ROI.

Below, I’d like to share with you some of our most successful techniques that allow our Google Ad campaigns to perform in ‘the top 3% in the United States‘ (according to our Google Ads Rep). 

Here’s what we’re covering in this post:

  • The problem: why ROI from Google ads is declining
  • The solution: an introduction to our two-phase funnel
  • Examples of the two-phase funnel in action
  • Why the two-phase funnel works
  • One bonus tip
  • Key takeaways

The problem: why ROI from Google ads is declining

The buying process is no longer as simple as AIDA (Awareness – Interest – Decision – Action) would have you believe. Today’s consumers and B2B buyers tend to hunt for reviews and alternatives online instead of going with the first option they see. 

With the internet at your prospect’s fingertips. They can (and will) research products and services before buying because it’s easier than ever to do so.

At the same time, more and more companies have begun advertising on Google. Before the 2010s and in the first half of the 2010s, the number of Google advertisers was far lower. Because of this increased competition, the cost-per-click has risen across nearly every industry. 

In addition, people have gotten used to clicking on Google Ads over the years so it now takes more clicks to produce a lead. 

So considering the rising costs of Google Ads and the amount of clicks they take to convert into a sale, the bottom of the sales funnel has gotten much longer over the last six years.  Which means your cost to acquire a customer could very easily outpace your customer lifetime value, putting you in hot water.

The solution: an introduction to our Thunder & Lightning two-phase funnel

What should you do about it?

Well, if you’re in B2B (where Google advertising is particularly complicated and costs are very high) you should stop using Google for the first touchpoint with a prospect. 

Instead, you need to create a two-phase funnel, with the first phase focused on building trust, not making a sale. We call this the Thunder & Lightning funnel!

  • Phase 1 on the Facebook Ads network (Thunder) – Because Facebook and Instagram have incredibly advanced targeting criteria, you should first build up a custom audience using Facebook’s ad network by getting your ideal audience to click on your ad. This allows you to build trust/value and educate your target audience, all without asking for the sale.
  • Phase 2 on Google (Lightning) – You then retain the audience that clicked on your ad, and you use Google remarketing so that your Google ads ONLY show up for someone who has searched a keyphrase you’re targeting AND has previously clicked on your Facebook/Instagram ad.

With this Thunder & Lightning funnel, you’re no longer spending money on expensive Google ad clicks from people who have never heard of your business. Facebook not only has awesome targeting capabilities, but it also costs far less for each ad click, so you can build up a worthwhile audience more affordably.

And for both phases, you can of course include location targeting to match the region where your business operates. 

Here’s the Thunder & Lightning funnel in a nutshell: use Facebook to identify the right audience, then use Google to capture prospects who are actively in the market for your product or service and who already know about your business. For B2B companies, the result is greater ROI than advertising on either platform separately.

Examples of the Thunder & Lightning funnel in action

We’ve addressed how the two-phase funnel can solve the common problems that companies face with Google ads, but what about specific, unique problems?

Let’s take a look at some examples:

Solar subcontractor

One of our clients is a solar subcontractor with a very unique customer base.  Instead of targeting homeowners, they only work with other solar contractors. So Google ads doesn’t yield a lot of business because they can only target solar subcontractor-related keywords across California.  

When we implemented the Thunder & Lightning funnel, we focused the Facebook ads on building an audience of solar contractors. We targeted project managers of large fortune 500 solar companies across the US with a variety of ad creative designed to position our client as the best solar subcontractor in California. Once we built up our targeted list, we then used Google Ads only as a retargeting tactic.

The campaign ended up creating a 550% ROI with Facebook Ads and a 478% ROI with Google Ads. 

B2B roofing company

With our B2B roofing company, it’s a similar story. Not every B2B buyer will include a word such as ‘industrial’ into their search query when searching for a roofing company, so we also targeted searches that could be conducted by consumers. We learned that by running ads for business-centric keyphrases, there was a lower search volume and also very high cost per click. 

When building the Thunder & Lightning funnel, we were able to protect our client from paying for consumer clicks even when targeting more generic keyphrases. This campaign has resulted in numerous large commercial contracts being won.

Commercial truck dealership

One of our clients is a commercial truck dealership that typically sells fleets of vehicles to other businesses. Yet there are tons of B2C truck shoppers who are looking for a vehicle that can tow their RV, which is not their target. So their Google Ads campaign was initially getting a lot of clicks from consumers, instead of their target audience.

After we set up their two-phase funnel to only show Google ads to small and medium sized business owners who had previously clicked on their targeted Facebook ad, their overall ROI drastically improved. 

Why the Thunder & Lightning funnel works

It’s important to understand some of the deeper reasons why the Thunder & Lightning funnel works. Yes, it’s about targeting, re-targeting, and being smart with your ad spend. But there is an important psychological factor at play: trust.

The Thunder & Lightning funnel works because it builds trust while simultaneously lowering your Google ad spend. Anyone who clicks on your ad is already aware of your company. Trust is the most powerful psychological marketing tactic there is.

The world’s best UX/UI doesn’t stand a chance against trust. 

Don’t believe me?  Google personal injury attorney Los Angeles.  The top three to four ads lead to outdated landing pages with below-average design and cookie-cutter content.  So why would these attorneys spend $150+ a click only to push traffic to these landing pages? That’s right, trust.  They’ve built trust within the community for months and sometimes years.  

So stop wasting your money by using Google Ads to ask for the sale before your customers know who you are.  Use Facebook and Instagram to convey your value, tell stories, and build trust…your Google Ads campaign will thank you for it!

Bonus tip

In our 2-phase funnel, Facebook does the hard work by finding your potential customers.  Then over time you build up your retargeting list to serve Google Ads to them. The biggest issue you’ll run into with this strategy is that Facebook only holds your retargeting list for a maximum of 6 months, then it’s gone!  

So keep your data by using a third-party analytics platform like Mixpanel when you start your campaign.  Similar to Google Analytics, these third-party analytics platforms track all of your advertising traffic, but they have the advantage of exporting the IP addresses of your website visitors. An IP address is a data point that both Google and Facebook uses to serve retargeting ads to your audience. By warehousing this IP address data yourself, it becomes your data, not Facebook’s!  This will allow you to build an incredibly targeted marketing campaign over time. 

Key takeaways

Here are some of the key takeaways from this post: 

  • Google Ads have become too expensive for many B2B companies because of increased competition, higher costs per click, and a longer buying process
  • Facebook/Instagram advertising offers great targeting and lower costs. When retargeting a Facebook audience on Google, you can find people who are actively searching for a business like yours (and have already been identified as an ideal customer).
  • Build a lot of trust with Facebook BEFORE heavily investing in Google Ads
  • Use Mixpanel to keep the IP addresses of your target audience

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