Cut Your Costs 90% by Scaling Laterally Across Audiences

Say you have a campaign that’s been moderately successful for some time. Your creatives and targeting are relevant to your audience, and you’re getting a steady flow of conversions profitably. But, after some time, your campaign will invariably being to saturate the market. You’ll see conversion rates begin to drop and costs slowly rise, while traffic remains flat. This happens to everyone. Online marketing wouldn’t be much fun if we could just throw up a single successful campaign and sit on our asses collecting checks for the rest of our dats.

How do you scale the campaign up to more traffic and stop the regression to lower profits?

One way might be to expand your ad groups or targeting and find more keywords that will do as well as your existing ad groups.

Finding lateral keywords(keywords that describe the same term in a different way)  has been a well documented and successful strategy, especially in the early days of search marketing, when a marketer armed with a thesaurus and a good imagination could build massive campaigns.

But adding more keywords to a campaign is merely a band-aid, a short term fix that won’t solve the core problem of an audience that has gotten tired of what you’re selling.

I’d like to describe a new strategy that I have used very successfully to grow new campaigns as well as breathe new life into stagnant old ones. I call this strategy scaling to lateral audiences.

Just as lateral keywords are closely semantically related to the original keyword (i.e “meet single women” and “online dating sites”), lateral audiences are closely related based on their core attributes- their fundamental needs, desires, and problems.

In other words, if your product solves a problem for a specific group of people, thinking in terms of laterally related audiences would help you find more people like them, that also have a need for your product.

To illustrate the power of lateral audiences, we’re going to walk through an example using a free MixRank account.

Just to take a random example I made up, let’s pretend we’re a company selling gold coins- a growing industry in this economy. This is a very competitive space with lots of advertisers, so we’re going to have to get creative if we want to take some of their traffic for ourselves.

Google’s Traffic Estimator shows that the keyword “buy gold coins” has a very high average CPC for position 1 of $10.10. To get this data, I set the average CPC in the Traffic Estimator to an absurdly high number like $1000 to make sure I get the absolute highest bid for this keyword.

Let’s find a way to get a similar audience, one who’s interested in buying gold, less expensively. All we have to do to start is initiate a search from the MixRank home page and find a relevant advertiser whose strategies we can study. Let’s just search for our keyword and click on the first suggestion:

Lateral-1

The search results will show us a few ads that are highly relevant to the keyword we searched for. I can already see one lateral audience here- several of the ads say “Buy silver coins”.

It’s important to be mindful of the distinction between keywords and audiences here. Lateral keywords for this theme would be phrases like “buy gold bullion” or “buy gold bars”. In other words, they describe the same product in a different way. “Buy silver coins” describes a different product but targets a lateral audience that has similar fundamental desires- in this case the desire to own precious metal. This desire could further be reduced to a core drive for security, financial stability, greed, etc.

The keyword “buy silver coins” has an average CPC of $4.92. Still high, but a significant improvement in targeting the same audience.

Let’s find out which core desire it is based on the current advertising strategies of the market’s leaders. From the search results page, I’m going to pick what looks to be the current leader in this space, “goldine.com”. I can see more data about them by clicking on that domain in the “Advertiser” column on the far right.

The Advertiser Report for goldine.com will show me their highest performing ads and traffic sources. You can also reach this report simply by typing their domain, “goldline.com” into any search box.

Looking through their text ads, I’m noticing a common phrase that’s consistent across all of their split tests: “Free Investor Kit”:

Lateral-2

They’ve probably tested many different positioning strategies and found that presenting gold as an investment is the strongest appeal. Here’s another lateral niche audience: people who are looking to buy gold as an investment (as opposed to collectors seeking gold for numismatic purposes, etc). Google Traffic Estimator shows that the keyword “invest in gold” has a max CPC of $8.87. This high number is encouraging, because it means that this is a valuable, high converting audience.

$8.87 is a bit rich for us- if we were running a campaign targeting this theme, I would probably see my margins plummet as I get squeezed out by competitors with bigger budgets.

But remember our other, related audience of silver buyers? “buy silver coins” was significantly cheaper than “buy gold coins”, so I would expect this pattern to hold across other, related keywords centered around buying silver.

Indeed, “invest in silver” has a maximum CPC of $3.71, which is a huge 58% discount from the gold keyword, yet targeting an audience that’s closely related to the original keyword, and one we can be reasonably sure will convert just as well, because they’re interested in buying precious metals as an investment.

But let’s keep going and see if we can cut our traffic costs even further using MixRank’s database of millions of ads.

MixRank’s ad search uses sophisticated matching algorithms that go beyond simply looking for the appearance of keywords in ad copy or landing pages and identifies campaigns that are thematically relevant to the query. For a great example of this, let’s search for our new keyword that we derived from the ad copy we saw goldline.com running- “investing in gold”.

Our goal with these searches is to identify keywords and audiences that don’t match our search query exactly, but are somehow related.

There’s one result that jumps out at me immediately.

Lateral-4

Of course! Some people that are interested in investing in gold are part of the small, but lucrative niche audience of people stocking up for an impending economic collapse. The Ron Paul audience, if you will. Analyzing the ads of advertisers like this one will give us great insight into this market. Let’s make the assumption that people anticipating an economic collapse are highly motivated to turn their paper dollars into gold, which we will be happy to sell to them.

The keyword “economic collapse”, which features prominently in these ads, has a suggested max CPC of $1.02, a 90% discount on our original keyword of “buy gold coins”, which cost over $10 a click.

An inexperienced marketer will suggest that “economic collapse” is a bad keyword to target, because it doesn’t show intent and is not a “buying keyword”, so it will not convert as well. But remember, we’re getting this traffic 10 times cheaper!

Let’s say you have a stagnant campaign based around the “buy gold coins” theme that’s barely breaking even. If you target the “economic collapse” keyword, all you have to do is achieve 1/10th your current conversion rate from this audience to get a huge bump in traffic and profits.

“Prepare for impending economic collapse- buy gold!”. The ads practically write themselves.

No thesaurus or keyword tool will tell us that new main keyword, “economic collapse”, is strongly correlated with the keyword we started with, “buy gold coins”. But by using MixRank to pull relevant keywords out of ad copy and searching for thematically relevant ads matching those new keywords, we can quickly identify pockets of opportunity that advertisers without the benefit of this data will miss.

In a later post, I’ll show you how to delve even deeper to identify even less expensive, high converting audiences and leveraging them for a flood of massive traffic. But following the strategy outlined above should be enough to get you started scaling your campaigns across lateral audiences very quickly.

  • Christina

    Great strategy, Ilya!3 questions.1. Is this strategy for Google Search or Google Content? I see that you are using the keyword tool to estimate the CPC. Wouldn’t Google Content be a lot cheaper to acquire traffic?2. What is your recommendation when building ad group themes for Google Content using Mixrank. Max 5 keywords for each ad group? Can you perhaps provide an example of how the keywords should relate to each other?3. Does Mixrank have the option to download successful keywords? Or should I rely on Google Keyword Tool (Based on Search) to get keywords?Thank you.

  • Anonymous

    Christina:1. This strategy works best for Google Content, because Content has greater variance in price , but you can also use the same root keywords for search. I’m using the search based keyword tool to estimate CPC, but even if the exact numbers change, the same trend should hold on content as well(i.e "buy silver" being cheaper than "buy gold").2. In general, you’re right, 5-10 tightly related keywords per ad group that all share the same specific theme. I’ll write about this in more detail soon.You can also export the list of publishers/traffic sources in MixRank and add them as managed placements to further focus your campaign.3. We don’t currently have a way to export keywords- this is a more holistic approach where you study ad copy, understand what it’s about, and pull out relevant phrases manually.

  • Christina

    Thank you, Ilya. This is very helpful. Can’t wait to explore MixRank further.I will wait until you write more about how to build tightly related and targeted keywords per ad group.

  • Eliz

    This post gives me a really good idea to try! I’ll let you know how it works.

  • Jeroline

    As Christina already mentioned, I would love to learn more on how to build successful ad group themes.

  • nesting dolls

    why not actually create an online campaign? Now for sure I would still change my campaign on what’s really the best. I am for sure will do the best.

  • what is a transformer and how does it work

    Cut your cost into 90%? Well, I am not sure if that’s going to be a lot of it and everything will then be alright.

  • what is a transformer and how does it work

    Cut your cost into 90%? Well, I am not sure if that’s going to be a lot of it and everything will then be alright.