Startups Should Spend Their Budget On Google Ads, Not LinkedIn & Here’s Why

by Ian Misiak
google ads for startups

Leaders at an early-stage startup wear a lot of hats. In the first few months of the business, the primary goal is momentum.

Only a sliver of time usually gets devoted to creating marketing playbooks, when in reality, you really should dive deep into experimenting with your marketing channels to find what works for your business (and what doesn’t).

At High Alpha, we work with all our early-stage companies to create their first marketing playbooks. In the early days, we recommend focusing on outbound marketing and paid digital advertising. Both give you immediate feedback on your product and message from your ideal customer profile.

Sounds simple, right? Well, it’s more than just pressing go on paid media. Before you start spinning up paid advertising campaigns and spending your budget, there are a few things to keep in mind. 

First and foremost, not all paid advertising channels are going to be useful for your startup. If you’re still learning how to reach your potential customers (or even who they are), frequent testing on different advertising platforms will allow you to find out how to reach your audience.

Below, I’ll explain the best way to reach your audience through paid media based on our experience working with our portfolio of 30+ B2B SaaS startups.

So, you want to start with LinkedIn ads? Think again.

LinkedIn is a great platform to target B2B users because they offer various niche targeting options (e.g., industry, size, name, job title, company, education, job experience, demographics, and more). 

While this sounds great, I would not recommend that B2B startups begin their paid media journey with LinkedIn. Why? The cost of getting in front of your audience is very steep, and you’re still in learning mode. 

Most early-stage startups are running on a shoestring marketing budget, so the amount of spend it would take to capture the right leads at the needed volume is out of the realm of possibility. 

On top of that, you’re likely still refining your ideal customer profile, and you could get it wrong the first time. Spending a large chunk of your budget on the wrong person will cost you. 

At High Alpha, we recommend that our companies with small marketing budgets start with  LinkedIn Sales Navigator or sending prospecting messages. This is a better place to start to produce new customers from the platform. We only recommend LinkedIn ads to early-stage startups if you can sustain a large budget and have a deal size large enough to create a positive ROI.

How to Get More Customers from Google Ads 

For early-stage startups, starting with a Google Ads strategy is ‘the sweet spot’ for paid advertising. Why? Google Ads campaigns can drive quality leads, and they don’t break the bank allowing you to test frequently.

Google Ads gives B2B companies the ability to capture leads quickly and efficiently. Unlike most ad platforms where you attempt to get impressions based on an audience, with Google Search Ads, you find people who are actively searching for products like yours. 

This means intent is already there rather than you having to entice their intent. Your audience is raising its hand and expressing interest in your product by typing in search keywords on Google related to your product.

What are the different types of Google Ads?

Google ads targeting is robust. Targeting by keyword is only one of several options to target users. Here are all of your Google Ads campaign options to incorporate into your strategy:

  • Demographics: Reach potential customers based on their characteristics.
  • In-market: Targets users that might be looking to buy or have previously made a purchase and could still be interested in interacting with your content.
  • Custom intent: Target words or phrases related to those most likely to engage with your site. You can also add URLs for websites, apps, or video content related to your audience.
  • Similar audience targeting: Expand your best-performing audiences by targeting new users with similar characteristics to your site visitors.

The Best Google Ads Campaign Examples for B2B Startups

Campaign Option 1: Competitor Conquesting 

Paid search conquesting is a controversial strategy. On one hand, you get a nice boost in traffic and potential leads from bidding on your competitor’s keywords. On the other hand, your brand can receive a negative perception and start a bidding war. Aside from the minor issues, competitive search campaigns can be a great jumping-off point to gain brand awareness for an audience looking for products like yours.

Before you get started, here are some tips on starting your first conquesting campaign:

  • Do your research: Be sure to do your research before you start bidding on competitors. Some of their search terms may have high competition and can be costly to you. When doing your research, look for competitors with high search volume around their brand keywords and small search ads spent toward their brand keywords.
  • Create the right user experience: Send users to a landing page covering related content to your competitors. Call out the differences to your product and compare the benefits of your platform to theirs.
  • Watch performance constantly: If your cost per click and cost per acquisition start climbing and you see your conversion rate dropping, you might want to consider pulling the plug on this campaign. Unfortunately, this can happen very quickly with bidding wars.

Campaign Option 2: Nonbrand Product-Specific

Another approach to paid search is nonbrand search campaigns. Startups don’t have high brand visibility in the market just yet, so bidding on your brand keywords can be a waste of money or can lead to limited results.

This is where nonbrand search campaigns come into play. These keyword terms do not reference a brand name or any part of it, but they are relevant to your product or industry. 

Nonbrand keywords are essential to bringing in middle and bottom-of-funnel traffic, but some of these keywords that you want to target can be highly competitive and expensive. I will repeat what I said earlier, do your research.

Finding inexpensive keywords that might be long-tail and optimizing your bidding strategy for the more expensive keywords will help you gain traction without blowing out your marketing budget. 

Depending on which keywords you bid on, you can scale your strategy to create ad funnels that bring users from top-of-funnel engagement to bottom-of-the-funnel leads.  There is a different intent to each keyword you bid on, so segmenting ads to the right keywords can allow you for better scalability in the future.

Scale Scale Scale

While Google Ads is a good launching point for your new startup, this shouldn’t be your only strategy. Once you find momentum, keep testing and refining and look to include other platforms as well. 

Once you start seeing positive ROI from Google search, turn on retargeting through Facebook or LinkedIn. Implementing retargeting through other platforms will allow you to repeatedly get in front of your target audience and help you scale into building lookalike audiences that you can use to prospect other users. 

There are countless other ways to continue to scale once you master Google Ads, but once you find momentum, don’t restrict yourself. Continue to test and experiment with other platforms to build out your ads ecosystem.

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