PPC for SaaS: How to build a winning paid marketing strategy and accelerate growth

As a SaaS marketer, you know this very well: The SaaS industry is filled with opportunities, but also plenty of competitors who are eager to steal your lunch (and audience, and revenue…you get the idea).

Every day feels like a high-stakes, high-speed chess match where every move counts, and staying ahead requires not just strategy, but also agility and innovation. So, how do you ensure your SaaS product stands out on the board?

TABLE OF CONTENTS

  1. Why is PPC marketing important for SaaS?
  2. The best ways to leverage PPC strategies for SaaS
  3. Why landing pages are perfect for PPC
  4. Common challenges in SaaS PPC marketing and how to overcome them
  5. Why SaaS PPC campaigns underperform and how to avoid it

The answer: a savvy pay-per-click (PPC) strategy. PPC advertising isn’t just another line item in your marketing budget—it’s a game-changer that can catapult your product from obscurity to prominence. However, it’s not as simple as just throwing money at Google Ads and hoping for the best.

We’re here to unpack the PPC tactics that will not only get your ads seen but also drive high-quality leads that convert. Get ready to dive into the secrets of PPC SaaS marketing strategies, and maybe chow down on some of your competitors’ lunches along the way.

Animated GIF of Winnie the Pooh getting ready to eat lunch

Why is PPC marketing important for SaaS businesses?

In the digital battleground of SaaS marketing, standing out requires more than just a great product—it demands a sharp, strategic approach to marketing.

Here are some key reasons why PPC marketing should be an essential part of your overall strategy.

Immediate visibility and traffic

One of the standout benefits of PPC for SaaS companies is the immediate visibility it provides. In an industry where time is money, PPC ads can quickly put your product in front of potential customers who are actively searching for solutions.

Unlike organic strategies, which can take months to gain traction, PPC delivers almost instantaneous results, driving targeted traffic to your website or landing pages. This quick exposure is crucial for SaaS startups needing to gain a foothold in the market swiftly and effectively.

Perfect harmony with SEO

PPC and SEO are like peanut butter and jelly—they’re great on their own, but together, they create something truly special. While SEO is a long-term strategy focused on building sustainable growth, PPC allows you to hit the ground running.

By implementing a well-rounded SaaS PPC strategy, you can reach your audience with relevant content immediately, all while your SEO efforts work behind the scenes to build organic visibility.

Plus, the overlap in objectives—such as optimizing landing pages for both quality scores and organic search rankings—means you’re doubling your chances of success with every campaign tweak.

Precision targeting and adaptability

Another reason PPC is indispensable for SaaS marketing is its precision targeting capabilities. Platforms like Google Ads allow you to tailor your campaigns based on specific keywords, user behaviors, demographics, and more. This means your ads reach the exact audience most likely to benefit from your software solutions. 

The flexibility of PPC campaigns also allows for real-time adjustments based on performance data, ensuring that every dollar spent is maximized for optimal ROI.

Long sales cycles and retargeting

SaaS companies often face longer sales cycles, making customer retention and engagement pivotal. PPC excels in this area by enabling effective retargeting strategies. You can keep your brand in front of potential customers throughout their decision-making process, gently nudging them toward conversion. 

Animated GIF of a man saying say no more, nudge, nudge

Also, PPC’s ability to tap into global markets and provide immediate feedback on product messaging makes it an essential tool for SaaS companies looking to scale and penetrate new markets.

Cost-effective experimentation

For SaaS companies still refining their product-market fit, PPC offers a cost-effective way to test different messaging and targeting strategies. By testing and analyzing which landing pages, ads, and keywords drive the most engagement, you can gain valuable insights into your ideal customer profile and adjust your marketing efforts accordingly. 

This not only helps in fine-tuning your campaigns but also in shaping your overall marketing strategy based on real-world data.

The best ways to leverage PPC strategies for SaaS companies

Navigating the world of PPC for SaaS marketing is like assembling the ultimate digital toolkit—you need the right combination of tools and techniques to build a high-performing machine. From targeting the perfect audience to optimizing ad spend, here’s how to leverage PPC strategies that drive SaaS growth.

1. Create an optimized and relevant landing page

Imagine your PPC ad is the front door to your product. If that door opens to a cluttered mess, no one’s sticking around. Create a landing page that’s as relevant as your ad, with a clear, compelling message that speaks directly to the needs of your target audience.

You can make sure your landing page works as an effective extension of your PPC ad by matching the message so the landing page provides exactly what the PPC ad promised. Consistency is key here—use the same keywords and phrases to reassure visitors they’re in the right place. 

Next, simplicity rules. Strip away the fluff and focus on one primary goal, whether it’s getting a sign-up, demo request, or trial start. Include an irresistible CTA that guides them smoothly toward conversion. Regularly test and refine these pages based on performance data to keep them performing at their best.

For an example on how to do this right, check out this Thinkific case study.

2. Tailor ads to your target audience

Imagine casting a net into the ocean without knowing what fish you’re trying to catch. That’s what it’s like running PPC campaigns without understanding your target audience

Tailoring ads to your audience is all about precision. Start with detailed research for PPC keyword strategies for SaaS and map those keywords to your ad groups and content types. 

By understanding what your audience is searching for, you can craft ad copy that speaks directly to their needs and pain points. This means not just driving traffic but attracting the right kind of traffic—those who are ready to convert.

3. Targeting competitor brand terms

Marketers often miss this low-hanging fruit. 

Bidding on your competitors’ branded search terms can be a highly effective strategy, especially if your brand isn’t yet a household name. By targeting these keywords, you can capture the attention of users who are already deep in the research phase and considering their options.

You can also build a comparison landing page, or discuss why your product is a better alternative. You might also want to be provocative here, but be prepared for the resulting war!

If you’re looking for some inspiration, check out these examples of high-converting SaaS landing pages.

4. Adjusting campaigns to match the funnel stage

Different keywords denote different buying intent. Bear this in mind when designing campaign structure and budget allocations. For example, a comparison search (“tool X vs. tool Y”) comes earlier in the buyer journey than a pricing search (“tool X pricing”).

It’s important that you understand where your potential buyers are in the conversion funnel because you’ll want to treat them differently depending on which part of the journey they’re on.

5. Building audiences based on existing users

Ideally, you would segment users based on their usage, and create separate lookalike audiences based on each segment. However, this is only really applicable if you already have a large user base.

6. Using negative keywords and audience exclusion

Think of negative keywords and audience exclusion as your campaign’s filtration system. By telling Google which keywords you don’t want your ads to show up for, you eliminate irrelevant clicks and save precious ad dollars. 

Similarly, excluding audiences that don’t fit your target profile ensures your ads are seen by those most likely to convert. This optimization not only streamlines your ad spend but also enhances your campaign’s overall efficiency.

7. Aligning with the product team

Work closely to understand the benefits of the product and the pain points that it addresses. You want your SaaS PPC campaigns to reflect the product’s capabilities. Don’t write cheques that your product can’t cash, and always address the major pain points for each persona. You must use this information on landing pages and in ad creative.

8. Using retargeting 

Ever notice how that pair of shoes you looked at once keeps following you around the internet? That’s retargeting in action. 

Animated GIF of a woman saying no one can ever have too many shoes

For SaaS companies, retargeting is gold. It takes multiple touchpoints before a potential customer is ready to convert, so keep your brand top of mind with strategic retargeting campaigns. 

Tailor your ads to different stages of the marketing funnel, from top-funnel awareness to bottom-funnel conversions, and continuously re-engage your audience with new offers and compelling content.

9. Increasing quality score and landing page optimization

Your PPC landing pages are the linchpin of your campaign’s success. Google rewards ads with high-quality scores by serving them more frequently and at a lower cost per click (CPC). This score is influenced by the relevance of your ad, the quality of your landing page, and the overall user experience. 

To optimize, ensure your landing pages are laser-focused on a singular action, address common pain points, and drive users toward conversion. Regularly test and refine these pages based on performance data to keep them performing at their best.

10. Improving click-through rates (CTR)

Higher CTRs not only lead to more conversions but also improve your ad’s quality score, resulting in lower costs per click. Achieve this by ensuring your targeting is spot-on and your ad copy is compelling. 

Google Ads favors ads that resonate well with users, so the more relevant and engaging your ads are, the better they’ll perform. One way to ensure this is to write Google Ads copy that effectively gets your message across.

11. Using continuous ad copy testing and updating

Avoid ad fatigue by refreshing your ad copy regularly. Running the same ads for too long can annoy your audience and diminish returns. 

You can keep your ads fresh and engaging by changing headlines, copy, and calls to action every few weeks. Bonus: This also allows you to refine your messaging based on what’s working best.

Looking for a super-simple way to generate professional, effective copy for your page? We’ve got your back with this easy-to-use tool—just drop in your URL and the tool will do the rest.

12. Diversifying through multichannel advertising

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket—Google Ads is just the beginning. Adopt a multichannel approach to reach your audience wherever they are. 

Consider using Bing Ads, Facebook Ads, LinkedIn Ads, and other platforms where your potential customers spend their time. Each channel has its unique advantages and can help you broaden your reach and diversify your lead generation efforts.

13. Exploring remarketing and lookalike audiences

Remarketing to past visitors can boost conversions by keeping your SaaS product top of mind. Additionally, using lookalike audiences on platforms like Facebook allows you to target users who share characteristics with your best customers. 

These advanced tactics help you tap into new, high-potential segments and maximize your campaign’s impact.

14. Scaling successful campaigns

Once you’ve identified what works, scale it. Increase budgets for high-performing ads and keywords incrementally. Explore new channels and continually refine your strategies based on performance data. 

Remember, PPC is an ever-evolving landscape—stay agile and keep optimizing for sustained success.

15. Adjusting campaigns to reflect the overall goal

If your goal is profitability, work towards a CPA (cost per acquisition) that’s lower than the customer’s lifetime value. If your goal is maximum growth, you can acquire users at a loss for a longer time (assuming you can afford this).

16. Measuring campaign effectiveness down the funnel

Don’t just focus on signups. You don’t want to be acquiring prospects who aren’t engaging with your product. Activation and retention metrics per campaign show whether your campaigns are producing the desired result.

As Brian Clark at Copyblogger outlines, you have five different types of prospects to target with your PPC campaigns: the most aware, the product-aware, the solution-aware, the problem-aware, and the completely unaware. You can zone in on these five, in the context of your audience and product.

Of course, for any successful PPC campaign, you will need to sell the benefits of your software in a single page. Test, optimize, and improve (iteratively) your landing page design, structure, visuals, and copy as you gather more data.

17. Lead nurture vs. direct signup: which is the best approach?

Many SaaS marketers have pondered the eternal question: What’s better, cats or dogs? Should my PPC campaign focus on lead nurturing or increasing direct signups? 

Lead nurturing usually involves the paid promotion of content: either directly promoting lead magnets or gated content (like a webinar or ebook) via landing pages or promoting blog posts with a specified CTA.

Direct signup, on the other hand, essentially means using PPC tactics to drive prospects directly to a product signup. Usually, this would also take place via a landing page, but the CTA is designed to get the prospect through the door and actively using the product through free trials, freemium plans, etc.

We wish there were just one simple, definitive answer to the question of lead nurture vs. direct signups, but it just ain’t so. A crucial part of SaaS growth marketing is to test different methodologies—this scientific approach is central to optimizing how, where, and when marketing budgets are spent. Gut instinct has its place, but data is king when the pressure to grow is high.

The lesson here is that without testing, you won’t know which is the best approach. But there is a rule-of-thumb that you can apply to a lot of scenarios:

  • If your product is simple with super easy setup and low energy commitment, aim for direct acquisition and use supporting content for activation and retention.
  • If your product is complex and demands more from the user to access an account, then there’s merit to using acquisition tactics further down the funnel.

Is there an argument for using both lead nurturing and direct signups simultaneously? Well, if you have distinct target personas for your product, or offer different hooks for each software feature, maybe a combined approach should be on your radar.

Why landing pages are perfect for PPC

Landing pages aren’t just another piece of your marketing puzzle—they’re the vital bridge between a curious click and a loyal customer. For SaaS companies, landing pages are the secret sauce that transforms traffic into tangible leads and customers. 

Animated GIF of a woman holding a secret sauce

Here’s why landing pages are an absolute must in your PPC strategy.

Streamlined messaging and customer engagement

Picture this: your ad has just piqued a potential customer’s interest, and they click through to learn more. What happens next is crucial. 

A well-crafted landing page can streamline your message, capturing their attention and steering them towards conversion. It’s where you get to highlight the unique features and benefits of your SaaS product, addressing pain points and showcasing solutions in a clear, compelling way. This isn’t just about aesthetics—it’s about creating an engaging narrative that keeps your visitor hooked.

Experimentation and optimization

One of the greatest advantages of using landing pages in your PPC campaigns is the ability to experiment. Unlike a static website, you can run multiple landing pages tailored to different audience segments, keywords, or even stages of the buyer’s journey. 

This flexibility allows you to A/B test various elements—headlines, copy, CTAs, images, and more—to determine what resonates best with your audience. It’s like having a digital lab where you can continually optimize and refine your pages to boost performance.

If you’re wondering about how much of a difference A/B testing can make, how about a three-digit growth in conversion rate percentage? One company did exactly that, employing Unbounce’s A/B testing tool and enjoying spectacular results.

High-quality lead generation

Landing pages are your primary tool for converting clicks into leads. They should be designed with a singular focus: to drive a specific action, whether that’s signing up for a free trial, downloading a whitepaper, or booking a demo. 

High-quality PPC landing pages answer your customers’ questions up front, providing clear and concise information about your product or service. This not only builds trust but also removes any friction in the conversion process, making it easy for visitors to take the next step.

Multiple campaigns, multiple opportunities

Running multiple PPC campaigns? No problem. With landing pages, you can easily create tailored experiences for each campaign. 

Whether you’re targeting different customer personas, promoting various features, or testing out new markets, dedicated landing pages allow you to present the most relevant message to each audience. This ensures that every click leads to a personalized and highly relevant user experience, significantly increasing your chances of conversion.

Data-driven insights

Every click, scroll, and conversion on your landing pages provides valuable data. By analyzing this data, you can gain deep insights into user behavior and preferences. What headlines are grabbing attention? Which CTAs are driving action? Where are visitors dropping off? 

This information is gold for fine-tuning your PPC strategy and continuously improving your landing pages. The more you learn, the more you can optimize (A/B testing is perfect for this), and the better your results will be.

In the competitive world of SaaS, a good landing page is more than just a necessity—it’s your ace in the hole. It’s where you can captivate your audience, answer their questions, and guide them seamlessly towards conversion. 

Check out this case study for Later to see how they were able to use a landing page strategy to generate over 100,000 leads. (Wipe your mouth, you’re drooling.)

Common challenges in SaaS PPC marketing and how to overcome them

Navigating the PPC landscape as a SaaS company can feel like running a gauntlet, with challenges at every turn. From long sales cycles to a crowded market, it’s easy to see why many marketers feel daunted. But don’t sweat it—we’ve got your back with strategies to turn these hurdles into stepping stones.

Animated GIF of a man saying challenge accepted

Long sales cycles

The challenge

Unlike eCommerce or simple service providers, where users might convert instantly upon clicking an ad, SaaS products typically involve longer sales cycles. This means that even if a potential customer clicks on a SaaS PPC ad, they might not immediately purchase. 

Instead, they may wish to explore the product’s features, look for reviews, request a demo, or even discuss it with other team members before committing.

How to overcome it

SaaS PPC campaigns should be structured to nurture qualified leads over time instead of just focusing on immediate conversions. Employ retargeting strategies to stay on the prospect’s radar, offer valuable content or webinars, and employ drip email campaigns to guide them down the funnel. 

By continuously engaging with prospects and providing them with relevant, valuable information, you can gently guide them toward making a purchase decision.

Crowded market landscape

The challenge

The SaaS industry is booming, leading to many choices for consumers. With so many competitors vying for the same keywords and audience attention, standing out becomes exceedingly tough. This high competition can also lead to inflated keyword bidding prices.

How to overcome it

Differentiate your brand not just through product features but through your ad messaging. Understand your unique selling proposition (USP) and communicate it clearly. Make sure your USP is front and center in all your messaging, showing prospects why your solution is the best choice.

Also, focus your ad spend on niche or long-tail keywords your competitors might overlook, offering a better ROI. By carving out a unique space in the market, you can attract the right audience more efficiently.

Evolving search engine algorithms

The challenge

The world of PPC is governed by search engine algorithms, which can change without warning. These changes can drastically affect ad performances, making previous strategies ineffective overnight. One of those changes, Google’s AI overviews, is already threatening to transform the search engine marketing landscape.

How to overcome it

Always stay up to date with the latest changes in SaaS paid search advertising platforms. You can do this by subscribing to industry news, attending webinars, and joining industry forums or groups. 

Diversifying your ad strategy can also help—instead of putting all your eggs in one basket, spread your efforts across various platforms and ad types. This ensures that you are not overly reliant on one source and can adapt more easily to changes.

Complex customer education

The challenge

SaaS products can often be intricate, making it crucial for potential customers to understand their nuances before committing to a purchase. Conveying a bunch of depth in a concise PPC ad can be, shall we say, challenging.

How to overcome it

Start by using the ad to pinpoint a challenge your target audience encounters. This not only grabs their attention but also resonates with their needs. 

Follow this by offering a glimpse of the core solution your product provides. Instead of overwhelming them in the ad itself, direct the intrigued users to dedicated landing pages. Here, enriched with videos, infographics, and bite-sized content, they can delve deeper into understanding your product’s myriad benefits. 

The ultimate goal isn’t just attracting a click, but cultivating a well-informed user who, recognizing the problem you address and the solution you offer, is prepared to invest in your product.

Not aligning your message with your audience

The challenge

Miscueing your brand message can be a big problem. Being too technical, not making your benefits obvious, or complicating your offer are some of the common pitfalls for SaaS companies.

How to overcome it

Speak the language of your audience. Simplify your message and highlight clear benefits that resonate with their needs. Tailor your content to address their specific pain points and show how your product offers a solution.

Not optimizing for conversions

The challenge

SaaS products live or die by their conversions, and SaaS marketers need to ensure a steady flow of new customers. Many fail to keep conversion elements like CTAs and value propositions prominent.

How to overcome it

Optimize every stage of your funnel for conversions. Ensure your CTAs are clear and compelling, and make your value propositions stand out. Regularly test and refine your landing pages and ad copy to improve conversion rates continually.

Make it easy to get value from your product

The challenge

SaaS customers don’t always see the immediate obvious value in their subscription, which could lead to higher churn rates.

How to overcome it

Provide ample opportunities to enhance customer knowledge of your product. Offer regular webinars, AMAs with your team, or access to a free training course upon sign-up. By helping customers see the value in their subscription, you can reduce churn and increase satisfaction.

Why SaaS PPC campaigns underperform and how to avoid it

Just because you put a ton of money and effort into a PPC campaign doesn’t mean it’s guaranteed to be a total success (wistful sigh). Several common pitfalls can trip up even the most well-intentioned efforts. Let’s dive into why some SaaS PPC campaigns underperform and how you can steer clear of these costly mistakes.

Animated GIF of Bob Ross saying we don't make mistakes we just have happy accidents

The moving bullseye

Imagine you’re at a carnival, trying to hit a bullseye on a moving target. Now, imagine every time you miss, someone yells, “Change your strategy!” before you’ve even had a chance to aim properly. This is what happens when SaaS companies pull the trigger too quickly on changing their PPC campaigns.

SaaS paid advertising can indeed be a reliable revenue driver in the short term, often yielding faster returns than SEO or content marketing. However, it’s not a magic bullet. Many SaaS companies make the fatal mistake of constantly tweaking their PPC campaigns without giving them enough time to show results. They might see high CPCs or low impressions and panic, pulling back the budget or shifting to another channel altogether.

To avoid this, you need clear expectations and a solid baseline for your campaign’s performance right from the start. Without a baseline, you’re just making decisions in the dark, likely abandoning potentially successful strategies before they’ve had a chance to get off the ground.

Optimizing for bottom of the funnel too soon

Starting a PPC campaign and immediately going for the bottom-of-the-funnel conversions is like proposing marriage on the first date—it’s premature and often counterproductive (and pretty weird, too). If you’re optimizing for demos or trial signups right out of the gate, especially without any historical data, you could be setting yourself up for disappointment.

Advertising platforms like Google Ads need time to understand your audience and determine what makes a valuable click. Jumping straight to conversion goals can lead to your ads being shown to the wrong people, resulting in higher CPC and poor-quality leads.

Instead, begin your campaign by focusing on engagement rather than conversions. Promote top-of-funnel content like blogs or videos, or offer downloadable assets like whitepapers and ebooks. This gives the platform time to identify which clicks are likely to convert, allowing you to optimize for better quality leads down the line.

Narrow audience targeting

Think of your target audience like casting a net for fishing. If your net is too small, you might catch a few prized fish, but you’ll miss out on a lot more. Narrow targeting—like aiming only for VP of Marketing at companies with 500+ employees—can severely limit your reach and drive up your costs.

When you target too narrowly, competition for that small audience is fierce, leading to higher CPCs. Plus, ad platforms make their money by serving more ads to more people. If your audience is tiny, you’re not a lucrative customer for them, and they’ll charge you accordingly.

To remedy this, broaden your audience criteria. You’ll not only lower your CPC but also increase your chances of reaching a wider pool of potential customers. By expanding your fishing net to catch a diverse array of fish, you might end up with some unexpected but valuable catches.

Setting and forgetting

PPC campaigns aren’t a Ronco rotisserie—you can’t just set it and forget it. Leaving your campaigns unattended can lead to overspending and missed opportunities for optimization. 

Schedule regular check-ins—at least weekly—to review performance metrics, test new ad variations, and adjust bids. This ongoing attention ensures your campaign remains efficient and effective.

Not tracking conversions

Navigating your PPC campaigns without conversion tracking is like driving blindfolded. You won’t know if your ads are generating valuable actions like sign-ups or sales. 

Set up tools to monitor these critical actions post-click. This way, you’ll have a clear picture of your ROI and insights into which aspects of your campaign are working best, guiding future decisions.

Generic ad copy

Ads that blend into the digital scenery are like wallflowers at a dance—easy to overlook. If your ad doesn’t stand out or speak directly to your audience’s needs, it won’t entice clicks. 

Create copy that highlights what makes your software unique. Whether it’s a special feature, a limited-time offer, or a solution to a common problem, make sure your ad is the belle of the ball.

Poor landing page experience

Even the best ad can’t save a lousy landing page. If users click your ad only to find a slow, confusing, or unappealing page, they’ll bounce faster than a rubber ball. 

Ensure your landing page is fast, mobile-friendly, and has clear calls to action. It should seamlessly deliver on the promise of your ad, guiding users smoothly from click to conversion.

Overlooking mobile users

Ignoring mobile users in today’s world is like opening a store and forgetting to unlock the front door. Many users access services via mobile devices, so your ads and landing pages must be mobile-optimized

Regularly test the mobile user experience to ensure it’s smooth and intuitive, capturing this significant segment of your audience.

Not treating PPC as a long-term investment

Treating PPC like a one-night stand rather than a long-term relationship is not a great thing to do (in marketing and dating). PPC campaigns need time to mature and yield significant returns. Let’s face it—instant gratification just ain’t realistic. 

The true efficacy of a PPC campaign unfolds over time, benefiting from continuous refinement, optimization, and market feedback. Abandoning your campaign prematurely often stems from unrealistic expectations. Embrace PPC as a long-term strategy, nurturing it with patience and periodic adjustments.

SUBSCRIBE
Don’t miss out on the latest industry trends, best practices, and insider tips for your marketing campaigns

Failing to test and optimize

Stagnation is the enemy of success. Without regularly testing different ad copies, images, and landing page designs, you’re missing out on potential improvements. Continuously test and refine your approach, adopting strategies that yield better results and discarding less effective ones.

How will you unlock your PPC potential?

A killer SaaS PPC strategy can be a total game-changer for SaaS companies, turning clicks into conversions faster than you can say “lead generation.” The beauty of a solid PPC campaign isn’t just about more clicks—it’s about attracting the right crowd, boosting engagement, and driving those sweet, sweet conversions.

Think of PPC as a long-term relationship rather than a fling. Give it the attention it deserves, tweak and test regularly, and watch as a steady stream of eager prospects come knocking on your virtual door. Embrace the journey, keep things fun and dynamic, and your SaaS PPC efforts will pay off big time, giving you that competitive edge and making your marketing team the heroes of the office.

Explore our resource library

Get actionable insights, expert advice, and practical tips that can help you create high-converting landing pages, improve your PPC campaigns, and grow your business online.