Digital solar marketing often involves striking a balance between paid and non-paid methods of driving traffic to your website and gaining exposure for your brand. For many solar contractors this means using effective strategies for reaching their ideal prospects and allocating their money carefully.
In this Aurora Solar series, we’ve explored a variety of effective marketing strategies contractors can use to achieve optimal results. We’ve discussed the importance of digital solar marketing, creating an effective website, choosing keywords and optimizing your site for Google. The series has also examined how to use the social media platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram in your solar marketing strategy. In this article, we highlight how solar contractors can successfully implement the paid digital marketing platform Google Ads.
Google Ads is Google’s advertising system in which advertisers bid to have their ads appear in Google’s search results and on websites. Businesses use Google Ads as part of their digital marketing strategy because it means meeting people where they go to buy. Online marketing expert Neil Patel states, “when people go to Google…they’re actively looking for something to buy. They’re literally telling you what they want to buy by typing out words around your products and services.”
Google’s 246 million unique visitors and 3.5 billion daily interactions means advertising with its platform gives you incredible reach. Paid ads on Google get 65% of the clicks and Display Ads, ads that appear on webpages, result in 180 million impressions monthly. On average, for every $1 a business spends on Google Ads, it makes $8 in profit. Additionally, a number of solar companies are using them to promote their offerings, which means that even though your contracting business may rank organically for a Google search term, those results get pushed down the page beneath your paying competitors.
In this article, we discuss strategies for effective and high-performing Google Ads. There are a number of best practices to keep in mind that can help make your Google Ads campaigns an effective part of your digital marketing strategy. We examine approaches and techniques that can help contractors optimize paid campaigns to secure more solar leads.
What is Google Ads?
Originally called Google Adwords, Google Ads is a type of paid advertising platform that uses pay-per-click (PPC) via a marketing channel. It is distinct from organic, or unpaid, search results that result in clicks to a website. Google Ads displays your ads in search results or on websites to potential leads. You and other advertisers bid on certain search terms, and when you win a bid, your ad is placed on certain websites or at the top of the search results page that corresponds to your chosen ad type.
As the advertiser, you either pay a fee each time your ad is clicked — pay-per-click or PPC, or after your ad is displayed 1,000 times — cost per 1,000 impressions or CPM. Ultimately, you want to create the most effective ad campaign in order to generate the most clicks for your money and increase the probability of generating new solar leads.
Steps to take before creating your Google Ads
There are a number of steps to take prior to creating actual ad content that can help increase your chances of driving traffic to your website and converting those visitors.
Make sure your website is ready
Google Ads can be expensive over time. Each visitor that clicks through from one of your ads may end up costing you anywhere from a few cents to a few dollars, depending on the type of ad you use. For example, the search “solar installers near me” nationwide has a cost per click ranging from $5 to $27 at the time this article was written. To make the investment worthwhile, make sure your company website is set up in a way that effectively moves the visitor through the sales process once they arrive at one of your web pages from an ad.
Clicking an ad should bring a prospect to a specific page, or landing page, on your website that clearly guides them to a specific action. That should be aligned with the ad’s messaging. For example, if your ad talks about commercial solar panels, have it direct the user to that page on your site, rather than the homepage. Be sure to have a clear call-to-action for them, like asking them to enter their contact information to download a related resource like a case study. This way, your marketing or sales team can follow up them.
Define your target audience
In order to create relevant ads that engage your prospects, you want to identify your ideal buyers. Have several buyer personas, or sample buyer profiles, that you want to target using information about their likes, concerns, shopping habits and demographics. For example, this could be owners of mid-sized auto dealers in San Diego or 30 to 45 year old married women with children in a particular set of zip codes whose household income is at least $120,000 a year. Defining your buyer personas helps you choose ad language that speaks most directly to their needs and what they tend to search for.
A search ad by SunPower focuses on the benefits of going solar during tax season.
Choose the best ad types
There are a number of ad types to choose from, depending on your budget and goals. Search Ads are text ads that are displayed among the results on a Google search results page and can be effective because that is where most searchers look for information first. In Search Ads, you choose the keyword search results, like “get a solar panel quote,” that your ad will appear next to.
You can also create a responsive search ad where you enter multiple headlines and ad copy and Google displays the best performers. Search Ads tend to have a strong conversion rate because they target people actively looking for solar panels, something that helps if you are on a limited budget.
Display Ads are usually image-based and appear on web pages in the Google Display Network, a network of websites that allow space on their webpages for Google Ads. It can be a great way to get your content in front of your buyer personas since you can opt to target sites based on demographic data, websites, online interests or display keywords you’ve chosen.
Display Ads can provide exposure for your brand, resulting in more search volume for your business. YouTube video ads, which can be set to target like Display Ads, can be any length, though the recommendation is to use videos that are less than three minutes in length.
Both Display and video ads are ideal for something called , using a tracking pixel to show ads to users who have already visited your website. Given the sometimes lengthy sales process for solar, retargeting using Display Ads is a good way to keep solar — and your specific company — top-of-mind.
Pick the right keywords
Before you create the actual ad content you want to make sure to choose specific and tested terms for your Search Ads. You should be bidding on keywords, search words and phrases that match the search terms used by your target buyers in a query.
Google matches your ad with search queries based on keywords that you choose, and if your keywords are too broad Google won’t place the ad in front of the right users. There are tools to help research optimal keywords like Google Keyword Planner, MOZ Keyword Explorer and SEMRush.
Test and adjust your keywords. Review which keywords are generating clicks and add, remove and alter phrases until you get the best click rate. Each ad group you create in a campaign should target one to five keywords. An effective strategy is having four match types to choose from regarding keyword selection, allowing you to choose how closely the search query should match your keywords. You can start with a broad match set up and make it more narrow as you gather data regarding what gets the best results. For example, “best solar in Davis, CA” could match broadly for “solar Davis,” “solar,” or “best solar” or match exactly those words in that order.
Greenhouse Solar highlights what differentiates them from the competition.
Set up tracking
It helps to have the appropriate tracking and analytics in place to make sure that your ad campaign is producing results using Google’s reporting tools. Link Google Analytics to your Google Ads campaigns to track, analyze and report on ad performance. Adding Urchin Tracking Module codes tells you which ads lead to conversions, and Conversion Tracking gathers data about the number of customers acquired from ad campaigns, removing the guesswork when looking at campaign effectiveness. You can then use all this data to test ad success and make adjustments.
Creating engaging Google Ads
Your ads should speak to your target audience by matching their intent when searching. It helps to focus ad language on what differentiates your business from competitors. This could be your professionalism and punctuality, the fact that you are the only local LG solar panel dealer, or that you have a high rank on the Solar Power World Top Solar Contractors list. Your headline and ad copy must match keywords that you are bidding on and should offer solutions to the pain points of your prospects, like high electric bills in the summer or pressure to lower operating costs.
Keep the ad copy concise so that you communicate your message briefly and compellingly. If you are targeting commercial building managers struggling with high operating costs, the ad headline might be “Lower Your Overhead with Solar Power” or “Solar Panels for Your Business” with a description that begins with “Go solar to offset your building’s high electricity bill. Cover 100% of your electricity…” If you are pursuing retiree suburban homeowners you could use language emphasizing savings and helping the environment.
Ad extensions, additional information you can add for free, can be used to augment engagement. Include a site link to a particular page with a description like “Commercial Solar” or “Financing Information.” Add your sales phone number under the headline, put in a location listing for your showroom so the user can map it, or make a special promotional offer.
Researching the competition’s ads offers useful insights about what works and how to differentiate your company when writing your ads. Neil Patel calls it competitor intelligence: analyzing your competitors’ historical data to see what ads they have run.
GreenSolar combines a relevant image, clear language about the value of its offering, and a call-to-action button.
Account for Ad Rank and Quality Score
Ad Rank and Quality Score are important when planning your overall Google Ads strategy. Ad Rank refers to the way Google determines your ad position and whether your ads are eligible to be shown. It is partly calculated based on the maximum bid amount you are willing to pay for a click on your ad. Therefore, you may look to give the maximum amount that fits your budget and goals. You can choose automated bidding, where Google adjusts your bids, or manual bidding, where you set the bid amount.
Quality Score, something that helps determine your Ad Rank, is Google’s measurement of your ads’ effectiveness. It is based on an ad’s click through rate, or the number of clicks you get on ad as a proportion of the number of views the ad gets. It is also determined by the relevance of your keywords and ad copy, the call-to-action in relation to the searcher, and the quality of the page the ad sends them to. “Quality” refers to a landing page that leads to the desired action.
As Patel says, “If done right, Google Ads has a positive reinforcement effect, but your landing page needs to convert.” While a higher Ad Rank may be achieved by spending more, a strong Quality Score is a good indicator that your ads are performing effectively.
Using strategies like these help solar businesses create an optimal Google Ads campaign that drives clicks and converts solar leads. When you first start out it may be wise to begin with a small, fixed budget and only a few simple ads in order to get to know the platform. With patience, perseverance and an effective strategy, you may find that having Google Ads as part of your solar marketing efforts brings quite a bit of quality traffic to your site — and results in more business.
About Aurora’s digital solar marketing series
This article is part of an ongoing series from Aurora Solar design and sales software, providing a guide for solar companies to develop a cohesive digital solar marketing strategy to connect with more customers. We explain the value offered by different digital marketing options and highlight concrete strategies to make the most of each.
Part 1 (Intro): Five ways digital solar marketing can grow your business
Part 9: How to use Google Ads to drive traffic to your solar website