Editor’s note: This article was originally published in 2018. It has been updated for accuracy and to reflect modern practices.
Ever curious how big-name brands spend their marketing budget?
We’re talking about companies that spend millions a month and thousands each day on Google Ads (formerly known as Google Adwords). They’re in a completely different world when it comes to marketing spend.
How do we know?
At Inflow, we’ve helped companies with seven-figure marketing campaigns stay on top. Not only that, but we’ve helped them spend less to do so.
In this post, we’ll share with you the exact strategy we use with one of these eCommerce companies. Use this knowledge to inform your own campaigns and spend, whatever your personal budget may be.
Want a customized, revenue-focused strategy for your Google advertising budget? Let’s chat today.
How We Manage Google Ads Budgets for 7-Figure Brands
Here at Inflow, we’ve worked with dozens of eCommerce brands, with Google Ads budgets from medium to extra-large. Today, we’ll focus on one client in particular, whose spend regularly reaches into the seven figures — fluctuating between $1 and $3 million per month.
While this brand only maintains a small number of products, they’re known for producing the best quality product in their niche. They’re one of the most expensive options in their vertical, but people will gladly pay for the quality they offer.
For this reason, maintaining brand awareness is their top priority.
This client has a four-tier PPC campaign strategy:
Because of their particular focus, brand-heavy tactics (search, video, and display) make up about 75% of their budget, even though their Google Shopping campaigns (which make up the remaining 25%) deliver the most effective cost per click (CPC).
The Max Impression Share Strategy
Because this client is more concerned with maintaining and increasing brand awareness than improving their return on ad spend (ROAS), we use a max impression share strategy.
This approach can work well when your brand is the top (or one of the top) players in its market, and you want to stay there. This means getting your name in front of as many people as possible in memorable ways.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t come cheap.
This client spends big across all marketing avenues (pay-per-click ads, video campaigns, TV and radio spots, etc.) to ensure they get the top listing on a competitive search page, the best prime-time ad spot, and so on.
All of this to be the first name on a customer’s lips when they think of this type of product.
Challenges of Large Google Ads Budgets
For this client, Google Search campaign budget averages between $250,000 and $750,000 a month. With that big of a monthly budget, it can be easy to waste thousands of dollars on low-converting searches without even realizing it.
In fact, before they partnered with our team, we estimate that this client wasted $300,000 in three months on irrelevant searches.
With that much money to work with, Google’s algorithms started including all kinds of keywords that were only vaguely related to core keywords — just to find places to spend that massive budget.
The result: Although they didn’t know it, this client was paying for searches on singular words like “for” and “the.”
Here’s how it typically happens:
1. Poor Keyword Cleanup
Companies with massive search budgets often go after broad-based keywords.
Think of a company that sells memory foam mattresses. Memory foam mattresses relate to keywords like “mattresses” and “beds,” which Google will automatically start including in your campaigns.
If that doesn’t exhaust your budget, Google might start including terms related to bedroom furniture, which can then turn into keywords related to furniture, none of which are likely to drive conversions and sales.
In other words, if you don’t work on gates and controls, Google will be more than happy to spend your money freely.
When the majority of your spend is going to relevant searches, you might forget to “look in the weeds” — but this can be a costly mistake.
Paying for search terms that are irrelevant to your brand or products (even if they’re a small percentage of your budget) adds up month after month, and those searches can hurt your campaigns’ relevancy scores.
2. Conflicting Campaigns
Brands of this size often have upwards of 30 active campaigns. When you’re dealing with that many campaigns, it’s easy to lose track of which keywords are triggered per campaign, which can create a situation where you’re accidentally competing against yourself.
If not caught early on, this mistake could potentially cost you thousands more in ad spend every day.
Having a clearly defined naming convention can help with reducing search term overlap and ensure the correct search terms are added to the correct campaign.
How to Streamline Large Google Ads Budgets
Unfortunately, the challenges listed above are common for brands spending millions of dollars on Google Ads.
On the bright side, there are a few easy ways to solve these problems and further maximize an already impressive ad spend.
1. Negative Keyword Sculpting
To root out irrelevant and non-converting search queries, we add strategic negative keywords to each campaign.
Negative keywords are also helpful to prevent duplicate spend on multiple campaigns. For instance, if we had a campaign for hypoallergenic mattresses, we only want related searches to trigger that particular campaign, not multiple campaigns.
You can more easily apply negative keywords when you have a proper naming convention (as mentioned above). Once a term is deemed useless, you can quickly apply it to appropriate campaigns without having to double-check keywords.
Hot tip: Be careful about bidding on the same keywords in multiple campaigns, as that can lower your relevancy scores.
2. Keyword Sculpting
While broad-based keyword searching is still relevant to this specific client, we actually de-emphasize these searches by bidding lower on them. Instead, we bid the highest on specific-phrase and exact-word searches to ensure the majority of client spend goes to the searches most likely to convert.
Remember, this brand’s priority is to stay on top of their market. This means owning prime search terms at whatever cost (we’re talking $10–15 CPCs!).
Hot tip: As you create your Google Ads budget for your eCommerce store, keep your goals in mind. It’s tempting to go after as many keywords as possible, but a more strategic, tiered approach like this will deliver the best bang for your buck.
3. Clear Goal Defining
To make your life much easier, make sure to define goals for your specific campaigns and campaign types as soon as you create them.
For example, if your branded campaign goal is to always rank first, your main KPIs should be impression share and clicks. You should also optimize toward higher CTRs.
On the other hand, your Shopping campaigns may be more focused on sales, meaning you’ll need to optimize toward revenue and ROAS goals.
Similarly, a display campaign should focus more on impressions and CTRs, as well as building up audiences to remarket to.
Once you’ve created your campaign types and goals, set your budgets and measure them appropriately. Don’t fall into the trap of looking at your campaigns as a whole to determine whether you’re reaching your goals.
What if Your Budget is Smaller than Competitors’?
Not every brand has millions to drop on Google Ads campaigns every month. But that doesn’t mean that smaller-budget brands can’t compete!
By understanding how these massive-budget brands set up their campaigns, you can expose any weaknesses and strategically focus on those areas with the best potential for your spend.
Keep these trends in mind when evaluating your big-budget competitors — and, where you can, use these tactics in your own marketing approach:
1. Use a multi-channel strategy.
Big companies know that if you want to stay on top of the market, you have to pay to play. This means using a well-rounded, full-funnel marketing strategy.
For example, if an eCommerce business only invests in text-based search ads, they miss out on a lot of SERP opportunities — especially when those pages are dominated by Google Shopping campaigns and organic product listings.
To maximize their marketing spend, big brands cover all of their bases (text-based ads, Shopping campaigns, display ads, etc.). This includes non-PPC work (like SEO and paid social media) to make sure their brand is found in other spaces, too.
While your brand may not have the budget to invest as heavily in a multi-channel strategy, make sure you’re present everywhere that your customers can find you — not just in the Google Ads results.
2. Think outside budget.
In competitive SERPs, big brands have to heavily invest for their campaigns to succeed. For example, if their budget runs out at 9 or 10 in the morning, or if they can only budget for the prime period of the day, they’re not going to own that space as much as they could.
But budget is only one piece of the puzzle. You also need to personalize the ad experience for each customer. This means adjusting ad copy and display content, as well as the landing pages served for each ad listing.
When your budget can only reach so far, you can differentiate and test your ads by updating these characteristics, which are much more crucial for click-through rate and eventual conversion rate.
3. Find new audiences.
If you keep advertising to the same audience, you’re not going to gain new customers or grow brand awareness. Prospecting should be a key part of your digital marketing strategy, wherever you invest your money.
What sets the biggest companies apart is their ability to pay for new ways to extend their reach on Google Ads, Facebook Ads, and more.
While your PPC campaigns can help you grow your audience, they’re not nearly as effective as display, video, and social campaigns to reach new people.
So, don’t just focus on conversion in your strategy; build in prospecting to find untapped audiences, especially those that your competitors may be overlooking.
4. Remarket wherever you can.
When companies spend thousands a month on brand awareness, they don’t engage with customers just one time. Instead, they remarket their target audience at several points in the buying journey — and across several marketing channels.
This is especially true for companies that sell large-purchase products, which generally require a longer conversion path.
Even if your budget is smaller, take a note from these larger brands and streamline your remarketing strategy. If you’re hard-pressed for budget, remarketing can actually be a more useful allocation of your spend. You don’t want to lose your interested customers at the expense of drawing more first-time impressions!
We’re not just talking Google Ads accounts here. Integrate your display, video, and social media campaigns to find your customers across these channels and deliver personalized ads for their stage in the buying journey.
5. Control the conversation around your brand.
Companies with massive budgets can more easily control the conversation around their brand — and not just through branded campaigns. By investing in video marketing and other content, they can more easily craft a brand narrative that reaches audiences.
This comes with leverage. For instance, big brands can push back on third-party retailers like Amazon.
Consider Nike: You can’t buy a new pair of Nikes on Amazon, except from Nike itself. That’s thanks to the control and prestige the brand has in the space.
While your small business may not have the same degree of influence, you can still control your brand’s appearance in the search engine results with branded search campaigns. By bidding on your branded terms, you not only ensure customers are seeing the brand ad copy you want them to, but you also prevent competitors from stealing that space away from you.
6. Use your connections.
Being a bigger player comes with other advantages besides a big budget. Many of our seven-figure clients gain access to beta features from Google and other channels, simply due to their expansive ad spend and value to the platforms.
Your smaller brand may not have access to those same perks, but think about the connections you do have. Do you have partnerships with certain brands and companies? Can you chat with your software reps and implement new beta features into your strategies?
Remember, it never hurts to ask.
Our Advice for Google Ads, Regardless of Budget
Of course, not all big brands market themselves the same way on Google Ads. Each uses its budget strategically for its needs and goals, and no two campaigns will look the same.
However, there are some general guidelines we feel apply to any company, not just those with mega budgets.
As you create your eCommerce Google Ads strategy, keep these tips in mind:
- Look in the weeds for unnecessary spending.
- Maintain separate brand and general campaigns.
- Be prepared for traffic growth by keeping your landing pages up to date.
Everything else can be personalized on a company-by-company, campaign-by-campaign basis.
Remember: It’s always good to know what the competition is doing, whatever league they may be in. Keep an eye on their campaigns, learn from their tactics, and optimize your campaigns accordingly over time.
That’s the secret to a successful Google Ads strategy.
Want to know how your campaigns stack up against your competition? Our team of PPC experts can audit your accounts for free and propose a customized eCommerce marketing strategy for your goals.