Think about someone you admire. Do you like them because they’re naturally brilliant, smart or kind? Probably not. In fact, when you think about the people you admire, you probably value them because they’ve encountered and overcome hurdles. Despite false starts, failed pursuits and rejection, these people prevail.

So much of what we admire is shaped by losses and hardships. These roadblocks aren’t always glamorous or fun, but they make us stronger and better.

If you’re a small business competing with big-name PPC players, you know this all too well. In many ways, you are the underdog in the story. You have to work extra hard to get in the ring with established companies and come out on top.

Luckily, there are four tried-and-true techniques that marketing underdogs can employ to overcome fierce competition.

1) Spy On the Competition

As a small business, you may be hesitant to do competitor analysis. Big-name PPC players have in-house marketing teams and huge budgets. You might feel like you’ll never compete with them, but you can with competitive analysis.

This strategy is paramount because it will help you identify your competition’s plan. Then, you’ll never chase the same strategy as them. This will set you up for success in your own right.

Spying on the competition can also help you improve your overall plan. For example, if your competition is advertising one of their benefits that your company actually does better, you can make a campaign around this idea.

For small businesses utilizing AdWords, checking up on competition is pretty simple. You can review Auction Insights to determine the keywords they’re targeting. Spyfu is another amazing tool that will provide you with a variety of data on rival businesses—from their Adwords budget to their clicks per day.

2) Focus On Keywords

Once you have a sense of your competition’s plans, you can start to devise your own. More specifically, you can start to think about the keywords you want to use.

As a small business, your campaign budget will likely be somewhat limited. To get the most bang for your buck, you’ll need to define the maximum cost per click that makes sense with your budget.

Overall, your campaign should include high-volume keywords that cost about half of your maximum cost per click. In other words, if the most you want to pay for a click is $2, you should target relevant keywords that are about $1 per click.

To quickly discover useful keywords that are within your budget, use a keyword platform—like Keyword Magic Tool. You’ll brainstorm a list of keywords your target consumers might use when they’re looking for your product or your company and then search each one.

Here’s a practical example: imagine that you are promoting your online baking business. To determine what keywords you might be interested in, start by thinking about your customers. If you sell a lot of cookies and are known for this item, you might try typing “order cookies online” into the search bar.

You can then analyze the results to find high-volume keywords that have acceptable CPC rates. Other search terms might include “online baked goods,” “fresh bakery delivery” and so on.

3) Optimize Your Message

The beauty about PPC is that with the right know-how, anyone can test their ad copy. Big companies work with top advertisers that are constantly evolving their creative testing strategies to find success. This may seem threatening, but you can compete with a simple approach—A/B testing. 

There are a few things you’ll want to look at each time you conduct an A/B test; your headline, body text, link and keywords all need to be analyzed. Each headline you write should reflect your offer and be short and sweet. Keep this in mind as you write your headlines, and then change your message as A/B testing suggests, so it more accurately reflects what is being offered.

Your body should elaborate on your headline and give readers an idea of what they can expect. When you compose your body, make sure it logically flows from the headline and quickly describes what the user will get from clicking on your link. Test this copy over time to optimize it for further success.

One golden rule of PPC is that links should go to specific landing pages. For some small businesses, it’s OK for links to go to product pages. In general, every business should avoid having a link to their homepage, though. It’s easy for a viewer to lose interest and focus when navigating the homepage of a website.

As far as keywords go, you’ll want to identify the keywords that are converting and eliminate the ones that are underperforming. You might also want to consider increasing your spend on the keywords that are producing high conversion rates.

4) Blend In to Stand Out

You’ve probably heard the cliche “fake it until you make it” before, right? Although this advice is often annoying to hear, it couldn’t be truer when it comes to PPC.

To compete with big brands, you need to give off a big brand look and experience.

You might feel compelled to tell your consumers that you’re a small business, but this can be a big mistake. Most consumers don’t care about your story; they care about alleviating an issue in their life with the help of your product. They want to work with an authority in the field that’ll get them the results they want.

So, grab their attention. Create a site and PPC advertising campaign that carries the same authority as big-name brands. This will give you presumed competence and let you offer them something they can’t refuse. Let them know exactly how you’ll help them. You might even highlight a promotion you have going that seems too good to pass up.

Don’t Be Afraid

As an underdog, you can be scared, or you can be courageous. Going up against huge brands is difficult, but it can absolutely be done.

To outcompete the biggest names in your industry on PPC, start with the four strategies above. You may also want to consult an established PPC firm that can help improve your results.

As a small business, you won’t always have the time or money to make the most of your campaigns. If you outsource this responsibility to a team of marketing experts, you can reap more benefits for the same dollar amount.

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