In this guide we look at how laundry businesses can use digital marketing to drive more customers. Focussing on paid search advertising, we’ll explain exactly what it is, why it is so valuable to your business and how you can get started, as well as some expert recommendations to help you make the most of your investment.
What is paid search?
In this article we will use the phrase ‘paid search’ to describe this particular form of marketing, but you may have heard of it referred to under a number of names. Paid search may often be called ‘PPC’ (‘pay per click’), ‘sponsored search’,’search engine advertising’, ‘search engine marketing’, ‘adwords, ‘google ads’. Whilst the names are interchangeable, the underlying concept is the same: businesses advertisements in the form of listings on search engine results pages.
Whilst there are many search engines that offer paid search marketing, in the majority of countries Google is the dominant platform owing to superior market share. We will therefore focus on Google in the examples given in this article.
You’ve undoubtedly seen paid search ads before, but you might not necessarily distinguish them from Google’s regular (‘organic’) results, so let’s take a look at what they look like…
Here’s a typical search engine results page (‘SERP’) from Google:
In this example, the first 4 results from a search for “mens suits” are all paid search ads. The ‘organic’ search results i.e. Google’s regular, free search result listings are ‘below the fold’ of this page, which means that they cannot be seen by the user before they scroll down the page. Over the years paid search ads have become bigger in size and a greater number of ads have crept onto the page. This means that if businesses want to be found in Google’s search results, it’s often a necessity to use paid search. Even if your business’ website ranks well in organic search (perhaps via SEO tactics you have carried out) there is no guarantee that your results will be seen, and more importantly, clicked on, owing to the prevalence of paid search ads on the page. This is especially true in the age of mobile phones, where mobile search results’ organic listings may be even less visible owing to the size of the page.
So how does Google know which ads to show on which search results? In a nutshell, advertisers create an advertising account with Google, select which ‘keywords’ (i.e. search terms) they want to show their ads on and then provide the ad text that they want to be shown for each of the keywords. The paid search results work on an auction-based system and advertisers bid a chosen amount that is the maximum amount they want to pay for a user to click on their ad and visit their site. Advertisers are only charged when someone clicks on their ad and not each time it is seen. Advertisers can set a limit on how much they want to spend a day and/or month.
Why should you try paid search?
To sustain and grow your business you need customers, and lots of them. You need to acquire new customers, hope that they turn into repeat customers and ideally loyal customers. Customers may be acquired by word of mouth or passers by but most businesses will use advertising to raise awareness of their business and acquire new customers. Many businesses will be advertising constantly, by default.
Advertising is not a silver bullet and it’s easy to waste money and have no idea whether you have gained anything from it. Advertising companies will queue up to take your money and offer you a plethora of solutions but none of them are guaranteed to work.
For many businesses, paid search advertising is about as close to perfect a solution as you can get. Google has become one of the biggest companies in the world due to the success of it’s paid search advertising product and that is because it is advertising that works and it is advertising that proves to be the most cost-effective option for all types of businesses.
The core strengths of paid search, and those that differentiate it from other advertising options are:
- User intent: When someone uses Google, they are essentially looking for an answer to a question or a solution for a problem. They are telling Google what their intent is. By selecting search terms to advertise on whose user intent matches your business’ products and services, you are guaranteed to be advertising to a relevant audience. If someone searches for “dry cleaning pick up service” it’s pretty clear what kind of businesses they are interested in. By only advertising to individuals that are searching for services you provide, your advertising becomes that much more efficient.
- Pay per click: With a lot of advertising, you are forced to pay a fee up front for an ad to be placed somewhere, hoping it will be seen and hoping that those that see it will recall it and eventually take an action. The paid search model is drastically different. Advertisers only pay when their ad does what it needs to do: drive a visit to your website. Views (‘impressions) of your ad are free. When someone likes what they see and clicks your ad to learn more, you are charged by Google.
- Conversion tracking: There is a famous quote often referred to in the advertising industry from US merchant John Wanamaker: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half.” With paid search this is no longer the case! By configuring conversion tracking you can understand what actions are being taken on your website as a result of visits from paid search, right down to the specific keyword. This means you are able to understand exactly which parts of your advertising work, right down to each cent. Cut out the ineffective parts and boost the effective parts and hey presto, you have an optimised marketing machine!
- Auction model: Google’s paid search advertising platform uses an auction model with a democratising factor: quality. The better quality your ad text and your website, the bigger discount is applied on your ad costs. This means that the advertiser with the biggest budget and the propensity to pay the most is not necessarily the winner of the auction and ranked higher on the page. By following Google’s recommendations on quality, small advertisers can compete with and outrank advertisers with much bigger budgets.
- Scalable and flexible: Lastly, paid search is the ideal marketing channel because of the level of control that advertisers have: choose your own keywords, decide how much you are willing to pay per click, decide how much you want to spend a day, turn it on and off whenever you like, advertise in specific states or neighborhoods, advertise just on mobile devices… the list goes on! For new advertisers, this level of control is really important as it allows them to start with a small investment which can be scaled as it demonstrates return on investment.
How to get started
Once you have decided paid search is right for your dry cleaning business, it’s time to get started with your first campaign. Here we outline the key steps in the process:
Creating your account
To start with you will need a Google Ads account. Visit ads.google.com and click ‘Start now’ to create one. You will need to specify an email address and password and basic information like your time zone:
You will be given the option to create a regular account or an ‘Express’ account. Express accounts are simplified alternatives that guide you through the setup process and make getting your first ad live easy, though they do restrict access to some of the more complex functionality. You can upgrade an Express account to a regular account at any time. Unless you are not feeling confident or are particularly short on time, we recommend skipping Express and starting with a regular account.
Creating your first campaign
Once you have created your account and logged in, you are ready to create your first campaign. At this stage, it’s important to understand a little about the structure and hierarchy of paid search accounts.
- An account is a shell for campaigns.
- At an account level, you can control billing details, account access and administrative elements.
- An account can hold up to 10,000 campaigns, but don’t be put off by this number, a handful of campaigns are adequate for most advertisers.
- At a campaign level you can control settings like budget and the geographic area you wish to target, which can be anything from worldwide, and entire country, city, neighborhood or a radius around a specific point
- Each campaign can contain up to 20,000 ad groups, but again, a few will normally suffice. An ad group combines the final two elements of the account: keywords and ads:
- At an ad group level you can set a bid for all the keywords it contains, or bids can be set a keyword level
The purpose of this hierarchical account structure is to facilitate the grouping and organisation of your keywords, with the objective being the creation of small, tightly-themed ad groups of keywords that have ads that are highly relevant to them.
With this knowledge of account structure you are ready to create your own, but how do you know what keywords to target and how to group them into ad groups and campaigns? We recommend starting at the end of the process with identifying keywords and then working backwards through ad group and campaign creation
Look at the range of services you offer and write down phrases to describe them. Try and put yourself in the mindset of a customer and think about how they would describe your services. Try to avoid using terminology that might be common in the industry in favour of how the general public might describe them. Remember that there is a number of ways to describe what you do:
- dry cleaner
- dry cleaners
- dry cleaning
...and these will be searched for in conjunction with keyword ‘modifiers’ both before and after, e.g.
- near me
- ‘neighborhood name’
- ‘city name’
...and further ‘qualifying’ keyword modifiers may be used, e.g.
- 24 hour
- same day
- pick up
Try typing the phrases you come up with into Google to see what other variations Google’s auto-suggest offers up with as you type:
Once you have a basic seed set of search terms, you can run them through Google’s free keyword planner in Google Ads to discover more variations and understand their popularity. When logged into your account, click on tools (spanner icon, top right) and select keyword planner:
Click on ‘find new keywords’ and enter your phrases to see what new suggestions Google comes up with:
Once you have a comprehensive set of keywords you are happy with you can begin grouping them into ad groups. Aim for around 10 keywords per ad group of terms that have share linguistic features. For example, ‘dry cleaner’ related keywords would belong in a different ad group to ‘laundromat’ related keywords as they use a different core phrase to describe the service. Remember that all keywords in each ad group will share the same ads so the keywords must be similar enough that the ads make sense and are relevant to each of the keywords.
Once your ad groups are finalised, you can begin grouping them together into campaigns. When deciding on your campaign structure, think about grouping ad groups according to different objectives that they might have or different audiences that they may cater do, e.g. pick up and delivery customers Vs walk-in customers. If it’s your first time advertising, don’t over-complicate it, 1 campaign may well be enough.
Remember that campaigns are where important settings like budget, location and languages targeted are chosen so be sure to spend some time looking at the setting section and choosing the settings that suit your objectives best.
Once you’re happy with your account structure, the final stage of the process is to write ads to accompany your keywords. The importance of writing good ads should not be underestimated. The success of your advertising may ultimately depend on whether your ads are good or not. Good ads will grab your potential customer’s attention and encourage them to click on your ads. Bad ads will be ignored and the lack of engagement will mean your average costs are higher than they need to be, due to the quality element of the auction.
You have a limited number of characters that you can use to write your ads so it’s important that you use the space wisely. Our top tips for writing effective ad copy are:
- Prominently feature the keyword, ideally in the first headline
- Maximise the available character limits
- Avoid complex language, keep it simple
- Do not mislead the customer
- Combine strong elements like:
- Asking questions (“Looking for a dry cleaner?”)
- Responding to the intent behind the keyword
- Stand out claims (“Hundreds of happy customers”)
- Statistics or prices (“Suits cleaned from $X”)
- Unique selling points (“Same day service”)
- Calls to action (“Book a pick up now”)
Paid search tactics for dry cleaning businesses
Finally we will focus on some specific recommendations and paid search tips for dry cleaning businesses of all types and sizes.
Geo-targeting is basic but powerful functionality of Google ads. It can be very effective when used intuitively and disastrous if used incorrectly.
What we mean by geo-targeting is the selection of which ads will appear for which keywords, according to the user’s physical location. For example, a dry cleaning business with one location, based in Las Vegas, would not want to target users in the whole United States, nor would it probably want to target users in all of Nevada. Instead it would want to target a specific radius around it’s own location to advertise on searches for users based in the immediate area.
A business with multiple locations would be advised to run campaigns targeting each location independently, so that ad copy and landing pages can accurately reflect the users closest business location.
Consider the role that location plays when you formulate your keywords too. You should include variations that include the following types:
- Geo-specific - mentions the location in the keyword (“dry cleaner las vegas”)
- Geo-intent - doesn’t mention a specific location but has local qualification (“dry cleaner near me”)
- Non-geo-specific - does not mention a location or interest in local results, but search is still suited towards local businesses (“dry cleaner”)
For geo-specific terms you may wish to target the whole country, as someone searching for “dry cleaner las vegas” from New York will still want results in the area they have specified.
For non-geo specific terms, e.g. “dry cleaner”, make sure you have the correct location targets in place, you do not want to target all “dry cleaner” searches across the entire United States if you are based only in Las Vegas. Under campaign settings in Google Ads you will the options to define the location targeting of your campaign. You can select specific countries, cities, regions and zip codes to target. You can also target a specific radius around a place name address or coordinates in miles or kilometres, so you might want to enter the location of your store and define a radius that you think makes sense according to how far you customers typically visit from.
Have you noticed particular patterns of demand for your business? Perhaps you’re really busy on Thursdays, quiet on Mondays, maybe closed on Sundays? Ad scheduling does what the name suggests: it lets you control which hours of the day and days of the week you want your ads to be switched on and off. You can even adjust your bids to be more competitive at the key points of the week that matter to you and less competitive at times that are less valuable to you.
By default your ads will be targeting all device types, so that’s desktop/laptop computers, tablets and mobile phones. For a number of reasons you may want to adjust which devices you target and you may want to set bid adjustments for different device types.
For example if your website does not work well on mobile phones then you may wish to not target searches from mobile devices (though the best long term solution in this instance would be to develop a mobile friendly website). If you see that your best quality traffic is coming from on-the-go customers searching on their mobile devices, you may want to introduce bid adjustments to be more competitive for users searching on mobiles.
Brand bidding & competitor brand bidding
When it comes to brand bidding, there’s no hard and fast rule and it will ultimately depend on your business’ individual situation and your preference for such matters, but do consider your stance on brand bidding.
Brand bidding ultimately means bidding on the terms people use when searching for your specific business alone. So for a hypothetical business called ‘Joe’s Dry Cleaners’, a brand search term would be ‘joe’s dry cleaners’. If for some reason you do not rank top in the organic search results for your brand keywords you should probably bid on them so people find your website when searching for it. Likewise, if other businesses appear in the ad results when you search for your own business, then you have another justification for doing so. If there are no advertisers and you rank top organically for your brand terms, you probably don’t need to spend money on those keywords.
In a similar vein, competitor brand bidding is another option open to you, but one for which you should proceed with caution. If you find rival businesses are bidding on your brand terms and trying to steal your website visitors and customers, you may wish to retaliate. If you are keen to drum up more business you may wish to bid on your competitor’s brand terms regardless, in an attempt to steal their customers. The worst outcome is that you start a bidding war which spirals costs for both of you, with no ultimate benefactor other than Google, who you’re both paying more for each click.
- Google Ads Login & Account Creation
- Google Ads Support
- Wordstream PPC 101
- Reddit PPC subreddit
- Google Academy for Ads
By now you should understand what paid search is and why it is useful for your business. You should know how to create an account and understand the steps you need to go through to build your first campaign. You should also be thinking about some of the advanced tactics you can use to ensure your ad campaigns work as hard as possible for your dry cleaning business, bringing return on your investment.