Paid Search Keyword Expansion: A Framework for B2B SaaS

In terms of ROI, pay-per-click advertisement is one of the most effective digital marketing tactics for SaaS companies.

Most SaaS marketers, however, know that paid search is not a straight line from A to B. Instead, it’s a dynamic process of continuously identifying search demand, exploring new keywords and creatives to scale the conversions, and still keep your cost-per-acquisition on target.

But what happens once the paid search demand has been saturated?

While it can be hard to know when you’ve truly reached the outer limits of the search demand, further keyword expansion can often be a viable option to keep growing your PPC activities.

Here’s what you need to know.

First Things First: What Is Keyword Expansion?

Keywords are the backbone of your digital marketing efforts, defining what your content is all about.

As a SaaS marketer, you want the keywords on your page and in your ad copy to be relevant to what your audience is searching for so they can easily find your content among the search results.

In paid search, keyword expansion refers to discovering untapped search terms and, consequently, adding more relevant keywords to your PPC account. This can help you improve on your initial keyword research by finding terms you may have missed the first time around, or discover entirely new keyword concepts and ideas.

Ultimately, when it comes to digital marketing for SaaS, more relevant keywords lead to more relevant traffic, which allows businesses to increase conversions and ROI.

The Keyword Expansion Dartboard

While PPC is the highest converting, highest ROI channel, many B2B SaaS marketers are struggling to find ways to expand their paid search campaigns once they have saturated the target market.

So long as the cost-per-click (CPC) is kept on average, though, most SaaS businesses can benefit from a keyword expansion strategy.

Following a framework is always a great starting point. Let’s take a more detailed look at the keyword expansion dartboard and see how we start generating demand.

Note: When modeling this framework out, it’s vital to test the conversion rate decay every time you move from one ring out to another.

In addition – whether you want to grow within the US market or you are planning an international expansion strategy – measuring the CPC should be a priority.

Overall, reducing CPCs to the same degree that you have the reduction in your conversion rate can increase your chances of seeing roughly the same ROI. If the cost per click is getting more expensive as you move out, however, keyword expansion might not be the right move for your business.

Branded Keywords

Branded keywords (including those of your competitors) are at the heart of the keyword expansion framework.

Essentially, people searching for branded terms are ready to buy with brand bias. This means that these keywords are going to see the highest conversion rate. Do keep in mind, however, that they can be very limited in terms of volume.

Category Keywords

At the category keywords ring, people are searching for your solution using words that describe their pain points.

Category keywords are going to give you more volume than branded terms but at a slightly lower conversion rate.To keep things simple, if branded keywords have a conversion rate of 15%, then the conversion rate for category terms will be approximately 8%, or about a half.

Adjacent Category Keywords

Most marketers tend to stop once the category keywords have been saturated. Going a step further, however, can be beneficial, especially for SaaS trailblazers.

If you are operating in a niche and not many people know about your product, it’s vital to look for adjacent categories. Getting users to think about your category in a different way can help them move from where they are looking for that category to your adjacent category.

Here’s the catch: you will be sacrificing the conversion rate. Taking the example above, your conversion rate using adjacent category keywords might drop to about 3%.

ICP Keywords

If you are still looking for ways to expand your keywords, consider the ideal customer persona (ICP) keywords.

These keywords might not have anything to do with your brand or even (adjacent) category, but because of the nature of the terms, you can reasonably expect that people searching for those keywords fit your ideal customer profile. Basically, these campaigns would bring you marketing qualified audiences.

Similar to the previous rings, the ICP keywords will affect the conversion rate, decreasing it to about 1%.

The Power of Keyword Expansion

Relevant keywords can help SaaS brands grow their accounts over time. That said, expanding your keywords on its own will not be able to turn around a struggling account.

Along with a proper keyword expansion, you should also focus on powerful ad copy, smart bid optimizations, proper campaign structure, and strong landing pages.

Feeling inspired? Here’s how to plan your B2B SaaS marketing budget for various maturity stages.

Paris Childress

Head of Paid Media

My job is to match talented, motivated marketers with high-growth companies, arm teams for success, and then get out of the way.