Last month, I shared how marketers can use paid search to reach prospects in the awareness phase of the buyer’s journey, also known the top of the marketing funnel. Now we’re going to dive into the middle of the funnel: the consideration phase.

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  Image credit: Forrester Research Blog

 As illustrated above, the decision making process in the middle of the funnel can be quite complicated, as prospects think about your offering and whether it meets their needs and desires. The good news? This phase also creates a number of opportunities for you to reach prospects with a message tailored to their questions and concerns. Here are a few ways to do so with pay-per-click (PPC) advertising (PPC):

 1. Make it easy to compare and contrast

Assuming you captured the interest of a prospect during the awareness phase, they already know your name and what you do. Now the goal is to explain why your brand and product or service are worthy of further consideration. To prove your value, make it easy for prospects to compare what you offer through both your PPC ad text and landing pages. Bid on keywords for the price-oriented and feature-obsessed prospects alike and ensure that you have content on your site to support those terms. What are the differentiators that set your product/service apart from the competition? Highlight unique features and benefits in your copy. At this point in the buyer’s journey, it’s important to get specific. Reinforce that you have what your prospect is looking for through precise alignment of keywords and ad text. To continue with the stroller example from my last post, someone in the consideration phase might start to search for things like, bugaboo vs. graco, bugaboo buffalo versus bugaboo bee model or even something as specific as, stroller that has cup holders and will fit inside my compact car. Put yourself in the consumer’s shoes for a minute and imagine how awesome it would be to see an ad that mentions both cup holders and the ability to collapse it into a compact size. You asked the search engine to find a product that fit those requirements, and voila! – there it is.

 2. Build trust through your ads

You may have exactly what your prospect is looking for – but can they trust you? Bid on rating and review keywords for both your own brand and your competitors’. Share positive accolades in your PPC ads and link to landing pages that include things like testimonials from happy customers, reviews from well-known publications, awards you’ve won, and any affiliations you have with trusted organizations, such as the Better Business Bureau. Be sure to incorporate relevant ad extensions, such as Google’s review extensions, to give your prospects unbiased information about your brand from third-party sources. These allow you to either use a direct quote or paraphrase an online review, increasing your credibility.

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 Image credit: Google AdWords Blog

 If your business has more than 30 reviews online, you might also benefit from Google seller ratings, which are automatically pulled in from Google Shopping, Google Trusted Stores and StellaService. They add a visual element of aggregated ratings on a five-star scale. Like review extensions, they can show that your business is reputable and offers quality products and services.

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 Image credit: Google AdWords Help

 Even if you don’t have enough online reviews for seller ratings to show up, you can use Google social extensions. If you have a Google+ page, at least 100 followers, and post content there semi-regularly, social annotations can appear below your ad, displaying the number of followers you have.

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 Image credit: Google AdWords Help

 Social extensions can show appear alongside other ad extensions and Google will automatically show the one(s) it believes will boost your ad’s performance, so you don’t have to choose which type to use.

 3. Entice prospects to come back

After you’ve demonstrated you have a product or service that fits your prospects’ needs and that you’re a credible business, it’s important to provide people with a reason to visit your site again. The sales cycle can vary greatly across businesses and industries and it typically takes more than one PPC ad, and marketing channel, to influence a prospect’s decision to buy. Consider including offers in your PPC ads for free products or services, such as a white paper or case study. Make it easy for prospects to get information in multiple formats as they move through the consideration process, whether it’s a free brochure download or a mobile app. The landing page you choose for your ad is incredibly important. Don’t request a lot of personal information or push gimmicky sales messages. Instead, provide the useful content that your ad promised, and you will likely remain in your prospects’ consideration set.

 4. Make your content simple to share

Humans are innately social and tend to rely on their connections when making decisions. Once a visitor lands on your site through PPC, make your content easy to share on social networks like Facebook, as well as through other channels like email, so that your prospects can ask for input. This can keep you top of mind during the consideration phase and has the added bonus of more brand exposure.

 5. Gently remind prospects that you have something they’re interested in

When done correctly, remarketing can be very powerful and effective in nurturing your prospects through the consideration phase and enticing them to come back after they leave your site. There are a number of ways to do this, including Google AdWords remarketing lists for search ads and remarketing with Google Analytics. You can increase your bids on keyword searches related to your business for people who have already visited your site and perhaps abandoned their shopping cart and refine your ads for these smaller groups. Wrap-Up The consideration phase can be complicated and lengthy, but it’s also an opportunity to use paid search to share what you have to offer and why you deserve to win your prospects’ business.

Next month, be sure to catch the final post in the Top-to-Bottom Strategy Series, where I help you move from consideration to where PPC really excels: purchase.