Fun fact: Every 60 seconds, nearly 3.5 million searches are made on Google.

That’s a lot of eyeballs. No wonder digital marketing spend keeps increasing.

The efficacy of paid search campaigns isn’t a secret. And although countless brands are using search engine marketing (SEM) for lead gen, a large percentage are directing traffic straight to a Contact Us page and, as a result, seeing high bounce rates and low conversions.

Every Google search is a search for something, but for your prospective customers, that something isn’t always a contact number or email address. More often than not, they just need information related to their issue. And if you can provide that information without forcing them to send an email or make a phone call, they’ll be more likely to seek you out when they’re actually ready to speak to someone.

Put yourself in the searcher’s shoes.

The key to good marketing is empathy. Think about what kind of information you would be looking for if you Googled one of the keywords in the campaign. Find the connections between what buyers are typing into Google and what challenges they are trying to resolve.

Here’s an example:

Your company provides payroll services for American businesses that are opening locations in other countries. Based on your buyer persona research, you know one of the biggest problems your prospective customers face is navigating tax regulations and exchange rates. So when a buyer searches “expand business overseas,” you grab his or her attention with a headline that relates to his or her search phrase—Looking to Expand Overseas?—and offer a free eBook called 5 Challenges of Managing Payroll Internationally.

The content you create should match the level of intent of the searcher and be relevant to their query. You don’t want to deter prospects in the Awareness stage who are just beginning their search by offering a buyer’s guide comparing your service to your competitors. And you don’t want to discourage prospects in the Consideration stage by advertising a checklist for a process that has nothing to do with their issue.

Keep in mind that not every PPC keyword lends itself to content. Keywords such as “project management software demo” or “trial of project management software” are likely being searched by buyers in the last stage of the buyer’s journey (Decision), which means they probably aren’t interested in a SlideShare titled 7 Ways Project Management Software Improves Productivity.

Be deliberate with your actions.

Don’t attempt to create content for every single keyword or even every Ad Group in a campaign—it’s an exercise in futility. If the campaign is built well (in other words, the Ad Groups share related topics and the keywords within each Ad Group are directed at searchers with similar levels of intent) you’ll be able to target multiple keywords with the same piece of content.

When determining the principal keyword (the one you’ll use in the title of the content and landing page metadata), choose the search term that has the right balance between level of difficulty, search volume and relevancy. You don’t want to waste time creating content targeting a broad keyword for which you’ll never rank on the first page or for a hyper-specific keyword with less than 10 searches per month. The phrase you use should be a good representation of the overall theme of the keywords so that even if someone doesn’t search the exact keyword in the title, the topic of the content will still be relevant.

Leverage your own data.

If your campaigns have been live for a few months, take advantage of the information you’ve collected to help as you create content for paid search.

Review ad copy to identify any headlines or descriptions that consistently perform well. Do these ads address similar frustrations or challenges? If this language is already resonating with your audience for a different call-to-action (CTA), building content around these themes could lead to similar (or better) engagement.

You also should take a look at the Search terms report (located in the Keywords tab in the Google AdWords portal) to see the exact words buyers searched that triggered your ad. You might see phrases you weren’t targeting specifically but are great candidates for content topics.

Learn from what your competitors are doing.

The more you know about your competition, the easier it is to outperform them. Once you’ve chosen the keyword(s) you want to target, you should visit SEMrush and explore its reports. Upon entering your competitor’s domain name into the search bar, you’ll have instant insight into not only which paid keywords the brand is targeting but also the ad copy (and thus, content) associated with each keyword.

Ask yourself:

  • What topics are they talking about?
  • What types of content are they offering?
  • What kind of language do they use?
  • How do they address the audience?

Use their content to help you identify subjects that aren’t being discussed (or are being discussed ineffectively) and which subjects have been driven into the ground.

If you don’t have an SEMrush account, you can simply Google the keywords yourself and see how other brands are trying to capture the attention of searchers. However, try to avoid clicking on the ads. Some cost-per-clicks (CPCs) are outrageously expensive (this author has witnessed CPCs at upward of $30), and since you’re not a lead, you’ll just be wasting that brand’s money. If possible, go to the company’s site directly to learn more about its content offer. It may take you a couple more minutes but you’ll earn some good karma.

PRO TIP: When performing this research, it’s a good idea to do so in Incognito or Private mode. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself being retargeted by your competitors.

With SEM, you have a great opportunity to attract buyers actively looking for answers to questions or solutions to problems you can help them with. However, if you only use bottom-funnel CTAs such as “Contact Us” or “Request a Demo,” you’ll be limiting your audience. But when you use content for paid search, you’ll find it’s much easier to start conversations with prospects at multiple stages of the buyer’s journey.