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Scaling your search ads is never straightforward. Some advertisers have a specific approach they like to use. Others use the spaghetti method—throw it against the wall and just see what sticks (with varying results).

Scaling ads efficiently is crucial to growing business revenue. But what does scaling your ads mean?

Put simply, scaling ads means increasing your advertising spend while maintaining performance.

However, typically you can expect some loss of performance efficiency as your optimizations plateau and more budget is deployed.

This article will introduce you to the dual axis framework for scaling your PPC ads, focusing on horizontal and vertical ad scaling. I'll explore the pros and cons of each approach to help you decide which approach is best for your campaigns.

"Horizontal scaling" and "vertical scaling" were originally database management terms for creating more computing power by adding more processing power to one computer (vertical scaling) and adding additional machines to increase overall output (horizontal scaling).

So how can we apply this dual axis framework to search ads? Let's dive in.

What Is Horizontal Scaling

Horizontal scaling, in the context of paid search advertising, is akin to adding more machines to increase output. It involves adding new campaigns that target different audiences; segmenting your advertising spend across a wider range of keywords and ad groups; or even testing different campaign types, such as Google's Performance Max.

Pros of Horizontal Scaling

  1. Expanded reach: By targeting a broader set of keywords and audiences, you can reach a larger and potentially untapped market.
  2. Diversified exposure: Horizontal scaling helps diversify your targeting, audience, and search appearance, reducing the risk of relying too heavily on a single keyword theme or ad group.
  3. Quick expansion: It's a relatively quick way to expand your PPC efforts without making significant changes to your current high-performing campaigns.

Cons of Horizontal Scaling

  1. Increased complexity: Managing a larger number of keywords and campaigns can become complex and time-consuming.
  2. Increased volatility: As you're rolling out new campaigns, performance can be unpredictable, leading to peaks or troughs in performance.
  3. Potential dilution: As you spread your budget thinner across potentially unproven campaigns, the revenue contribution from core keywords or campaigns may decrease.

What Is Vertical Scaling

Vertical scaling, on the other hand, involves increasing your advertising spend by adding more budget to existing campaigns and optimizing your proven strategies. The vertical approach focuses on getting more value from your existing keywords and ad groups.

Pros of Vertical Scaling

  1. Efficiency improvement: Concentrating your budget on high-performing keywords can lead to improved ROI and efficiency.
  2. Faster testing: You can really refine your ad copy, landing pages, and bidding strategies to better target your ideal audience with additional budget and traffic to support faster testing.
  3. Cost control: Vertical scaling generally allows you to scale while maintaining better control over your budget; as you're adding budget to proven campaigns, performance is more predictable.

Cons of Vertical Scaling

  1. Limited growth: There's a limit to how much you can scale within your existing campaigns without saturating your audience; the law of diminishing returns will take effect at some point.
  2. Time-intensive: Vertical scaling often requires ongoing optimization and iterative split-testing of campaign elements, which can be time-intensive.
  3. Risk of stagnation: Relying solely on vertical scaling may lead to a stagnant campaign if there's no room for further optimization; it's always good to test new ideas.

How to Decide Which Scaling Approach Is Best for Your Ad Campaigns

Choosing between horizontal and vertical scaling depends on your specific goals, budget, and current campaign performance.

  1. Consider your objectives. If you aim to quickly expand your reach and market share, horizontal scaling may be more suitable. If you want to improve efficiency and maximize ROI, vertical scaling might be the better choice.
  2. Assess your budget. Determine how much budget you can allocate to scaling. Horizontal scaling generally requires a larger budget, whereas vertical scaling allows for more controlled spending as you make incremental spend increases.
  3. Analyze campaign performance. Review your existing PPC campaigns. If you have underperforming keywords or ad groups that can be optimized, horizontal scaling may be the first step. If your campaigns are already efficient and highly profitable, consider vertical scaling to double-down on what's working.
  4. Combine strategies. In many cases, a combination of both horizontal and vertical scaling can be effective. Start with vertical scaling to optimize your existing campaigns, and then once you start to plateau, use the improved performance to fund horizontal scaling efforts.

Additional Strategies for Scaling Search Ads

In addition to horizontal and vertical scaling, there's another proven method that can be used to scale your search ads: geo-targeted expansion. This approach involves expanding your PPC advertising by geographically targeting new areas or markets with your existing campaign structures.

Here's a closer look.

Geo-Targeted Expansion

How It Works

Geo-targeted expansion uses Google Ads' location-based targeting to grow your reach and tap into markets you may not have explored before.

Instead of increasing your ad spend across a wide range of keywords, you focus on specific geographic regions that align with your business goals.

Pros of Geo-Targeted Expansion

  1. Localized relevance: You can tailor your ad messaging to specific regions, making your ads more relevant to local audiences, potentially resulting in higher engagement and conversion rates.
  2. Reduced competition: By targeting less competitive areas, you may experience lower cost per click (CPC) and higher ad visibility.
  3. Market diversification: Geo-targeted expansion allows you to diversify your customer base and revenue streams by entering new markets.

Cons of Geo-Targeted Expansion

  1. Resource-intensive: Managing multiple geo-targeted campaigns can be resource-intensive, as youd need to create tailored ads and landing pages for each location.
  2. Limited growth: The potential for growth may be limited if your products or services are highly niche-specific and not in demand in certain regions.
  3. Complexity: Balancing the budget and performance of multiple location-based campaigns can be challenging.

How to Implement Geo-Targeted Expansion

  • Market research: Identify regions or cities where there is demand for your products or services. Tools like Google Ads' geographic reports can provide valuable insights.
  • Create location-specific campaigns: Set up separate campaigns for each targeted location. Customize ad copy and landing pages to cater to the local audience.
  • Budget allocation: Allocate your budget strategically among the location-based campaigns. Prioritize areas with the highest potential for return.
  • Continual monitoring: Regularly monitor the performance of each campaign. Adjust your bid strategies and ad content based on the results.
  • Optimization: As you gather data and insights, fine-tune your geo-targeted campaigns to maximize their effectiveness.

* * *

Scaling your search ads is a critical step for B2B performance marketers to grow online presence and achieve better ROI. Whether you opt for horizontal scaling to cast a wider net or vertical scaling to double-down on existing strategies, the dual axis framework provides a strategic approach to help you make informed decisions.

The best approach depends on your unique goals and circumstances. There's no one-size-fits-all approach, so take the time to analyze your campaigns and choose the path that aligns with your objectives and resources.

More Resources on PPC Search Advertising

A Primer: What Is Search Marketing?

The PPC Power Players: Ad Platforms Making a Big Impact

Five Google Ads Tips to Help You Become a Better PPC Marketer

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How to Scale Your Paid Search Ads: The Dual-Axis Framework

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image of John Hargan

John Hargan is the founder of Velocity, a New York City-based marketing agency that specializes in paid search for B2B brands.

Linkedin: John Hargan