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Case Study





Cybersecurity Ads: How to Set the Right Budget to Compete in Expensive PPC Markets


monthly ad spend


ad spend ROI



Casestudy Summary

The Challenge

The Solution

The Results

The Challenge

Our client, a Canadian Cybersecurity SaaS Provider, that couples tailored cybersecurity software plans with annual cybersecurity management for clients was looking to extend its reach and secure new clients through paid search advertising.

The cybersecurity industry is a high-stakes arena where competition is fierce, and the battle for market share is relentless.

Our client recognized the need to tap into the potential of search advertising as a new channel for client acquisition. However, this decision presented a unique set of hurdles that demanded innovative solutions.

High Competitor Budgets

The primary challenge lay in the stark contrast between our client's advertising budget and the industry's prevailing standards.

On average, competitors within the cybersecurity software and services sector were investing a staggering $96,000 per month exclusively in search advertising. In contrast, our client initially committed to a modest budget of $7,000 per month.

Navigating this disparity in ad spend required a delicate balance. The objective was to compete effectively for leads in a space where others were substantially outspending us, all while ensuring that the leads generated were of high quality.

Maximizing Every Ad Dollar

To rise to this challenge, we had to devise a strategic plan that maximized the impact of every advertising dollar spent, optimized ad targeting, and leveraged creative approaches to attract and engage potential clients.

Achieving these objectives called for a multifaceted, data-driven approach that combined industry insights, cutting-edge marketing technologies, and a deep understanding of cybersecurity concerns.


The Solution

We devised a comprehensive solution that relied on meticulous analysis, strategic campaign structuring, and innovative lead tracking methods. Our approach can be summarized in the following key steps:

Competitive Analysis

To gain a deep understanding of the competitive landscape in search marketing within the cybersecurity sector, we conducted a thorough competitive analysis. We leveraged industry-standard tools such as SEMrush and SpyFu to gather insights into competitor ad spend, keywords, and Cost Per Click (CPC) rates.

Our objective was to identify the top 20 direct competitors and assess their ad spend, CPCs, and the percentage of traffic derived from paid search versus organic traffic. Our findings revealed that competitors, on average, were allocating a substantial $96,000 per month to search advertising, with an average CPC of $15 (with some keywords as high as $130).

Deciding on the Right Budget

Recognizing that the client's initial budget of $7,000 per month would be insufficient to compete effectively and generate a positive Return on Investment (ROI), we recommended a strategic increase in ad spend.

The key goal in setting any PPC budget is to be able to get between 15 to 30 qualified conversions per month across your account (or ideally at the campaign-level).

Given average CPCs of $15, we calculated that a $15,000 per month budget would result in around 1,000 clicks per month. If we were able to convert 2% of those clicks into qualified leads, that would yield 20 qualified leads per month, resulting in a cost per qualified lead of $750 — a highly promising prospect considering the high-value nature of cybersecurity management services, which typically command monthly fees between $4,000 to $12,000.

Convincing the client to more than double their budget to $15,000 per month was a critical step in providing Google with sufficient data to optimize the campaigns effectively.

For any LeadGen company, we recommend taking the same process in deciding on your own minimum budget that could result in 15 to 30 qualified leads per month. Typically, you want to assume a conservative 1% to 3% conversion rate in calculating how many clicks you need to generate at average industry CPCs in order to get enough lead volume for your ads to optimize every month.

You can use tools like SEMRush to find average CPCs of keywords you’d like to target.

Campaign Strategy with Limited Budget

Given the limitations of the budget, we adopted a laser-focused targeting strategy.

Rather than spreading resources thinly across the entire buyer's journey, we decided to concentrate our efforts on in-market users at the bottom of the marketing funnel.

This approach allowed us to maximize the client's budget and generate leads with a higher likelihood of conversion. We segmented our paid strategy into four distinct campaigns:

Direct Brand Competitor Campaign:

Given the strong purchase intent of users actively searching for direct competitors by name, we structured this campaign around re-educating leads about our clients offerings in comparison with the direct competition. We created dedicated ad groups for each individual competitor in our client's niche. This approach allowed us to craft ad copy that was laser-focused on direct comparisons between our client's software and services and those of the competitor in question. In addition, we constructed dynamic landing pages specifically designed to reference the competitor by name. These landing pages were optimized to showcase our client's strengths, emphasizing the value proposition and benefits that set them apart. CyberSecurity Tools Campaign:

Given our client offers cybersecurity software that’s not well known, we decided to target a campaign focused on specific tools used in cybersecurity that matched the offerings of our clients software. While this campaign had limited volume, it did generate several qualified leads. Third Party Cybersecurity Software Management Campaign: Given our client offered management services for both their own software in addition to management of competitor 3rd party softwares, we decided to add an additional focus on individuals seeking 3rd party software expert management services. We leveraged phrase and exact match keywords strategically to ensure that our ads were triggered exclusively for search terms containing the company name of cybersecurity software providers, combined with qualifiers like "expert”, “management” and more. To maintain precision and relevance, we incorporated negative keywords such as "stock", "contact", "jobs" and more, while also doing bi-weekly search terms analysis to build out the negative keyword list to filter out irrelevant traffic and keep our campaign highly focused on users actively seeking cybersecurity management services for these tools. Cybersecurity Services Campaign: As potential leads move towards the bottom of the funnel, they tend to search more for specific cybersecurity solutions, as they become better versed in the cybersecurity landscape. We therefore built out this campaign into distinct adgroups representing the various nuanced cybersecurity services. To optimize ad relevance and reach, we also conducted an A/B test of the campaign with an audience layer of users who were actively "in-market for cybersecurity” vs no audience layering and found a better ROI with the audience layering.

Lead Qualification and Tracking

To ensure that the leads generated were of high quality, we implemented several measures. We required corporate email addresses in lead forms and requested information about company size to prequalify leads for the client's sales team.

Recognizing the extended sales cycle in cybersecurity management, which can range from 3 to 12 months, we knew we needed to provide Google Ads with faster signals on lead quality and ROI. While offline conversion tracking is a great tool to send updated revenue values from leads back to Google, it is limited by a 90 day window. We therefore needed to setup a system where their SalesForce CRM would send partial revenue values as the leads progressed through the sales cycle with the percentage of the potential revenue value growing as the leads got closer to closing. This sent Google promising signals to continue to optimize its targeting around customers that get further into the sales cycle towards closing.


The Results

Our unique approach to managing advertising for our cybersecurity management client yielded remarkable results, despite the initial challenges faced during the campaign's infancy. Over the course of the campaign's evolution, we witnessed a significant upward trajectory in qualified lead generation and Return on Ad Spend (ROAS), ultimately positioning our client for long-term success.

Here's a detailed overview of the outcomes achieved:

64% Reduction in Cost Per Qualified Lead

So far, our efforts have led to 154 qualified leads sourced through advertising.

The campaign's initial month was marked by a slow start, primarily due to the time required for Google Ads optimization. During the first month, we generated 8 qualified leads at a qualified lead CPA of $1,875 — reflecting the difficulties of early stages in campaign refinement.

By the second month of the campaign, our efforts began to bear fruit, with lead generation increasing significantly. We achieved 14 qualified leads at a CPA of $1,071, signaling a notable uptick in qualified engagement and interest in our client's cybersecurity software and management services.

Building on the momentum of the second month, the third month of the campaign saw a substantial surge in lead volume. We successfully generated 22 qualified leads at a CPA of $682, indicating that our strategies were gaining traction and resonating effectively with our target audience.

Over the last 5 months (since month 4), we’ve now been able to to consistently source between 20 to 24 qualified leads per month at a CPA range between $625 to $750 per qualified lead using the same $15,000 per month budget.

720% ROAS with $864,000 New Annual Revenue

Despite the extended 3 to 12 month sales cycle to close clients for cybersecurity software and management services, our client was already able to close 12 high-ticket customers on 12-month contracts, with monthly software and service fee values averaging to $6,000 per month ($72,000 per 12-month contract on average).

These 12 customers alone have already generated a 720% ROAS with $864,000 in 12-month customer contract values on $120,000 in ad spend over the first 8 months.

With over 70 hot leads still in qualified prospecting stages, we are strongly encouraged at the signs of our campaign profitability, and the trajectory indicating that ROAS will continue improving over time.

Setting the Stage for Long-Term Success

While the immediate impact was evident with increased lead generation and a positive ROAS, the long-term prospects for our client are particularly promising. The results achieved within the first eight months positioned our client for sustained success, as the campaigns continue to mature and optimize, delivering high-quality leads in a competitive cybersecurity landscape.



12M LTV ad revenue


qualified leads


cost per qualified lead

About the Author

rob castellanos founding partner headshot

Rob Castellanos

Founding Partner and President

@Mookie Digital

Rob founded Mookie Digital after managing a $90M+ book-of-business while employed at Google.

He leads advertising strategy and operations at Mookie Digital and is an expert in omni-channel account management across search, social, e-commerce, and video/display channels.

Date Published: 02.02.2024

Date Modified: 02.02.2024

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