Top 5 Google AdWords Tips for Small Businesses

Paid search, otherwise known as pay-per-click, is an incredibly powerful digital marketing tool for small business owners. Using platforms like Google AdWords and Bing Ads, small businesses can show ads in search results when people search for relevant keywords, and only pay when someone actually clicks the ad, not just sees it. This can be insanely cost effective when managed well - but when mismanaged, can cause small business owners to throw money away. With these 5 important tips for managing your SMB’s Google AdWords efforts, you can help ensure that you’re spending smarter, not harder, than competitors.

Google AdWords Logo

Tip 1 - Keep Campaigns & Ad Groups Simple

It’s a common misconception that there is a need for multiple campaigns with hundreds of ad groups that house thousands of keywords. If this were the case, it would be nearly impossible for many small businesses to manage their accounts on a daily basis, let alone afford an agency to manage it for them.

Google has also evolved over the years to refine certain searches and utilize more of their artificial intelligence to get the best information possible the the user performing the search. This means the need for 20 versions of the same term (plurals, misspellings, etc.) is now obsolete.

An easy way to initiate an account build is to break out campaigns based on your sitemap. If a topic or product is good enough for its own page on the site, it’s probably good enough to warrant its own campaign. From this point, the breakout of ad groups will be determined by the amount of variations in how they are referenced - either by name or by product options.

A good rule of thumb is to group no more than 20 to 25 keywords within an ad group. If you’re past this threshold, there is usually an opportunity to create an additional ad group.

Tip 2 - Negative Match Under-Performing Keywords

Negative keywords are essential to ALL paid search campaigns. All pay-per-click campaigns, even for branded terms, have the chance to deliver unwanted impressions and clicks when you use broad match keywords that allow many variations on your keywords to show your PPC ads.

Impressions without clicks on keywords that are not associated with your product or service create low ad rank because of a low click-through rate (CTR). Clicks with short on-site visit times can signify low relevance for the keywords you were bidding on. And ultimately clicks without conversions lead to higher ad spends, shorter life for your budget, and a lower return on investment (ROI). All of this leads to higher costs-per-click (CPCs) and lower ad rank for individual keywords. All together, this means you spend more money and yet your ads get shown less - making your paid search campaigns much less effective.

One classic example is your friendly neighborhood flower shop. A large portion of high quality traffic is assumed to come from the term “flower shop.” But depending on the match type (broad match, phrase match, or exact match) of the term “flower shop,” your ads could be associated with searches like “shop flower seeds” and “flower shop game” (yes, there’s seriously a game). By adding “seeds” and “game” as negative matched terms to the overarching campaign, you can prevent your ads from showing up on these very competitive, very expensive searches that aren’t really relevant to your business. This saves you money, while making sure your ads only show up on relevant, appropriate searches that are likely to result in sales.

AdWords Tip - Negative Match Keywords

Utilizing the “Search Terms” view within Google AdWords can give you a view into the exact search queries being used to find your site. Navigating to the “Keyword” tab within a campaign, and then clicking on the “Search Terms” sub-tab delivers this information. (Not sure how to do this? Contact us - we can help.)

How often you revisit your search query reports depends on the amount of traffic you generate with your account. With higher budgets come more searches and clicks, both wanted and unwanted, which warrants a check-in at least every couple of weeks, if not every week. In most small business cases, at least a monthly report and analysis with actionable insights should be mandatory.

Before starting paid search campaigns in Google AdWords, most small businesses have a list of keywords, competitors, products and trends that are detrimental or irrelevant to the brand and its products or services. Go ahead and add these as negative matched terms from the outset.

Tip 3 - Use Day-Parting and Ad Scheduling for Paid Search

Understanding your business and the most effective times of day and days of week to run your ads can be a big advantage in making your budgets go further and keeping customers happy.

If your business relies on person-to-person communication, but your company can only help customers on certain days of the week (are you closed on the weekends?) or during certain hours of the day (not running an all-night donut shop?), why pay to serve ads when you are not there to serve the customer? Not only does this save you money, it also eliminates the opportunity for a poor customer experience.

Google AdWords Tip - Dayparting & Scheduling

If the budget to serve your pay-per-click ads is plentiful and your team doesn’t want to miss out on new leads, use ad scheduling to day-part your message. For example, you can enable ads that show only during store hours, encouraging the searcher to come to your store or call you for more information. After store hours, you can instead send the customer to an online lead form with a message tailored to a specific follow-up time. This attention to detail can really win over new customers. or choose not to show the ads at all during those times if you can’t give your customers an A+ experience after hours.

Tip 4 - Geo-Target Your Pay-Per-Click Ads

This sounds simple and obvious, but incorrectly targeting your ads by location is going to waste your money. When setting up your Google AdWords paid search campaigns, make sure to refine the areas that makes sense for your business.

For example, targeting the entire United States would not be smart for a business with two brick-and-mortar locations in Chesterfield, Missouri, just outside of St. Louis, Missouri. Furthermore, targeting St. Louis, MO may or may not be smart for this same business either - perhaps it’s not a narrow enough area. In these cases, Google AdWords offers detailed location targeting by city, region, or postal code.

Google AdWords Tip - Geotargeting

For this example, we would consider targeting the area immediately surrounding Chesterfield, MO with the understanding that the majority of our customers will drive to the store within a certain distance of the town. As the campaign matures, and your key performance indicators (KPIs) are hit, you may want to expand the radius of your campaign targeting.

Tip 5 - Get Tracking Right

For the final tip for managing pay-per-click campaigns for small businesses, getting tracking right is the most important thing you can do for your account and your budget. Google AdWords offers easy setup of tracking codes for implementation onto your site, and you should take advantage of it.

Conversion tracking will tell you which campaigns, ad groups, keywords, and ads are delivering leads or sales, or whatever your target action is. Knowing where your conversions come from will help your team make better decisions about things like:

  • Where to focus your limited budget dollars
  • Which keywords to pause or decrease spend on
  • Which keywords to increase bids on to increase impression share
  • Which ad copy or calls-to-action work best (Shop Now, Get More Info, Open Today, Special Pricing, etc.)

Google AdWords Tip - Conversion Tracking Setup

And to take your tracking to the next level, make sure to integrate Google AdWords with Google Analytics. Google Analytics is completely free, easy and intuitive for small business owners to use, and the additional data you get by integrating the two tools will make you an even better marketer by understanding how your Google AdWords efforts measure up against things like:

  • Bounce rate
  • Time on site
  • Path to purchase
  • Comparisons to other digital channels like organic search (SEO), social media, email marketing, and others.

BONUS TIP! Go Mobile Now

If you plan to launch an AdWords campaign soon, or want to clean up and existing account, it is absolutely critical to make sure your site is mobile-friendly. In the new age of digital media, mobile is master. As of mid-2015, Google declared that more than half of all search traffic is coming from mobile devices. With this shift, Google is now giving preferential treatment to advertisers who send users to a mobile-friendly site when performing a search on their mobile devices (not just in paid search, but in organic search too!). Google has even gone so far as to test a “mobile-friendly” badge on ads for sites that follow these best practices.

Ready to start getting the most out of your Google AdWords budget?

Doing paid search is hard work that requires hours within the Google AdWords platform actively managing every aspect of your campaigns. With the many elements that make up Google AdWords, the basics can often fall through the cracks, costing you money and customers. These five tips for managing pay-per-click advertising for small businesses can help you save money from the jump-off point, giving you and your business a fighting chance to succeed.

Whether you’re just getting started with pay-per-click ads and paid search marketing, or if you’ve been dabbling in marketing platforms like Google AdWords or Bing Ads, Tentacle Inbound’s expert paid search team can help you make the most of your digital marketing budget. Contact us today to help make your paid search campaigns as efficient and effective as possible.

Keith Spisak
Paid Search Expert at Tentacle Inbound, LLC
Keith Spisak is a digital marketing professional with more than 10 years in the search industry. His areas of expertise include pay-per-click, search engine marketing (SEM), media buying and ad exchanges. Keith has led multiple digital marketing teams and worked alongside a number of agencies and publishers.

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