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PPC Moneyball Style: How to Get a Bigger Return with a Small Budget


Here’s the challenge: You’re faced with managing a relatively small PPC budget in Google AdWords. It’s no easy task since you want to ensure visibility on competitive keywords while trying not to exhaust your click budget too quickly.

A recent study by Wordstream proves this challenge for small businesses and reveals that SMBs tend to waste approximately 25% of their already small monthly PPC budget.

This might make you feel like Billy Bean from the movie “Moneyball” (played by Brad Pitt) since you have to compete with limited resources while still needing to put together a winning campaign. Well, I’ll be your Jonah Hill and provide some insight into how you can seize the available opportunities and make more out of less.

So how do you make sure you maximize every penny on quality clicks and avoid waste? Follow the tips below, and you’ll be in good shape. And hopefully you’ll be on the way to increasing that click budget because your campaign ROI has been so successful!

Step 1: Segment your campaigns wisely

First, you need to determine the needs and goals of the PPC campaign as a whole. Prioritizing and ranking goals such as sales, lead generation, or branding will have an impact on how you will construct your PPC campaigns within your AdWords account.

Campaign segmentation strategy is also crucial at this stage because click budgets are set at the campaign level, which dictates how much the account spends in a day.

Don’t just lump all of your keywords into one campaign with a single budget, otherwise you lose all control of your spend strategy. Also avoid the opposite by getting too granular and having too many campaigns that have too small of a daily budget.

Google recommends setting a daily campaign budget by taking the Max CPC Bid multiplied by ten. For example, if keyword A has a max CPC bid of $5.00, then your daily budget for that campaign should be around $50/day. If you can’t afford $50/day (or $1,500/month), then consider lowering your bids or choosing a different match type.

The point is that your keywords need room to breathe. Optimal results don’t come from campaigns that only allow for one or two clicks per day because the campaign budget is so low.

You also want to segment your campaigns wisely so that each campaign has an optimal number of keywords and so that you can allocate your budget effectively. Consider how much you want to spend on each campaign and then allocate accordingly so you don’t end up blowing through all of your budget on a small number of keywords.

Step 2: Select keywords with a low CPC and high ROI

When analyzing your goals and campaign strategy, you will most likely be discussing which particular services or products of yours that you want to promote. This should be followed up by keyword research to understand average CPC’s for a category of keywords.

You may discover that some keyword categories are much more expensive than others which should cause you to reconsider how you slice up your budget. This part of the strategy development is much more difficult if you’re an ecommerce business with a lot of products compared to a service business who only needs to promote one core service.

However, it’s recommended to not stretch yourself too thin when it comes to campaign budgets and instead to focus on the low-hanging fruit where you see opportunity. You may not be able to bid on every product you’re selling, so take some time to identify keyword opportunities with a low cost per click (CPC) and a high return on investment (ROI).

Step 3: Consider which campaign settings should be applied

The next step is to consider which campaign settings should be applied to your campaign.

Geotargeting is PPC 101, which means you should bid in the region most applicable to you. Local businesses will bid based on cities, and national businesses will bid by country, etc.

But don’t forget to analyze campaign results by geographic areas and to down-bid on areas that don’t produce as well as others. By doing so,  you’ll save on click costs and stretch your budget even further.

Device (computer, tablet, phone) bid modification is critical now that AdWords’ advertisers can’t easily pick and choose which devices to target. To help with this, run reports by device type and if mobile devices don’t perform well, for example, then down-bid them with a bid adjustment by a certain percentage. You can also upbid a certain device type if you’re getting really good results.

Shared budgets are available in the “Shared Library” section of AdWords, and they allow you to set one budget to be shared across multiple campaigns. This can be counter-intuitive if you’re controlling account spend at the campaign level as recommended above, but it can also be convenient if some of your campaigns need to be segmented for other reasons like geotargeting but you’re comfortable with them utilizing the same click budget.

Campaign Spending

Ad delivery method is another option available to control spend. Accelerated and standard are the two choices available. If you’re concerned with your ads not showing later in the day, then choose standard since accelerated may deplete a small budget before you finish your morning coffee.

Ad Delivery Method

AdWords provides multiple bid strategies to help you maximize your budget. If you really trust Google then you can allow their algorithm to set keyword bids to “maximize clicks within my target budget”. You can also choose to focus on conversions and allow Google to optimize clicks for CPA. Otherwise stick with the manual CPC bidding and set bids based upon your goals and budget.

Another option is to test campaigns where one is optimized by Google and another one uses manual CPC bidding. You can eventually switch to whichever campaign gets better results for you, and optimization that’s set by Google can sometimes work better for people who don’t have as much time to consistently monitor their campaigns.

Bid Strategy


Managing small budget PPC accounts can sometimes be more challenging than big spending accounts when it comes producing profitable conversions. Understanding your competition and market is obviously very important to any advertising campaign, but the internet makes advertising a more level playing field than it used to be.

You have to know what AdWords tools  are available to work with and how to make the most of them, but you can have success with a small budget just like Billy Beane with the Oakland A’s by following the principles outlined in this post and learning how to stretch your budget as far as possible.


Brad MerkelBrad Merkel is and online marketing consultant with Clear Peach Marketing and specializes in PPC management. Brad is a certified Google Partner and graduated from Clemson University with a degree in Marketing. Connect with Brad on Facebook, Google+, or LinkedIn.