For most small businesses, PPC is a must. From facilitating online sales to creating brand awareness, PPC can be the push that moves a small business from inspiration to actualization.
However, this gigantic opportunity is not without its giants. With a small business, you may be looking at a budget of a few hundred dollars a month; but for a big business, monthly budgets hover upwards of tens of thousands. With that much of a head start, how can small businesses possibly compete?
The answer lies in the attack small businesses choose to take. With a small PPC budget, using your tools and assets to their full potential can allow for great success in online advertising, even in the wake of larger competitors. This is a case of scrawny David finding his feet in the shadow of Goliath. Yes, Goliath may have had size on his side, but David had the brains. With a bit of quick thinking and a lot of heart, David was able to put his only resources – a handful of stones – to good use.
In this article, we will show you six ways that small business owners can use what they have to get the results they want.
1. Get started on the right foot
Ah! Is there nothing more fresh and promising than a brand new PPC account? I have it right up there with sunrises, morning dew, and sleeping puppies. But don’t let this moment of possibility escape you – how you set up your account will your first step towards PPC success.
Begin by doing thorough keyword research. Pore through your business and look for themes, products, services, and messages; scope out your competitor terms; and brainstorm, brainstorm, brainstorm. You can also save yourself invaluable time by utilizing keyword tools, such as Google’s Keyword Tool and iSpionage’s own Keyword Monitoring Tool. These online tools will help you get an idea of the demand for keywords, what other sites are using, and the different variations searchers use. Record all these keywords in an Excel spreadsheet so that you can easily remove duplicates, sort them by your chosen metrics, and have them ready to be uploaded.
When you have created a list you feel comfortable with, begin sorting them into small, controlled campaigns and ad groups. For small budget accounts, I generally do not put any more than ten keywords in an ad group, although I do include all four match types for these keywords in the ad group. This allows you to keep a close eye on how your keywords are doing, and will help you monitor your ad groups later on.
2. Fall in love with your account
A small budget PPC account requires constant attention. A single day of something going wrong can sink an entire month’s productivity, oftentimes with little warning. Because of this, you will need to monitor very frequently, often as much as once a day. Yes, small business owners are busy, and do not have the same designated PPC personnel that a larger business might, but this does not mean that the account can just be left to its own devices. Advertisers with a small budget must learn to really get to know an account’s strengths and weaknesses, how it responds in different situations, and the areas that can be improved.
But don’t let infatuation completely cloud your vision. Instead, use analytics to make informed decisions. For example, it is tempting to aim to be in the first ad position every time. However, look at your stats. What is your CPC? Your cost-per-conversion? Perhaps by lowering your budget and aiming for position two or three, you will be able to not only save money, but also use the money you do spend more efficiently.
3. Let Google help…but not too much
Pay close attention to the settings for your campaigns and ad groups. AdWords and adCenter both boast of automated settings and tools that promise to run your account as efficiently as possible. However, if you are on a small budget, you cannot afford to leave anything to chance…or to the hands of companies who are there, after all, to make money off of you. In AdWords, I suggest setting your ad rotation to “rotate evenly” and manually managing your bids, as both of these settings allow you to make more direct decisions for the account. Of course, this isn’t to say that you should ignore the tools available to you altogether. For example, Google’s Automated Campaign Settings can keep you from skyrocketing over budget by shutting down keywords if they spend too much, alerting you when your campaign acts in a way you didn’t intend, and keep an eye on your overall performance.
4. Test, test, test
If you have a small budget, you want to make sure that you’re using it efficiently. The best way to do this? Test! In Google, set your delivery method to standard, which will show your ads evenly over time. This way, you can A/B test different call to actions, messages, URLs, titles… Try ideas and messaging that have worked in your other marketing materials and social endeavors, and keep track of what your competitors are doing. You never know which tweak to ad text will allow your conversions to start rolling in.
Another important part of this is bringing in new keywords and auditing your existing ones. If a keyword is not working for you, then don’t leave it on. Instead, use tools to find new words and niches that you have not yet explored.
A word of caution, however: with small PPC accounts, you may not get the amount of impressions to test as quickly as you would like. Do not make hasty decisions based on a handful of views. Instead, wait until you have either gained enough impressions to make an educated action, or until the campaign remains inactive for enough time to assume that those impressions will never arrive.
5. Don’t overextend yourself
When you don’t have a lot of money with which to work, it is a good idea to put up safeguards to limit your impressions right from the start. Generally, I only run phrase, exact, and modified broad match keywords, and leave broad match turned off. You can also constrain your reach through location targeting – if your product only ships to the U.S., for example, you don’t need to be advertising in Europe. Once you have gained data for your account, you can also begin turning off ads on the days and times that do not work for you, allowing you to focus your energy (and money) on what does work well.
6. Stick your landing
So you’ve set up a fabulous campaign, monitored it constantly, tested all your options, and built up prudent limitations. That’s great! But there’s one more important step to the equation: the end game. Be sure to set up conversion tracking, and optimize your landing pages. Having a fantastic PPC ad that dumps users to your homepage is often the same as throwing money out a window. There are great landing page builders (such as Optimizely and Unbounce) which can help small businesses create landing pages without needing any coding experience. By giving searchers the royal treatment from the minute they type in their query to the moment they make the conversion, you will make sure that all your hard work goes to good use.
Wouldn’t it be amazing if we all suddenly were given tens of thousands of dollars to spend on PPC advertising? If that was the case, small businesses would never have to worry about their accounts. However, because small businesses often only have small PPC budgets, special care needs to be taken to ensure that they are making the most of what they have to make online advertising work for them. The trick is to act like David and use your brains, rather than lamenting your lack of Goliath’s brawn. You may be surprised how far a few stone throws can get you.
Do you have any ideas for PPC accounts with small budgets? Let us know in the comments below!
Jessica Rooney is a digital marketing professional who focuses on PPC, social media, and content optimization. When she is not exploring the online world, Jessica enjoys spending time outdoors in her home base of Boulder, Colorado.