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Can a Small Business Use AdWords Successfully?

AdWords can seem like a fairly complex and daunting venture to small businesses who have never gone down this road before. And, to be completely fair, there is certainly some complexity and delicacy to a PPC campaign, but there is also a great opportunity for drawing attention to your new business or highlighting specials and, most importantly, getting new traffic to your website.

Despite the opportunities here, it’s easy to understand why many small businesses would be hesitant to go down this path, especially if they’re trying to break into a fairly established industry. They may look at the spending power of these huge corporations who can outspend them at every turn and decide there’s no point in jumping into that pool of great white sharks and really angry piranha.

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Don’t let that scare you away, though. There are some things that any small business can do to succeed with an AdWords campaign.

Even if you have a comparatively small budget, there are some things you can do to start getting clicks and – more importantly – more customers.

That’s not to say it’s going to be a cake walk. Just like anything else in the online marketing realm, anyone that promises immediate success for minimal effort is probably not really providing a service that will provide lasting results.

Why You Ought to Use AdWords

Let’s dive into this with a quick look at the benefits of a PPC campaign.

  1. AdWords put you in front of your customers – Compared to SEO, you can start getting noticed and, more importantly, start getting more clicks much faster. The results are comparatively immediate (depending on all the variables, of course), and you can start generating traffic while you wait for your other optimization efforts to pay off.
  2. You have lots of targeting options – AdWords allows you to specify your local area if you’re a small business that only needs to attract a local audience. There are also targeting options related to demographics, though these are not quite so specific as you might find on Facebook’s ad system. You can, however, drill down to highly specific searches.
  3. Results are easy to track – Online marketing isn’t about guessing. It isn’t about making assumptions. It’s about testing, tracking, and modifying strategies to produce the best results. Since AdWords can get you up in front of more people, it can provide enough traffic for a valid test sample. This way, you can see what’s really working, what keywords lead to better conversions, and what needs to be changed for the next round of advertising.
  4. You have precise budget control – The major selling point of any pay-per-click platform is that you don’t pay for anything unless someone clicks the ad. Going right along with that, though, is the ability to control exactly how long you’re willing to let people click it. This way, you can set your upper spending limit and never spend more than your budget allows.

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So, What’s the Catch?

It sounds like there’s a ton of benefits to running an AdWords campaign, and there certainly are, but there is also another side of the process that small businesses really need to be aware of. It’s not a “catch,” but it is something that requires consideration.

First, if your product is so unique that no one is searching for relevant keywords, you’re not going to get a lot of traffic.

Second, as soon as you stop paying, the traffic stops. (Whereas SEO keeps working day in and day out.)

It’s also easy for many companies to start overreaching. They see some success, so they naturally want to start targeting that next keyword group or that other location and so on. As a small business it’s more important to keep a tight focus and make your dollars go further.

Finally, it’s important to be aware that sometimes the smallest, simplest things can hinder a lot of targeted traffic. Maybe you’re only using Broad Match, maybe it’s using one campaign and one Ad Group for all your keywords. These are simple rookie mistakes, but they can really hold a company back.

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You Don’t Have to Stop with the First Click

It’s easy to get hung up on the initial contact – that first click – and decide that if a clicker didn’t convert to a buyer, your efforts must have been in vain. However, customers aren’t always ready to buy immediately. They may want to look around a little and see what else is available.

However, now that they know about your website, they may visit you again after seeing that you do, in fact, offer the best deal (or product or whatever). But know, they’ll just go directly to your site rather than use the same ad again.

On the other hand, you don’t have to sit back and hope they’ll remember your site. You can be a little more proactive about keeping their attention.

Remarketing allows you to “follow” your potential customers around the internet, displaying another ad and keeping your company in the forefront of their minds. It works just like other AdWords, in that you only have to pay for it when they click the ad. Until then, it is something that will help build awareness of your brand.

This is particularly effective for small businesses that are new to the online marketing scene, because it gives you a little bit of leeway. You don’t have to be perfect on your first ad and landing page. You just have to be good enough to create a bit more interest. Then, as they’re retargeted later on, they may give you another chance.

Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your AdWords Campaign

Make sure your landing pages are fully optimized

You don’t want to send such highly targeted traffic to a poorly optimized page. If they arrive on a page that isn’t designed specifically to convert visitors into customers, then you’re paying for a lot of traffic and not getting a lot of returns. Always make sure your landing pages are optimized for conversions.

Keep Testing

There are a lot of elements of ads and landing pages you can test, so you need to come at it with a plan. Don’t test randomly. Look at the data, develop a theory, and test one element. See what changes and then test another. Be consistent, and don’t ever assume you’ve tested everything. There’s always something else you can try.

Actively expand your keyword list

Don’t fixate on a single trophy keyword. Yes, there is technically a bajillion searches for “widgets” every day, but you’re far more likely to get a sale from someone who was searching for a “fizzbang widget repair in Kalamazoo.” Be willing to try new variations on keywords to see what performs better.

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PPC is not a set it and forget it kind of thing. Even if you are getting traffic that seems “good enough” there is usually always a way to get a little better ROI or to improve your cost per acquisition. Don’t just accept that it’s “doing fine.” Assume instead that there’s always something you can do to help it perform even better.

Write ads that work

You have a very limited space in which to deliver a few words that make people want to click. So you need to make sure that you’re using all that space effectively. If you don’t go much further than “including the keyword,” then you’re probably missing some opportunities.

You need to convey what makes your product or your company different. You have to give someone a reason to click. You don’t have to sell the whole product, you just have to sell the click.

You can do this by highlighting limited time offers, free trials, or any other incentive.

As you write your ad, though, you also need to think beyond the ad text and make sure it’s tied closely to the landing page. Make sure those words, themes, and promises are the first things the visitors see when they arrive on your site.

Stick to the budget

As you see some traffic increases, it can be tempting to go over budget just a little, if that means even more traffic.

But, if you haven’t planned for it, don’t do it. You don’t want to start overreaching before you know for sure that the new traffic is converting and providing a solid return.

Eventually, you will likely want to change your budget up or down, and that’s find and good. Just make sure you’re got the data to back up these decisions.

Understand how AdWords bidding works

This is where a lot of inexperienced companies face some problems.

Different bids will position your ads higher or lower in the search results. Many companies automatically assume that they need to drop the highest bid to ensure the highest position, but that’s not always true. Sometimes, a lower position may actually lead to more clicks. (Or at least provide more clicks without emptying the budget.)

This is where you may wish to discuss the issue with a consultant who can audit your PPC account and look at things like the conversion rate for certain keywords and the amount of revenue you can potentially make. This will help determine your max bid strategy.

So, Can a Small Business Really Be Successful with AdWords?

The short answer is yes. Despite the heavy competition in many industries, it is possible for small companies to see success with AdWords if they follow these tips.

Everything mentioned above can be accomplished on a smaller budget. The strategies may be a little different, and the focus will need to be a lot tighter, but it is possible to be successful.

If you’ve never worked with AdWords before it can be a little daunting, maybe a little frustrating, but with a careful, studied approach, small businesses can build a solid ROI.

 

Do you want to audit your own PPC account? Download this checklist and take a good look under the hood of your campaign in just 10 minutes.

Download your free ppc checklist

Topics: PPC

Andy Eliason

Written by Andy Eliason

Andy Eliason has been writing in the SEO industry longer than is technically healthy. He once considered counting all the words he has written over the years, but decided that such an endeavor could only end in tears.

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