Many small businesses, particularly start-ups, find themselves in the tenuous position of trying to market their brand on a limited budget. While the internet has helped to level the playing field somewhat, smaller enterprises still have a difficult time carving out a niche for themselves in a crowded marketplace.
Pay-Per-Click advertising is often seen as the sole province of big business. It is generally assumed that only larger companies have the financial resources to fund, and maintain a successful PPC marketing campaign.
Unfortunately, this common misconception stops many small business owners from considering pay-per-click as a viable marketing option. This is a shame because pay-per-click advertising can be a good fit for small businesses...if it is handled properly.
PPC Advertising on a Budget
Pay-Per-Click advertising can be highly effective for businesses on a limited budget. The ability to focus on the keywords and phrases that people are using to search for your product or service means that you can successfully target a specific customer base.
These are the people who are most likely to become customers, and who are already primed to be ushered into your conversion funnel. Consequently, even a limited advertising budget has a great deal of power and can provide a solid return on your investment. So let's look at the basic building blocks of pay-per-click advertising on a budget.
Step 1 – Set Your Budget
Every advertising campaign begins with a budget. This should be obvious. There are a number of factors to consider when setting your pay-per-click advertising budget. Google Adwords is the prime PPC channel, and like most, it has two bidding models. Automatic and manual.
For a small business with ad spends around $25-$100/day, I recommend having a very targeted campaign using manual bidding. Manual bidding is very time-consuming but gives you the most control. Automatic bidding should be used on much larger ad spends. There's a great article on Bruce Clay that discusses the pros and cons in more detail. The number of keywords you're targeting will also greatly affect this automatic vs manual decision.
If you've decided on using a manual bidding approach, the next step is to decide how much you are willing to "pay per click" based on your industry. This can range anywhere from under a dollar to well beyond $10 per click. How much you bid will be largely determined by the type of business you are promoting, and the size and reach of the campaign you want to run.
After your campaign has been running for a few days to a week, you can increase or decrease your bid amount slightly. Play around with bidding in the top 4 spots. I've often found better ROI in positions #3 and #4 for many clients.
PPC budgets for small businesses can range from $750 per month to $3,000 per month. Keep in mind, you will also have to figure in management fees, and this will greatly affect your budget's bottom line. It will be up to you to decide how much money you want to invest.
Step 2 - Ad Groups and Ad Copy
The first thing is understanding "Ad Groups". Think of these at buckets for each type of product or service your company offers. For example, if you're a pizza place, there would be different advertising groups for say, pizzas and side menu items. Both ad groups would have a different set of keywords also. More on this later.
Your advertising copy is the pivot upon which your campaign will turn and be unique to each ad group. It also needs to be compelling, while remaining brief and to the point. The advertising world uses the acronym AIDA when creating ad copy, and it can help you in producing a quality ad.
- Attention - Get the customer's attention using a strong headline. Typically, you will want your keywords to be here.
- Interest - Entice the customer's interest in the ad copy body. Why should a visitor click on your ad? You need to be able to answer this question.
- Desire - Emotion is the cornerstone to ALL marketing. Make your product or service attractive to the customer using trigger words like "free", "secret", or "amazing".
- Action - Finally, you need a call to action or CTA. Experiment with different variations of your ad copy, using "order now" or simply, "are you ready to start?".
You can then use Ad Extensions to display your phone number next to your ad, or even your social profiles and sitelinks to specific pages. Also, you want to make sure you're using UTM parameters on all your links for tagging and tracking your goals in Google Analytics. Annie Cushing has a definitive guide for you to take a look at, or just hire us!
Step 3 - Keywords
With a budget and your ads in place, it's time to start honing in the keywords you are going to target in your ads. When choosing keywords, consider the most common words or phrases people are likely to enter into a search field when searching for your product or service. You can also use Google Keyword Planner to get ideas.
As you start to build your list of keywords, consider the following:
- Brand Name - Your business name has power, and I would have a small ad group in place for this...initially. You might find that your organic search results solve this need just fine. Always good to test and measure your ROI.
- Your Competition - Consider targeting the names of your competition. When people search for your competitors, your ad will be displayed, and you can "steal" their traffic. Ok, maybe steal is a poor name, let's just call it a good strategy.
- Long Tail Keywords - Consider what phrases your customers are using for your product. For example, “best pizza in Pittsburgh”. These long-tail keywords produce less traffic, but they are significantly cheaper and can deliver a better return on your investment. Use SEMRush to see which keywords your competitors are targeting, then take note and conquer.
- Negative Keywords - These are keywords that you do not want to rank for. For example, if your pizza shop only serves pizza, you may not want to rank for “lasagna” or “Italian Cuisine”. Using negative keywords can be an entire post on it's own. This helps to better target your ad, ensuring that it is seen by those most likely to click.
Once you nail down the 3 steps above, it is time to go live! But the work doesn't stop there. For your ad to be successful, you need to ensure that your website is ready to deliver on the promise of your ad. A PPC ad is useless if your site is not fully optimized and ready to usher visitors through the conversion funnel.
Once visitors get to your site, make sure the message clearly matches or extends your original ad with a very targeted landing page to purchase or complete your call to action.
A big part of a successful PPC ad campaign is monitoring the data your advertising brings. The data you collect from your PPC ad, including clicks, impressions, click-through rates, conversions, and cost per conversion, will help you to fine-tune your ad campaign.
For example, if you are a local business trying to raise awareness for your brand, you will want to pay close attention to your clicks and your click-through rates. If you are running an e-commerce site, you will want to closely monitor your costs per lead and costs per conversion. When it comes to launching a PPC ad campaign, the real work starts after the ad goes live.
Many small businesses assume that PPC advertising is out of their reach. But even on a limited budget, PPC can help you boost awareness for your brand and boost traffic. Once you have started with PPC advertising, you may find that the returns on your investment will allow you to increase your budget and ramp up your PPC ad campaign, ultimately bringing even more customers.