You may think it’s impossible to run Google Search Ads on a small budget. Certainly it’s easy to get sucked into thinking the efficacy of your ads is dependent on the amount of money you can throw at them.
But here’s the good news for you and many small business owners: that’s not true at all! You can actually run effective Google Search ads on a fairly small budget.
To illustrate, we’ll answer the common questions people have about how to set up and run successful Google campaigns with limited media spend.
Let’s start with that all-important cornerstone of digital marketing: keyword research!
Do your keyword research
Keyword research is necessary because of the way Google Ads work. For your ads to be shown, you have to bid on keywords that you think your target audience is likely to search for.
Choose the right keywords and your ad can be displayed often to your target buyers. Choose the wrong ones and… Well, you can guess what happens. You just don’t reach the people you want to reach!
Doing keyword research for Google Ads is pretty simple now, thanks to the Google Keyword Planner. With it, you can look for possible keywords to target simply by providing words, phrases, or even a URL related to your business. The tool offers suggestions from there.
The curated list of keywords the tool gives you will vary, of course. The same goes for the numbers for the Top of Page Bids – these are found on the right-side columns of the list in the Keyword Planner. They indicate the amount of money you need to bid per click to be at the top or bottom of the first page of results for that keyword.
What keywords should you aim for?
Generally, you should aim for keywords that match your target customer’s intent. The closer you get to that intent, the better!
Say you sell leather shoes. You might think you should target people Googling “leather shoes”. But that’s so general that you’ll run into a ton of competition and higher bid prices (because of the competition).
Worse yet, you still won’t be sure that the people Googling are at the stage where they’re ready to buy shoes!
It’s better to get right down to the specifics. Are you looking for customers who want to “buy handcrafted shoes in full-grain leather”? You may well want to bid on keywords like that, then. That should send your ads to a targeted audience, i.e. one more likely to convert.
Such keywords are usually long-tail ones with low search volume. Still, the high intent behind them makes up for the low volume. After all, you technically end up with a better conversion ratio than you would with more general, high-volume keywords. Plus, long-tail keywords are often lower-competition and cost less to bid on!
That being said, the ideal mix of keyword choices for your ad campaign may well include more general keywords too. As we noted earlier, a lot of metrics vary across keywords and industries, so the best mix is often one that includes both high- and low-volume keywords.
Choose wisely from Exact Match, Phrase Match, and Broad Match
When you choose keywords to bid on in Google Ads, you can also select how Google matches traffic to those keywords. There are 3 main options for this:
Broad Match - Google shows your ad for a wide range of searches. While some may be very closely related to the keywords you’ve chosen, others may be very distant, thanks to the nature of broad matching.
Phrase Match - This is a more specific matching option where Google tries to stay relatively close to the keywords you chose. If you’re targeting “ad agencies in Singapore”, for instance, it’s perfectly possible for your ad to show up even for searches “ad and marketing agencies in Singapore” or “Singapore ad agency”.
Exact Match - This is the most specific option. If you specify this, only searches that match verbatim the keywords you chose will get your ad.
Which matching option should you choose?
The general rule, especially for people on a budget, is to steer clear of Broad Match unless you’re experimenting. It has massive reach and a lot of impressions, but will often be a waste of money.
Phrase and Exact Match are better for advertising on a budget. If your product or service is perfectly described by the keywords you’re targeting, use the former. On the other hand, if your keywords are not exact matches for what you offer, you should use the latter.
Why? It will help to tighten the lasso Google casts when finding search traffic for your keywords. After all, you’re already starting from an imprecise point – you don’t want the traffic to get even more distant from your intentions!
Of course, you should still keep refining your matches over time by studying your search terms reports. Don’t just set it up and forget about it, because ads perform best when optimised continuously!
Deep-dive into tracking and analysis
The best way to optimise your Google Ads on a budget is to put in the analytical legwork. That means tracking your campaigns and studying them to see what can be refined.
Google actually helps with yet another tool here. We’ve talked about it before in our article on Google Analytics 4. We recommend going over that article to get a head start on how to use the tool to your advantage when analysing your ad campaigns.
The goal here is to identify metrics that may not be showing the performance you’d like. For example, look at the engagement time visitors from specific campaigns are logging on your site. You can shift your budget or make adjustments to the campaigns with the worst engagement times from there.
Always adjust with a view to making your ad spend more efficient. In other words, look at your campaigns and allocate your dollars to the ones that actually perform.
Keep a strict and updated negative keywords list
Negative keywords are keywords that you can specify to Google as ‘ones to avoid’. Basically, if you specify something as a negative keyword for an ad campaign, Google will avoid showing your ad to someone who searches for that keyword.
Let’s say you have an ad campaign where you specify that “rubber slippers” is a negative keyword. This means anyone Googling “rubber slippers” will not see your ad.
Now, does this feature matter? It depends. If you’re using Exact Match, it doesn’t matter at all. If you’re using Broad or Phrase Match, it matters a ton.
Google’s method of finding searches that are relevant to your keywords can sometimes range very wide. You may find your ad being shown even to people who would never actually buy your product or service, for instance. The problem is that you’d still end up paying for that despite not getting a conversion.
Here’s an example. Let’s say your business makes bespoke, handcrafted rugs. You set up an ad campaign that targets keywords such as “bespoke rugs in Singapore” or “handcrafted rugs in Singapore”.
Sometimes, due to the way Broad Match and Phrase Match work, it’s possible for Google to show your ad even to people searching for keywords like “bespoke rug repair in Singapore”. That would be fine only if you actually offered rug repair services – otherwise, showing your ads to people searching for those is a waste of time and dollars!
That’s why you need negative keyword lists to help you ensure that your ad spend is efficient. These lists help you keep Google “on-target”, so be sure to maintain a stringent negative keyword list to keep your costs down!
Layer your audiences
Audience layering is the process of adding multiple layers to your ads targeting parameters. At its simplest, it means defining your target audience better so you can be more cost-efficient about ad spend!
We talked earlier about keywords. One of the things we noted is that it’s often more expensive to target high-volume, general keywords because a lot of people are doing the same, driving up bidding prices.
Layering audiences is one way to avoid that. It means you can specify multiple conditions for Google to satisfy when it’s trying to figure out when and to whom it should show your ads. These conditions can be specified as audiences.
So, for example, your first audience might be defined as one searching for a particular keyword, like “PC building services”. Then you could layer another audience on it by specifying small employers (in this case, perhaps because you’re aiming for people setting up large PC packages for offices and the like).
You can keep going with these layers until you get right down to specifics like locations and even remarketing lists. While it means you’ll be casting your net over a smaller area than before, it also means you’ll have a higher chance of getting fish!
Exclude your brand keywords
This is something you should do if your website is ranking organically. Exclude your own brand keyword from your ad campaigns because you will take away from your organic traffic channel otherwise!
Besides, you’ll also be spending money unnecessarily to appear in searches together with your organically ranking website. In other words, you’ll be spending ad dollars for no good reason when you’re already visible to your target audience.
Get help setting up your Google Search Ad campaigns today
In sum, it can be tough to run ads with a limited budget, but it’s far from impossible! There are still many ways you can go about it with a smaller budget than the big guys – and with some smart moves, you can even get ahead of them for certain customer demographics.
We can help you with that if you think you still need professional guidance. We specialise in SME marketing and have led many other business owners through successful ad campaigns that punched well above their weight in terms of ad spend.
Talk to us and we can figure out what you may need for your own Google Ad campaigns, as well as how we can help you achieve your goals. Contact us for a chat for your digital marketing needs today!