As a small business owner or freelancer, you’re always looking for ways to get more visibility for your products or services, and Google Ads can be a powerful tool to achieve that. With the right strategy and a clear understanding of how the platform works, you can take control of your advertising efforts and impact your business’s bottom line.
In this comprehensive guide, I’ll explore the ins and outs of Google Ads for small businesses, providing practical advice, insights, and tips to help you navigate the platform easily and confidently.
Table of Contents
Why Google Ads matter for small businesses
The power of targeted advertising
One of the greatest advantages of Google Ads for small businesses is its ability to target specific audiences. By leveraging a variety of targeting options, you can ensure that your ads are only shown to users who are most likely to be interested in your offerings, thereby maximizing the return on your advertising investment.
Demographic targeting. Google Ads enables you to target your ads based on age, gender, parental status, and household income. Before creating campaigns, make sure you understand the demographic profile of your ideal customer.
Location targeting. You can focus your advertising efforts on specific geographical areas, such as countries, regions, cities, or even zip codes. However, zip codes aren’t available in all countries. This is especially valuable for small businesses with a local customer base, as it ensures your ads are only displayed to users in your target area.
Custom audiences. Due to recent changes, Interest and affinity targeting also falls under custom audience. Additionally, you can use your website or your data to create even more audience variations.
Like with any other platform, you must understand that any targeting options Google offers are not 100% accurate. That’s why you always track results and optimize campaigns.
The importance of being present in search results
When potential customers search for products or services related to your business, it’s crucial to be visible in the search results. That’s why people say, “google it.” Google Ads enables you to bid on keywords related to your business, ensuring your website appears at the top of the search engine results page, increasing your chances of being discovered by potential customers.
As a small business, ensuring your website appears prominently in search results is critical to capturing potential customers’ attention and driving traffic to your site. You can do that with SEO (search engine optimization), but that takes a bit longer.
In either case, there are some great benefits of being in the tops results:
Increased visibility. By securing prime real estate in search results, you increase the likelihood that users will click on your website and explore your offerings.
Competitive advantage. Many small businesses compete with larger, more established companies in their industry. By utilizing Google Ads to appear in top search results, you can level the playing field and stand out among your competitors.
Higher click-through rates. Studies have shown that websites listed at the top of search results tend to receive significantly higher click-through rates (CTR) compared to those further down the page. By investing in Google Ads, you can boost your CTR and drive more traffic to your site, increasing the chances of converting visitors into customers.
Increased brand awareness. Even if users don’t immediately click on your ad, simply appearing in the top search results can help increase brand awareness and recognition. Over time, this can lead to increased trust and credibility for your business.
Real-time performance tracking. Google Ads provides detailed analytics that allows you to track the performance of your campaigns in real-time. By monitoring metrics such as impressions, clicks, and conversions, you can make data-driven decisions to optimize your campaigns and maximize your return on investment.
Besides, if you’re running a small business, most likely, you won’t compete with big players. This means that you don’t need a big budget to appear in the top results and reach those who search for your services and products. You only have to know the ins and outs. That’s what I love about Google Ads.
A cost-effective way to reach potential customers
Google Ads offers a pay-per-click (PPC) advertising model, which makes it a cost-effective solution for small businesses looking to promote their products or services. This approach ensures that you only pay when someone clicks on your ad, providing a clear return on investment and making it an affordable option for businesses of all sizes.
Budget control. One of the key benefits of Google Ads for small businesses is the ability to set your own advertising budget. Usually, you set a daily budget, but you can set a total campaign budget as well. You can start with as little as a few dollars a day.
Targeted audience. We touched up audience targeting earlier. What you need to understand is that correct targeting might save you a lot of money and still get you the results you need.
Ad scheduling. This one is really good if you’re counting every penny. You can schedule your ads to run only on specific weekdays or even hours. For example, if you don’t work on weekends, you might exclude them, thus saving you money.
Performance tracking and optimization. Google Ads provides a wealth of data and analytics to help you track the performance of your campaigns. That’s why you have to always check on the campaign performance. This ongoing refinement process ensures you get the most out of your ad spend.
Scalability. As your business grows, Google Ads offers the flexibility to scale your advertising efforts accordingly. You can easily adjust your budget, target new keywords, or expand your campaigns to reach a broader audience. This scalability makes Google Ads a valuable long-term investment for small businesses looking to grow their customer base and revenue.
I worked with many businesses across the world, and some of them only have a few hundred dollars a month to spend on ads. And still, they benefited from Google Ads. If they can, so can you get a return on your investment.
Setting up your Google Ads account
It’s easy to create a Google Ads account. All you need is a Gmail account. Then go to Google Ads and follow the steps. Make sure you have your credit card ready as it will be required at some point. Other than that, you have all the information you will need.
When you log in, you should see no campaigns. In fact, if that’s your first time logging in, Google will have a guided mode for you. Which, in my opinion sucks. But you can use it to create your first campaign. I don’t like it because it kinda pushes you to choose what Google wants you to choose. And that’s not always the best case.
However, once you’re done with that first campaign, you can just pause it. Which means that you can input whatever you want during campaign creation process, just so you can switch to expert mode later on.
On the right side top menu, find Settings, click and select expert mode. But remember, you can’t go back to a lightweight version. After doing that, go and create another campaign. Should be a big plus button in the All campaigns view.
The next step should look like this:
This is a template that Google built around your objective. Each of these objectives has pre-defined settings to save you time. I never use it, and I prefer to select my settings. Since you are learning, I recommend doing the same.
Select to create a campaign without any guidance the last option.
Here you can select your campaign type. Remember earlier we talked that Google Ads has many types, including Youtube, Display, shopping, etc. We now focus only on Search campaigns.
Once you select Search, you will see additional options appear below.
These are the conversion goals you have in your account. You might see none since your account is new. In the future, if you have several, you can remove them from this particular campaign by clicking on the three dots on the right. This removes the goal from the campaign but does not delete it from the account.
If you don’t see anything, don’t worry, you can create a conversion later.
After clicking Continue, you will see yet another set of settings. You can skip the first part. Then, you have your campaign name. You can name them however you want, it does not impact the results. But I do recommend naming them so you would know what’s it about. Otherwise, skip it and rename the campaign later.
Next, you have network selection and locations. Even if you have selected the Search campaign type, you have to unselect the Display network here. It’s a bit confusing, but text ads can appear on some placements in the Display network, so here you can either allow it to happen or not. And you should not. These are two different networks, and you should never mix them.
Moving on to locations. Simply select in what area you want your ads to be shown. Usually, it’s a country. There is a way to target states and cities, but we will discuss it in the advanced optimization.
In the languages section, just target all languages. I would say this should be your default setting for now. The rest of the settings you can skip for now.
After clicking Next, we’re going into creating an ad group. Ad group is where you plave your ads and keywords. The name doesn’t matter. What matters are the keywords you add here. You can add more keywords later as well and rename the ad group if needed.
After this, we’re going to do the same with the ads. Remember that at least 3 headlines and 2 descriptions are mandatory.
Later in the post I will talk about the search ads a bit more. You can skip the ads and add them later. Or just input anything you want just so you can continue.
Once you’re done with the ads, you will be asked to add assets. It’s good to have them, but they are not mandatory. At this point you should just skip them.
And finally, review and publish your campaign. That’s it.
It might take some time before the campaign will be approved. Usually it’s quite fast within a few hours. Unless you advertise something that might be suspicious to Google, then it might take several days. But it is always good to check what can and can’t be advertised on Google.
The steps of creating a campaign are the same and given some time you will move through them effortlessly.
After the ads are approved the campaign will start running. Your keywords will start receiving impressions and clicks. But this is just the beginning so I would not recommend leaving this campaign as it is.
Keyword research and strategy
Your ads appear if someone searches for a keyword you bid on. That’s the basics of Google Ads. Keywords are the key here. Because your ads will be shown only if your keywords match users’ search queries. In other words, if what users enter in Google search match what you have in the account, your ads might be shown.
Imagine this scenario. Your TV broke, and you can’t turn it on. It’s Friday. What do you do? How would you search on google?
- Maybe you will enter “fast tv repair services” since it’s Friday and you want it done before the weekend.
- Or maybe “samsung warranty shops near me,” since you still have a warranty and want to find out if there is a shop around your home.
- What about describing what you see, “tv light blinking, but the screen is black”? A specific description of the problem. You want to see if anyone else had this problem and maybe was able to fix it.
- Or just “tv repairs in Chicago,” similar to the last one, but here you specify the city, neighborhood, or street name.
- You can also buy new tv “samsung tv online with same-day delivery.” You just want to get it today.
And there are many other combinations of searches for the same problem. And your job is to understand the differences and match these searches to your ads. You know you business best. Think about how your customers mights search for your service. Sometimes it will be very obvious, like “mens leather italian shoes“, othertimes, you might have to spend a few hours or maybe even asking your customers.
You can start with just one or two keywords. The ones that are the most important ones to your business. And then later scale to more keywords. Remember, if you’re a small business your goal is to get the best possible return on investment. This means you don’t go compete with the big guys on keywords like “womens shoes”. Select more niche keywords, more specific.
Keyword match types
And this brings me to keyword match types. Google helps narrow it down when it comes to keywords. There are several keyword match types to choose from, including broad, phrase, exact, and negative. Each match type determines how closely a user’s search query must match your keyword for your ad to be displayed. Understanding the differences between match types can help you create a more effective keyword strategy.
Broad match. This is the broadest match, as the name indicates. This means that Google will treat your keyword in the broadest way possible.
Phrase match. This type matches only if your specified phrase is in the users’ search. In the account, it is indicated by ” “.
Exact match. The last type, which, as you guessed, is the most precise, hence the name. This is where you want your ad to be shown only when users search for precisely what you have specified in your keywords. These keywords leave no room for Google interpretation, so they get less traffic. In the account exact match keywords are indicated with [ ].
Here’s the table that should help you understand the differences between the match types.
You can see that less keywords match when you go from broad to exact. I would never recommend starting with a broad match type. Use exact if you want to know exactly when your ad will be triggered.
Ad group structure
If you have only a few keywords this does not matter. You will have just one campaign and 1 or 2 ad groups. With more and more keywords added it becomes a problem as you have t correctly structure your account. This is a wide topic and it’s not part of this post. I do talk a lot about campaign structure in my book.
General rule is to organize your keywords into tightly themed ad groups based on similar themes or products. This will allow you to create more targeted ads, improve your quality score, and potentially lower your cost per click.
For example, don’t place “womens shoes” and “mens shoes” keywords into one ad group. It will be hard to structure your campaigns and ad group when you just starting out. Don’t worry about it too much. Given that you’re a small business operating with a lower budget and a handful of keywords, this should not impact your account performance significantly.
By the way, there is one tip I can share with you. Only works with small accounts. You can use a separate ad group for each of your keywords. For example, let’s say you sell handmade mens leather wallets. They keywords that might be right for you could be:
- mens leather wallets
- brown mens leather wallets
- hand made mens leather wallets
- mens leather wallets price
- buy mens leather wallets
You could place each keyword into a different ad group. Then you don’t have to think about how to group them, etc. Again, this works only for small accounts, as you can imagine with 1000 keywords, this way of managing campaigns can become a tedious task.
Google ads Keyword planner
You might be worried about getting keywords for your business. I’m sure you can think of several, but what if you need more. Well, Google has a great tool for that. It’s called Google keyword planner. It’s a free tool that you can find in your account. You can find it in your account under Tools and settings.
When you click on keyword planner you should see two options:
The first one lets you discover additional keywords that are related to the ones you entered. As we talked about before, people can enter various keywords into a search, and it’s almost impossible to guess all of them. This tool helps you out a lot as it shows you what other related keywords people enter into Google. All you have to do is decide if these keywords fit your business.
The other option lets you see the search volume or how many people search for it in a given time. It’s a great tool to see if the keywords you selected before are searched by anyone. Sometimes you think people search for something, but in reality, they don’t, or the volume is so low that it’s not worth advertising.
This is a great tool to find additional keywords for you business, or find out how many people actually search for the keywords, that relate to your small business. I won’t expand here too much as I have write and extensive post about keyword planner.
Crafting compelling ads
Making sure a potential customer sees your ad is just the beginning of an effective campaign – you must also capture that person’s attention and convert them into a click. To do this, we spent time carefully selecting keywords as they trigger ads in search results; however, it requires much more than keyword optimization to make someone take action!
When you search for something, you might have 1 – 4 ads on top, followed by organic results. Organic results are the outcome of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and have nothing to do with ads.
In any case, you are competing with other competitors and organic results. Because to users, all the search results are the answers to their search. You have to make sure that it is your ad that they click on.
Writing persuasive ad copy: Your ad copy should be clear, concise, and compelling. Focus on the benefits of your product or service, include a strong call to action, and use keywords in your ad copy to increase relevance and improve your ad’s performance.
Utilizing ad extensions for more information and visibility: Ad extensions provide additional information about your business, such as your address, phone number, or customer reviews. They can help improve the visibility of your ads and increase the chances of users clicking on them.
A/B testing your ads to optimize performance: Test different variations of your ads, such as headlines, descriptions, and display URLs, to see which ones perform best. Continuously optimize your ads based on the results to improve their performance and maximize your return on investment.
Ads are the only thing a users see from your account. This is the first impression of you. To help you out I have a separate post focusing only on Google responsive search ads. Don’t start any campaign without reading that post.
Measuring and tracking success
I’ve never seen a great campaign without having to optimize it first. I know this all sounds very overwhelming, but if it was easy everyone would do it. I’m sure running your small business is also not only fun and games. But if you spend time getting things right, it will be a lot easier down the line.
The goal of any ad is to bring more money than you spend. And for that you need to see if your Google ads campaign are working, meaning bringing you sales (or conversions).
You can set up conversion tracking in the account so that if a user who clicked on the add purchased something you can see what keyword and ad drove that sale. And adjust spend as necessary.
You can find conversion tracking in the Tools and settings, in the menu. But you might need a developer setting those up. It all depends on the website platform you use. Some offer easy integrations, and for others there is a requirement to place a certain code snippet on your website.
I think conversions are the most crucial part of your ads. You can’t do anything if you don’t know what drives your sales.
But your campaign might have other goals besides purchases. Either way, you will have to understand main metrics and how to view them. So make sure to:
Understand key performance metrics: Familiarize yourself with the key performance metrics in Google Ads, such as click-through rate (CTR), cost per click (CPC), and conversion rate. These metrics can help you gauge the effectiveness of your campaigns and identify areas for improvement.
Set up conversion tracking: To track the success of your campaigns, set up conversion tracking in your Google Ads account. This will allow you to see which keywords, ad groups, and campaigns are driving conversions and contributing to your business goals.
Analyze and interpret data: Regularly review your Google Ads reports to analyze the data and identify trends, areas for improvement, and potential opportunities for growth. Use this information to optimize your campaigns and improve your overall return on investment.
Google Ads can be a game-changer for small businesses looking to increase their online visibility and reach more potential customers. By taking the time to understand the platform and implementing the strategies discussed in this guide, you’ll be well on your way to mastering Google Ads for your small business. Don’t forget to keep testing, measuring, and optimizing your campaigns for the best results. And remember, practice makes perfect! Happy advertising!