by Michelle Morehouse
Many small business owners are hesitant to adopt pay-per-click advertising because it feels like an expensive channel. In some ways it is expensive; on the other hand, you’ve got to spend money to make money. But not all accounts have to spend thousands of dollars a month to be profitable. Smaller accounts can be successful (and often are). Regardless of the size of your account, there are some steps you can take to make the most of your advertising spend, whether it’s tens, hundreds, or thousands of dollars per month. If you have a limited budget, here are a few ways to make the most of PPC:
A great way to limit your spend is to have your ads run only during certain times of the day. How you determine those hours, however, is up to you. Some businesses do better running ads only during the hours they’re open. For example, if you generate most of your business through phone calls, it doesn’t help having people call when you’re not there. In other instances, your best bet might be running ads only during the evening hours. If bigger competitors run their ads primarily during the day, clicks will most likely be more expensive due to competition. If those advertisers slow down during the evening it could be your chance to score some less pricey clicks. As long as your potential clients or customers are able to reach you effectively tweaking the timing of your ads can bring in some cheaper traffic.
In both Google AdWords and Bing Ads, you can get very specific with geographic targeting in your campaigns. You can also use something called “bid modifiers” to emphasize or deemphasize your ads in different areas.
For example, let’s say your business is located in Houston, Texas and can have customers throughout the state of Texas. You’ve noticed over time that customers from Dallas are more profitable and customers from San Antonio are less profitable. With new bid modifiers, you can adjust your campaigns to bid more aggressively on searchers in Dallas and less aggressively on those in San Antonio. This will help you be more visible in areas of higher profitability and less visible without losing all coverage in areas with lower profitability.
Depending on your business, there could be a nearly limitless range of keywords you could bid on. But to maximize your small budget, you'll have to prioritize to get the most bang for your buck.
1. Long tail keywords: Keywords with 3 or more words in them are typically considered “long-tail” keywords. They are more specific and require the searcher to have put in a bit more thought into their search query. Using these types of keywords usually results in lower cost-per-click and higher quality searchers. The trade off is that because these are more complicated search terms, the volume of searchers for these phrases is smaller.
2. Stricter Match Types: To get started, target your keywords in only Exact or Phrase match. This will reduce the number of impressions you’ll show up for, but should make the number of clicks from unqualified customers go down.
3. Action Oriented Searches: Just like the two examples above, you should be looking to bring only the most relevant searchers to your site. Sticking only to action-oriented keywords such as “buy widgets online” can help reduce the number of clicks from people doing searches for informational purposes.
The advertising platforms break devices up into three categories: computers/desktops, tablets, and mobile. Depending on your website, these devices might all perform similarly or they might behave differently. If your website is mobile responsive, it might be a good idea to test targeting mobile devices and see how they perform. If your site isn’t mobile friendly, it might be best to stay out of those auctions.
Currently, Bing Ads allows advertisers to choose which of the three categories of devices they would like to target and you’re free to create separate campaigns for each device.
Google AdWords is a bit different. Google forces advertisers to target all devices in the same campaign and allows for a mobile bid modifier, similar to the geographic modifiers above. The one thing to remember is that Google considers desktops and tablets the same. If you bid on computers, you’ll have to bid that same amount on tablets. If nothing else, at least make sure your site is tablet-friendly (responsive is best if you have the technical help available) before bidding too aggressive in the Google auctions.
Both Google AdWords and Bing Ads have something called a Search Partner Network. Basically, these are sites approved by Bing or Google to use their search results. In some instances, these networks can be fabulous ways to bring in more sales. But if you’re operating on a small budget to begin with, these might be a good area to opt out of initially. Once other aspects of your account are performing well then these extra networks might be worth a test. These certainly aren’t all of the ways to make the most of your ad dollars, but they offer you a place to begin. When in doubt, start small and work your way up.
Michelle is a paid search specialist at Clix Marketing with an affinity for search, display, retargeting, and social campaigns and is known in the SEM industry for her expertise in PPC account management and analytics. You can follow her on twitter @michellemsem.