Do Google Ads work for small businesses? This is a question I get asked every week by an intrepid business looking to explore search marketing.
The simple answer here is that yes, Google Ads work for small businesses. Google Ads can work for all businesses. Small, big, massive, or anywhere in between. They can also not work for businesses of all shapes and sizes when they are either not a good fit, they are implemented poorly, or the connective digital marketing tissue is not there. The reality is to answer this question you have to know that the devil is in the details.
In this post, I will help you understand whether Google Ads are a good fit for your small (medium or large) business and whether they are something you can run successfully yourself. Alternatively, would it make more sense to invest in a credible PPC consultant who can help you get a campaign set up and profitable in the shortest time possible?
Google Ads Work
We said it above but let’s just reiterate that point. Google Ads work. They can work great. They could well be the most powerful marketing system ever invented. However, that is not to say that running a successful Google Ads campaign is easy. Far, far from it.
Facts are facts though, and with up to 7 million advertisers on the platform and ad revenue of about around 150 billion US dollars in 2020, this is one hell of an advertising platform. Given that with digital marketing, it is easier than ever to track what is (and what is not) working, the majority of those advertisers know this is a marketing tactic that delivers the goods.
In a nutshell – Google Ads either work or they are the most elaborate and successful scam of all time.
But they did not work for me…
But Google Ads don’t work for everyone or every situation. You may know a business who tried Google Ads and got their fingers burned and has warned you off.
So what is going on here? How can Google Ads work and not work at the same time? Well, the execution really matters. It is very easy to set up a simple ad account, but if you have not got all the pieces of the puzzle in place, Google will eat up your money and give you very little in return.
At the bare minimum, there are four areas you need to consider for successful Google Ads campaigns:
- the keywords you target – and the way you target them
- the ads themselves – the ads must match the user’s requirement and convince them to click
- the landing page on your website – this must convince the user to take action
- the tracking of goals known as conversions – this is how you measure success and optimise your account
Without those four areas being finely tuned then Google Ad campaigns can indeed fail miserably – we cover the four key success factors for running Google Ads here (1).
Then there are broader factors about your business like your website, business reviews, competition, pricing – to be as sure as possible of generating results you must have all of your marketing ducks in a row as well before you send paid traffic to your site.
So we can revise our earlier statement from “Google Ads work for small businesses” to “Google Ads work for small businesses – when they are done properly”.
Are you a beginner?
There is another important aspect to consider here – experience.
Quite simply, Google Ads can be a brutal environment for new advertisers.
The halcyon days of cheap clicks are well and truly behind us. Google Ads are now the primary way many businesses get in front of potential customers at the very moment they have a requirement.
This strategic ease has led to one thing – increased competition and ever-climbing click prices.
Google has a solution here called Smart Campaigns (1). This simplified approach, historically known as AdWords Express, takes much of the complexity out of setting up an ad campaign to run on Google Search & Google Maps. However, the rub here is that these simplified campaigns will always struggle to compete against campaigns that are set up by professionals with more granular control. So, often, you have to consider whether you are looking for ease of use, or results.
I have a bit of a problem with the automated set-up as I feel it often removes the strategic thinking that should go into an ad campaign to ensure results. Generally, at the bare minimum, you want to be thinking about:
- What are your most profitable services?
- What areas are there where the competition is weak?
- Can you find a small yet overlooked service area where you can dominate?
- What do you want to say in your ads to stand out?
- What geographical areas do you want to target?
- Have you got a compelling landing page to send people to?
This is the smart planning that leads to successful Google Ads campaigns and is essential before you dive in.
If you want to get your tinfoil conspiracy hat on here we could say that the way Google Ads is configured by default is designed to waste money.
Google, of course, would say otherwise, they would tell you that the system is designed to make it easy for small businesses to advertise. But make no mistake, it is brutal out there. If you are not doing this well don’t do it at all.
Do it yourself or get the professionals in?
The other big question to ask here is whether you should do this yourself or get the professionals in.
It is not an easy question to answer and we are all for empowering the small business owner to run his own ad campaigns.
However, you have to ask yourself how much time do you have? Digital marketing can be complicated. Writing good copy, setting up websites and landing pages, wiring up analytics and conversion tracking – this is all complicated enough before you even get to the intricacies of the Google Ads platform. So, whilst there is plenty of good info out there you have to ask yourself whether you have time to become a Google Ads pro?
Generally, and we obviously have a bias here, we would favour getting the pros in (and if you would like completely impartial and honest advice about what would be the best course of action for your business drop me a line).
Do. Or do not. There is no try.
The simple answer to our original question is that Google Ads do work for small businesses – if you do them properly.
But you have to be aware of the brutal, gladiator arena you are walking out into.
Customers are lazy. Your competitors are only ever a single click away. So you have to be first and you have to be the best.
This is not a game. You can be one of the 1% of businesses that truly dominate online, rather than just pay the bills, but you need to be fully committed – and there will be work to do to get to that point.
You don’t have to start huge, in fact, it is far better to start small – you can target a tiny area local to your business, or a single and very specific service – start small, dominate that area and build out from there.
You do have to commit though, as Master Yoda once said, “Do. Or do not. There is no try”.
Some simple rules that will help here:
- You must be committed to your Google Ads campaign
- You must see your Google Ads as an investment
- Your Google Ads campaign must be consistent
- You must be confident in your products and services
- You must have your messaging and a USP dialled in
- You should start small in a niche you can dominate and scale-out from there
- You must have your lead capture and sales conversion strategy dialled in
In a nutshell, you need to have your digital marketing shit together or Google is just going to gobble up your marketing credits!
I am not trying to scare you off here, far from it. I want you to understand what a truly powerful platform Google Ads is. However, the road ahead will be difficult and the majority of your competitors will simply give up before they get to the promised land.
If you can tough it out and develop a mean, lean Google Ads marketing machine in place – you will have a marketing tool like no other that allows you to dominate your marketplace.
Not just more customers. Better customers. Ideal customers.
Free PPC Audit & Battle Plan
We appreciate it can be hard to know where to start but fear not. Whether you are just looking at your first-ever campaign or your current campaigns are not performing, we can help. We offer a free review of your current ads or a free strategy consultation with myself, Marcus Miller, and I have been working on Google Ads for over 20 years (since day 1 of the platform). View our free PPC Audit or Get in touch.
References & Further Reading
- Google Ads Success Factors: https://www.bowlerhat.co.uk/google-ads-the-4-key-success-factors/
- Google Ads Smart Campaigns: https://ads.google.com/intl/en_uk/home/resources/introduction-to-smart-campaigns-in-google-ads/