PPC for Small Business: Dealing with the Budget Cap Crisis

pinch penny 2Small businesses the world over want to play ball with the “big boys” generating new business with PPC. They can and should do just that. However, what sets most SMBs apart from the bigger advertisers is their marketing budget. SMBs pinch pennies to make ends meet and limited marketing budgets equal limited spend potential in PPC campaigns. Daily budget caps can cripple any PPC campaign. So, how can a small business PPC manager (or agency) compete? Get creative! Change how you look at campaign settings, keyword selection, bidding and more.

Limit Keywords & Targeting

There are a lot of options when it comes to PPC. The sky is the limit with keywords, of course. And don’t forget about search vs. search partners. Oh, and display… contextual, placements, remarketing! The list goes on.

When you are faced with a limited budget, you have to be selective about how you target your campaigns. Starting with keywords, you may not be able to build a new set of campaigns targeting thousands of keywords and be competitive for all of them. Instead, through the course of keyword research isolate those keywords that are most important/relevant to your business. Build on any existing data from Google Analytics or past PPC campaigns (knowing what has converted in the past is immensely helpful!). While not ideal, you may even need to consider testing blocks of keywords over a period of time. This is not ideal, but it ensures you are devoting a sufficient level of spend to each set of keywords to prove out performance KPIs.

With regards to all of the other targeting features, create a testing plan. Figure out how much of your budget you can devote to testing each month and just go at it one feature at a time. Once you understand which keywords and targeting features perform best, you can create a spend allocation plan with confidence.

Ignore Some “Best Practices”

Most PPC folks have a set of best practices that they follow with nearly every account or campaign they manage. Ad delivery settings. Ad rotation settings. Tiered bidding strategies. Keyword research and campaign build out processes. The list goes on. The point is this: when you are faced with a small business-sized PPC budget, some of those best practices just may not be applicable any more.

The most straight forward example of this is the ad delivery settings in Google AdWords and Bing Ads. For most PPC managers, accelerated delivery is preferred. Why wouldn’t you want your ads to show 100% of the time they are eligible?!?! Well, if it means your daily budget cap is exhausted before noon on the east coast… then accelerated delivery isn’t the right choice. Switching to standard delivery (though it makes me cringe sometimes) balances things out and paces your ad delivery throughout the day based on your ad schedule settings. In hyper-competitive verticals, this often isn’t enough and your budget will still be depleted early in the day. Solutions? Keep reading…

Rethink Bids and Ad Position

Many businesses, large and small, have it in their heads that they have to rank in the top 3 ad positions for their keywords. While it is true that CTR is far higher in those positions, it doesn’t necessarily mean that those are theĀ best positions. If you have a budget constraint to deal with, cranking up your bids to rank in the top 3 will only end in failure.

It is basic math, really. Daily budgets are a bottle cap for clicks. If you have high CPCs, you will garner fewer clicks. Lower CPCs, more clicks. You have to test your bid optimization strategies and accept that ranking on the right hand side may actually work in your favor. More click volume on relevant keywords equals more conversions. Will you have keywords that belong in the top 3 positions? Yes! Should you continue to bid them up? Yes! Look for these exceptions and isolate them into separate campaigns with dedicated budgets.

Ad Schedules Are Your Friend

Ad scheduling is a fundamental PPC tactic – regardless of your budget. It is rarely, if ever, a best practice to run your campaigns 24/7 at full capacity. But for SMBs on a limited budget, it is all the more important. When are your potential customers searching? When do they convert? Review Google Analytics to get a baseline. If you don’t have that data, look to your sales team or e-commerce platform data. Once you know the optimal times of day for PPC traffic, you can set bid modifiers or flat out exclude periods of time based on that data.

Cherry Pick Geographic Targets

Another area where you can slice and dice your PPC campaigns is with geo-targeting. Many advertisers fall into the trap of thinking they have to target all of the US (or whatever country is at the top of your list), or a state, etc. This makes sense for some advertisers, but it is certainly not the rule. Much like with ad scheduling, the onus is on you to understand where you generate the most leads or transactions. Target these areas and downplay or exclude the rest. Pretty cut and dry. When you can focus your limited budget on those geo-targets that perform the best you’ll find success.

PPC for small businesses isn’t impossible. Limited budgets are a headache for sure, but they aren’t the end of the world. Get creative with your settings, keywords and targeting to pinch every last penny for optimal PPC performance!

Photo courtesy of The Rocketeer on Flickr.

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