Google Ads for Small Business: a primer

Post by Alison Knott | Last Updated: October 27, 2021

Using Google Ads for a small business can seem like a daunting marketing strategy. However, I have seen remarkable ROI this tool can give, in the hands of the right person. One such person I know is digital marketing consultant Matt Whalen. He happens to be as obsessed with paid advertisement as I am data and design. So I interviewed him as a mini primer for those of you who want to know if Google Ads is right for you.


Why do you think Google ads is a great solution for small business?

Flexibility in targeting customers. Google Ads is one of the rare cases where SMBs and the largest brands in the world have access to the same basic tools. From search marketing to display advertising, videos and app ads, it is very robust.


Can you give me some examples?

Sure! Let’s say you offer building foundation repair, and you want to generate new leads before winter. You could set up a search campaign targeting people in your service area searching “leaky basement” or “cracked foundation”. The ads lead to your special landing page containing your contact information and a form to get a quote. By showing these ads alongside relevant searches, you’re providing the user with what they needed right when they were looking for it.

Looking to make more of a brand awareness play? You can run video ads on YouTube or banner ads on millions of different websites across the web on the Google Display Network.


Let’s talk budget: is there a rule of thumb for how much to invest in Google Ads starting out?

(laughs) That’s like asking “How long is a piece of string?” There’s many factors to consider, such as your industry, goals, and marketing strategy.

There’s no true minimum budget, but it’s possible you may have a hard time optimizing based on results if it’s too small. Why? If you’re paying to send a few dozen people to your landing page per day, at the cost of $10 or so, none of those users may convert. Or several might. Either way, you’re not sure what’s working and what’s not with those small numbers. It’s difficult to tell what may be significant.

“As an extremely general rule, you should budget no less than $1,000 for every thirty days. Last year, the average cost per click (CPC) for Google Search was over $2. The average CPC for display was almost $0.70.” – Matt Whalen

If all goes well, your $1,000 investment will bring anywhere from 500-1400 users to your site. The average conversion rate (depending on what your conversion is and your industry) can range from 1% to 4%. That means that you might convert 20-50 customers. Again, your mileage will vary, but it’s worth being realistic about the results you can expect.


What needs to be done before you can run Google Ads?

Before I ever login to a client’s Google Ads account, I like to see how they’re set up to measure on their website. Google Analytics is the standard, but I always recommend more than just ‘out of box setup’. I want to measure whether the traffic generated from those ads is converting. So we want to track things like:

  • Forms are filled out
  • Call to action buttons are clicked
  • Ecommerce data is properly talking to Google Analytics

Then we need to look at where we’re going to send traffic. If we’re paying to send users to our homepage, can they convert there? How easy/difficult is that process? It’s always a good idea to examine your website through the lens of a potential customer. Often the best solution is a purpose-designed landing page, not your home or usual pages.

Two people at a computer, one holding their hand over the other person's eyes to demonstrate that having ads on your site without tracking is like navigating a computer with your eyes closed.
Before you run Google Ads, make sure you have tracking and measurement set up correctly. Else you’ll be spending money with half your vision obscured.


Now you’re speaking my language. Data, design and user experience makes for more effective ads!

Indeed! Let’s go back to our foundation repair business example. Our landing page should be able to explain who we are, what we do, and why we do it better. In order to convert, that page also has to make it as easy as possible for users to get in touch with us.

If our ads talk about fixing a leaky basement, our page should lead with leaky basement content. The average user lasts 15 seconds on a page and that number may be less if they came via an ad. This is not the time to bore users (who we’ve paid to get in the door) with things like mission statements.


If we’re running a search campaign, how do we decide what keywords to bid on?

This could be a series of posts. And a lot has been written about it already. It all comes back to understanding your customer’s needs and the intent behind what they’re searching for.

An interior designer looking for new customers bids on ‘interior design’. But watch those results carefully! Users who click that ad may be looking for tips and tricks to do the whole thing themselves. They may also be looking for Interior Design Monthly, the magazine. That’s what I mean by intent. What specific problems do interior designers solve? That research will dig up both the broad keywords ideas as well as the more specific, niche ones.


“We tried digital ads and they didn’t work” is something you told me you hear all the time. Why is that?

Any business can benefit from a marketing strategy that involves paid promotion. I believe there are two main causes for a perceived lack of value: lack of measurement and improper setup. Both of those problems are symptoms of a lack of experience. Anyone can get started on Google Ads and Analytics and teach themselves – which is great! That said, it’s prudent to work with a digital marketing consultant, as this stuff gets complicated fast. Some things they help you with are:

  • Account setup best practices
  • Avoiding costly mistakes (the interior designer using too general a term, for example)
  • Identifying new opportunities you may miss when starting out
  • Build dashboards or reports to track results and share with key stakeholders

Getting value from Google Ads just requires experience, planning, and diligence. I’m passionate about small business succeeding with paid advertising. I welcome anyone with questions to contact me – let’s get those digital ads working for you!

website wins guide cover

Free Guide: 20+ Tips To Improve Website Conversion

"Website Wins" is a free guide with 22 tips to improve your website conversion. Featuring 22 experts' advice on copywriting, audience fit, design, user experience and good old fashion sales.
You'll also be added to my bimonthly 'Marketing Snacks' newsletter, a roundup of resources to help you excel at brand authority and lead attraction.