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Google Ads: Does It Still Work for Small Businesses?

Daniel Reeves - August 4, 2022

Google ads are one of the core digital marketing channels available to businesses small and large across the globe. We manage small business PPC accounts across a wide range of industries and budgets.

Over the years we always get asked “Does Google Ads work for small businesses?

The simple straightforward answer is, yes.

The slightly longer answer is, it depends. There are a lot of factors that come into play to actually get an account to a state where it is efficiently driving leads or transactions on a monthly basis.

Google Ads can also not work for small businesses, or even large businesses if they are not set up and managed correctly. 

So in this blog, we’ll detail what factors you need to consider that will impact Google Ads performance, give context, provide specific examples and as always, to the point advice. 

Factors you need to keep in mind 

If you’re weighing up launching your first Google Ads campaigns there are a few things you need to be aware of that will affect its performance and whether or not you deem it’s “working”.

Your Industry, Your Budget & CPCs

Your Budget

Google ads at its core are pay-to-play. You can potentially get instant traffic to your website by paying for every click your ads generate. The more you spend, the more traffic you will get. 

However, your budget will only take you so far. If you’re spending £100 per month this may not be enough, or it could just be enough. 

Let’s take three examples, firstly a Chiropractor looking to drive local traffic and bookings.

Secondly, a new clothing line that wants to drive traffic and transactions, and finally an accountant looking for new clients.

The Chiropractor will be targeting a local area which may not be that competitive which will influence the cost per click (CPCs). By the business’s very nature the targeting is reduced and its competition could be quite small. This gives Google Ads a higher chance of working.

The eCommerce clothing line is competing with a huge market with established competitors with big budgets. A bad strategy here will be to bid on very broad terms such as “men’s t-shirts”. This is a sure-fire way to burn through whatever budget you have due to the sheer search volume that keyword will have. 

The accountant is somewhere in between with different options for targeting. Do they want local customers or do they target the whole of the UK? It’s a pretty competitive industry with some big players, and the leads would be very valuable. 

Your Industry

Google search ads are an auction, each time a keyword is searched advertisers are bidding for that click. This is where your keywords and competition come into play. How valuable are the keywords you’re bidding on, and how much are your competitors spending and bidding?

The more commercially valuable a keyword is, the higher the CPCs will be, and the shorter your budget will stretch. 

If you target the wrong keywords or trust Google to manage this for you, chances are it won’t work. 

Let’s look at some examples below from different industries, say we were sticking with the £100 budget. 

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For our chiropractor, that works out to about 105 clicks, so that could result in 1 or 2 bookings, which could be worth it. 

And our clothing line would theoretically be able to drive the most clicks based on those keywords alone. Our online accountant would be around 5 clicks, which definitely would not work.

The main thing your industry will affect? CPCs (cost per click)

One of the reasons the industry plays such a big part in whether or not Google ads will work for your small business is the CPCs (cost per click) related to your industry. As we saw above, this can vary quite a bit and can get pretty expensive.

Research from WordStream shows the avg. CPC varies quite a bit across different industries. 

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Customer Lifetime Value

Now with the above factors one thing that could sway Google ads to the side of “working” is customer lifetime value. 

In our Accountant’s example, if he was to get 2 new customers paying £250 per month for accounting services they will probably stick around for at least a year, maybe for life if they are happy with the service. 

Let’s stick with a year, that’s 2 x £250, so £500 a month, for 12 months, which is £6,000 additional revenue for the year. Pretty good ROI in the grand scheme of things!

For our chiropractor in this example, he could get around 105 clicks, let’s say he converts 2 or them. He could charge £75 per visit, and let’s just say both clients had 3 visits. So that’s 6 visits in total charging £75 which equals £450 in the booking value.

Again, this depends on your industry and what you are trying to sell. So for our Clothing brand, they could get one transaction (customer) but it’s most likely going to be a single transaction, and not likely to be repeated for a while. They may have some lifetime value but the efficiency of that single transaction could be key.

Your Website

If you’re paying to send people to your website you better make sure it’s in a good place. Chances are Google Ads traffic and visitors will be meeting your brand for the first time straight from Google search results.

Are they going to trust you enough to buy from you?

Your website needs to show you are a credible business that can effectively solve whatever problem they have, and you can do it well. 

If your website still looks like it was built in 2000, doesn’t have reviews, and doesn’t showcase expertise you’ll probably end up saying “Google Ads isn’t working”.

So before you even set up your first campaign have a review of your website and make sure you would buy from you. Ask family and friends to review your website, and get some honest feedback.

As a basic checklist make sure you have done the below

  • You have some form of social proof (case studies, past projects,  testimonials, product reviews etc)
  • Your contact forms work, and contact details are easy to find
  • Your website is mobile-friendly and represents your business well.
  • You showcase all the services you can offer and what’s included
  • Your about us page showcases your team (with pictures!), your history and your expertise 
  • Your ad copy matches the message of your website.

This last one is so important, if you are selling a service that’s aimed at a certain type of clientele (say high-end weddings), both your ad copy and landing pages need to reflect this.

If your ad speaks directly to that client but then they land on a website that doesn’t scream luxury or show you have worked with that type of client before, it will be a massive let-down.

This is why your website is so important, it needs to be the best representation of your brand and what you have to offer. If it’s not up to scratch, Google ads will highlight this very quickly. 

Why Google Ads May Not Work For Your Small Business

What’s your definition of “working”? Is it realistic? 

Based on the above examples, where do you fit?  Having realistic expectations is vital. Hopefully, the above examples have provided you with some context and more understanding of the factors that will influence the success of your campaigns. 

We have put a basic calculator at the end of this blog which you can use to see how effective Google Ads could be for your business.

Smart Campaigns

Over the past few years, we have taken over small business PPC accounts spending between £1,000 to £5,000 per month on Google Ads. One thing the accounts that “aren’t working” or could be doing better have in common are Smart Campaigns. 

Smart Campaigns are the default campaign type when a new Google Ads account is created. These are a fairly new campaign type designed to be easy to set up for beginners, and rely heavily on automation.  

In Google’s own words “These campaigns can be set up in minutes, and they use smart technology to monitor and improve the performance of your ads continuously, so you can spend more time on other business tasks”

Sounds great right? 

Nope.

While in theory, these campaigns may sound like a small business owner’s dreams, they are also the main reason why they say Google Ads doesn’t work or “it’s doing okay”.

These campaigns are designed to get new advertisers on board and spending. And spend they will. Now they do work sometimes, and you may see the odd conversion and lead come through. 

If you want to test the water and set and forget these campaigns could be just for you, and that’s kind of what Google is banking on. If you want to do PPC right, learn the basics or hire help to set up and manage campaigns effectively.

Not tracking conversions

Bit of a straightforward one but, can you actually track conversions? Make sure you have ways you can track leads and have goals set up in Google analytics.

For eCommerce websites, this will likely be transactional data which you can measure the ROI of your Google Ad campaigns.

If you’re a service-based business make sure you have events set up to track form submissions or are using “thank you” pages users are redirected to once a form has been filled out. 

Find out how to set up goals in Google Analytics here

Not having enough budget to compete

As we saw above the budget you have in mind simply might not stretch enough. If it will only generate you 5-10 clicks per month you’re unlikely to see any results. 

So take into account the CPCs you’re likely to face and figure out how much you need to spend to get a decent level of traffic. If it’s a ridiculous amount, make sure you have the budget for it.

Focusing on the wrong keywords 

Staying with our examples above, if you were just entering the world of PPC those are keywords I would stay away from, especially those with CPCs around the £25 mark as they just won’t work. 

You’ll need to spend time finding the right keywords that have lower CPCs and could possibly convert better. 

Keyword Match Types

Match types will also come into play, and this will likely be a completely new concept to you. You don’t want to launch your first campaigns with broad matches because that match type will burn through your budget and drive some irrelevant clicks to your landing pages.

My recommendation is to start off with carefully selected keywords with exact and phrase match types. 

You can find out more about keyword match types here

Giving up too soon

Now all of the above can give you a negative view of Google Ads, it’s not my intention to turn you off Google Ads if you’ve made it this far but just to give you a bit of context and hopefully manage expectations.

If you run the ads for a week and don’t get any leads, don’t quit. Dig into the performance if you can. There may be a number of reasons why Google Ads isn’t currently doing anything for you. It could just be that in its current setup it’s not working.

How to make Google Ads Work for your small business 

So how can you set up your Google Ad campaigns to have the best chance of working for you? The below checklist should serve you in the right direction.

  1. Make sure you can track conversions
  2. Turn off those smart campaigns (unless you’re willing to test them)
  3. Learn the basics to set up campaigns yourself
  4. Find and target the right keywords, pause where necessary 
  5. Stay on top of your campaigns, don’t set and forget
  6. Get your website ready, social proof, contact forms etc
  7. Give them time – don’t give up because of the current set-up
  8. Hire help – if all else fails look for help (freelancer or agency)

Free PPC Audit

If you’ve been running PPC ads for a while and you’re still not sure if they are working as well as they could we offer a free PPC audit. For this our Google Ads specialists would have access to your Google Ads account to review the current set-up and provide recommendations on where things could be improved. 

PPC Packages

If you’re at the stage where you think you may need someone with a bit more knowledge and time to manage your PPC campaigns we offer affordable PPC packages for small businesses. We would manage all Google Ad campaigns on a monthly basis with no long-term contracts. 

So – Do Google Ads Work For Small Businesses?

So – Do Google Ads work for small business? Are Google ads worth it?

The answer, in summary, is yes – when done correctly.

As you can see there’s a lot that can go into a successful Google Ads campaign. Some factors are in your control, some are not.

The great thing about PPC is tests can be instant. By following a test-and-learn approach, you can get the Google Ads platform to work for your small business.