Google Ads: The Ultimate Small Business Guide (2022)

man using a laptop and opening Google

Running a small business is challenging, especially if you’re just starting. There’s much to learn, understand, and unpack.

And significantly, you must stretch every dollar to get maximum value for your marketing budget.

But, while many marketers and small business owners worry that their small budgets can’t compete with big spenders in Google Ads, this is not always the case.

You’ll need a healthy budget and a willingness to pay hefty amounts for the most competitive keywords. But if you choose your keywords carefully, you can compete with the big spenders.

Compared to expensive print advertising, Google Ads can be a cost-effective way to create engaging and compelling ads that target specific audiences.

Google Ads helps you to:

In this article, we’ll look at Google Ads and examine how you can compete with a small budget to drive brand awareness and leads, maximize ROI, and grow your business faster.

What is Google Ads?

Google Ads (formerly called AdWords) is Google’s pay-per-click platform. The platform lets you place brief advertisements, service offerings, product listings, or videos to promote your business, help sell products, and increase website traffic. Pay-per-click (PPC) means you pay only if people click on your ads. The ads show at the top of Google search results but can also show on non-search websites, mobile apps, and videos.

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How do Google Ads work?

Businesses can target a specific keyword and bid to rank higher at the top of search engine results.

For example, when a person is looking for “sustainable makeup” on Google, a brand that would typically organically appear at number 150 in search results can use Google Ads to appear among the first few advertising results on page 1.

Example google ads search for "sustainable makeup"

How to use and setup Google Ads

Starting your first Google Ads campaign is simple. You need to follow these steps to help you get started:

1. Set up your Google Ads account. Go to the Google Ads home page and click the ‘Start Now’ button on the top right-hand corner. Make sure you already have a Google account to make the process easier

2. Add your business name and website. Next, provide your business name and website.

3. Pick your advertising goal. Google will ask you to select what your main advertising goal will be. The choices are:

  • Get more calls
  • Get more website sales or sign-ups
  • Get more visitors to your physical location
  • Get more views and engagement on YouTube

Choose the advertising goal that best fits your business needs. And remember that your goals can change over time and across campaigns.

4. Create your ad. Your ad copy can make or break your campaign. Google provides tips on how you can write your ad better, but it’s best to write an ad that is:

Re-read and rewrite as many times as necessary to achieve an effective and engaging ad. You can also A/B test your ads to find an ad copy that works best.

5. Choose keywords. Pick the best keywords that match your brand. But don’t just pick the cheapest keywords. You’ll need a balance of higher-cost, high-reward, and lower-cost keywords to succeed with Google Ads.

If you have a business that operates in a specific geography, search on Google to better understand how your competitors leverage local SEO. Local organic search results will help you understand how people search for businesses like yours and the keywords and phrases you can use for Google Ads.

For example, suppose you’re a makeup brand. In that case, you can use general keywords such as “makeup,” “sustainable makeup,” and specific keywords that include your brand name, such as “(brand name)  makeup,” (brand name) sustainable makeup.” You’ll be able to increase your chances of reaching your target audience this way.

6. Set ad location. This step lets you choose the places where you want your ad to appear. It can be near your local address or anywhere you want.

7. Set your budget. Google will provide you with budget options for your ad campaign. But you can also set your budget – the higher the budget, the greater the estimated reach. When starting, experiment with modest amounts (e.g., $10 per day, depending on your ad cost) and increase your daily budget only when you start seeing conversions.

8. Confirm the payment. Pick your payment option and click “Submit.” Your Google Ads campaign will be good to go. Expect to reach the estimated ad clicks according to your budget, but since this is an estimate, it’s not always accurate.

9. Link your Google Analytics account to Google Ads. You need to monitor how your ad campaigns are progressing. A good way to do that is to connect your Google Ads account with your Google Analytics account. Make sure that you have your Google Analytics setup on your website. Then, link your Google Analytics account to Google Ads to make analyzing, reporting, and tracking easier for your ad campaigns.

10. Provide Urchin Tracking Module (UTM) codes. UTM codes track performance from your ad campaigns. You can see campaigns that use UTM codes in Google Analytics. These codes will help you pinpoint how different ads are converted. You can use Google’s UTM builder to make the process easier.

11. Allow conversion tracking. Google Ads conversion tracking lets you know the exact number of customers or leads you’ve gained from your ad campaign. You can also track sales or other relevant activities on your website, app, or calls from your ads.

12. Keep track of all data in one place. Integrate your Google Ads account to your customer relationship management (CRM) tool. It’s best to have all your data in one place instead of switching from different channels to avoid wasting time.

9 Google Ads best practices

Knowing how to set up and run a Google Ads campaign isn’t enough. You must also master best practices to help you achieve your campaign goals. Here are 7 Google Ads best practices to guide you:

1. Create objectives. Don’t blindly set up a Google Ads campaign and hope for the best. You need to start with a plan and set goals you wish to achieve through your ad. Some examples of goals could be:

  • Generating leads
  • Boosting email sign-ups
  • Increasing sales
  • Grow account registrations

Achieving these goals is only possible if you have a focused ad carefully crafted to hit your target audience.

And don’t worry if you’re not directly converting visitors into customers from a Google Ad. Ultimately, your share of impressions in your market can also be important. For example, an ad might not cause the visitor to buy something from you immediately, but it could create awareness, which can translate to a purchase later. So, while you should carefully understand the ROI for your ads, don’t worry if the ROI isn’t immediately positive, as it can take a bit of time to develop awareness through advertising.

2. Avoid broad keywords. Ensure to only pick the keywords fitting and relevant to your business and its goals. Using long and broad keywords can make Google put your ads in front of the wrong audience – effectively wasting your time and money.

Make testing a crucial part of your strategy to know what works best for you. You can also try Google Ads Keyword Planner Tool to help you get started on which keywords and search phrases will help your ad appear in relevant searches.

3. Leverage Dynamic Keyword Insertion. Google’s DKI (dynamic keyword insertion) automatically and in real-time, ads terms to your ad’s headlines or descriptions to match the search query.

4. Set a budget. Calculate the highest amount of money you’re willing to spend for your Google Ads campaign. Remember that the higher the plan pricing in Google Ads, the broader the ad reach. And as a small business, budget planning is vital. Consider the following when planning your budget:

  • Campaign conversion rates
  • Search term popularity
  • Conversion rates per campaign

And be sure to check the budget report in your Google Ads account periodically. The budget report shows you how much a campaign has spent and a monthly forecast for overall spending. And if you want to change your daily budget, the report can show how changes to your campaign’s daily budget could impact performance.

5. Study the competition. There’s no better way to learn about running a successful Google Ads campaign than to learn from your competitors. You can use Google’s keyword tool to determine how other businesses use keywords and bidding to their advantage. Search online and learn how to leverage Google Ads to meet their business goals from other successful websites. And be sure to run a SWOT analysis to understand your strengths and weaknesses relative to your competitors.

6. Optimize your website. Your landing page is the first thing people see when they click on your ad. Optimize it to prevent people from leaving your site and increasing your bounce rate.

Some ways you can optimize your website include:

  • A specific landing page related to the ad
  • Testing constantly to ensure a great user experience
  • Make the website user-friendly
  • Providing consistent quality content
  • Increasing page load speed

The goal is to make your new website visitors from your ad stay and not deter them from having a slow or faulty website. Your ad is your hook, but a good website should make them stay and convert.

7. Focus on local areas. As a small business, your chances are higher if you hit local zip codes to advertise. People will be more interested in your company because you’re nearby and accessible. Make sure to write the local area you’re advertising in your ad to attract local customers.

8. Only run relevant ads. Know when to run an ad and when not to run an ad. If you think the ad you’re running doesn’t solve any customer pain points, it’s best to save your money and efforts. Make sure only to run relevant ads that are helpful and provide value to your target audience. Ensure the copy and headline of your ad are suitable and connected to address a searcher’s need fast.

9. Build a holistic Google strategy. PPC ads can help generate leads, but the best way to grow your business is to use a combination of paid and free campaigns. For example, organic search results can complement your ads.

Google Ads bidding strategies

Now that you know how to set up and run your Google Ads campaign, you must learn some bidding strategies to help you rank better in Google Ads. Here are several popular bidding strategies to help you get started:

1. Target Cost Per Acquisition (CPA). This strategy focuses on optimizing conversions. You can set a CPA and will only pay when a user converts into a customer.

2. Automated and Manual Bidding. Automated bidding makes Google Ads adjust your bid according to your competitors and depending on your budget. Manual bidding allows you to set the bid amounts for keywords and ad groups and reduce spending whenever possible.

3. Trademark Bidding. This strategy allows you to bid on a unique product from your company or your company name as a search term. Many businesses choose to do this to get their brand out there quickly.

Google Ads may seem intimidating. But with time, low-cost experiments, and best practices, you will find an approach that works best for your business.

We regularly update this Google ads guide. We most recently updated this guide on August 16, 2022.

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