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10 tips for running a successful AdWords campaign on a tight budget

Charlotte Tomlinson, Digital Marketing Executive at Hallam Internet, outlines some key tips for setting up and running an AdWords account successfully on a small budget 

A highly targeted, well planned and tightly controlled AdWords campaign can help generate website traffic and leads for your business – and is a great place to start whilst you are waiting for other longer term strategies – such as content marketing, SEO, social and digital PR – to pay off. This is especially relevant if your website is a new domain and you are still building up enough authority in order to rank well for your target keywords. Popular perception may be that you need a large budget in order to succeed with AdWords, but that is not necessarily the case. For B2B marketers in particular, a click which may cost only a few pounds could turn into a lead that is worth thousands to your company. 

The following tips are relevant to new businesses or start ups wondering how they can utilise Google AdWords to generate leads in the short term but on a small or limited budget. They are also relevant to anyone running an AdWords account already who want to know where they might be able to save money.

#1 Set Up Conversion Tracking

This may seem obvious but ensure you have conversion tracking set up in Google Analytics and AdWords to monitor your campaign’s performance. If you are focused on lead generation (e.g. a potential customer filling out your contact form), knowing which keywords are converting well is vital for ensuring that you are not wasting budget on poor-performing keywords.

#2 Research and Limit Your Keywords 

When working with a small budget you need to discover what your target customer is searching for and throughly research your keyword options. But you need to be realistic about the keywords that you bid on and use the Keyword Planner to get an idea of how much a click is going to cost you and see how it fits within your budget. It's also prudent to limit the number of keywords that you bid on, at least initially. Keeping a tight focus on specific keywords will help you avoid running out of budget too quickly. It's better to start small, pause keywords that aren't working, and add others gradually, with a focus on quality over quantity. 

#3 Use Keyword Matching Options

Read Google's article about keyword matching options if you're not sure what they are. I would recommend avoiding broad match completely. If you don't, Google will show your ads for any search phrase they deem to be relevant to your keyword, which means they're highly likely to show for completely irrelevant searches in some cases, consequently wasting your budget. Instead, use a combination of broad match modifiers and exact match keywords to ensure you are only paying for clicks that are relevant to your business.

#4 Add Negative Keywords Regularly

To further ensure that you don't waste money on irrelevant clicks - be sure to add negative keywords to the shared library in your AdWords account on a regular basis. Every month at least. You might want to add some keywords straight off if you know there are some terms that may trigger your ads but that are definitely not relevant. To find more negative keywords, you can download search term data (the searches that people who have clicked on your ads have used) and go through the list to spot any further negatives. 

#5 Use Location Targeting

If you are only interested in gaining customers from your local area, make sure this is reflected in your account. You can add specific locations in the Campaign settings tabs, and you can also exclude locations. If you are country-wide make sure that after a certain amount of time you check your location report and make bid adjustments based on the highest converting locations, or even add/remove locations altogether if you have enough data to back it up.

#6 Choose The Right Network

It's usually best to start off with Search Network only, as opposed to Display. You may want to try out the Display Network at some point, but starting off with Search will mean that you are not spreading your time and money too thinly. Display campaigns take longer to set up as you need to create various sizes of banner ads, whilst a campaign on the Search Network only needs a text ad and some carefully chosen keywords to get up and running. Once you have set up a successful Search campaign however, you may want to turn your attention to Display if you have the budget available, as clicks are often a lot cheaper than on the Search Network so you may be able to achieve a good ROI.

#7 Check Your Campaign Settings

Google's default settings are not always in your best interests, especially when you are working with a limited budget. Settings to look out for include the search partners option, and type of ad delivery. Read more about campaign settings here to make sure you don't get caught out.

#8 A Focused Campaign Structure Is Vital

Account structure is vital in AdWords when it comes to keeping quality scores high and costs low. So make sure your campaigns and ad groups are tightly themed and highly relevant to their landing pages. You should set up clearly segmented campaigns so you can divide budget accordingly, and add or remove budget from campaigns depending on conversion rates. 

#9 Set Up Ad Schedules

Set up Ad Schedules so you know when you’re campaigns are converting most – you can then adjust your bids accordingly – saving  money on certain days of the week or times of the day. You can also add bid adjustments based on devices - so if your clicks from mobile are converting more than Desktop, for instance, you can add a 20% bid increase adjustment to capitalise on this. Alternatively if they are not converting as well you can add a decreased bid adjsutment to save money.

#10 Utilise Ad Extensions 

Utilising Ad Extensions will help you to get the most ad space for your money. If you want to take customer calls, make sure you add a call extension so that your number appears directly on your ad or as a Call button on mobile ads. You can also add a sitelinks extension, allowing you to feature links within your ad to other key pages on your website - a link to your Contact Us page here could prove vital for generating leads.

Monitoring Your Success

It is important to constantly monitor your account, checking that you are getting a good return on investment. If a campaign is not converting well you’re going to need to look into this further – are you bidding on the wrong keywords? Are there any user experience issues with your website which may be hindering conversions? 

Also, keep an eye on the quality scores of your keywords – if these are low you may end up paying more per click than you should. A misleading ad or unclear ad may result in a click which does then not convert, driving up your costs. Also, making sure your landing pages are relevant to your ads will improve your quality scores and so your cost per conversion as well. 

One Final Tip

Achieving success for your company with a small AdWords budget of course depends on lot on your industry, the competition for your target keywords, and your average conversion value in comparison to average cost per click. But by following the tips above you will be giving yourself the best chance of success!