How Small Businesses Can Use AdWords Without Breaking the Bank

AdWords is a crucial platform for digital advertisers, but are smaller companies being squeezed out? If so, what other advertising strategies are available to local businesses and struggling startups that need to get the word out about their services?

There's no doubt that the cost of using AdWords is rising. The platform works on a cost-per-click basis (CPC) where advertisers bid for valuable keywords. As more companies pile into a certain market, demand rises. As the quantity of ads is more or less fixed, the click price just goes up and up.

This means that smaller companies need to be a little more creative about how they market their products via Google. Here are some tips that will help you achieve solid click-through rates and ROI on your next campaign.

Stick to a Disciplined Budget No Matter What

One of the temptations with AdWords is bidding more than you can afford. Don't be fooled by the potential reach that high-value keywords can achieve. It's much better to set out a relatively tight budget and try bidding at a low level at first.

If you don't get results, increase the bid, but don't go beyond your budget. There are other advertising avenues available, so don't get hung up on AdWords as the only way to get your message across.

Focus on Conversions Not Clicks

The AdWords system is all based around cost-per-click, but for small businesses, the really important metric is your conversion rate. That's what determines how much revenue a marketing campaign will generate, not the raw number of people visiting your site.

Build your analytical strategy around conversions. Find out which ads and keywords deliver the highest conversion rates and stick to them. They might not be the ones that deliver most clicks, but they are much more valuable for your company.

Mine Your Phone Calls for AdWords Conversions

AdWords ads often include phone numbers as well as links. In fact, for small businesses calls are probably more important, especially if you run a store or restaurant that caters to people who are out in their cars or walking on the street.

You can use Adwords' own call tracking feature to keep an eye on your call conversion rates, but separate call tracking companies like Convirza provide much more information and are probably a better bet.

Get Your Local SEO Game in Shape

Instead of throwing money at AdWords, it might be worth stepping back and thinking about SEO instead. You can build a local profile at a much lower cost by building your search ranking in a way that targets local users.

Hook up with local influencers and get mentioned on their blogs. Make sure your local business listing is watertight with accurate address information. Research local keywords, attract reviews and build links both within your site and to external sites. It's much cheaper and often more effective than competing on the AdWords bidding market.

Use the AdWords Keyword Planner Without Running any Ads

AdWords is more than just a money pit for small businesses. It's also a handy keyword analysis tool. Actually, this is probably it's most useful function for small businesses, so make full use of it whenever you can.

The AdWords Keyword Planner is the easiest way to find out about ranking keywords and trends in your niche or location. Feed these into your SEO efforts and benefit from AdWords without paying a cent.

Use Extended Text Ads to Set Your Business Apart

Google has recently changed the AdWords system. In an effort to make them more palatable for mobile devices, ads are being extended, with more space for headlines and descriptions. At the same time, the URLs includes in ads will also be more detailed. But does this help small businesses?

Maybe. With the extra space, you have more freedom to promote what makes your business unique. You can stress your appeal to local communities, mention specific products and, in theory, be able to target different demographics with more precision.

Explore the Alternatives to AdWords

AdWords isn't the final word in online advertising. It might have the best reach, but there are alternatives worth exploring for small businesses and startups.

For example, you could focus your energies exclusively on Facebook or see what Bing has to offer. Twitter is another increasingly popular alternative. All of these platforms allow your to target your ads much more precisely than Google's service, so may be a better route to high conversion rates. They tend have a far lower CPC too.

Stick to Content Marketing Instead

Maybe advertising just isn't the route for you? Plenty of companies have been seduced by the attractions of AdWords and poured money into doomed campaigns when they should have been focusing on other marketing ideas.

Blogging could be a much better strategy. It might be hard work to come up with well-written, informative and unique content for your small business, but there is no better way to generate a loyal following and boost your conversion rate. Blogging also helps to build your reputation as a local or niche expert and provides a platform to run promotions and contests.

Don't expect miraculous results overnight, though. Small business blogs take time to attract a readership. Have faith that, if you write good content and couple it with services that people need, an audience will emerge. It could take a couple of years, or you could strike it lucky and go viral in weeks. Just stick with it and you'll be rewarded.

Create a Balanced Strategy and be Prepared to Ditch AdWords

Small businesses can't afford to waste their marketing budget. It might be OK for corporations with millions to spend to blow half of it on AdWords auctions, but that's not an option for your startup.

Given the reach that it offers, AdWords is a marketing strategy that needs to be considered. Just don't make it the centrepiece of your campaigns. It's just another part of the mix that complements other advertising platforms, local SEO and blogging. Used wisely, AdWords delivers conversions at an affordable cost. So budget, test and plan, and don't be afraid to pull the plug on your AdWords campaigns. There's always another way.

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