Are you confused about how to advertise on Google? Are you worried that it's too expensive for your small business? Learning the ins and outs of Google advertising can seem super complicated, I know. Plus, as a busy business owner, you have so much on your plate already that it may seem impossible to fit in one more thing.
I'm here to tell you that advertising on Google is not as hard as you may think (Whew!). But first let's take a look at why advertising on Google is so important for a small business.
Simply put, Google is the number-one place Internet users go to search for products, answers, services, places, that random song title they can't remember from 1973 — you name it. Yes, there are still other search engines out there (and I'm not saying you should totally ignore them), but Google is far and away the dominant player.
If you consider the search engine statistics, 60% of consumers research online before shopping for products in stores. When those shoppers go online to do their homework, where do you think they go? In 2017, Google accounted for 74.54% of all global Internet searches. To put that number in perspective, Google processes more than 40,000 search queries per second on average. That’s more than 3.5 billion searches per day.
What does it all add up to? Whether you sell to consumers or to other businesses, to millennials or their parents, it's safe to bet that your customers spend a lot of time on Google.
"That's great," you may say, "but I get plenty of customers to my website without advertising." I have a few responses to that. First, does any business ever have enough customers? Second, Google ads show up above organic search results — and look very similar. The only real difference is that they have the word “Ad” in a little box next to them. Chances are, customers in a hurry to find what you sell aren't paying attention to that little box. They just want the result that's most relevant to their search, and they've learned the closer to the top of the search engine results page, the more relevant it is. In fact, one study reports that about half of people can't tell the difference between ads and organic search results at all. With all this in mind, it’s strongly advised that you at least test Google ads as part of your overall local digital marketing strategy.
Now that you know why Google advertising is such a good idea, let’s take a look at how to do it.
Google’s pay-per-click (PPC) advertising platform used to called AdWords, now it’s integrated with other products they offer and known as Google Ads. It's free to sign up and to create a business account. Just select a method of payment, and you're ready to start advertising. PPC advertising means you only pay when someone actually clicks on your ad — that’s good news because it means you control how much money you spend.
Choose a goal for your campaign. In order for your Google ads to start appearing online, you need to create a campaign in AdWords. Each campaign should have a specific goal. For example, the roofing company I mentioned earlier might have a goal to get people to call their business for a quote. The e-commerce company might have a goal to get users to click on the ad and go to a product category page. Google gives you the option of selecting from different goals, such as increasing sales or getting leads, so it's easy to figure out which one works best for your small or local business.
Choose a location for your Google ads to appear. The more narrowly you can target your ideal customer with your Google ads, the better. For a local business, location is a big part of that targeting. For example, if you own a roofing business in Los Angeles, maybe you serve customers in Orange County or even San Diego, but unless you've got multiple locations, you probably can't help customers in San Francisco.
With Google advertising, you can choose the location of customers you want to see your ads. Why is that important? Well, if the roofer in our example above doesn't specify a location for the ads to appear, they might end up with homeowners in San Francisco (or even Connecticut!) clicking on their ads. That's a waste of money, because your business pays for every click. By specifying Los Angeles locations, business owners can target customers in the exact area where they want to get leads and customers.
Choose times for your Google ads to appear. The time and day that your ads show up in search engine results can make a big difference in your success. Fortunately, Google lets you control these factors, too. For instance, if you're selling software to business customers, they're probably looking for your products during business hours. In this case, try setting your ads to run between 9 and 5 on weekdays. On the other hand, if you own a brewpub, you might want to set your ads to run in the late afternoons and evenings (for happy hour) and on weekends.
Select the right bidding strategy. Here's where it gets a little bit complicated. Google ads rely on keywords, and not all keywords are created equal. The keywords that are the most popular (the terms that users search for the most) generally cost a lot more money per click. Since you'll be bidding against other business owners on the same keywords, battling for your ads to show up in front of internet searchers, there is also competition. So the popularity of a search phrase or keyword and the amount of competition greatly affects the minimum price an advertiser can bid on it.
If this is making your head spin, believe it or not artificial intelligence (AI) can actually simplify your marketing. There are many AI marketing tools for small businesses, some of which are designed to take care of your bidding in Google Ads for you.
Google Ads also has built in AI, called smart bidding, but it has to be used in the right situations. Danny Gilbert writes on Search Engine Journal explains:
“...if for example, you have a small account or your campaigns are already performing very well (maybe you are exclusively running brand campaigns), then smart bidding may not be worth the loss of control.”
Create narrow ad groups. Ad groups are created within an ad campaign and used to really target specific groups of prospects. For example, a store that sells infants and children's clothes might want to create ad groups targeting parents of infants, parents of older children, parents of boys and parents of girls. Each ad group should have different keywords relevant to that specific target market. By creating different ad groups, you narrow the target of your ads. An ad that appears in response to a search for "newborn clothes” will be different than one for “back to school clothes.” The more relevant your ads are, the more successful they will be.
Write relevant ads. Google recommends using at least one of your keywords in your ad’s headline. You can use other keywords in the rest of the text, but don't just string together a list of keywords. It's important to make sure the text is relevant to what the user is searching for. In addition, the ad should take the user to a relevant landing page on your website. For example, if someone searches for "newborn gifts," the link in that ad should go to the page on your website that sells gifts of some kind for newborns, not to the section for preschool kids.
Track your Google advertising results. Just as important as starting your Google advertising campaign is tracking the results. Set up conversion tracking in order to see what happens after a customer interacts with your ad. For example, do they click, call, or fill out a leads form? AdWords has a tool you can use for conversion tracking, or you can do it using Google Analytics, which you should use to gather insights about how your business website performs in Google. Sync your Google Analytics account with your AdWords account to be sure you’re tracking ad results properly.
With every aspect of Google advertising, you can fine-tune your budget, timing, wording, location and more based on what gets the best results. Unlike traditional print advertising campaigns, you don't have to wait weeks or months to see which ads drive the most traffic to your business or generate the most leads. In today's fast-paced business environment, that's a real advantage — and as a small business owner, you want every advantage you can get, right?
Speaking of advantages, does your local business have a listing on Google's local search directory? Creating a local business listing using Google My Business will amp up your business’s online presence. Basically, it ensures that your business shows up in Google Maps and Google Search, making it easier for customers to find you. It can also help you to run location extensions in your Google AdWords campaigns, like you see in the example below:
Both B2B and B2C businesses can benefit from Google My Business. Read more about how to best use Google My Business in the blog post Put Your Google Local Business Listing to Work Getting Leads.
We've only scratched the surface of how to advertise on Google in this post, there’s still a lot business owners can explore. We started talking about location extensions but there are other types of ad extensions you can try to. You could also try remarketing, which is when a user searches for baby clothes on Monday for example...and then your ads for baby clothes follow them around the Internet. You can even use Google display ads or shopping ads to show images or video.
So there’s a lot to learn and to try with Google Ads but at the same time you can simply start with what you learned in this post and try just one ad group at a time and see how it goes. If you’re struggling with the ins and outs of how to advertise on Google reach out to marketing experts that can help get you set up and running right away with tools that can do all the heavy lifting. Google Ads is such an exciting tool for small local businesses when used right.
Feature Image: Benjamin Dada on Unsplash
Image 1: Screenshot by author. Taken September 2018 from WordStream.