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The Basics of Google Ads for Small Businesses

The Basics of Google Ads for Small Businesses

Customers need to be able to find small businesses online, and SMBs can use Google Ads, an online marketing method, to help. This article explains more.

Small businesses need websites and a presence online. This has been true for years. That said, getting found online by leads and customers who don’t know your web address is a struggle for most small businesses.

This is where paid ad platforms such as Google Ads come into play. These paid online advertisements allow companies to reach prospective customers where they spend a good portion of their day — all over the internet.

Using Google Ads, however, has a learning curve. To help you navigate the process, we’ve put together this guide to Google Ads for small businesses.

What is Google Ads?

Google Ads, formerly called Google AdWords, is a paid advertising platform where businesses place bids to display advertisements to Google users. Unlike search engine optimization (SEO), which you do to your website, with Google Ads, you place bids to have your ads shown for keywords related to your business.

The Bidding Process

Each ad space is filled by the company that won the auction for that specific spot. The amount the company had to pay for that spot is determined by Google based on a number of factors, including the keyword’s popularity. When a company places a bid, it’s putting the maximum amount of money it would pay for one user to click on that ad.

For example, a company may set a maximum bid of $5, but only pay $2.13 each time a user clicks their ad. There’s good news: Google offers an automated bidding feature which takes the guesswork out of setting bids. Simply tell Google Ads what your goals are and your overall budget, and Google takes care of the rest.

Where Consumers See Google Ads

If you’ve performed a search on Google, you’ve seen Google Ads at work. Here’s an example:

In most cases, Google Ads appear at the top of the search results before organic (non-paid) results.

  • Google Ads: Have the bolded word “Ad” beside the url and appear at the top of the search result pages. Companies pay Google for these ads.

  • Organic results: Appear in searches because of SEO efforts. Companies do not pay Google for these results.

Google Ads reach users in several locations, including search results, product listings, Google Maps, partner sites, and mobile apps. In this article, we’ll focus on the ads that appear at the top of search results pages.

How Does Google Ads Work?

Google gathers a massive amount of data about users based on their online behaviour, which, according to Avast, it uses to “deliver better services, make improvements, and customize your experience.” This data includes where they live, what they do for a living, even what sports teams they like. All that data is aggregated, giving Google insight into what companies each user is likely to do business with.

With Google Ads, businesses pay to reach those targeted users. For example, if you own a wing restaurant in Atlanta, Georgia, you could bid to reach users in or near Atlanta who like wings and sports restaurants, since wings are a popular option at restaurants that cater to sports fans.

Why Should You Use Google Ads for Your Small Business?

Marketing a small business is no easy task. Adding another channel, especially one as complex as Google Ads, may feel like an unnecessary step. Here are three reasons you should still consider adding Google Ads to your marketing strategy.

1. Google Ads increases brand awareness and drives sales.

Google Ads help your business reach highly targeted audiences based on consumers’ location, interests, and more. By bidding on specific keywords your audience is searching for, you can reach prospective customers when they are ready to buy.

For example, a local baker could use Google Ads to target people who search “baker near me” and are within a few miles of their store. Google Ads works for small online businesses as well. For example, an ecommerce business could bid on a keyword phrase like “best women’s bathing suits.”

2. Google Ads have a high return on ad spend, or ROAS.

When used well, Google Ads can have an incredibly high ROAS. The average business can expect to earn a 200 per cent return on investment on their Google Ads spend. Of course, ROI can vary by industry and depends on factors including how well your ads target consumers, but these paid ads are well worth the cost for most small businesses.

3. Your competitors may already use Google Ads.

Learning Google Ads might seem like a lot of work — maybe even something best left to the big brands. However, there’s a good chance your competitors, both big and small, are already leveraging the power of Google Ads. Your business could be missing out on revenue if you aren’t. If your competition isn’t using Google Ads, being the first can give your small business a boost and help it become an industry leader.

How to Set Up a Google Ads Account and Create a Campaign

Setting up a Google Ads account is free and will take about 15 minutes. You need an email address and a business website. Then, head to Google to sign up for your account. They’ll walk you through the steps.

Once you create an account, you’ll see the overview page, where you can create campaigns and, in the future, see how your ads are performing.

Let’s walk through how to create your first ad campaign and design your first ad.

Step 1: Create a new Google Ads campaign.

Click the + sign next to “Create a new campaign,” then select “New Campaign.”

Step 2: Choose a Google Ad campaign goal.

What is the purpose of your campaign? Google provides several options, including sales, leads, website traffic, product and brand consideration, brand awareness, app promotion, and local store visits. These goals are what Google uses to power its automated bidding process that we covered earlier.

You can create a campaign without a goal, but it’s best to use the goals provided if you are just getting started with Google Ads.

For example, if you own a local restaurant, you might choose “Brand awareness and reach” or “Local store visits.” The website traffic goal is ideal for blogs or news websites that want more readers or views, while a service-based business might prefer the lead goal.

Step 3: Select your campaign type.

Next, Google asks you to select your campaign type. You can create both display and video ads. This selection impacts where your ads are displayed and the settings for your ads. Video ads are more complex to create, so consider sticking with a display ad for your first campaign.

Once you select your campaign type, you’ll be prompted to add your business website, then click continue.

Step 4: Design your campaign.

Now it’s time to create your Google Ad campaign. Here’s how to do it:

  • Give your campaign a name: Try to create a name based on a standard format that includes the goal of the campaign, type of ad, and month. For example, “brand awareness June 2022” lets you see, at a glance, important identifying details about the campaign. Using a standard format makes it easier to track ad performance, too.

  • Set location and language target: If you are an online business, you can target a larger region such as all of Canada. Local businesses should target a smaller region, such as your city or province. Note that you can also exclude regions in this section. For example, if you only ship to the continental U.S. and Canada, you’d want to exclude the state of Hawaii.

  • Set a budget: Choose how much you want to spend on your Google Ads per day. Aim a little lower, say $20 or $25 a day, if you are just getting started. Your ads may not win bids if your budget is too low.

  • Set your ad schedule: Set the hours and days your ad will be active. For example, if you have a Friday night dinner special, set the ad to run on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday from 1 pm to 6 pm.

  • Set start and end dates: Choose how long you want your ad to run. This is crucial to ensure you don’t overspend. For example, make sure your Christmas ads end on December 26th.

Step 5: Create your Ad Group.

An ad group is one or more ads that share similar target parameters. This helps you organize ads with a similar theme. For example, you might create an ad group for each location, keyword you want to target, or product.

After naming your ad group, you’ll select your audience.

  • Choose your targeted audience: Google suggests target audiences based on your business, or you can browse for appropriate topics. For example, a wing restaurant might search “wings” and select from the provided list. If you have performed keyword research, this is where you want to use them.

  • Set demographics: Who is your ideal customer? Are they younger than 25, older than 60, parents, or a specific income? If you aren’t sure, you can select all demographics.

Keep an eye on the right sidebar, which shows weekly impressions, or how many people your ad could reach in one week. If it is too low, broaden your targeting or use “target expansion” to allow Google to look for similar audiences.

Step 6: Create your ad.

Click create a campaign. Now it is time to make the ad consumers will see.

Here are the four main elements of a Google Ads ad:

  • Final URL: Where users will go when they click your ad. This page should be a specific landing page for this campaign on your website, but it can also be another type of page, such as an order form or a product page.

  • Images: Upload a landscape and square ad that will display with your ad copy. Images with people or logos often do well, but it varies by industry. As you run campaigns, test a few options to see which images resonate with your audience.

  • Headline: The top line of your ad with a limit of 30 characters. Add at least three options and use a call to action to entice users to click.

  • Description: Add up to 90 characters to provide context to your ad. Why should they care about your brand or what will happen when they click the ad?

This Google Ad example, which is at the top of the search results page before the organic results, shows how each element is displayed:

Google displays an example of your ad in the Preview section so you can see how it will look live. Once you are happy with your ad, click Save. Google will ask you to review your ad, and then you can send it live. After your ad has run for a few days, make sure to check to see how the ad is performing in Reports.

Use Google Ads to Grow Your Small Business

Google Ads allows small businesses to compete with big brands by reaching customers in search results. Because you can set the budget that fits your needs, your small business can quickly test to see what works before investing more in ad spend. Follow the steps above and try an ad for a week or two to see the results and how you can better reach your target audience.

Even when Google Ads drives the results you want, try adjusting the headline, description, and images. You can also use A/B testing to see what types of offers encourage customers to click. This online advertising method works the same as every other marketing channel: It takes time, testing, and iterating to make it work well. Your efforts, however, are worth it, and your audience will find you even faster.

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