PPC is frequently an essential digital channel for small to medium-sized businesses (or SMBs). Often local and offering a specific product or service,  SMBs that utilise paid search advertising benefit greatly from immediate results and ‘quick-win’ visibility that other digital channels can’t offer.

But what happens if we’re bidding against brands with bigger advertising budgets who are constantly pushing up our cost-per-clicks? In his HeroConf talk, Kirk Williams shared his top tips for making PPC really work for a lower budget SMB and avoiding being outbid and out-budgeted by the big brands.

 

Tip #1: Nail Your Search Campaign Structure

The beginning of any good PPC campaign starts with a great search structure. Kirk stated that “where money is lacking, skill must abound” – as SMB accounts can pose a whole host of challenges in themselves, Kirk suggested that more skilled PPCers are still needed to run smaller budget accounts, not just those of the big budget enterprises. Whether your new campaigns are split by match type, location targeting, keyword theme, it’s important to avoid confusion and promote much easier analysis and reporting by developing a strict naming structure that can be applied to all campaigns.

Kirk also declared that as routine, he’ll launch campaigns in Bing Ads and remarketing immediately both via RLSA & Display, as utilising this existing site traffic can start providing instant results for new clients.

 

Tip #2: Maximise Your (Limited) Budget

When budgets are limited, it’s crucial to use them as cleverly and efficiently as possible to max out the potential of your campaign structure. By using shared budgets, Kirk explained how you can keep focus or high spending campaigns separate from the rest, and apply the majority of the budget towards these areas more likely to drive conversions for your client.

A budget management technique favoured by Kirk and his team at ZATO Marketing is labelling campaigns up and creating automated rules to pause & enable labelled campaigns that aren’t performing as well as others in the second half of the month. By pausing these campaigns, Kirk explained the idea was not to give up on them altogether but merely put them “on hold” ready to revisit the following month, and weight more of that month’s precious budget towards higher performing campaigns.

Using budget tracking tools and spreadsheets can also be a great way to track progress and ensure your budget won’t run out before the month’s end. If your accounts are regularly racking up spend too early in the month, Kirk suggested identifying any converting campaigns that are significantly limited by budget and losing impression share because of this. This way, clients can be approached with a “hard loss” of visibility for crucial keywords and could be encouraged to invest more in these areas of the campaign.

 

Tip #3: Get Creative With Targeting

Kirk’s main tip for targeting was to be tactical and prioritise. If you’re still building up traffic to your site, a simple “All Users” audience will do – just make sure they’re in place, and layered as RLSAs in campaigns with modified bids from the start. Once your site has built up traffic more granular RLSA audiences can be applied, either with increased bids to reflect the potential value those users could hold as potential customers for your business, or decreased bids for previous converters.

RLSAs, however, don’t always have to be used in conjunction with existing campaigns. Kirk suggested creating a campaign targeting previous website visitors alone and layering this with higher volume keywords that might otherwise be stretching your budget and not converting enough to make the cost worthwhile.

In doing this, you can afford to be more aggressive with bid adjustments in order to maintain good visibility for broader keywords – but only for those users who have already engaged with your brand and are therefore more likely to convert.

 

So, can PPC work for SMBs? Yes, if strategy is carried out cleverly and executed well! Having a budget on the smaller end shouldn’t be a complete drawback. Instead, it should force us PPCers to think outside the box in order to push our budget to the limit and ultimately improve your client’s bottom line.

This post may have been written by a past member of the Impression team, or be a collaboration of us all. We hope you like it!