9 Tips to Run Successful Search Ads on a Small Budget

Joanna Tran
July 17, 2020

Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is often the best place for companies to start advertising since search is high intent and the traffic is usually high quality.

However, depending on your industry, paid search might not be cheap. And for those who have a relatively small budget, it can be even harder to compete with the big fish.

That’s why it’s important to buckle down on the strategies that will achieve the desired goals and maximize your budget.

Here are nine ways to have a successful search advertising campaign on a budget.

Analyze the Paid Search Traffic

If there are already campaigns running, evaluate the current quality of the keywords to clean up what you can.

Pause any keywords that have high CPAs or a good amount of spend without any conversions.

Do the keywords that drive the most traffic have a high bounce rate? Consider reevaluating the creatives for these to better match the landing page copy and help the reader understand the product before clicking.

Implement Laser-Focused Keywords

Keep the number of keywords low and launch with only the highest-intent keywords to start.

When doing keyword research, it’s easy to want to include several variations of the same keyword or query.

For example, let’s say “accounts payable for businesses” and “accounts payable business” both appeared on keyword planner, but “accounts payable business” has a higher search volume. It makes more sense to include that one in your accounts as opposed to including both. 

Depending on your match types, both phrases will likely be covered by the “accounts payable business” keyword.

Smaller Keyword Selection

If you already have a lot of keywords in your account and you’re limited by budget, identify the top performers and focus on that smaller group. 

Pause the rest of the keywords. These aren’t necessarily bad keywords, but we want to avoid spreading the budget too thin. These keywords can be labeled in the account so you can easily turn them back on later once your budget increases.

The goal is to let Google focus the budget to the higher spending, higher performing keywords.

Choose the Right Match Type

Google ads offers four different match types:

  • Broad

  • Broad match modified

  • Phrase match

  • Exact match

While a great method to use for account growth, launching keywords on true broad match is an easy way to blow your budget. By casting a wide net, Google is more likely to show ads to queries that have irrelevant intent, especially if you don’t utilize negative keywords.

A better match type to use is broad match modified. With this, you can include relevant keywords that must be a part of the query, but there can be additional terms in the query. It’s a helpful way to minimize clicks and impressions for queries that have nothing to do with the product.

If you have an idea of the keywords your audience is searching for and converting on, include these keywords as exact match. This is great for high-intent keywords or phrases, and allows you to match the ad copy closer to the keywords.

At JDM, we use a combination of these two match types to help us narrow in on the high performing terms while allowing continuous keyword discovery and account expansion by identifying new, high-converting terms.

Negative Keywords

Implementing a negative keyword list is extremely useful for budgets of any size, but especially small ones.

Once traffic begins coming in, keep an eye on the search term report. This tells you exactly what users are searching that triggered your ad to pop up. Look for any searches that are irrelevant to what you’re advertising and add it as a negative keyword or phrase. This saves your money by preventing your ad to appear anytime someone types in a query that includes that word or phrase.

At JDM, we typically add irrelevant keywords as phrase match to a global negative keyword list. We then apply these lists to all the campaigns. The important thing is to be certain that the keywords negated could not be applicable in any way to a converting search query.

A good example is if you have a product that requires purchasing, but your ads are appearing and receiving traffic for queries that include “free”. This would be wasted spend as they likely are not willing to pay for a product, so “free” should be added as a negative keyword.


Use Display for Remarketing

Display ads are a great remarketing tool to use for low budgets. These don’t require a ton of spend, and they’ll follow the audience around the Google Display network to remind them of the product and brand.

A best practice we recommend is to create segmented audiences for website visitors ranging from 7 to 180 days. Then use these audiences and adjust the messaging for each segment.

Look at the Location Targeting

When it comes to location targeting, it’s important to pick the target setting that says, “People in or regularly in your targeted locations.” The default setting is to show ads to those who are in or show interest in the targeted locations. 

This means if the target location is the US, this setting will allow those interested in the US to be shown ads. That often results in traffic from other countries besides the US.

Furthermore, taking a look at the user location report will provide insight into what locations may be wasting ad spend.

For example -- you might find that one state is eating up 10% of your spend without any conversions. In this case you could bid down on that location, or even exclude it completely if the spend is large enough.


Check Your Ad Schedule

Not all advertisers need to have ads running around the clock.

Take a look at the hour of day and day of week reports to see where the chunk of conversions and traffic happens. If it all takes place during certain times, it might make sense to only run ads during those hours or days.


Targeted Ad Copy

Tailoring ad copy to the ad group’s keywords and search intent is another factor that plays into efficient spend. Ad copy that matches the landing page or highlights a pain point will allow the audience to self-qualify themselves for the product.

As an example, let’s say you’re receiving too many leads who aren’t willing to pay the product’s price. By adding the price to the ad copy, users will know from the get-go if it’s within their desired price range.

Users who think this price is too high will be able to determine if the product is not for them before clicking the ad, therefore preventing unqualified traffic from wasting spend.


Test Bing Ads

While Google is the biggest player when it comes to paid search, don’t forget about Bing.

Bing ads can have lower CPCs and CPAs, especially if you’re in a competitive market. Less people search on Bing than Google, but there’s also less advertisers on the platform.

Bing can also be used as a testing ground for Google. Whatever knowledge gained from Bing ads can be used once Google ads come into the strategy, or vice versa. This way, there’s less of a chance of wasting ad spend on the larger, more competitive search engine.

If your budget isn’t all that big, don’t worry. You can still achieve your digital advertising goals. If you need any help, reach out to us at Jordan Digital Marketing for a free audit.