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  • Writer's pictureJanina Key

How Small Businesses Can Get Started With Google Ads

Updated: Apr 6, 2021

“I don’t have a large budget”, “I don’t know how to get started” and “this is only for big companies, not for small businesses like mine”. Sounds familiar? If you’re a small business owner and think that Google Ads is expensive and made for large corporations only, you’re not alone.

While dedicated specialists and a generous budget surely help, also small businesses with fewer resources can get started and accomplish good results with Google Ads. This article will provide you with a few helpful tips to get started and get the most out of this popular marketing tool.

Why Google Ads is good for small businesses

Think about the last time you were trying to find a vegan restaurant to go for dinner or get a pair of shoes delivered to you by tomorrow night. Whatever you were looking for, chances are you started your research on Google. As a business owner, you want to make sure people can find you easily right in the moment they’re searching for a product or service you offer. Google Ads provides excellent targeting options to ensure you are reaching a relevant audience only and not wasting money on people who won’t buy from you.

Since there is no minimum budget required to get started, you could run your first campaign with as little as $5/day to test the waters. Google Ads gives you full control over the budget you’d like to spend while at the same time provides you with immediate feedback on the performance of your campaigns. You get full transparency over performance and results and get a clear understanding of what works and what doesn’t.

Things to keep in mind before getting started

Avoid jumping straight into different campaign types and creating a complex account structure. Instead, pick one area of your business and use it as a test case to learn before adding more campaigns. If you’re struggling to pick one area, think about the different product or service areas you offer and how you structure them on your website. Using a similar grouping structure on your website and in Google Ads will help you keeping a better overview later on.

Google Ads offers five different campaign types you can choose from depending on your business goals: Search, Display, Video, Shopping and App.

The most common campaign type to get started is Search since it’s applicable to pretty much any business and doesn’t require any assets (like videos, images) to get started.

How to set up your first Google Ads Search campaign

At the start of the campaign creation process, you’ll be presented with all sorts of settings to get through first. You have the option to select a campaign goal, but I recommend going with the option “create a campaign without a goals guidance”. The reason is that selecting a goal will limit the options you have in the next steps of the setup process while choosing no goal will keep all options open.

In the next step, you can choose the location you want your ads to show in which is simply the area you deliver your products to or provide your services. If you service multiple countries, it’s best to target one campaign per country rather than including multiple countries in one campaign as it makes reporting and performance evaluation so much easier.

Your budget is set on the campaign level and per day, so you can easily calculate how much you will be spending over the duration of your campaign.

When it comes to choosing a bid strategy, this is the part where it gets interesting. The bid strategy is a way of telling Google Ads what outcome you expect from your campaign. There are multiple options to choose from, but some will work only if you have conversion tracking in place (we’ll get to this topic in a second). I recommend starting with ‘maximise clicks’ for the first few weeks and then change to ‘maximise conversions’ once you’re confident that your conversion tracking is functioning properly.

Best practices for your keywords and ads

Your campaign hosts multiple ad groups and within your ad groups, you set up keywords and ads.

Use the Google keyword planner and drop in keywords which are relevant for the product area you have chosen for your campaign. It will return not only the average monthly search volume but also generate further keyword ideas. Group keywords that are very similar into one ad group. This is important since the ads are set up on the ad group level and you need to ensure that the ad copy is relevant for each keyword in the ad group.

There are two main types of ads: Expanded Text Ads (ETA) and Responsive Search Ads (RSA). The main difference is that ETAs are shown exactly the way you set them up in Google Ads while RSA’s combine different headlines and descriptions you provide and create multiple ad versions that are tested over time. Ideally, you should have at least two ETAs and one RSA to test different ad messages. Make sure to include your keyword in the ad copy headline as this will increase your ad relevance and the chance that people click on it.

And lastly, adding ad extensions help you not only increase ad quality but also fit more information into your overall ad to improve user experience. The most popular ad extensions are sitelinks, callouts, call and location extensions. There is no guarantee for ad extensions to appear as it depends on other factors like device and competition but as a general rule, the more extensions you have readily set up, the better it is for your overall ad performance.

Measure success

Before you set your campaign live, it is important to have conversion tracking in place to be able to measure the outcome of your efforts. A conversion is any action a user takes on your website which brings value to your business, for example a purchase, newsletter signup or form submission.

There are multiple options for tracking setup but the easiest one is by having a ‘thank-you’ page with a dedicated URL which typically includes /thank-you or /checkout-complete. A conversion is counted every time someone lands on this page as only people who performed the conversion action before can land on this page. Once you’ve set this up in Google Analytics and imported your conversion goals into Google Ads, you’re ready to go.

Grow and optimise

Give your campaign at least two weeks without making any changes to collect data and have time for the algorithm to learn. Keep a close eye on the campaign, however, as things like disapproved ads or ad extensions need immediate attention or will otherwise negatively impact performance and extend the learning phase.

Once you’re sure everything is up and running properly, I recommend checking your campaign 1-2 per week. This is when you review overall performance trends, add or remove keywords, add negative keywords and test new ad copy. Adjust were necessary and try to regularly test keywords and ad copy until you find the top converting ones. When you’re happy with the results of your first campaign and feel confident handling it, gradually start building more campaigns to capture other parts of your business.


Google Ads isn’t only for companies with big budgets but can be a powerful tool for small businesses to increase brand awareness, website traffic and sales. Give it a try or get in touch with me if you’d like some assistance on getting started.

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