January 18, 2015

Selling with Google Adwords on a Tiny Budget

This is a guest post by Dennis Moons. Dennis is an experienced adwords marketer, and he has also written a really nice post on r/entrepreneur which you can see here. I really liked what Dennis had to say in the reddit post, so when he approached me for a guest post, I didn’t hesitate at all. Enjoy!

Increasing sales with an online advertising campaign can seem like a daunting task for online store owners.

It is indeed challenging to create campaigns that work. Most companies spend a lot of money on ads, and they don’t take the time to figure out which parts aren’t bringing in sales. This means a lot of wasted money resulting in a high cost per sale.

You could hire a consultant or agency to take care of this. They will tweak your campaigns to make them more profitable, but their services aren’t cheap.

Because it is so easy to blow through money with Google Adwords, I’m going to outline the exact steps of how to properly set up a campaign that works on a tiny budget.

Iron Solid Settings

In order to avoid people that click but don’t buy, I start off with a critical look at the most important settings, especially at the defaults that Adwords suggests.


  • Network: Search Network only (exclude Search partners). This makes sure your ads only appear in the Google search results instead of on all kinds of other websites and apps.
  • Locations: limit the campaigns to a country or part of it. Think about how well you are able to service customers in specific geographical areas. Things like shipping costs or different time zones might have a big impact on the quality of your service.
  • Languages: if you happen to be in a place with multiple languages, create one campaign per language. This because your keywords and advertisements will need to be in the respective language to get the best results.
  • Bid strategy: set it to I’ll manually set my bids for clicks. That way you retain more control over the price you pay per click.
  • Default bid: this is the maximum price you’ll have to pay for every click in the whole account. This is also called the max CPC.

If you’re starting out, you don’t know what you need to pay per click in order to be competitive. You can start out with $0.5 per click. You won’t have to pay that exact amount because the Adwords platform works with an auction model. This means the actual CPC will also depend on your competitors. Later you can adjust this bid by monitoring the average position of your advertisements.

Google shows between 0 and 10 ads on every search results page. If your average position is too low (5-9), only few people will see your ad. If you increase your bid, your position will go up. If your average position is 1or 2, you can try to decrease your bid to see if you can bring the cost down, and still get enough visitors to your site.

  • Budget: The budget you need depends on the number of keywords you have in your account, how expensive they are and how many people look for them. If you start with a daily budget of $10, you’ll be able to see how many clicks you get for that. If you’re not happy with the results (too many or not enough clicks), you can lower or raise the budget afterwards.
  • Mobile: Even if your website works great on smartphones, mobile conversion rates often are lower. And because the costs per click are similar to desktop computers or tablets, this means that the conversions will be more expensive. To avoid this, we’re going to exclude our ads from showing up on mobile devices.

This isn’t part of the default setup process for new campaigns. But you can find this option if you select your campaign, go to the settings menu and click Devices. There you have the option to set the bid for mobile devices to -100%.


Find the keywords that your buyers use

Success with Adwords depends on finding the right keywords. But if you are starting out, how do you know the interesting keywords?

Since we want buyers, not just visitors, we’re looking for specific keywords that indicate that someone is almost ready to buy.

Let’s look at two examples to clarify this:

Peter searches for smartphones. That is a general search. But if we take a guess to what Peter is looking for we might come up with the following: he wants a new phone but needs more information to make up his mind. That’s why he is looking for information on brands, features and prices.

Amy searches for samsung galaxy s5 price. She has settled on a specific brand and model and now wants to know how much it costs and where she can get the best deal.

If you’re running a store that sells smartphones, both keywords are relevant. But the examples show that at this moment, Amy is more likely to buy a new phone than Peter.

Since these specific searches are more valuable for the advertiser, they are willing to pay for every click.

So if you are carrying branded products, use those keywords combined with words like buy (online), store or price.

But what if you are selling a brand that few people know, or you’ve tried advertising before and the cost per click for branded keywords was too high. By using more generic keywords you’ll still be able to attract buyers.

Let’s say you’re selling gym shirts that fits and looks great. Now think of all the different ways a customer could describe this product: workout gear, workout shirt, blue gym shirt, tight gym shirts, gym shirts for skinny guys, cheap sports shirts, workout gear that stays dry, …

If you know your customers well, the keywords you come up with should correspond with how your they search.

But it is always good to check your assumptions.

To do that you can use the Google Keyword Planner (it’s free, you just need an Adwords account). This tool will give you an estimate of the search volumes and costs for certain keywords. Don’t put too much importance on the exact numbers, you’re just trying to get a rough idea of the amount of searches.


If you put the keywords in the keyword planner you see that workout gear gets 2900 searches a month. This is too much, so don’t include that one in your campaign. What you’re looking for is keywords that get 10-30 searches a month. These usually contain 3 or more words. Tight gym shirts with 10 searches could be an interesting keyword.

A couple of of your keywords might have a in the Avg. Monthly Searches column, which indicates that there are no searches. But this is not necessarily true. Especially if the volume is low, the numbers in the keyword planner aren’t very accurate.

Instead, use the volume of other keywords to judge wether it makes sense to include a certain keyword in your campaign. Tight gym shirts only has 10 searches, so gym shirts for skinny guys will have even less, therefore you can leave it out. But to expand your keyword list, you could add the keyword tight gym shirts for men.

Besides the search volumes, the keyword planner will also give you suggestions for other keywords.

If you need more inspiration, have a look at the tools below they each a take different angle at finding good keywords:

  • Google Search: start typing your product into the search box and see which suggestions appear.

Because you’re highly selective in which keywords you include, you have to make sure Google only shows your ads when people are looking for them.

This might seem like something trivial, but it’s an often overlooked detail that can save you thousands of dollars.

Adwords has a feature called match types. This is a way to indicate if you would like your ad to appear when people search for related keywords, not just the ones you’ve got in your keywords list.

This sounds good because it means you won’t have to come up with every single variant or misspelling of our keywords. But when setting up an Adwords campaign, it is hard to find how you can change the match type of a keyword.

Below, I’ll explain the different match types and show you how to use them:

  • Broad match: This is the default. Google will show your ads if people search for the keywords you’ve selected and for other vaguely related keywords.
    • How to use it: this is the default, you don’t need to do anything to enable this. In fact, you should do anything to avoid this match type!
    • Example: smartphone (this will also trigger ads when people search for smartphone plastic covers or best mobile games)
  • Broad match modified: This match type allows us to indicate to Google that they should only show ads for the keywords you’ve selected or closely related variations like synonyms or misspellings.
    • How to use it: add your keywords and simply add a + sign in front of each keyword.
    • Example: +smartphone +brands (this will also trigger smartphone models or apps for android smartphones)
  • Phrase match: Using this option, Adwords will show ads if people’s search query includes your keywords in the same order.
    • How to use it: put all your keywords between quotation marks “ ”.
    • Example: “samsung galaxy s5” (this will trigger samsung galaxy s5 or where can I buy a samsung galaxy s5)
  • Exact match: Google will only show your ads when the keywords of the person searching exactly match your keywords. This is the most restrictive option, and the one I suggest starting out with.
    • How to use it: put your keywords between square brackets [ ].
    • Example: [samsung galaxy s5] (this will only show your ad when someone searches for samsung galaxy s5)

To organize the keywords in your account you can use ad groups. These groups allow you to create specific advertisements for certain keywords. You would for example create an ad group for each brand & model you offer.

Create Super Engaging Advertisements

Google wants to create a great experience when people use their search engine. Serving relevant and well-written advertisements is an essential part of that.

When people find ads relevant they will click them more often. In your account, this is the CTR or click through rate or the percentage of people that saw your ad and clicked on it compared to everyone that saw it. A high CTR (10-20%) means your ad is highly relevant for this keyword. A low CTR (0.5%-2%) means that your ad is too generic, or people aren’t enticed to click on it.

If you’ve got a high CTR, Google will reward you with a lower cost per click. This has a lot of advantages: you’re able to get in a higher position for the same cost or you can stay in the same position at a lower cost. Either way you’re doing a great deal.

To accomplish this you need small ad groups of closely related keywords.

If you know the exact search query, you can create an advertisement that perfectly corresponds to it.

What are common objections people have before buying your products? Are they confused about the shipping costs, taxes, your return policy, sizes or how the colours look in real life?

If you’ve got a good product page you already address most of these objections there. But there are some that you can include in your ad text as well.

Adwords offers a couple of ways to make your advertisements more relevant. The first one is to use the keywords in your title and text of your ad. The second is the Display URL, this is the website address that shows up in your ad. This specific URL doesn’t need to exist; it only has to be the same domain. If you’re creating ads for smartphonestore.com you could create a page smartphonestore.com/Samsung-S5, whether or not this page actually exists. If you can include any keywords, it will usually increase the CTR.

After they click a user should arrive on your most relevant page, this will usually be a product page.

Besides the display URL, Google Adwords has some other features to make your advertisements stand out: ad extensions. These can be extra links you can add to your advertisement (they’re called sitelinks), a phone number (call extensions) or star ratings (seller ratings).


Caption: An advertisement with a couple of ad extensions

They won’t show up on every search, but they attract attention and will increase the CTR of your ads.

Implementing all of these tactics will help you get relevant ads in front of potential customers for a small amount of money.

If you don’t see any or few impressions or clicks, it means that the settings are too limiting. You could use different keywords or match types to increase traffic. Tweak your campaigns a little bit and give it a couple of days to see the difference.

Good luck!

Dennis helps ecommerce stores leverage online advertising to increase sales. So if you want to learn how to do that for your store, check out storegrowers.com and sign up.

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