As a small business owner, you know you need to be advertising on Google in order to get in front of high-intent local searches. With 85% of consumers using search to find local businesses and a staggering 78% of local-mobile searches resulting in offline purchases, search has become a critical element in the health of today’s small business.
It’s the key to getting in front of the right customers at the right time, when they are actively searching for products or services like yours. Yet, the how is another story. Small business owners have several different options for managing their AdWords paid search campaigns, ranging from do-it-yourself to managed service, from fully customizable to hands-off.
In this post, we’ll walk you through the advantages and disadvantages of each campaign management approach, so that you can decide which one works best for your business.
Google AdWords: Powerful campaign management for experienced advertisers
More often than not, when people refer to paid search, they’re referring to Google AdWords. Since 2000, AdWords has become Google’s primary source of revenue and the preferred channel for millions of advertisers across the globe.
What a Google AdWords ad looks like
AdWords ads look almost identical to organic (non-paid) search results, with the only visible difference being a small green box with the word ‘Ad’ appearing before the website address:
AdWords ads also have a few features unique to paid results, including structured snippets for highlighting specific aspects of your business and local information highlighting business hours, location, and whether or not your business is currently open.
Who it’s for
Google AdWords is for small businesses with some in-house advertising experience or the desire to learn the ins and outs of advertising. While launching an AdWords campaign is fairly straightforward, launching a profitable campaign can be challenging—and the reason why 25% of small business advertising budgets are wasted to mismanaged campaigns.
Google AdWords offers a high level of flexibility for your paid strategy, but demands routine monitoring to get the best results. Small businesses looking to go this route should be prepared to invest a minimum of five hours a week to audit their campaign’s performance.
What it costs
The cost of advertising in AdWords is tied directly to your campaign’s performance: The more clicks your campaign gets, the more you pay. Inversely, if you don’t receive any clicks, you don’t pay a dime.
Advertisers are free to spend as little, or as much, as they wish. By setting a daily cap, they can ensure that they will spend no more that their predetermined budget on the average day*. Once you’ve reached this cap, your ads will stop showing until your budget resets the following day.
*Average being the key word. On any given day, you can spend up to double your daily campaign; however, AdWords will balance out over time to ensure that days where you exceeded your budget are countered with days where your budget was not met.
Google AdWords Express: Hands-off management for the busy local business owner
In late 2010, Google realized that small and local businesses felt frustrated with the complexity and time-intensiveness of AdWords and launched a spin-off product called AdWords Express (originally, Google Boost). Greatly simplifying the advertising experience, AdWords Express lets first-time advertisers name their budget, set their business type, write their copy and “let Google do the rest.”
No more worrying about keywords, targeting, bids, or ad placements—just leave your ads on autopilot and get back to running your business.
What an AdWords Express ad looks like:
AdWords Express ads look similar to regular AdWords ads, although lack the advanced ad features and formats, including sitelinks and extensions.
Who it’s for:
Google AdWords Express is targeted for small and medium sized businesses who realize they can benefit for Google AdWords but have limited budget and time.
For the time-crunched small business owner, AdWords Express is often much more alluring then the time-consuming Google AdWords. With Express, Google does the heavy lifting for you. All you need to do is specify a few parameters such as business details and budget to allow Express to do its job, placing your ad for relevant keywords.
Express takes care of finding the correct targets for your product or service. Based on the information you provide Google will use its intelligent algorithm to optimize the geographical location your ads should be displayed. A similar procedure is implemented when trying to figure out which category your product or service falls under.
What it costs:
The cost depends entirely on the business owner. You can adjust your budget and stop or change the ads at any time. In fact, once you enter some basic details about your business such as location, simple ad copy (about three lines is OK), business category and the budget, Google will automatically come up an ad and an estimate of how much you should spend.
Google Express takes a much more hands-off approach. For a busy business owner, it’s ideal. In fact, it is so automated that it doesn’t really depend on human input and decisions. You won’t even need to worry about changing a bid price, because Google will automatically set your ad depending on category selection and make sure your ads are being shown when applicable.
At the same time, however, this automation comes at a cost: Efficiency. Instead of catering to what makes your business unique, Google AdWords Express will draw inferences from your industry, resulting in broader keyword targeting than you would likely choose if left to your own devices. As a result, the clicks that come in may be less relevant and less likely to become customers.
AdWords Agencies: Managed service for larger budgets
Everyone who has used Google has also clicked on an ad at some point in time, which exemplifies how much of an impact they have. It also means that just about anyone can utilize them for their business as well.
However, it takes time and dedication to understand keywords, demographics, bidding prices and competitiveness of a market. That’s where AdWords agencies come in to simplify the process. AdWords agency clients range from small businesses to multinational corporations that want to optimize their PPC marketing.
Who it’s for:
AdWords agencies are directly involved with the best practices of PPC advertising and are typically fully certified in search, display, and analytics. Agencies can also dedicate greater time and resources to an individual account. A decent agency will not only have comprehensive knowledge, they will more than likely have shared best practices, leading to a solid ROI.
While there are agencies that cater to smaller budgets, the majority of ad agencies cater to larger budgets and often require clients to commit to five-figure monthly spends, given the amount of work required to manage an account.
What it costs:
AdWords agencies are popping up every day which means the cost of their services should reduce as time goes on. However, it really just comes down to your ROI at the end of the day. You should probably expect to allocate 20-40% of your advertising budget to go to your AdWords agency.
Many agencies also charge by the hour or by month or even by a percentage of the spend allocated to PPC adverts. There are also other ways an agency can charge for handling your AdWords account, including a flat fee (ranging from $1000-$2000 per month) and pay-for-performance.
Still can’t decide? Get the best of all three with Spatially.
Every rose has its thorn, and each way of managing search advertising has its costs. With plain but powerful Google AdWords, the key cost is time—the time that goes into overcoming the learning curve, building your ads, and routinely monitoring your campaign. With the streamlined AdWords Express, the cost is customizability and effectiveness. And with an agency, the cost is cold, hard cash.
At Spatially, we set out to offer small businesses something a little different. Something that packs the punch of an agency-managed campaign at the cost of doing it yourself. Something that offers the hands-off simplicity of AdWords Express with the customizability of Google AdWords.
It’s in this vein that we’re proud to offer advertisers two new ways of advertising on Google:
- Self-service, through our SaaS platform, which simplifies the process of launching and managing an AdWords campaign and makes targeting your perfect customer a breeze.
- Managed service, through our team of certified AdWords experts and our proprietary predictive targeting platform, which offers agency-grade campaign management at a fraction of the price.
And no matter your chosen method, be sure to follow the Think Spatially blog for more tips and tricks for getting the most out of your search marketing.