6 Reasons Why Small Businesses Don’t See the Benefits of Google Ads

It’s not always a lack of budget


Sophie Lorford

3 years ago | 6 min read

As a cost-per-click (CPC) marketing method, the Google Ads network is so appealing for businesses because you only pay when someone clicks on your ad, rather than getting charged per view (CPV) or per thousand impressions (CPM).

As a Google-certified Ads Specialist for almost five years now, I’ve managed and audited over 100 accounts with budgets ranging from £100 a month to £400 a day. Along the way, I’ve seen a ton of terrible accounts, and as you can imagine, the same issues crop up frequently, especially when it comes to small businesses.

Here are some of the most common reasons why small businesses don’t see the benefits of Google Ads.

1. Lack of Keyword Research

One of the first things I check when auditing or taking over a Google Ads account is the keywords. During the setup phase, Google makes it super easy to add keywords based on your landing page content, but many people don’t use their free Keyword Planner tool and guess keywords based on what they think, rather than on the data which will often provide semantic variations.

While small business owners often know their customers very well, it’s important to review all other variations of keywords that you may not have considered to increase the reach and success of your campaigns.

The Keyword Planner Tool gives historical information such as average monthly search volume, keyword bid ranges, and even ad group suggestions, so using the data when researching keywords is key.

Beyond the initial setup, it’s also very important to keep on top of your keywords on an ongoing basis. That means adding negative keywords, using the Search Terms report to find new keywords, and reviewing competitor keywords too.

2. Poor Choice of Bidding Strategy

If you’re a small business having issues with your Ads account, I can almost guarantee that you’re using the Manual CPC bidding strategy. So many times I’ve seen thousands of missed opportunities because of this.

Google Ads gives you a range of bidding strategies for your campaigns. From Manual CPC (where you set your maximum cost-per-click you’re willing to pay for each keyword) to Maximise Conversions (where they use AI and algorithms to show your ads more often to people who are more likely to convert) to Target CPA (where you set a cost per conversion and Google delivers results based on this.)

Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong with the Manual CPC bidding strategy — it works well if you want to keep tight control of costs. 95% of the time, the person managing the account fails to check the bid status of each keyword after setting the initial bids and gathering a couple of weeks of data, and the account becomes full of these.

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Below first page bid and Below top of page bid are warnings that mean those particular keyword bids haven’t been set high enough.

As a result, they are rarely driving impressions and aren’t shown as often as they could, or should be. Usually, this happens for the most competitive keywords on your account, and these are a big source of missed opportunities for small businesses.

To prevent this from happening, you can use Manual CPC or Enhanced CPC bidding strategies, but check in regularly to manage the bids and increase them as needed on a keyword-by-keyword basis.

You can also use a different bidding strategy instead like Maximise Conversions, Target Impression Share, or Target CPA, if you’re comfortable with the individual cost per click being out of your hands. Campaign budgets will give you control, meaning you won’t go over the amount you’re comfortable with spending on a daily or monthly basis.

3. Misuse of Keyword Match Types

Another frequent issue with keywords is the use of match types. Google doesn’t always make this clear on their platform, but using match types is an easy way to be strict with your keywords, pre-qualifying your audience further before they click. Below, I’ll use the example of a women’s red jacket.

Example keyword: Women’s red jacket
Broad match is the way that most keywords get added to Google Ads. Broad match keywords include misspellings, synonyms, related searches, and other relevant variations of the keyword. BM keywords are brilliant at driving lots of impressions but may deliver low-quality or less qualified traffic to your website or landing pages.

Example keyword: +Women’s +red +jacket
Broad match modifier (or BMM) keywords specify to Google that you only want to show ads when all three of these words get used in the search term. This limits the impressions available as it’s stricter, but your keywords and ads should more closely match your user’s search term, improving click-through and conversion rates.

Example keyword: “Women’s red jacket”
Phrase match keywords will only appear when the full phrase is used in the search term, and any close variations. In this example, this keyword would trigger ads for searches such as ‘Buy women’s red jacket online’.

Example keyword: [Women’s red jacket]
Exact match keywords are the most limiting version of keywords, and will only show your ads for that exact term and very close variations.

The range of keyword match types can feel like a minefield, but as a general rule of thumb, you should use variations of each of the types on your account to ensure a good balance between impressions, clicks, and conversions.

4. Bad Quality Scores

Outside of problematic keywords, the other major issue that crops up regularly is with quality scores. Your quality score is the mark of relevance between your keyword, ad copy, and landing page, and Google wants these to match. Ultimately, their goal is to only provide the most relevant search results for their users, so consistency between these three elements demonstrates a good quality score.

To put it into simpler terms, here are some examples.

Example One
Keyword: Men’s stag do
Ad copy: ‘Let us help you organise your bachelor party’
Landing page: Men’s group party holidays

Example Two
Keyword: Men’s stag do
Ad copy: ‘Let us help you organise your stag do’
Landing page: Men’s stag do party planners

In Example One, although semantically there are similarities and Google does recognise this, in a bidding situation it’s Example Two that would deliver a higher quality score and would be much more likely to win this particular bid.

Beyond a lack of impressions, one of the big benefits of having high-quality scores is the ability to outbid your competition. Think of Google Ads like eBay-style bidding, increasing by 1p at a time. While your bid is important, the goal is to forego the bidding war by simply offering a better quality result — and for Google, this is marked by a high-quality score.

5. No Conversion Tracking

Interestingly, attribution is one of the reasons why small business owners think Google Ads don’t work. A lot of the time, conversion tracking hasn’t been set up, which means business owners can’t calculate an ROI, or attribute any conversions generated to Ads activity specifically.

Even when Google Ads are shown to work with accurate conversion tracking, some business owners see the activity as a significant cost or outlay, underestimating the impact that they have. With full attribution modeling and Google Analytics linking set up, conversions can be accurately monitored.

Sometimes Ads will say they’ve generated 0.61 of a conversion, and that’s because the ads have had an influence on the final purchasing decision — beyond that, there may have been 0.39 attributed to SEO, direct traffic, social media, email marketing, or even smaller percentages divided between multiple channels.

6. Low Budget

Finally, low budgets can cause issues with Google Ads accounts. A £100 a month spend on a campaign realistically only gives you £3.29 a day — although this sounds reasonable, depending on your sector and the level of competition within it, this may deliver as little as one click a day.

Some super-competitive and high CPC industries include: marketing, copywriting, legal services, consumer services, and technology keywords. So in these cases, £3.29 might not be enough to even gain one click per day.

To counteract this, it’s important, during the keyword research phase, to also make note of the historical CPCs for each keyword, and to craft a budget based on this research, rather than an arbitrary figure of how much you’re willing to spend.

To summarise, Google Ads has a plethora of benefits for small businesses. However, by not using the platform properly or to its fullest extent, business owners may struggle to see the impact. Make sure to check your bids, bidding strategy, keywords, quality scores, and budget to give your campaigns the best opportunity to compete, and to truly see the results!


Created by

Sophie Lorford

Exuberant + passionate PPC consultant working with some incredible brands: specialist in search engine + social media marketing.







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