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October 24, 2023

Episode 115: How to Use Google Ads as a Small Business

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If you’ve been listening to the show, you know that at Treefrog, we firmly believe that the flywheel marketing method is the most effective marketing strategy for small businesses. After all, this is the exact strategy we use to help our small business agency clients see growth of up to 880%.

Step four of this marketing strategy focuses on promoting your products, services, and content—which often includes running social media ads and targeted email campaigns. But for most small businesses, Google Ads are a particularly effective means of promotion.

This week on Priority Pursuit, we are joined by Maddie Hullinger, Treefrog’s SEO and research strategist, as she dives into this key aspect of the fourth step of the flywheel method and shares everything you need to know about how to use Google Ads as a small business.


How to Use Google Ads as a Small Business

Google Ads is a diverse (and potentially free) advertising source for small businesses. With Google Ads, you can show up on a variety of sites like Google Search, thousands of third-party websites, YouTube, and so much more!

Google Ads offers more than one type of ad format. Options include search ads, display ads, video ads, shopping ads, video ads, discovery ads, app ads, smart ads, hotel ads, and performance max ads. Each offers different benefits and will display your ads on a variety of platforms and in a variety of formats.

Knowing what kind of ad will work best for your small business will depend on your goals. But, we suggest starting out with a responsive search ad—which displays your ad in Google searches based on keywords. In other words, your website will be one of the first to appear in Google results for searches related to your products, services, content, or whatever you promote.

For example, let’s say you own an auto body shop, and you want your website to appear when “window tinting in Lafayette, Indiana” is searched. With a responsive search ad, you can make that happen—even if your website doesn’t currently rank on the first page of search results organically.


Who should consider running Google ads?

Google Ads can work for every small business! That’s what is so great about Google. Whether you own or operate a cute boutique, a busy law office, an auto body shop, a photography business, or any other kind of small business, there is probably someone on Google looking for your products or services right now!

Not-for-profit organizations may also qualify for Google Ad Grants. That’s FREE advertising on Google Ads.


What should small businesses advertise on Google Ads?

Google is such a diverse ad platform that you can advertise almost anything your small business offers. Whether you’re service-based, product-based, or a not-for-profit, Google has ad formats that will help you get your small business in front of the right people.

To start your Google Ads journey, we suggest starting with an awareness ad. What does your small business do? What do you offer your customers? Focus your ad on what you offer and be sure to include keywords.


How to Run an Effective Google Ad

Creating an effective Google ad may sound overwhelming, but we promise you can do it. To get you started, here are the steps we recommend you follow to successfully run an ad on Google.


1. Expert Mode

This may sound scary, but after creating your Google Ads account, switch to Expert Mode (vs Smart Mode). I know you may not feel like a Google Ads expert yet, but switching over to Expert Mode lets you have more control of your Google Ads and helps you avoid wasting your budget on keywords that won’t work for your small business.


2. Relevant Keywords

Find keywords that focus on what your small business offers and use those in your first ad. Using the right keywords in Google Ads will help you attract customers who are looking for exactly what you’re offering! You’re getting qualified leads directly to your website with an ad shown on a variety of platforms.

To find the best keywords for your ads, you need to think like your customers. What are they typing into Google to find a small business like yours? Once you have a list of a few keywords and ideas, hop on to Google’s Keyword Planner and enter your keyword ideas. This will give you an idea of what people are searching for and how many people are searching for those terms. Ideally, we like to target keywords that get between 100-1,000 searches per month.

Now you may be thinking, “Why only 100-1K searches per month? Shouldn’t I target keywords with more searches?” The problem with choosing keywords with higher searches means that you’re likely competing with big companies with even bigger budgets. Your ad—even if it’s absolutely AMAZING—won’t be chosen by Google if it’s going against giants like Nike or McDonald's.

Those 100-1,000 searches are your bread and butter. Those are the people looking for exactly what you’re offering. Now, this isn’t to say you shouldn’t ever run ads for keywords with more than 1,000 searches per month. You’ll just want to make sure you have the budget to truly compete.

Once you’ve found keywords for your first ad, narrow your list to about five to ten keywords and adjust them as you see what performs well and what isn’t really working for your small business.

Another cool thing Google Ads can do is exclude your ad from searches. If there are common keywords—or phrases—that lead people to your small business’s website that aren’t things you offer, you can add those terms to your negative keywords list and Google will not display your ads in those searches.


3. Headlines, Descriptions, and Landing Pages

Okay, so you have your list of keywords. Now what? The next step is to create headlines and descriptions and choose the best landing page for your ad.

Whether you’ve ever thought about it or not, you’ve seen Google Search Ads. Just open Google, type in anything you can think of, and you’ll see search results that are marked as “Sponsored.” You’ll notice that all of these ads include a link, a headline, and a description. As you create your ad, you need to determine all three of these entries.

First, you need to determine where you want your ad to link to. In other words, you need to choose a landing page (AKA a page on your website). The landing page you choose should match what you’ve chosen your ad to be about. For example, if you want your ad to be about a youth sports program, you would choose the landing page about that program. You wouldn’t select a page about adult sports or personal training.

Next, you need to determine your headlines and descriptions. These should tell your target audience what the ad is about. Let’s go back to the youth sports program example. One of your keywords could be “Summer Basketball Camp,” so a headline you may use could be “Girls Summer Basketball Camp” and a description could be “Example Sports Centers girls’ summer basketball camp is for six- to eighteen-year-old-girls focusing on offensive and defensive skills on the court. Register now!”

In both examples, we were sure to include one of the chosen keywords and give a brief overview of what the small business offers.

Ideally, for ads on Google, you want to come up with five headlines and four descriptions. This way, you can AB test headlines and descriptions to see what works best and adjust your ad accordingly.


4. Broad Match Keywords

Alright, you’ve chosen your keywords and set your headlines and descriptions. What else can you do to help your ad succeed?

We suggest using broad match keywords. This is the automatic setting for Google Ads, so thankfully you won’t need to go in and adjust anything at the start. Broad match keywords are Google’s way of helping you get in front of the right people. Google looks at what your chosen keywords are and will interpret other keywords that are very similar to the ones you’ve chosen but may be phrased differently. This will help you catch potentially amazing keywords you may have missed in your research!

For example, one of your keywords could be “best small business podcast” and with broad match, Google may display your ad with a keyword search like “podcasts you should listen to as a small business.”

Google also lets you adjust your keywords, headlines, descriptions, and budget at any time, so if you find a keyword that you aren’t currently targeting is pulling a lot of potential customers to your website, you can add it to your keyword list! The same goes for low-performing keywords; if a keyword you thought would do amazing isn’t pulling people like you thought, you can pause or stop the keyword at any time.

Now, in case you’re listening and thinking, “This all sounds way too technical for me to handle,” we want to assure you that once you get into the backend of Google Ads and can see your options, you’re going to find that running your first ad on Google is likely much easier than you think.


5. Budget

Let’s move on to numbers. Just because you built an amazing ad doesn’t mean it will appear on Google!

You will need to set a bid budget that both works with your small business’s budget and is competitive. With Google Ads, your bid budget is set to the maximum amount you’re willing to pay for an ad to display. For example, if you set your max bid at $15 and the second highest bid for the keyword you’re competing for is only $13 then you’ll only pay $13.01.

Google will give you a recommended budget for your ad, but don’t let that number scare you. Work with your budget and adjust accordingly.

One of the best things about Google Ads is that you can adjust your budget at any time. You aren’t trapped with a monthly budget. We suggest starting with no less than $200/month (for a 30-day month that would be about $6.67/day). With this budget, you can start a Google Ad and adjust the budget as needed.

Our biggest suggestion or rule for working with Google Ads is not to just set it and forget it. Google is dynamic, and it’s constantly changing. While you don’t have to check on your ads every day, it is best to check on them at least once a week and definitely throughout the month. This will allow you to adjust your budget and keywords to target your ideal customers and not spend money on pieces of marketing that aren’t working for you and your small business.

To monitor the performance of your ad copy and budget, we suggest setting the ad to run for one month and then pausing it to make any adjustments.


Are you ready to get started?

Trying something new in marketing is always scary, but with Google Ads, you’re working with the most utilized search engine globally. With 8.5 billion users—your ads have the potential to be seen by thousands of people looking for exactly what your small business offers.

To help you get an idea of how your ads could impact your business, let’s look at an example of one of our client’s Google Ads. Their ad is focused on a download about starting a podcast. In June of 2023, their ad was seen by 7,520 people, had a click-through rate of 8.10%, a budget of $600 for the month, and their guide was downloaded 42 times.

That is over four times the national average click-through rate and double their industry standard.

42 leads may not seem like a huge number, but that's actually only $14.42 per lead, and considering Honest Podcast's services start at about $2K per month, this is well worth their investment—even if only a couple of these leads turn into paying clients.

Basically, Google Ads places your small business in the most widely used search engine exactly when someone is looking for what you offer! It can be a highly effective and affordable way to advertise your small business.

Now, if you’re feeling overwhelmed or just don’t have time to take on one more thing, know that managing Google Ads is a service we offer at Treefrog. If you’d like to learn more, visit our website and schedule a discovery call. We would be more than happy to walk you through the process!


Links & Resources Mentioned in This Episode


Learn the EXACT marketing strategy we use to help small businesses grow: The Flywheel Marketing Method.



The Priority Pursuit Podcast is a podcast dedicated to helping small business owners define, maintain, and pursue both their personal and business priorities so they can build lives and businesses they love.

You can find The Priority Pursuit Podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Podcasts, Stitcher, and wherever you listen to podcasts.



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Dive into everything you need to know about how to use Google Ads as a small business on the Priority Pursuit Podcast!



Leverage Kelly’s marketing experience, insights, and leadership to grow your business.

As the founder and chief marketing strategist at Treefrog Marketing, a co-host of the Priority Pursuit Podcast, a StoryBrand Certified Guide, and fractional chief marketing officer, Kelly Rice has spent more than two decades helping small businesses take their companies to the next level by providing trustworthy leadership and building effective marketing strategies and systems.

She has dedicated her career to helping small businesses succeed because she knows, firsthand, how hard they work to make their communities a better place. 

Still, many people undervalue the strength and ingenuity of small businesses, but not Kelly. She believes they deserve to have a marketing partner and strategy that works as hard as they do.

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