Even though Automation is all the rage when you have enough data and budget to give Google the (well-guided by a human, of course) reigns, I actually think the way to rock an SMB PPC is still with extreme manual control.
1) Targeting is more important than Conversions
What?! Yeah, I happen to think that way in SMB PPC. The reality for small budgets is you won't make a lot of sales. This makes it more difficult for a human, or machine, to actually optimize for sales since the time it would take to actually test using conversions could be years... which you don't have in business strategy. Therefore it's more essential than ever with SMBs to dial in your ideal targeting & trust it... tracked return or not. For instance, if you're a plumber who does emergency service, then doing research and knowing someone typing in "emergency sewage backup" into Google is EXACTLY the person you want to be showing for... whether or not you can track a sale to that keyword or not.
2) Primarily Use Search Exact Match Keywords.
What?! Isn't Google moving away from directly targeted Search Exact match keywords? Let's be honest, even with close variants, exact match on the specific keywords you want to rank for is still the best bang for your buck in high PPC intent. You can easily limit your budget to target ONLY the terms you initially want to target, and then get more experimental with Phrase or Broad match in the future. But start with Exact if you're trying to prove concept, or only have a few hundred bucks per month to start!
3) Use Manual CPC for Bidding
What?! Isn't Google's automation exceptionally smart and powerful? It really is, but not for SMBs. For ultra small budgets, stability is crucial... and you don't have enough data to train algorithms anyway. Finding that sweet, stable manual CPC and sticking to it is crucial for SMB PPC in ensuring you're targeting just the keywords you want to target.
4) Ad Text is Actually Crucial for SMB PPC Search
With most big accounts, especially ecommerce price comparison shoppers, it's increasingly suspect that people even read your ad headlines. SMB PPC just seems to act different to us. When people are searching for my wife's local photography services, they seem to actually care about what we say in the ad headlines and descriptions... and you can test this yourself by seeing whether changes to your ads increases or decreases your CTR (click through rate... the percentage of people who see the ad and actually click to engage it). Small Budgets ads tend to be more competitor-centric... know what your competition is saying and then ensure your alternate benefits stand out in your headlines.
5) Ad Scheduling is Essential for Limiting Spend
For most larger accounts, ad scheduling is best left up to the automation. For SMB PPC with limited budget, you need to more tightly control who sees your ads and when. This is especially important when you are utilizing the Call Ad Asset (formerly Call Extensions) since you want to ensure people can't see your number during hours nobody will respond to their phone call. You can determine whether you want to still collect voicemails, but if you have trouble keeping your budget limited to normal work hours anyway, then it's probably best to limit your ad schedule to only show during your work hours. As you prove concept and build trust in PPC, you can always expand your ads to show beyond normal work hours when that makes sense.
So there you have it, a few tips that make SMB PPC management a little different than normal big budget PPC. Or, make sure to check out our SMB PPC Program as ZATO handles all of that for you so you can focus on your business. Leave the ad techniques to us (at an affordable price).