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SMB PPC: 4 Tips for Managing Budgets Well - Part 3

SMB PPC: 4 Tips for Managing Budgets Well - Part 3

10/25/19 UPDATE: Hello Facebook Agency Visitor Person!  We’re delighted to have you visit this awesome post. About a year ago, ZATO stopped offering Facebook Ads solutions so we could focus solely on what we do best: Google Ads. Because of this, we’re always interested in partnerships with great Social Advertising agencies (like yourself, wink wink!) and we offer referral fees for signed clients!  Anyway, back to it, and happy reading…

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I live in the USA. That means that, on average, I would be in $17K of credit card debt, not to mention the average of $30K in auto loans.Let's admit it, we Americans can be pretty crappy at budgets. One of my favorite SNL skits is the "Don't Buy Stuff You Can't Afford" skit with Amy Poehler and Steve Martin.

Well, when it comes to SMB PPC, budgeting intelligently is essential.

I often refer to SMB PPC as Limited Budget PPC, because the small business really does depend heavily on getting the biggest bang for their limited buck. There is no spray and pray stormtrooper targeting with the Limited Budget account. You either make the money you have work, or you find another job.

Since Budget is so important, I wanted to write an entire post on Tips for budgeting well in SMB PPC. If you have been following the series, you can find the previous 2 SMB PPC posts here:

SMB PPC: A Definition of Terms – Part 1

SMB PPC: A Good Account Setup Is Essential – Part 2

In this third installment of this series, we will discuss 4 Intelligent Ideas for getting the most out of your limited budgets in your smaller PPC accounts.  So stick with me, and let's dive in!

Intelligent Idea #1: Use Shared Budgets

The first tip I have for managing limited budget accounts well, is to take advantage of Shared Budgets. The reason I like Shared Budgets so much, is because managing one overarching budget across multiple campaigns set up to daily budget caps is foolish. You can't set individual campaign budgets too low, because if you do that then some campaigns will cap, and others won't on any given day, and then you won't end up spending all your budget and you won't show to everyone you could have.On the other hand, you don't want to set individual budgets that are too high, because then you could end up surging spend in multiple campaigns if user interest jumps, and you will run out of monthly budget fast!

Enter the shared budget. This allows you to group campaigns into a single budget so you can more easily ensure that you actually hit your daily budget across multiple campaigns.Here's the thing, though.  A PPC newb will walk into an account and group all their campaigns together under one shared budget and call it a day, not realizing that one of their campaigns is a major budget hog and will steal all of that budget from their other campaigns... some of which could be much higher converting than others.Instead, what I like to do in limited budget accounts is use a combination of Shared Budgets and Individual Budgets. See the image to the right here as an illustration.

google adwords shared budgets

I like to keep Remarketing campaigns separate (because they typically convert well), and I will also typically keep our Client Brand campaign as its own individual budget (ALWAYS SEGMENT BRAND TERMS OUT, my thoughts on PPC brand bidding on the Moz blog here: Stop Bidding On These Brand Terms in PPC).

Then, I like to identify two groups, (1) Top Converting Campaigns (2) Low Converting Campaigns (but campaigns you aren't quite ready to pause). You then create a Shared Budget for each of those two groups and throughout the course of your monthly management, you move campaigns here and there among those budgets.What this does is ensure that your Top Converting campaigns last longer throughout the day without being budget capped (so you can also hit monthly limits). If anything will get capped, it will be your Low Converting campaigns.

Intelligent Idea #2: Use ZATO’s SMB Automated Budget Rule Strategy

In this idea, you utilize a two step automated process that we at ZATO invented.  I'm now giving that to you!  Just make sure you think happy thoughts about ZATO whenever you use it in the future.What we discovered, is that we often had campaigns or ad groups that we wanted to pause throughout the course of the month so we could push that budget to better converting campaigns, but we also wanted to give those campaigns/ad groups a try in the future.We devised a 3 Step system that (with the help of smart people) were able to automate to help us keep control of these. Here is the system:

STEP 1: Create a Label that will be the same in each of your accounts. We call ours the ZATO_BUDGET_PAUSED label.  When you identify a campaign or ad group you want to pause, but that you want to re-enable next month when your budget is back, you will label that campaign with this label, and then pause the campaign.

STEP 2: Create 2 Automated Rules in each account. These will enable all paused campaigns and ad groups on the 1st of every month with the ZATO_BUDGET_PAUSED label.

STEP 3: Add the script below that strips all account labels on the 4th of every month so you can start the process again. The Automated Rule will look like this:

google adwords automated rules

Budget Paused Script is below:var LABEL_NAME = "ZATO_BUDGET_PAUSED"function main() { //Selects all campaigns with the label var campaignsSelector = AdWordsApp .campaigns() .withCondition("LabelNames CONTAINS_ANY ["+LABEL_NAME+"]")var campaignIterator = campaignsSelector.get();// iterates through the campaigns and removes the label while (campaignIterator.hasNext()) { var campaign =; campaign.removeLabel(LABEL_NAME) }//SHOPPING CAMPAIGNS!!!! var shoppingSelector = AdWordsApp .shoppingCampaigns() .withCondition("LabelNames CONTAINS_ANY ["+LABEL_NAME+"]")var shoppingIterator = shoppingSelector.get(); while (shoppingIterator.hasNext()) { var campaign =;campaign.removeLabel(LABEL_NAME) }//now do the same for ad groups var adgroupsSelector = AdWordsApp .adGroups() .withCondition("LabelNames CONTAINS_ANY ["+LABEL_NAME+"]")var adgroupsIterator = adgroupsSelector.get() while (adgroupsIterator.hasNext()) { var adgroup =; adgroup.removeLabel(LABEL_NAME) }//Finally do the keywords //This section might take a long time to run and cause a timeout //If this occurs a simple thing that might fix the problem is to //move this section (keywords) into a separate script var keywordsSelector = AdWordsApp .keywords() .withCondition("LabelNames CONTAINS_ANY ["+LABEL_NAME+"]")var keywordsIterator = keywordsSelector.get(); while (keywordsIterator.hasNext()) { var keyword =; keyword.removeLabel(LABEL_NAME) }}

A huge thank you to the brilliant Richard Fergie for creating this script for ZATO. Follow him and for the right price, he might just make you a script as well. Those who can't code, pay those who can!

Intelligent Idea #3: Investigate Shape as a Tool Option

The 3rd idea I have is actually a tool tip. We began using Shape back when they were Steady budget, and I have to say that they are a must have for the agency running multiple SMB PPC accounts cross-channel!One of our biggest issues before using Shape was that we had no way of keeping up on cross-channel budgets. I know, I know, you can use scripts and spreadsheets for AdWords, but I'm talking about cross-channel. I'm talking about the client who has $1500 spread out across Google, Bing, and Facebook Ads (yes, it can be done, and well!).   In those instances, we found that we needed an option that would allow us to stay up on budgets across multiple clients and channels, and Shape met the bill for us.

Shape Budget Tool

The other thing we like about Shape, is we can see what the estimated daily budget is we need to lower our campaign spending to in order to hit our monthly target. If you haven't tried it, and are looking for an option, check it out!

Intelligent Idea #4: Make Factually Based Budget Requests

Finally, you can't be a Limited Budget account without somehow trying to get more budget. It's one of the rules of being in SMB PPC... you need to grow bigger than SMB PPC! Our objective with advertising, is to help make a company more profitable so they are able to spend even more on advertising. Thus, a crucial part of any SMB PPC budget discussion is the art of asking for more budget.

google adwords rep meme

Now, here is where I would caution you to avoid the temptation to be a Google rep. The joke there being that their favorite thing to do on calls with us is to encourage us to increase our account spend. "YAH GEE YA THINK THAT WOULD HELP GET MORE TRAFFIC HUH HADN'T THOUGHT OF THAT ONE. "Rather, our clients are smart business people who want to grow their business, but need a better reason than "you should increase your budget" in order to increase their budget. This is where I thought it would be helpful to show you the way in which we typically have this conversation with clients. It involves facts based on estimates.

google adwords lost IS budget column

What I like to do, is to get the Search Lost IS (budget) column added into AdWords, and see if there are issues there. If we continue to cap on converting campaigns, then there is real opportunity that you can show to our client (this is making the assumption that you are also trimming fat elsewhere, but you and I both know there does come a time when you can't trim too much more fat).At that point, you want to point them to the data and the account performance.


Monthly Budget: $2000

Monthly Leads: 100Avg

CPA: $20

Google tells: Missing 25% imp due to budget constraints

Est loss: 25 leads per month

Based on the above, we see that we are losing approximately 25 leads per month due to budget restraints, and it is here that you make a hard, realistic recommendation to raise the budget 25%. Notice I was purposeful in choosing the number 25% based on our scenario.  We are not pulling a number out of thin air, or pushing them outside of their comfort zone. Most SMB Business owners *hate* going outside their comfort zones when it comes to spending money. They like their comfort zones. They live in their comfort zones, and you are the enemy if you try to pull them out.However, if you can convince them that the enemy is actually the lost opportunity of those 25 leads that should have come in... then you have won them over. Sure, they can spend another $500 next month if it will likely bring in another 25 leads. Let's do it! Now they're excited, and you just increased the budget. Congratulations!Well, that's about it for this time. I hope you have learned something about better managing SMB PPC budgets!  I have more Limited Budget Paid Search account thoughts coming in the future, so stay tuned to the ZATO blog in the meantime!

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Kirk Williams
Owner & Chief Pondering Officer

Kirk is the owner of ZATO, his Paid Search & Social PPC micro-agency of experts, and has been working in Digital Marketing since 2009. His personal motto (perhaps unhealthily so), is "let's overthink this some more."  He even wrote a book recently on philosophical PPC musings that you can check out here: Ponderings of a PPC Professional.

He has been named one of the Top 25 Most Influential PPCers in the world by PPC Hero 6 years in a row (2016-2021), has written articles for many industry publications (including Shopify, Moz, PPC Hero, Search Engine Land, and Microsoft), and is a frequent guest on digital marketing podcasts and webinars.

Kirk currently resides in Billings, MT with his wife, six children, books, Trek Bikes, Taylor guitar, and little sleep.

Kirk is an avid "discusser of marketing things" on Twitter, as well as an avid conference speaker, having traveled around the world to talk about Paid Search (especially Shopping Ads).  Kirk has booked speaking engagements in London, Dublin, Sydney, Milan, NYC, Dallas, OKC, Milwaukee, and more and has been recognized through reviews as one of the Top 10 conference presentations on more than one occasion.

You can connect with Kirk on Twitter, and Linkedin, or follow his marketing song parodies on TikTok.

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