SMB PPC: Targeting Your Search Accounts Well When Budget Is Thin – Part 4

stormtroopers bad aim

Are you a limited budget, SMB PPC account?

Then you are part of the rebel alliance, and a traitor.

Here’s the thing, your competition is most likely a lot bigger than you.

Heck, if you’re in any sort of ecommerce at all anymore, you’re probably bidding up against Amazon. You are out-gunned, and out-manned.

Your competition has an endless onslaught of evil white-armor-clad villains (or, green dollars) they can unleash on you…

But here’s the thing, you have what stormtroopers will never have… you can aim.

stormtroopers bad aim


One of my greatest internet folk-heros is this guy who watched all Star Wars videos and counted every single shot to gauge hit accuracy. He then calculated it up to find the winner (spoiler, it’s Finn), you can view it here: The Best Shot In The Star Wars Galaxy, According To Math.

As we develop our own PPC rebel alliance, we need to be more like Finn and less like stormtroopers. They just send wave after wave of dollar in spend hoping to win by sheer volume.

We need to accept that fact that we won’t win bidding wars against this army of green, and instead develop ultra-accurate ways of targeting so we can best invest our limited budget in exactly the right targeting that will make our accounts successful… even when we’re going up against the evil Empire… err, I mean Amazon.

Target Well With… Search Keywords

As we look at targeting well in SMB Paid Search accounts, the first (and most obvious place) to look is the keyword.

As I have written on Moz, the keyword is the single greatest form of targeting that marketing has ever seen.  It is individual, personal, and temporal in its targeting. So to really nail Limited Budget targeting, we need to look at both kinds of keywords to see how we can improve.

SMB Keyword Tip – SKAGs

First, we have the keyword. Since my assumption is that the reader of this post has Paid Search experience (if not, don’t worry about it and just hire a PPC expert to deal with the specifics) we won’t be getting into the specifics of what a keyword is. Rather, we’ll skip to tactical details.

It is in Limited Budget accounts that I think segmenting a campaign by Match Type is even more essential. The reason is because you can more specifically focus your budget on those High Intent exact match terms.

SKAGs in AdWords

You can then more specifically control your budget on a campaign level in AdWords when all your Exact terms are grouped together. You can also more easily filter / search / set bids in bulk, and a host of other practical account management things… all based on better keyword intent with the exact match type.

However, the next level you want to go in your limited budget account, is to identify those top few terms and break them into SKAGs.  SKAGs stands for Single Keyword Ad Groups and refers to ad groups you have running with only a single keyword in them.

The reason this is an awesome Limited Budget PPC account practice, is because it allows you to take further control over your top terms, while your huge competitors are stuck making decisions primarily on a macro-level with what they think are all powerful bidding rules.

You can take this top keyword of yours, and now you can specifically adjust mobile device bids, run ad tests, test audiences, and run a number of other optimizations on a single high value keyword.

Who cares if you don’t have all the budget, you are taking those top terms and milking them for all they’re worth, because you’re freaking Padme and not a stormtrooper!

SMB Keyword Tip – KW Research on a Budget

Another issue I know can be common in small budget accounts, is keyword research. If you’re in a small agency, or a consultant, or just running a smaller account without a lot of money behind you, then you don’t have the money for an awesome streamlined, competitor and keyword research tool with a monthly plan.

Have no fear, there is hope! While you have to be careful with sites like Fiverr, I have found that keyword research on Fiverr can be very helpful and quite cost-effective. You can pay someone a reasonable amount ($5-10) to run competitor research and grab ad ideas and keyword ideas on your top competitors.

My go-to person is: Ranaking on Fiverr

Here is a list of 12 free Keyword tools to try as well:

The reason I like Fiverr, is because it’s not just a list of random tools, but actual competitor research, affordably!


SMB Negative Keyword Tips

As we continue to look at targeting for the Limited Budget PPCer, it’s worth noting a few things regarding negative keywords.

Shared Negative Keyword Lists

First, you should be aware of the fact that shared negative keyword lists do not currently work in either Google or Bing Ads editors. Because of this, we at ZATO prefer to just add our negative keywords directly into either the campaigns or ad groups. In this way, you’ll avoid any mishaps and wondering whether negatives got applied as they should.

Since you have a smaller account, it really doesn’t make it to inefficient to simply add in a bad negative keyword to all campaigns quickly using AdWords or Bing Ads Editor.

negative keyword lists


Bulk Negative Keywords for All Accounts

If you are managing limited budget accounts, then to be profitable you probably have a number of them. In this regard, anything you can do for efficiency purposes is gold for your accounts. There are some very helpful negative keyword lists out there compiled by people who even group them based on industry.

As a warning, don’t simply apply all of these into your accounts! You do need to weed through them to make sure you should apply all of them in each account.

Here are a few lists to get you started:

Must-Have Negative Keywords for Small Business & Local Adwords Campaigns

200+ Negative Keywords to Consider for B2B PPC

The Daddy of All Negative Keyword Lists for AdWords   (this one includes a list of common cities and states as well)


Adding  Modifiers as Negatives 

Finally, there is the optimization aspect of negative keywords in getting your targeting dialed in.  The primary problem with limited budget accounts is reaching statistical significance with your funds, which are few. Because of this, digging through your Search Terms Report (STR) can be a frustrating practice since it can be difficult to identify what actually needs to be excluded, and what needs to be targeted more.

At ZATO, we’ve found the trick is to group things as much as possible by keyword modifier to identify trends in your data, allowing you to actually make decisions!  What I mean by modifiers, is those pesky little words users include with your core keywords. For example:





These words (and a host of other modifiers) vary from account to account in whether you want to target them or others. In this way, you will want to see how these keywords perform in this specific account, and you will do that by filtering.

Go into your Keywords tab, and then click on Search Terms, and Filter for your modifier word:

search terms in adwords new ui

filter for search terms in adwords new ui



Once you do this, you will be able to see all search terms that included that word you filtered for and you can see, en masse, whether people who typically come with the word “reviews” in their query are valuable visits or not and make the decision at that time with whether to target them specifically, or exclude them.


Target Well With… Search Audiences

Now that we got keywords out of the way, it’s time to investigate the next way that the small PPC account manager can use Padme-like (in continuing the Star Wars analogy) aim to invest their budget well.

This next area we’ll focus on is the area of audiences. Please note, that at the time of writing this post (2/19/17), AdWords is pushing hard for increasing their audience targeting functionality, so it may be worth noting that there are significant advances in this area since this post was written. However, here are some initial ways to target intelligently with audiences in AdWords and Bing Ads, even when your budget is limited.

In my opinion, remarketing audiences are well worth beginning in your limited budget PPC accounts. This is because with limited budgets available, you want to ensure that the people that have been coming through other marketing efforts will return to convert, and you will often see higher ROI on remarketing campaigns then in traditional campaigns.

Admittedly, it’s important to keep in mind that this isn’t because remarketing is better than traffic gen PPC (this is a common assumption that needs to die), it’s just that in a last-click manner of tracking things, remarketing campaigns are weighted for showing more success as the “last” sources in a marketing funnel.

Regardless, it’s a great step to close the deal with those remarketing visits, so I think it’s worth investing some of your limited budget in these. Heck, use this to grow your ROI so you can grow your spend to put towards top of funnel marketing as you help educate your client on the nature of attribution and marketing.


RLSA is an acronym for Remarketing Lists for Search Audiences. This is a means of layering on retargeting audiences to traditional search visits, and can be a hugely positive thing for limited budget accounts. The reason is because RLSA campaigns often see lower traffic, but it converts at a better rate… which is exactly what the person with limited budget wants to hear!

To really take advantage of this, I have one major note for adding RLSA into an SMB account. That is, I believe you should segment out your RLSA visits into separate campaigns. It would look like this in your account for the campaigns (remember what we noted earlier in this series regarding splitting out match types into separate campaigns):

Search – Emergency Plumber – Exact – Nashville

Search – Emergency Plumber – BMM – Nashville

Search – Emergency Plumber – RLSA – Nashville


I have a few reasons I like to do this:

(1) Random bid modifiers create monster bids in the account. When you have too many things going on with bid modifers, you no longer have real bids. You have a bid that can be adjusted in 7 different ways, and at some point it makes more sense to just split out certain things into unique campaigns to control the bid itself, not just with a modifier.


(2) Return visitors do not equal new visitors. I think that remarketing audiences are worth pulling into their own campaigns to avoid the bid modifier issue, precisely because they behave so differently than new visitors.

We see in nearly every account, the fact that RLSA visitors convert far better and more profitably than new visitors. In this way, I want to treat them differently with different device bids, different ad copy… different bids entirely.

Keep in mind, if a keyword works well with an audience, but doesn’t work well without it… you cannot do anything about that when they are in the same campaigns (with RLSA audiences layered on) unless you do crazy things with SKAGs and multiple ad groups targeting the same keyword with ad group level audience bid modifiers and, UGH that sounds disgustingly complicated!

Just pull them into separate campaigns and reap other benefits too!


(3) You can better control budget to RLSA. When your budget forces your campaigns to get capped daily, and/or at the end of the month, then you need to ensure you are investing as much of that as possible in the areas of your account that will provide the highest profitability.

In this way, being able to to keep control of non-RLSA and RLSA visits with AdWords/Bing Ads campaign budgets is crucial to seeing these visits get more spend than non-remarketing visits.



While we can’t discuss every way in which an SMB account can go up against the big-timers, hopefully this has shown you how you can target more accurately because you have the ability and time to dig into keywords and audiences and focus your budget specifically on where it makes the most tactical advantage since you don’t have a monumental account to consider. Efficiency is less a concern for you, so you can take the time to target as deeply as you want on that single keyword.

If you enjoyed this, go check out the other parts of the series here:


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

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

SMB PPC: A Definition of Terms – Part 1