A while back, my colleague, Elisa Gabbert, discussed why SEO is harder for small businesses and came up with 10 reasons that big companies with their larger budgets can more easily succeed at organic search marketing.
You’d think the same would be true for paid search: huge PPC budgets. More hiring freedom, etc. Well, maybe it should be easy for big brands to kill at PPC, but they certainly don’t as a rule.
Below, I’ll explain why so many businesses of all sizes are failing at PPC, and how you can buck the trend.
The Single Biggest Cause of Failure in PPC
Recently, during a webinar, we asked a non-scientific poll of approximately 200 AdWords advertisers the following question:
How much time do you spend doing PPC work every week?
Respondents painted a very rosy picture. The overwhelming majority (87%) reported doing some activity every week:
But what PPC marketers say they do and what they really do are two different things.
To verify whether it’s really true that most marketers do some work in their PPC accounts every week, I used the Change History log in AdWords to manually check the account activity levels for 200+ businesses that recently became WordStream customers. For the date range, I looked at activity in the 30 days prior to signing on with the WordStream software. Here’s what I found:
The “Activity Index” on the Y-axis is a measurement of how active an advertiser is in terms of doing PPC account optimization, with more intensive optimizations (like creating a new campaign) given more weight than less significant optimizations (like changing a single keyword bid).
As you can see, even from this rough graph:
- About 1 in 5 advertisers don’t even touch their accounts over the course of a month.
- Only 1 in 10 advertisers consistently do work in their account over a 3-month period.
- Bigger spenders are more likely to be regularly optimizing their accounts – but many companies spending hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars are doing nothing at all on a monthly basis.
Leaving your account on autopilot is how even huge companies like eBay  end up making fools of themselves in paid search.
How Small Companies Can Win at PPC
Slow and Steady Wins the Race
I believe the single most significant predictor of PPC success is not budget, but time put in. We’ve analyzed thousands of AdWords accounts, representing well over a billion in collective advertising spend, and found that the companies with the best results almost invariably spend more time working on their campaigns.
But wait, you say, PPC isn’t my full-time job. I’ve got other responsibilities on my plate.
The good news is, you don’t have to devote 40, 30, 20 or even 10 hours a week to PPC to be doing better than most of your competitors. Just logging into AdWords once a week and spending half an hour to an hour doing some optimization will put you in the upper echelon when it comes to account activity.
So what do you do with that half hour?
You do stuff like:
- Splitting ad groups down into smaller, tighter ad groups to help improve Quality Score.
- Pausing poorly performing keywords that are spending your budget without good ROI.
- Adding new keywords from your search query report to the appropriate ad groups/campaigns.
- Setting negatives to reduce spend on irrelevant terms that Google broad matches you against.
- Raising bids on your best keywords, lowering bids on weaker terms.
- Optimize for Mobile by creating mobile preferred ads and click-to-call extensions .
- Trying out new ad extensions like offers , sitelinks and other features than can increase clicks and conversions.
Little by little, this stuff makes a difference. So don’t get discouraged.
Even small companies can make paid search work for them with a little elbow grease.