Because of the current Global economic situation (basically we’re all doomed), many organisations are reviewing marketing budgets and although we would all like to be in the ‘spend as much as you want’ camp, many advertisers are being forced to looking at their numbers and are making that difficult decision to cut back during these leaner times.

PPC Budgets

One of the first things to do when this conversation rears its head is to obviously chat through the issues with the client and get a full picture as to what’s happening and then offer your suggestions as to how your SEM efforts can best help the client through what is no doubt a difficult and stressful time. One of the great things about PPC is that budgets are flexible and can change whenever they need to and as long as you have a good structure in place you can control spend quite tightly ensuring that money is only spent in those areas that provide a return for the client.

With this in mind I thought I’d share some other tips and tricks to help get as much out of your budget as possible.


1.) Prioritise The Networks
– Yes, AdWords does drive the majority of traffic but YSM & Bing traffic is often cheaper and conversion rates can be just as strong if not stronger.

2.) Analyse Your Google Search & Search Partners’ Data (If you do decide to go with AdWords)
– Are the search partners spending a lot of your budget without driving any conversions? If this is the case, opt out and concentrate solely on Google Search.

3.) Investigate the Google Display (content) Network
– Recent changes to this network have meant that performance is better than a few years back and the network can be used to great effect. How are your display campaigns doing? Is the network is performing well for you? Hopefully you will have followed best practice and separated your search & display campaigns in which case you should be able to quickly identify if either campaign is bringing overall performance down.

4.) Ad Scheduling
– If you’ve got the data use it! Are there days of the week or hours in the day letting the side down in terms of conversion? You are spending money at midnight advertising to people who aren’t going on to convert? Are you predominantly a B2B advertiser who’s spending a lot of money at the weekends when your target audience isn’t online? Cut out this spend, it might not be vast amounts of money but as Tesco keep telling us “every little helps”.

5.) Look at Device targeting
– Again, as with day parting data. Take a look in your analytics package and identify the value of mobile visitors. In an ideal world, you would obviously like to target as much of the market as possible, however, during these difficult times you really need to focus on those areas that give you a return. Are mobile/ tablet visitors converting? Is your site as mobile friendly as it could be? If the answers are no, then in the short term there really is little point targeting and spending your limited budget on these areas if they aren’t bringing the customers in through the door (metaphorically speaking).

6.) Geo-Targeting
– This could be classed as one of the more basic settings, but if you are only able to fulfil orders in certain regions (e.g. mainland Britain) then you should only be targeting that area. You’d be surprised how many accounts I have taken management of and found that the campaigns were targeting areas that the business didn’t cover.

7.) Keyword Match Types & Negative keywords
– Use Search Term Reports. Find those search queries that are converting for you and target them, spot those occasions that Google has matched your ad against irrelevant queries and negatively match them out. If you’re running a lot of broad match terms (heaven forbid) what variations are converting? Get them in… Whilst you’re there stop using broad match and use modified broad & phrase match more ;)

8.) Be ruthless with your keyword inventory
– If it doesn’t convert and spends a lot, get rid of it. Simple as that. Also make sure you take into account your current keyword Quality Scores, if it is really low on some terms – delete them! (If you’re using Google Analytics, make use of Multi Channel funnels to ensure you’re not removing something higher up the sales funnel). If the reduced budget is likely to be temporary (which you would always hope it is) and the terms could be classed as seasonal, pause them until such a time as performance kicks in.

9.) Don’t Test Too Much
– This sounds counter intuitive I know but I’m not saying don’t test at all just don’t be impatient and run loads of tests at once. Run a simple A/B test with couple of ads and then when you’ve got enough data to make a statistically valid decision (and only then) find your winner… Don’t fiddle with it until then.

10.) Optimise ad copy
– We know that CTR helps improve quality score which will help reduce CPCs so go back to basics and optimise the copy as much as possible. Make sure the keywords are in the ad titles and description lines; include a strong call to action as well as any other USP that you may have (a lot to fit in 95 characters I know). This will help make your ad(s) stand out against the crowd and drive visitors to your site, which then brings me nicely onto my next point…

11.) Utilise Highly Relevant/Strong Landing Pages
– I don’t usually like typing in all caps but my next point needs to be as clear as possible. DON’T SEND EVERYONE TO YOUR HOMEPAGE!! If someone is looking for Nike running shoes then send them to a Nike running shoe page, they’ll be much more likely to convert.

12.)Take Advantage of Ad Extensions
– OK, like previous points this is probably more tailored to those of you running on AdWords as you’re not likely going to be offered the YSM rich ads at this level of budget but Sitelinks, Product extensions & listings, seller reviews they’ve all had great effects on CTR which is going to prove very useful in your current predicament (see point 10).

13.) Don’t Go For Position 1
– Being top is great but if it’s costing you more to appear there than the money coming in, you’re not going to be around for long. Find your optimal position and CPC and run from there. As long as your revenue or profit per click is higher than your actual cost per click you’re in a good place.

14.) Set expectations
– If the cut in budget has come from an advertiser used to spending big then make sure they know that their performance may change. On a smaller budget they are unlikely to get those 1m visitors a month that they may be used to and so as long as they know this at the start there shouldn’t be any surprises later down the line when they compare data to previous timeframes.

I’m not going to pretend that this list covers off all the ways that you can get creative when working with small budgets, however, I think it covers off quite a few of the big things as well as covering a lot of the points we should be looking at when optimising any campaign regardless of budget size. If there are some things that you do that I haven’t included by all means please share them in the comments so that we can all learn from your greatness…

Matt Hopson (21 Posts)

Matt has managed PPC campaigns for over 5 years for a large selection of clients including large travel companies through to retail & a number of charitable organisations.