Even with Adwords, sometimes you have to stand out of the crowd.

By Jennifer Chan

Also read: Our formula to determine whether Google Adwords will work for your business.
“People without doubt aren’t looking hard enough.” —Seth Godin
I second-guessed myself last week. In my defense, it was my third day of eating crudités for every meal. 
I was at a search engine marketing conference in San Jose (although, given the conference center venue, it could have easily been Miami or San Antonio). My moment of doubt came during a speaker session on SMBs and Google AdWords. I got thrown when the speaker, presumably an expert on small business marketing, began talking about a “minimum” budget for AdWords: $2,000!
Every month, we run up to 200 AdWords campaigns for our parent company, American Ratings Corporation (ARC), for a maximum of $200 per campaign (per month). A $2,000 AdWords budget seems luxuriously high to me—and is, I suspect, well out of reach for most of my clients. For a minute, I doubted myself and everything I do. The “authority” in the big, windowless conference room told me I’d been doing everything wrong, and I believed him. 
Quick, let’s shed some daylight on this. 
The bar for entry into effectively using Google AdWords for SMBs is much less than $2,000. I know this from experience: the AdWords campaigns we run for ARC produce tracked phone leads at (on average) $25 per lead, which, if you believe HubSpot, is darn good. We succeed with this low number by implementing most (but not all) of Google’s Best Practices and paying careful attention to targeting.
We also have to accept that, with small campaigns, we won’t get all of the data we’d like to have. Google occludes small data figures in the name of privacy. Low numbers can make optimizing campaigns challenging. For example, you can’t really A/B test ads that only have five to 10 clicks. More importantly, low data gets in the way of conversion tracking. For ARC, we solve this by using AdWords-specific call tracking numbers provided by a source other than Google. We tally calls in FileMaker to learn how many leads are produced by AdWords and how many are coming from other sources. Hence, the $25 lead figure.
Of course, this number won’t be the same across industries or even companies. The success or failure of AdWords campaigns relies on a host of factors. Some are within a company’s control, like whether a website is search engine-friendly. Some are not, such as the extent to which a company’s competitors are already using AdWords. 
Still, we’ve seen many companies grow their business with AdWords for much less than what the “expert” in this case was recommending. If those same experts have been stopping you from trying AdWords, maybe it’s time to take a second look. Try a few campaigns at a budget you can afford and see how it goes. (On a side note, we don’t recommend using AdWords Express for this. If you want to know why, send me an email or tweet @nudesigns and I’ll be happy to share my advice.) 
Since returning to the real world, where I see the sun and eat actual meals, I’ve been going over what I learned at the conference—and there was a lot. I came away with tons of useful information and exciting new AdWords strategies to test. But this one disorienting moment may have been the most valuable of all. It forced me, as Seth Godin says, to look hard at what I do. And in this case, I’m grateful to say that what I do seems to be working just fine. 
If you’re interested in running AdWords for your business but don’t have the know-how or time, we’d love to do it for you. Email us or call us at (707) 575-5373.
To read more of Jennifer Chan's work, check out her writing for the Diamond Certified Blog.

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