Google Ads Secrets: What Works for Small Businesses

Launching a Google Ads campaign can be challenging. Learn how to use this tool to drive leads and sales effectively.


  • To create an effective Google Ads campaign, target specific audiences, build SEO-friendly websites and ads, and analyze and adjust your campaign.
  • Business owners advise prioritizing keywords, targeting specific geographic locations, and ensuring your website has a landing page that corresponds to your ad.
  • Google Ads has several tools and options that give small business owners the flexibility to run campaigns on their own schedule.
  • This article is for small business owners who want to start or improve a Google Ads campaign to drive leads and sales. 

Google Ads, formerly known as Google AdWords, is an excellent way to reach new customers and establish a web-based revenue stream. Over 80% of parent company Alphabet’s revenue came from the Google Ads program, which shows that thousands of businesses are already taking advantage of Google Ads and its various services.

But launching an effective Google Ads campaign can be challenging. Experts say it’s important to target specific audiences, build SEO-friendly webpages and ads, and constantly adjust and analyze your campaigns through Google Ads and Google Analytics.

We connected with some business owners to learn more about their strategies for developing and implementing successful Google Ads campaigns. Hopefully, you can use their ideas to make your campaigns a success.

Did you know? Google Ads is an example of a consumer-to-business (C2B) model, where end users provide a product or service to an organization.

1. Approach your campaign like a customer.

Who: Ryan Krane, a fitness consultant in Los Angeles, doubled the number of visitors to his website by using Google Ads. He mastered the art of creating specific campaign keywords to draw more participants to his online training and virtual coaching programs, which are supplemented by tips he regularly shares on his business YouTube channel.

How: According to Krane, choosing the right keywords is essential to a successful Ads campaign. Start by thinking like a customer and implementing SEO strategies into your keyword search. List what search words customers who are looking for your products or services may type into Google. Start with something general, then get specific to reach the right audience.

For instance, some of the services Krane provides are corrective exercises and fitness training in LA, but he also provides virtual coaching. Thinking like a customer, Krane includes keywords in his arsenal like “Los Angeles fitness consultant,” “personal trainer in Los Angeles,” “best fitness program in Los Angeles,” and “Los Angeles fitness training.”

TipTip: Check out Google Keyword Planner to find new keywords that apply to your organization. This tool will show you how many times people are searching for those terms and how much traffic those keywords may be able to drive to your website. Keyword Planner also lets you add negative keywords, preventing irrelevant search words from being associated with your ad.

2. Stay local.

Who: Balloons Over Asheville, which provides hot air balloon rides, really took off with Google Ads. The company used campaigns with keywords related to recreational activities in Asheville, North Carolina, and the surrounding area. (Balloons Over Asheville is now being serviced by the Asheville Balloon Company.)

How: If you own a business with a physical location or provide a service, one of the most effective Ads strategies is keeping your keywords local. This has the advantage of being specific to your region, allowing you to reach highly targeted customers. It can also save you money by preventing your ad from popping up when searches are too general, such as when you are too far away for the customer even to visit.

For Balloons Over Asheville, available keywords include “hot air balloon rides Asheville,” “balloon rides Asheville,” “Asheville hot air balloons,” “hot air balloon west North Carolina,” “fun things to do in Asheville,” “hot air balloon ride Candler,” and “hot air balloon ride Charlotte.” Keywords can also be expanded to include the season, such as “summer hot air balloon rides Asheville,” “summer ideas Asheville,” or “summer fun Asheville.”

TipTip: Set your ads to target specific geographic locations. Ads offers several tools that make this possible, such as radius targeting, places of interest targeting and bulk location targeting.

Radius targeting makes your ad visible to those within a specific geographic area, such as 30 miles around Asheville. You can also target places of interest, such as airports and universities, and specific commercial areas.

To target multiple geographic areas, the bulk targeting tool lets you set up to 1,000 locations at a time. All these tools are available in the Campaign tab of your Ads account, under the Settings menu.

3. Optimize your website.

Who: DogWatch of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, builds outdoor hidden dog fences and indoor pet containment systems. Marc Sturges runs the company from his Cedar Rapids home through digital marketing.

How: Just like choosing the right keywords, optimizing your website for ads can improve the return on your Ads investment. An effective way to optimize your website is to ensure you have a landing page that corresponds to your ad.

For instance, if you advertise a new product, ensure that customers who click on the ad are taken directly to the product page. If they are taken to your homepage or another part of your website, it requires an extra step for customers to find that specific product. In such an event, you’ve paid for the ad click that may not convert. Learn more about how setting up conversion tracking can improve your gross margin.

Another way to optimize your website is to make it easy to navigate. Customers clicked on your ad because they are already looking for something you have to offer, so make it easy for them to find. Deliver a better customer experience by thinking like a customer and organizing the content of your website intuitively, such as by keywords or product category.

TipTip: Use an analytics service such as Google Analytics to monitor how your website is performing relative to your ads. This will allow you to gather customer data, get detailed insights about customer behavior, and generate traffic reports to improve both your Ads campaign and your website. You can also link your Google Ads account to your Google Analytics account.

4. Know when (and when not) to use Ads.

Who: Scott Merck of Milwaukee runs his garage door and home repair service, Wisconsin Garage Door, entirely through Ads. When he’s ready to work, he turns on ad campaigns. When he wants to go on vacation or spend time with his family, he temporarily turns off his campaigns. Ads has allowed him the flexibility to manage his business successfully on his own time.

How: Marketing your business online shouldn’t be a full-time job. You often wear multiple hats, and Ads offers several tools and options that give you the flexibility to run campaigns for your business based on your schedule.

Like Merck, many small business owners don’t need to run ad campaigns 24/7. Ads doesn’t require any long-term commitment, so you can run ads as needed, such as when business is slow or an upcoming special event or promotion. You can pause and resume campaigns as necessary, such as when you need to go on vacation, need more time to run your business, or need to reevaluate campaigns.

TipTip: All these options are easily accessible under the Campaigns tab in your Ads account. From there, you can start, pause, continue or end campaigns.

These functions aren’t just available for ads, though – you can also resume, restart, and remove ad groups and keywords. This feature comes in handy when you want to test how different ads are performing against one another.

5. Consider the competition.

Who: Michael Theodore is a digital marketing manager for Digital Third Coast, a Chicago-based SEO and paid media agency that was a finalist for the 2018 Google Premier Partner Award.

As someone focused on digital marketing, Theodore has dealt extensively with Google Ads. Digital Third Coast was listed as a finalist in the Growing Businesses Online category of the Google competition. It was one of eight companies featured.

How: Theodore explained that considering what your competition is doing on Ads can provide insight into your campaigns. It may be a good idea to follow their lead, but it would be even better to determine how to differentiate your Ads strategy from your competitors.

“Check out what your competitors are doing,” Theodore said. “If they’re not using paid ads, it could mean two things: Either you’re first in the market to use this strategy, or maybe your competitors know paid ads don’t return positive results in your industry.”

You can view your competitors’ keywords in the keyword panel. If you paste a competitor’s website in the tool, you’ll be able to see what keywords they’re bidding on. This can give you an idea of how other companies approach Ads.

Did you know?Did you know? Google Ad Manager is a tool related to Google Ads. It’s a marketplace focused on buying and selling advertising on partner publishers’ sites.

Other Google Ads tips

On average, Google Ads generates $2 in profit for every $1 spent. But your ads will only work if you go into your campaigns with a clear plan. In addition to the tips above, here are some other strategies you can try:

  • Ensure you have a high Quality Score. Did you know that Google assesses every ad and gives it a Quality Score of 1 to 10? The higher your score, the better chance your ads have of converting. So, before you run an ad campaign, make sure your keywords and landing page are in top shape.
  • Don’t overdo it with keywords. If you’re working with a small budget, it’s important to be intentional about the keywords you use. If you choose too many keywords, you won’t see the impact you’re seeking. Be intentional when choosing keywords, and only use words related to your most profitable demographic.
  • Create a mobile-friendly campaign. It’s no secret that more and more customers are using their mobile devices in favour of laptops or desktop computers. So, make sure your campaigns are mobile-friendly. However, continue monitoring your conversions by device to see what the majority of your customer base uses.


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