Google Ads can be a success with low-budgets.
Even just a few bucks a day can get campaigns going.
It’s very easy to limit your budget at a specific, set number, like $500 a month.
And in doing so, Google won’t spend over it.
But that doesn’t mean your budget is being utilized properly.
That just means you are capping it at a specific level.
In fact, there are countless ways that your budget is likely being utilized improperly, generating poor results, or simply draining your cash flow for almost no noticeable returns.
Here are five common ad mistakes that can kill your Google Ads budget in 2019 (and how to combat them).
1. Neglecting Your Negative Keyword Lists
If you have been around the Google Ads block a time or two, you likely know of negative keyword lists.
If you haven’t heard of them, this tip is your saving grace.
And if you have, this tip is a reminder to stop being lazy and putting negative keyword lists on the backburner.
I’ve done this more than I can even recall.
Negative keyword lists suck. They aren’t fun. But neither is 99% of the crap you do on Google Ads anyways, right??
The goal here is to make money and utilize your budget to its full potential.
And negative keywords are usually the biggest reason as to why you aren’t.
If you didn’t know, you don’t pay for a keyword on Google Ads. You instead pay for search terms:
While you are bidding on keywords, you are paying for related search terms based on match types.
So while you might have a campaign that directly bids on “web design,” if you are using broad match, you will be paying for a slew of keywords with a mix of those two words, like “wordpress web design.”
Search terms are a gold mine of information that you can use to create new keyword campaigns.
But when you take a look at the list, you will notice a heap of junk that you are paying for.
For instance, search terms like “free consultation” when you don’t offer free consultations.
That could be $50 a click for some bozo looking for a freebie. When they hit your landing page and see that it’s not free, they leave.
You’re out $50.
To combat this, you need to produce negative keyword lists on the regular. If you have high spend and budget, you will need to perform negative keyword lists more often to keep up.
On Google Ads, a big mistake is just adding a keyword as a negative keyword directly from the tab:
Why? You aren’t taking into account match type:
Next time you add negative keywords, create your own list on a separate document and separate them by match type.
For instance, you don’t have to keep blocking “free consultation.”
Instead, you can add “free” as a negative keyword at the account-level on Google Ads.
This would block any search terms using the word “free” in them, meaning your ads will never show for a searcher looking for free stuff if you don’t offer it.
A good rule of thumb to follow with maintenance for negative keywords is:
- Clicks: if you are generating 1,000+ clicks a week, you should be performing weekly maintenance on negative keywords to control your budget.
- Generally: examine negative keyword lists every month at the least and add any that are new / you don’t want to pay for.
2. Relying Too Much on Automation
Google Ads is a grind. Trust me, I did it for years and years with big and small clients alike.
The daily grind of Google Ads can drive you insane.
Whether it’s writing new ads for a campaign or creating new landing pages or optimizing settings.
Or…gasp…those dreaded negative keyword lists!
They all stink.
Find me one person who enjoys Google Ads (I mean really, really enjoys it, beyond making money) and I’ll be shocked.
All of the tedious things you have to do on Google Ads can be a pain. And it leads most to automate the process.
Automated emails. Automated workflows. Automated bid adjustments. Etc.
While these can be great, they take the learning experience out of Google Ads.
Getting good at Google Ads to the point where you can spot problems fast, improve campaigns without much background info on them, and generate more than a small return on investment requires work.
As much as automating things can be useful, it can destroy your budget in the long-run.
3. Bidding Too Much on Popular Terms
We all would love to compete for the cream of the crop terms on Google Ads.
The keywords that get your ads in front of 50,000+ people each month.
Those terms that look like gold mines waiting to be tapped.
But the truth is:
They are a lost cause for most.
- They cost more than your monthly coffee budget for a single click (and my monthly coffee budget is pretty damn high)
- They are saturated with the biggest competitors in your space who have been advertising on those terms for years
- The intent really isn’t worth it unless you have brand awareness goals and a huge budget
Let me break each of these down.
Let’s take a popular keyword search term like “SEO tools” for example.
Here is the SEMRush data:
A single click on average is $10.54.
Given normal conversion rates of 2-5%, that’s a bunch of clicks before you get a single person to give you information (like contact info) or money (like buying stuff).
Monthly, that is an expensive keyword.
Secondly, it’s broad. What kind of SEO tool do they want? SEO Tools could be anything from backlink analysis to on-page checkers and technical scanning tools.
Do they want free tools? Who knows. That keyword is too broad and tells you almost nothing about the search intent.
This makes it extremely hard to craft ads that people will engage with on a consistent basis.
Lastly, it’s saturated with competitors.
Take a look at the top dogs ranking for this term on Google Ads:
Moz. Ahrefs. Podium. Seranking.
That’s a quadruple whammy of million dollar+ businesses with million dollar+ marketing budgets.
They can afford to bid on these terms for brand awareness, and you likely can’t.
Since they have been advertising on these terms for a long time, they have also had time to perfect their craft:
- Tuning campaign settings
- Crafting hundreds of ads to find the best value proposition that drives big click-through rates
- Making better landing pages
- Increasing their quality score to pay less money for top spots
All of this is working against you.
But it doesn’t have to.
Instead, you should be searching for keywords that provide a huge bang for their buck.
For instance, check out this term, “best seo tools for small business”:
It’s heavily related to SEO Tools, but you are getting specific, aren’t paying a fortune, and have far less competition.
Now that’s a keyword that can help you maximize your budget in 2019.
4. Spreading Your Budget Too Thin
When starting out on Google Ads, the options are almost endless.
Depending on overall business goals and ideas, whether it’s direct selling of products and services or capturing leads for consultations, etc, you have potentially dozens of keywords you can target.
It’s what makes Google Ads awesome: the search network.
You can target just about any keyword that users around the world are searching.
But it also makes starting Google Ads all that more difficult:
Where do you even start?
Working with countless clients over the past decade, one of the biggest issues I saw with budget management was spreading it too thin.
Auditing accounts, I’d see this same setup over and over and over again:
Doesn’t look too bad from the naked eye, right? Sure.
But when you see that this entire account has a maximum budget of $500 a month, you realize there are some serious issues.
Especially considering their keywords cost upwards of $50 a click. Ouch.
Doing the math, let’s take a look at where a budget of $500 can get you when paying an average of $50 per click:
That’s ten clicks per month.
If your conversion rate is 5% on average, that would take two months to net a single sale.
So when you have dozens of ad groups with dozens of ads and dozens of campaigns and a shoestring budget, you get almost nothing spread across your account.
Maybe, just maybe by chance, you will get a few cheap conversions. Odds are, you won’t get anything substantial.
If your performance is subpar, focus on a single campaign. That’s right, pause every single campaign except for your top performing ad group.
Put every ounce of attention and detail you have into progressing and perfecting it.
Once you can successfully make a solid profit from that single campaign, increase your budget.
Once that budget starts to pay off, repeat the process for a second campaign, and a third, and a fourth.
Only when you have a big budget can you play around with multiple campaigns at once.
Stop spreading your money too thin and start to focus on narrower, targeted efforts.
5. Experimenting and Testing Too Often
Like spreading your budget too thin, another great way to misuse your budget on Google Ads is by testing too often.
We all know the allure of testing: change X and Y and implement Z and become a billionaire!
Okay, maybe it’s not that extreme, but we’ve all read those “My AB Test Increased Conversions by 500%” posts.
While they did work, these tests aren’t fit for everyone.
And they rarely pay off that big.
Changing minor campaign factors like a CTA and button colors can help, sure. But they won’t be game-changing revenue generators.
Those only come from big tests to:
- your ad creative
- your audience
These are the two most important factors in testing on Google Ads.
But you shouldn’t be doing it if you don’t get at least 1,000 impressions on your ads every month, and at least 200 conversions per month.
Anything below these are your tests won’t be statistically significant due to low sample sizes.
What does that mean?
Essentially, any test with numbers under that mark and it becomes hard to verify if the results will apply at scale, or if it was a fluke.
Unless you meet the following criteria, don’t even think about testing and using your budget this way:
- 1,000 impressions minimum per month
- 200 conversions minimum per month
- At least $500-1,000 a month willing to risk/spend for zero return
- Multiple campaigns already running without change for at least 60 days
These baseline factors will help you save your budget. Making changes can be fun, but if they don’t pan out, your spending hundreds or thousands of dollars for no results.
And in the real world, you can’t go asking Google for your money back.
Google Ads can pay off big time for generating revenue and sales for your business.
But it can also do the exact opposite: destroy revenue, sales, and cash flow.
How can you avoid it?
By avoiding these common, yet overlooked mistakes.
Negative keywords suck. They aren’t fun whatsoever. But they are critical to reducing wasted ad spend and maximizing your money.
Stop relying too much on automation and workflows to get the job done. Nothing beats hands-on work on Google Ads and human context to understand what is working and what is not working.
When running RLSAs, people often miss a key setting that can sabotage results, turning an RLSA into a glorified, standard search campaign.
If your impressions are low and you aren’t spending thousands a month, don’t bother testing. It likely will derail your progress.
Lastly, stop spreading your budget too thin. Choose one or two areas and attack with full force.
Saving your Google Ads budget requires some tinkering, but the savings will allow you to keep advertising and bringing in new sales.