Here at Elite SEM, our focus is primarily on taking businesses and growing them. We don’t accept the status quo and are constantly looking for new opportunities to grow our clients’ businesses. This is how we have grown and how we’ve made a name for ourselves in the industry.

But we also understand that there are some businesses who can’t really afford to A) hire an agency to run their SEM and B) spend more than a set budget every month. There are hundreds of thousands of these businesses out there, so I thought it would be great to share some tips I have learned while managing some myself.

Outside of Elite, I manage a small AdWords account for my mom, who is the owner and founder of Communication Imaging. Communication Imaging is a comprehensive speech and language practice based just outside of Philadelphia, focused mainly on children, across various types of speech disorders. While my mom has a very small budget, usually within $300-$500 per month, we have found great success in growing her business in the past 2-3 years since we started advertising.

For small businesses with limited budgets, it’s important to focus on what, where and when you know performs best in order to spend most efficiently.

Here are some tips that we’ve implemented over the years to help keep her media spend efficient and keep her account (and business) profitable!

  • Know your customer base and where they come from. It is important to make sure you’re geo targeting the exact zip codes/towns that your customers typically travel from. Just because the office is right outside of Philadelphia, doesn’t necessarily mean the city is the best place to target. We went with the strategy of targeting a 15 mile radius around here office, and it does very well. If you’re a more rural business, maybe a bigger radius makes sense? Knowing where your current customers come from is usually a good start. You could also pick 3-5 towns that are near the office to target them. This allows you to bid up or down by location based on a variety of factors: proximity to your location, % of current customers in that location, etc.
  • Start small and move on from there. When we take on new clients, we typically build out every possible keyword combination on their site. For small businesses, that may not be the best route to take. We’ve had great success picking a small set of terms and “owning” them. Rather than have a limited budget with 100 keywords, it’s best to be unlimited and doing your best to dominate 10 of them. You can always add more if need be.
  • When do new customers typically call/visit/purchase? For Communication Imaging, the primary customer base is mothers with young children. Because of this, new business typically calls either first thing in the morning, or later in the evening (think, outside of the 9-5). Because of this, we increase our bidding during the times that we know people are more likely to inquire.
  • Mobile. This really depends on what kind of business you are. For Communication Imaging, we see a ton of mobile searches. This can be tied to #3 above; our customer base is typically on the go moms, so the majority of our searches are via mobile devices. We want to make sure we own the top spot for those searches, since only 1 ad is typically shown on mobile, so we bid up on mobile searches as well. Again, this could very well vary by business, so it’s important to know and understand what kind of consumer you’re looking to target. In many cases, it may make sense to bid down on mobile to save budget for desktop searches.

These tips should give you a solid foundation for starting and running a small business SEM account. This will allow you to run efficiently and effectively given a small budget. And it might even allow you to grow beyond that budget!

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