Are Google Ads worth it for small business?

Everyone looking into digital marketing has considered using Google ads, it’s the most visited website on the internet, of course you would! But as the digital market gets more competitive and the price of entry gets higher, are Google ads worth it for small business?

 Advertising is the backbone of the internet, every website wanting to stay competitive has an option for paid promotions, but none can compete with Google. With 99,000 searches being made per second that’s an insane amount of advertising opportunity.

Without fail, all our clients who are interested in digital marketing have asked if they should be running Google ads. Our answer to all of them is, that depends; what are your goals and budget?

Google Ads isn’t a set-and-forget type of platform.

While Facebook and LinkedIn have done a good job promoting ‘Boosted posts’ as a quick and easy way to gain a larger audience, Google is honest about the fact their system is more in-depth. What they won’t tell you is that you will need to spend far more time and money than you might anticipate in order to get results.

Think of Google like an ocean full of fish, you could throw out a large net and you will catch many fish, of all different species and sizes, along with a bunch of plastic junk. That net might have been affordable and easy to use, and you got a large catch, but…. you were hoping to catch squid.

Now, what if you’d done your research and instead of a net you invested in a good jig set-up? Specialised equipment designed to target squid. You’ll spend more money on the set-up, and more time on the water, and it’s more effort than throwing out a net, but you will catch squid.

A diagram showing a fishing boat with a large net, catching different fish and rubbish. Next to another boat with a squid jig catching squid

Google has all the tools you need to target your ideal audience and get the results you want but there’s a solid amount of planning, research, development, and refinement that goes into it. Not everyone has the time or skillset to do that work, or when they outsource to an agency, the budget to accommodate it.

That means running a Google Ads campaign is much more of an investment than many people expect. But how much of an investment are we talking?

What will a Google ads campaign cost me?

Unfortunately, there’s no set answer. Different ad types will be charged based on different metrics and some industries ads perform better than others.

Broadly, the average monthly spend on Google Ads ranges from $9,000 – $30,000 per month. That may seem incredibly high but consider that this covers all industries and budgets from mum & dad hardware stores running a single campaign, to international fashion chains that advertise constantly.

In our agency, we recommend a minimum ad spend of $1,000 per month, not including creative, set-up and management costs.

Still seem high? Let’s break it down. Starting with just the ad spend.

Depending on your industry, your campaign type, and your target audience it will take Google at least a few days (sometimes up to a week) to gather enough data to learn how to effectively target your ideal customer. From there you’ll want at least another week to get results, generally, clicks.

Cost per click (CPC) averages around $1 but can cost anywhere from $0.50 – $10 depending on your industry.

Graph from

This is all assuming your website and/ or landing page is optimised for conversion.

Gaining the click is only half the picture, that’s the job of Google Ads. Encouraging conversion relies solely on the quality of your website. See our article on how to Optimise your website for conversion.

Nothing is worse for a potential customer than seeing an interesting ad, only to be taken to a slow-loading, unattractive, difficult-to-navigate website.

That brings us to the second part of your costs;

Set-up, and maintenance of Google Ads.

Let’s use the example of a new client who hasn’t focused much on their digital presence. They have a decent website and a handful of social media accounts.

To get them running a Google ad campaign we’d need to:

  • Create a Google account.
  • Create a My Business Profile.
  • Create an Analytics account, making sure it’s connected to their website
  • Review the website and make sure it’s set up effectively for encouraging and tracking conversions.
  • Create an Ads account.
  • Conduct research into their competitors, target audience, potential keywords, ideal campaign types.
  • Build a landing page.
  • Develop creative e.g. copy for search ads, graphics for display ads or even video.
  • Set up the campaign in Ads.
  • Periodically monitor the campaign performance and edit as necessary.

A diagram showing the steps needed to set-up a google ads campaign rom scratch

That’s a significant amount of work and if you’re outsourcing, added cost to your campaign budget. If you’re going to spend the resources and energy, you’re going to want guaranteed results. But can Google deliver?

Yes! But it’s not a set-and-forget solution.

Let’s start with the positives;

The potential of Google Ads.

Google knows far more about its users than we’re comfortable thinking about. This means they can absolutely target individuals looking for very specific information, at very specific times.

For example;

  • ‘Jane’ is in an unfamiliar suburb looking for a nearby café to get lunch.
  • She searches ‘cafes near me’ in Google Maps.
  • Not only does Google know where Jane is and what cafes are nearby, they also know she likes Greek food.
  • There just happens to be a Greek cafe nearby that is running a ‘local search ad’, promoting their business profile on google maps.
  • Google will place this business first in Jane’s search results, increasing the chances she’ll visit.

A mockup of a phone showing a Google Maps search for 'cafes near me' and the top result being a sponsored ad for a greek cafe

This is good for Jane as she’ll get a recommendation thats matches her preferences. And good for the Greek café because they’ll gain a customer.

As ads are charged per click, when Jane clicked the business profile for directions on how to get there, the Greek café was charged. For the Greek café this scenario was a win.

This is where Google Ads get tricky.

Say the Greek café didn’t do much research prior to running an ad. They may have not known that local search ads were an option or that they needed a My Business profile to run one. They may have instead opted for a display ad, that links to their website.

A display ad sounds good in theory, your graphic banner appearing on relevant websites, great! However, it doesn’t consider how the ideal customer, the one looking to eat right now, might discover their business.

If we go back to our example with Jane, she went straight to Google Maps, she didn’t reach any websites where a display ad may appear. Meaning Jane, an ideal customer, never saw their ad.

Instead, ‘John’ was using his mobile to search for a yiros recipe on a food blog and clicked the display ad by accident. The Greek café still gets charged for the click, but John immediately returned to the food blog because the ad wasn’t relevant to him at that moment.

A mock-up of a mobile phone showing a typical food blog, with several pop-up banners and ads. To the side is a display ad for the Greek Cafe

This is the trade-off with a Google Ads campaign. You can access very specific results in exchange for very specific set-up. Knowing what type of ad will suit your needs takes time to learn, or costs money to access via a PPC expert.

Not everyone can be a winner.

Here is where being a behemoth in the industry gets tricky for Google and its users.

With millions of advertisers, Google can’t possibly give everyone the outcomes they desire, all the time. Some search terms get more traffic than others and are therefore incredibly high value. Imagine if everyone paid the same price to target the search term ‘Wedding dresses’ how do you decide which ad gets served first?

Google’s solution is to ask advertisers to ‘bid’ for ad delivery. Every time an opportunity for your ad to appear comes up, you and everyone else who meets the parameters for that ad placement enter an automatic auction to win the place. If your max bid is $5 but your competitor’s was $6, they win.

Knowing what value to place on your ads can be very difficult to determine, especially if you don’t run Ads often or you’re branching into a new market. Google assists users with this by offering automated ‘smart bidding’, where advertisers can set a daily spend limit and Google will adjust each bid in the moment to maximise your chances of winning the placement.

This sounds great on paper but again, there are millions of advertisers on Google, if they all select smart bidding who wins?

Google wants to deliver the best outcomes possible because happy advertisers are more likely to return. But ultimately they get your money whether you get results or not. So it falls on the advertiser to edit and adjust their ads until they hit that sweet spot.

By now it should be fairly evident that Google ads is an extremely powerful platform that can get you very specific results.

Now we come back to our original question.

Are Google Ads worth it for small business?

With the right expectations, absolutely.

Many people new to digital marketing have the impression that PPC advertising gets instant results, but this is not the case. The most successful digital advertisers are running ads constantly. They’re always gathering fresh data, meaning they’re able to edit their ad sets as needed to target the people they want.

The casual advertiser who runs an odd campaign every 6 months is putting themselves at a disadvantage as they’re basically starting from scratch each time. Their process is linear while the frequent advertisers’ process is cyclical.

Whether or not Google ads are worth it for your business is ultimately a personal question.

Are you comfortable investing now for results in the near future and/ or is this something you’ll take on long-term? For some people, that’s an easy yes. For others, those resources might be better spent elsewhere.

Either way, it never hurts to explore your options and ask for a little more insight. We’re always available to discuss your digital marketing goals and explain your options allowing you to make a more informed decision about whether or not Google ads are for you.

If you’d like to learn more about Google Ads, get in touch.


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