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Why investing in paid media, may not work for small businesses.

Google Ads - A small business killer

Google Ads - A small business killer

Why investing in paid media, may not work for small businesses.

The allure of Google Ads is undeniable, especially among small businesses eager to carve out their digital space. Indeed, Google Ads offers the enticing promise of visibility—ensuring your brand not only finds its way to the top of search pages but also stands out distinctly to your chosen audience. The ability to monitor your campaign’s performance in real-time adds to its appeal, providing a sense of immediacy and control that’s hard to match.

The urgency to invest in paid media becomes particularly compelling when you’re a small business watching competitors, perhaps just down the road, dominate the first page of Google search results. When you see them boasting tens of thousands of social media followers and being heralded as industry experts, the urgency to secure your own spot at the summit of search results intensifies. In the fiercely competitive business arena, the quest to outshine and outperform is a critical point of business survival and growth. But. . . are Google Ads a good tactic for your business?

Keyword selection strategy

Choosing the right and relevant keywords for your advert is crucial to achieve a successful Google Ad campaign result and to outperform your competitors in search. Your ad can attract 50,000 hits but if those clicks don’t convert, your small business is not making a sale. Opting for high-traffic keywords might boost your click-through rates, offering superficial success metrics, but you need keywords that drive conversion. They should be transactional keywords that are used in the final stages of the consumer’s journey. 

Doing the sales conversion math

The average conversion rate across Google Ads is 4.40% on the search network and 0.57% on the display network. So, let’s work on an average of 2%. You need around 100 clicks to achieve two sale conversions and if you use more than one keyword, you will need more clicks to validate this. This means you need a healthy and long-term budget to achieve continuous growth. 

Sorry, but big box corporations win sometimes

Google Ads operate on a competitive bidding system, where businesses battle for their ads to appear and attract searchers. Bigger companies have a substantial marketing fund and they can allocate up into the hundreds of thousands monthly—on key search terms, driving up the average cost per click. This poses a challenge for newer or smaller businesses, forcing them to pay more per click than what might be sustainable for their limited budgets. For example, insurance, online education, legal, telecom, costs up to $18.57 avg Cost Per Click (CPC).

Google punishes

Let’s talk about Quality Score. It is a diagnostic tool meant to give you a sense of how well your ad quality compares to other advertisers. This score is measured on a scale from 1 to 10 and it depends on

  • expected click-through rate, 
  • how relevant your ad is to the keyword and 
  • the landing page experience. 

So, why does it matters? Well, the higher the quality score, the higher your ad will rank which will improve visibility with searchers and also lowers your cost per click. (CPC). 

One chance to make an amazing first impression

So they click on your link, but they either get a 404 page, an image is missing, website is slow to load, or your site is not intuitive so they get lost. Your potential customer will click ‘back’ and try one of your competitors instead. That is the sad reality.

If your messaging does not address the need of a searcher in 3 seconds, they will likely lose patience and bounce.

Your landing page or your website must give the potential customer confidence in their purchasing decision. Your content and call to action needs to be compelling enough to hit the conversion homerun. 

Your checkout process must be clear and quick. You need to make it easy for them  and clearly provide important information besides the product or service price, such as delivery fees or call-out fees and timeframes. If this is not clear early in the onset, they will abandon the purchase and find an alternative. 

Did you know that almost 70% of shoppers abandon their carts. The average cart abandonment rate is 69.99%, according to a 2024 study conducted by the Baymard Institute. This means that only three out of ten customers who fill their shopping carts actually make it to checkout to complete their purchase. I cannot stress enough on how important it is to optimise your checkout process. 

Consider your audiences’ search habits and behaviour.  

A study from Kantar Millward Brown indicates that only 25% of Gen Z searchers display a positive attitude towards online search ads. The data also shows that they don’t respond well to other forms of digital advertising including video ads, This is paradoxical, given that Gen Z consumes more mobile and digital content than their generational counterparts. Reevaluate your customer profiles. Identify them and know where and how they consume content and media.

No set and forget here

To maximise your spend, there needs to be some time set aside to analyse your Google Ads data and make changes to your campaign elements to ensure they’re performing the best they can. 

A common example is that when your keywords may have performed well in the beginning. But then, after two weeks, you notice that those same keywords are pushing up your cost-per-conversion.

As part of your optimisation strategy, you may stop using those original keywords and change your focus to other keywords that can ease your spend.

Warning: Your campaign can quickly chomp through your ad budget when you don’t spend time optimising.


Google Ads is better for quick, top of the page results and SEO is better for long-term Google ranking. 

If budget and time is more of a concern, then play the long game with a solid SEO strategy. If you want to be at the top of the first-page search result next week, then Google Ads is better for you. 

Remember that short term tactics produce quick business results but it can be a slippery slope, whilst long term strategy promises greater future success. If you can, the best strategy is to do both as they can work together well.

Ready to boost your business journey? Let’s catch up over a coffee – Esther