Does Google AdWords/PPC Work For UK Small Business Owners?


Google AdWords is the name of Google’s Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising platform. There are different forms of this type of advertising, but when most people think about Google AdWords they think about the search results at the very top of Google’s search result pages (which used to be on a shaded background, and now have a small yellow tag by them reading ‘Ad’), and also the results that appear on the right hand side of search results pages.

How does it work?

Getting your website to page one of Google’s search results is a straightforward process. You start by bidding a maximum cost per click for each of the keywords or phrases you want to get found by. Other companies will also be bidding, so the best places will go to the highest bidders (taking in to account something called Quality Score). You only pay if and when someone actually clicks through to your website (hence ‘pay per click’), and you can control your costs by setting a maximum daily budget.

Does Google AdWords actually work?

Quite often when I’m talking to business owners, they tell me that they ignore these paid results in Google and that ‘I tried PPC and it didn’t work’.

Around 1 out of 7 searches on average results in a click on a paid advert. I often recommend that if you can achieve first page results ‘naturally’ through Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), then that is the best strategy – people seem naturally drawn to the ‘natural’ results directly below the paid results on the left hand side of the search results page.

These paid adverts are the way that Google make 97% of their considerable revenue (£3.3 Billion last year). So in other words, millions of people click on these adverts every single day. And, more to the point, UK businesses spent over £3 Billion on this form of marketing last year – 15% up from the year before. As you can stop this advertising immediately at any time, clearly UK businesses are seeing results from PPC.

It’s the way that you do it…

My feeling is that there are no easy wins. Setting up a PPC campaign, guessing what keywords are going to be effective and then sticking in your bank details might work for you – but it probably won’t.   There are however, thousands of businesses using Adwords to great effect, and they are generally enjoying the fruits of their hard work and strategising. Any good PPC campaign will have been well researched, well set up and will be monitored, tested, analysed and adjusted on a regular basis.

It is often very difficult to achieve first page results quickly through SEO, you sometimes have to wait a long time and keep the faith before seeing a return on your investment. PPC can be a great way of securing a much quicker ROI, the clicks may only be around 1 in 7, but you are fishing in a really big pond, think about all the people who use Google, if you can just reach a small percentage of them then you have a massive pool of potential business, 1% of everything is more than 100% of nothing!

PPC is also a good strategy to help you ‘test the water’ for any SEO work you might be doing or considering doing. If you try it for 6 months, and see the traffic, enquiries and sales rise, then how much easier does it make your decision to stay on track with an SEO campaign that is not yet yielding results? Conversely it may also stop you from going down any blind alleys with your SEO, and keep you from persisting with the wrong keywords.

The value of what you are likely to learn regarding keywords from a well managed PPC campaign is not to be underestimated. PPC allows you to try many different phrases, and have tangible evidence as to what is working and not working. If done well, analysis will throw up phrases and words you would never have thought of which could really work for you.

So in summary, I think PPC can be an extremely effective strategy, great to test the water for an SEO campaign you are not sure about, helping you modify and choose keywords. It is however easy to do it badly, so if you are going to do it then do it properly, either hire a Google Partner or spend time yourself researching and learning about Adwords, and commit time to monitoring the results on an ongoing basis.

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Article by Andrew Leamon