When Jennifer Furr began her ecommerce business, PictureThatSound, she also started a Google AdWords campaign to reach potential customers. Although the program was fairly simple to initiate, she didn’t get the results she wanted—customers who made purchases. Each year for five years, she has run a new campaign; tweaking her website, changing her SEO and keywords, anything she could think of that would enhance click throughs. But with the limited budget of a small business, there was only so long she could experiment without getting tangible results.

“If you start out and put in a little bit of money and a little bit of time, when you don’t see return on investment, there’s no solution for that,” she says.

Furr isn’t alone, and if you look at some of the ecommerce forums, you’ll find many business owners in the same situation. Can small businesses with small budgets get results from Google AdWords? Should you do this on your own, or will you have a better chance of success if you consult with an AdWords pro?

DIY AdWords?

It’s understandable to want to use Google’s AdWords. It’s reach is impressive, reaching 80% of the Internet, and you only pay when someone clicks your ad. It’s also understandable to want to set up your AdWords campaign: you know the company best. You know the keywords that are important to your product or service and if, like many ecommerce operations, you have few employees, it may make sense for you to take charge.

But if you’re not already familiar with AdWords, becoming proficient represents a steep learning curve. It may be easy to think of 10 – 15 keywords, but some pros suggest many more keywords than that. Do you know how to come up with hundreds more keywords that your potential customers are using? With some keywords costing $5 to $60 per click, can you determine the best ones to use? Are you skilled at creating headlines that get attention? Do you have time and skill to test different campaigns? Is your site already optimized for SEO, and can you do it on your own? These are all areas that many business owners may have to learn to do on the fly.

Beyond the initial set up process, analyzing the results and knowing what to do next can be a complicated and time consuming process, but is necessary to see success.

In its blog post: “Before You Start AdWords,” Search Scientists, a PPC company, advises do-it-yourselfers to continuously track conversion rates and answer the following questions throughout the campaign.

  • What is my most profitable keyword? How can I get most revenue out of this keyword?
  • What is my most expensive keyword that didn’t bring in any revenue? How can I turn this keyword into a champion?
  • What is the most profitable city in the USA for me to run ads – how can I increase my visibility here, and lower it in unprofitable cities?

Some business owners can’t wait to roll up their sleeve and dive into this analysis, tweaking results and exulting when a positive change occurs. Others, however, don’t have the time necessary to become good enough to make the process work, while still others don’t have the money to run a long-term campaign that isn’t creating results.

Signs You May Need A Pro (aka: Ain’t Nobody Got Time for That!)

We talked with a couple of AdWords pros and asked—what are the signs that it’s time to go to an expert?

Jennifer Surovy, Client Manager at Adlucent, a retail marketing and technology analytics company, says that businesses should expect a 15% growth in revenue as a result of a successful campaign.

“That’s the baseline that Adlucent uses because that is how commerce is growing, and that’s how the Internet is growing. When you’re stabilizing or flat lining at 5%, you’re not keeping up with the market,” Surovy says.

If you can’t get a list of good keywords, it may be time to get some help, adds Joshua Ballentine, account executive at ReachLocal, an online marketing company for local businesses.

In addition to getting a good keyword list, it’s also useful to get a negative keyword list,” he says.

“People underestimate the number of keywords they should have,” he says. “I see that all the time with small businesses when people may not know all the ways customers are searching.”

Still going with an expert can be a burden on a tight budget as well—especially since no pro can absolutely guarantee success.

However, the additional expertise and analysis they offer may just make the difference in creating an effective campaign, while saving you time and ultimately, money.

Selecting an AdWords Pro

Finding the right AdWords pro, just like finding the right accountant or tax attorney, means asking questions to ensure this person is a good fit for your needs.

  • Level of service: some AdWords experts help only with AdWords. Other may work for companies that offer additional technology beyond Google to help you analyze your campaign. The more you get, naturally, the more expensive, but it also does you no good to get less than you need.
  • Industry specialty: some companies focus on ecommerce sites, others on brick and mortar stores, and others on both. Find an expert who focuses on your company’s needs—who can integrate your in store and online campaign or who can really focus on the ecommerce side if that’s your niche.
  • Check references: pros should be able to put you in contact with happy customers who can tell you just what it was like to work with the potential expert. Ask people you know if they are happy with their AdWords pro and if so, get the name.
  • Expertise: do they have the depth of experience to answer your specific issues? Like Furr, you may want to know how to do more than just draw people to your site, but how to reach a specific demographic who are ready to purchase? How does the expert suggest you use your keywords most effectively, understanding your goals and your budget?
  • Cost: how is the pro paid? Do they offer a free analysis? A free short-term test? Can they give you a good idea of how much you’ll be spending each month?
  • Access: what flexibility do you have to your own campaign? Can you change it continuously? Can you go into it if you want? Are you informed of where the budget is allocated?

Deciding how to best run an AdWords campaign requires a keen awareness of your own strengths and weaknesses as well as a knowledge of what’s best for your business, given the time, money and resources available.

Mike Arsenault
Mike Arsenault is the Founder & CEO of Rejoiner. He works with 350+ online retail & eCommerce companies like Hydroflask, Footjoy, GUESS, and Big Chill to help them grow faster using lifecycle email. He also once lived aboard a 36' sailboat in Boston.