Smart Spending: How to Optimize Google Ads for Lead Generation on a Shoestring Budget

Small Budget on Google Ads for Lead Generation

Sometimes I like to take small gigs in the industry; whether it’s a family member asking for some help (like in this case) or a friend needing to debug something together, it’s always enriching to have the opportunity to use some budget to experiment with new tactics and techniques. In this case, it was a request to use Google Ads for Lead Generation on a very tight budget.

Case Study: a small local business (performing arts and contemporary dance collective) wanted to be moved to the top of the SERP on highly converting queries, to generate leads for their beginner and advanced dancing classes, with a total budget of € 10,00 per day.

Challenges: no website, no previous data or usage of Google Analytics and Search Console, no Google Ads account, all is zero.

Goal: initiate volume of converting clicks within 2 weeks.

Best Practices for Campaign Settings

Strict Geo Targeting

As a first approach, I have applied a strong geo-targeting both at a campaign level, and at a keyword query level. The dance school is in Bologna area (Italy) and therefor, strict budget control on those who will actually consider reaching the place is paramount. Knowing the place lifestyle is also important: driving in Bologna is tough, and parking is worse.

picture showing google ads campaign geo targeting setting for accurate spending
Make sure to always expand the location optons and select the appropriate dialog
screenshot of google ads account showing high performance on geo targeted search terms for lead generations on a small budget
Geo Targeting also keyword has shown strong performance on CPA for search terms (broad match)

Turn off Display Extension, evaluate Search Partners

Don’t get me wrong, Google’s new display extension is very powerful and I ofte suggest to keep it activated for at least the first months of advertising, especially on verticals were the target audience is susceptible to emotonal content and visual communication, nonetheless, when top-of-the-funnel warmup is necessary to spark interest in generating search demand.

Search Demand Generation is a complex discipline in its own, and part of Fuel LAB’s Organic Search Engineering process, but it’s always a good idea to also leverage display placements when the budget allows; especially when using a capped automated bid strategy (like Target CPA or relatively, Target ROAS), spending a few Euros on the display extension can help you meet your budget spend expectations, while fueling up the search part of the campaign.

In the case of such small budgets though, where every cent counts in the aim of acquiring as much converting clicks at the smallest CPA, Display extension wouldn’t have enough breath or time to produce real results, when compare to the importance of monetizing quickly.

Conversion Tracking on a Killer Landing Page

No need to say it, but it needs to be said: if you’re not tracking conversions, you’ve got no chances to thrive, nor to start any digital business whatsoever. So, do track those conversions. Something very useful that I always suggest doing for Lead Generation campaigns is to create micro conversions in your path to conversion. Say, in the case of a contact form:

  • Micro conversion 1 -> Click on “start now” or “get in touch” -> conversion value € 0,01
  • Micro conversion 2 -> form_start event on the first field of the form -> conversion value € 0,10
  • Conversion -> form_success or generate_lead event -> conversion value really depends on your business

Why tracking micro conversions and associating these fake economic values? The economic values are not fake, they should actually be built on a delicate equation that consider the value of each lead based on the lead to customer conversion rate, and your average selling price per lead conversion into client; taking these numbers and using statistics, you can evaluate the actual economic projected value of each step.

But the real reason for which to track micro conversions and assign value, is to be able to use a Targer ROAS strategy on a Lead Gen campaign. This way, you can train the alghorythm to aim towards people who are more likely to complete the form.

For all of this to work, you can’t just shoot traffic to an existing page of a probably not optimized website.

The best practice in Fuel LAB is the following, for landing pages for ads:

  • subdomain to attract traffic and keep it siloed in your subdomain, avoiding polluting data on your main domain (and potentially hurt your SEO on the long run)
  • Core Web Vitals compliant, onepage landing page with exhaustive information and straight-to-the-point approach. Users don’t have any time to waste, and they want quick answers and valuable solutions. Core Web Vitals compliance will drop your cost per click, allowing for much more conversions at the same daily budget.
  • Message that matches AdGroup keyword and AdText
  • Keeping the action above the fold
  • Remove navigation and distraction (no header, menu or footer possibly, but be creative and don’t let the page look “naked” or non trustworthy)
  • Social Proofing is key (in Fuel LAB we are Trustpilot® Partners and here’s an article on the CRO impact of proper Social Proofing)
  • Design it for the right device
  • Allow multiple conversion methods. Not eveyone wants to send a contact form; actually, almost no one today wants to send a contact form. Add self scheduling for free meetings, whatsapp, telegram, live chats, and whatever applies best to your target audience.
gtmetrix results of a perfectly optimized divi landing page for google ads campaign with A score
Remember that User Experience is the Nr. 1 Metric that Google cares about. Strive for perfection. Then, go beyond.

Keyword Matchtype Strategy for Small Budgets

A word of warning: I am an Old School campaign strategist. I’ve been an expert on the Google Ads platform since way before it was called Google Ads (Google AdWords), and I am an avid Google Analytics user since before Universal Analytics dropped. So I won’t go in the debackle about how sad it is that we’ve lost broad match modifiers, and how keyword match types are respected or not nowadays. That’s a fact, and we must learn not just how to live with it, but how to exploit and leverage the system to our purpose.

When dealing with the following conditions

  • Brand new Google Ads account (no data)
  • Brand new Conversion Tracking (no data)
  • Small website with no Domain Authority or just a Landing Page
  • Very limited Advertising budget

the best strategy is to start with broad match versions of your keyword, to let the alghorythms apprehend and learn, and shape your traffic with accurate keyword exclusions.

The new Broad Match does a wonderful job at fetching the best converting search intents, and you’ll learn more than you think by costantly analyzing your search terms report.

Behavioral Targeting

By default, campaigns will run from 0.00 AM to 0.00 PM or untile you’ve exhausted your daily budget. You can see already how generally it’s a good idea to cap when campaigns are allowed to spend, based on your objectives, but how important it is with a limited budget to focus your spend during the highest conversion opportunity window.

To do this:

  • first let the campaign run freely for at least a couple weeks
  • Analyze user behavior and confront time and day of spend, of impressions, of clicks and finally conversions
  • you will notice a pattern
  • optimize your bids accordingly, lowering them for the low-performing day and time of the day, and raising it during your peak moments
  • you can do this either with Google Ads manually, or with tools like Optmyzr which we use avidly in Fuel LAB.
screenshot of the optmyzr day and time of day optimization for bids in google ads
In this case we can see clearly how Sundays and Mondays are not for signing up for dance classes, apparently, while mid-week people seem to be more in need to find that personal pleasure of starting something for themselves; also, around lunchtime seems to be a hot time for conversion in this niece.

Conclusions & Results

There are many ways you can achieve your goals with a Google Ads account, even with no historical data and a microscopic budget. Here are the results we have achieved so far, in one month of campaigning. Do remember that these optimizations and strategies are not the only things to do. I haven’t mentioned all the very basic Google Ads best practices that are unlinked to budget, like, as an example:

  • Using more than 1 Responsive Search Ads (RSA) in every AdGroup
  • Using all the 15 Titles and 4 Descriptions slots
  • Using Sitelinks, Image Extensions, and every possibile and fitting extension to enhance your ads
  • Complete the advertiser verification and set Advertiser logo and company name
  • And more
CostCPAConvDate Range
€ 241,5€ 12,71901 Sept – 29 Sept 2023
So, in the first month of advertising, the dance school has generated 19 leads, and 15 new subscribers; this is triple of what they have been doing so far without physical channels, and every subscription is worth 5 times the CPA.
screenshot of the results of the google ads campaign after the first 30 days, showing the data of the table above

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