First, a disclaimer: pay-per-click advertising is not a good fit for every small business. Don’t feel pressured to buy in if your ad budget is being well-spent elsewhere. Instead, note that PPC only makes sense for businesses with certain audiences, budgets and the practical experience necessary to thrive in the field. It’s definitely possible—but it takes work.

A lot of that work will be specific to your business. Depending on your industry, small business size and reliance on digital ads for new leads, you may not have the time, money or resources to dig into this vast world of PPC—a world in which it is very, very easy to lose money quickly if you don’t know what you’re doing.

In case you’re a bit unclear as to what PPC advertising is, it’s essentially a way of paying for ads only when they’re clicked on by users. You set a maximum daily budget—say $10—and then agree to pay up to a certain cost (which you also set) anytime someone clicks on your ad.

When searching on Google, for example, you’ll find these ads appear at the top, with the boxed “Ad” label before the URL.




But different search terms cost different amounts. Ranking on Google’s first page anytime someone searches “PPC advertising” will cost more than landing on the first page of a search term like “best PPC advertising company in Milwaukee”—the former might cost $5 per click, while the latter might cost $0.50. (These numbers are not accurate, but you get the idea.)

PPC advertising is best when you find great search terms that you can rank highly for, but it only works when you can commit to spending a certain amount each day. If your small business can afford PPC, it can elevate your lead generation and brand awareness to a whole new level because it guarantees people who are genuinely interested in what you’re offering.

So consider this a quick checklist to see whether PPC advertising is not only right but necessary for your small business.


The first (and biggest) question to ask yourself is whether you can afford to spend the required money on this. Even if you find affordable search terms, or are okay with ranking on page five of Google for less money, to see even nominal results you’ll have to commit to a daily spend of upwards of five dollars a day.

Not every business is geared toward this. If you’re selling high-margin items—say you import T-shirts from Japan for $5 apiece and sell them for $25—then your business is better setup for this type of lead generation. But if you’re only making a few dollars per item, it’s probably not a good idea to chase after leads that won’t make up the cost of advertising in the first place.


It’s extremely easy to lose hundreds of dollars without realizing it when it comes to Google Adwords. You can accidentally leave a campaign running for weeks and forget, only to find you’ve been spending hundreds of dollars on nothing; you can buy into expensive search terms without researching more affordable ones; you can pay for clicks you might have gotten organically anyway if your SEO is strong enough.

You have two options to make this worthwhile. One is to invest serious time learning the ins and outs and become a PPC marketing guru. The other is to hire someone who already is. Either way, you’re going to have to gauge for yourself whether you can afford to spend the time and money to perfect it yourself, or spend even more money on outside help.


Even if you’re selling high-margin items and understand PPC reasonably well, you’ll never know how big the payoff will be until you try it. You might assume you’ll succeed and then realize you’re not generating enough real leads, even with well-researched search terms.

Start your campaign off with a small budget—$5 a day is a good starting point—and review your success after a week or two. The great thing about PPC is how much control you have over tweaking and adjusting spends and terms on a dime; likewise, the advantage small businesses have over large ones is how nimbly they can make decisions.

Before you dive into big numbers, make sure you’ve found the most efficient cost per click on a small scale.


If you’re investing time or money into keyword or blog topic research for SEO or digging into the analytics of your social media followers, then PPC is a great complement. Your keyword research doubles for both areas: you can find which search terms are a good fit for your company but too hard to rank on, and try to buy in instead. You’ll also discover new, related search terms that you can subsequently use to inspire new blog posts.

As for social PPC advertising, it’s a good excuse to understand your social followers and reach out to a similar demographic. If you know your Facebook fans comprise mostly millennial females in California, you can target your Facebook PPC spend specifically to that demographic and build a stronger base.

If you answered “yes” to all the above questions, congratulations: it’s time to start your PPC journey. The next step is to actually figure out how to do that.