How to Do PPC if You Run a Small Business: SEMrush Solutions

We at SEMrush are aware that the most precious currency for a small-biz marketer is time. And we are sure there are no “bad” marketing channels; some are just used at the wrong time or in the wrong way.

Juggling them all can be tough, and this is what SEMrush was invented for: to help you make smart decisions by providing valuable data and removing the guesswork from your marketing routine. We want you to save time and valuable resources by approaching each of the main marketing channels the right way. 

If we look at 4 of the popular marketing channels in terms of time/outcome ratio, it could look like this:


For a business to survive, they need to get leads and make sales and save as much time as possible while doing so.

It sounds simple, but SEO takes time and being found in organic search isn't always something new site owners can wait on. So, for immediate traffic, most turn to pay-per-click (PPC). However, getting traffic is not synonymous with getting leads.

With an incredibly wide range of targeting options provided by AdWords, it is easy to pick the wrong strategy and end up watching your budget go down the drain (but this can be avoided).

Let’s discover some tricks that will help you plan a smart and well-thought-out PPC campaign with the help of SEMrush tools.

Start With the Right Keywords

Tools to use: Keyword Magic Tool & the PPC Keyword Tool

Once you have decided how much you are ready to spend on PPC, it is time to dive into the keyword research process. If your campaign budget is limited, you may want to set the maximum cost per click (CPC) that you are willing to pay. It is also a good idea to start with the “bottom of the funnel” keywords, in order to target users with high conversion intent.

Picking relevant high-volume keywords with low CPC may seem cumbersome, but with the help of the right tools, it is very doable. We have some examples of how to use the tools to find the right keywords. 

Let’s say you are promoting an online store that sells organic food; we will use this example term as a seed keyword for research. To increase your chances of reaching the users who are likely to make a purchase, you could also use words like “buy”, “cheap”, “delivery”, “near me” etc., in the broad match section. 


Don’t overlook the “Exclude keywords” option - it is extremely helpful to filter out irrelevant keywords (for example, cities or countries you don’t deliver to).

You have probably hundreds of possible queries, so now let’s define which of these are worth bidding on. If the keyword has decent search volume (1), reasonable CPC (2) and low competitive density (3), it is definitely a good candidate for your keyword list:


Try experimenting with different search terms until you feel you have gathered enough of them. Once you have a collection of terms, you can send them all to the PPC Keyword Tool.


(Note: the direct export from Keyword Magic to PPC Keyword tool is available only for paid SEMrush accounts)

The PPC Keyword tool will help you:

  • Organize keywords into groups and campaigns.

  • Filter out duplicate keywords, empty groups, and unnecessary symbols, making your keyword list neat and tidy.

  • Find and remove “cross-group negative” keywords that provoke competition among your own ads and make your CPC grow.

Once these things are done, you will have a keyword list that is cleaned up, organized properly, and contains only relevant keywords.

For more details on how to deal with PPC keyword tool and clean up your keyword list read this guide.

Creating Ads That Work

Tool to use: Ads Builder

The next step is working on ad creatives. There can be hundreds of other advertisers who compete for the keyword you are targeting, so your ad should be relevant and stand out from the crowd.

Besides the golden rule “use keywords in headlines”, there are lots of tricks that can increase your ad’s conversion. These are the techniques we figured out by analyzing the PPC campaigns of Australia’s top online retailers:


Once you are finished with building your keyword list with the help of PPC Keyword Tool, you can move on to creating ads without leaving SEMrush.

In the ‘Projects’ section, you will find the new Ads Builder Tool. It will automatically import the campaigns and keyword groups you have created earlier and take you to the next step: creating ads for each group.


In the image above you see that Ads Builder Tool can do the following:

  • Make sure you stay within the AdWords character limits (1)
  • Add URL paths and a destination URL (2)
  • Assign the new ad to a keyword group (3)
  • Get an immediate ad preview (4)

The tool also provides you with ad examples of your competitors. Whenever you run out of inspiration, take a look at their ads to find relevant CTAs.


Another time-saving feature you can take advantage of is the dynamic keyword insertion. It is especially helpful when you have a wide range of products from pretty much the same niche. Imagine creating separate ads for some dozens of keywords like “organic banana”, “organic avocado”, “organic monstera deliciosa“, etc.

Instead, you can just add a variable to your ad, and AdWords will automatically replace it with the keyword you are targeting:


As soon as you are done with composing ads, you can export them, together with the keywords, to AdWords-friendly Excel files.

Give Display Campaigns a Try

Tool to use: Display Advertising Report

Campaigns in Google Display Network are considered more effective for branding purposes. So, if you aim to get leads and conversions, this channel will probably not be your ideal choice. However, it can be useful when you are struggling to narrow down your target audience just using search campaigns.

An example would be if you are targeting small business owners. Whenever they need to find a logistics company, they would just search for “logistics company”; there’s no point for them to add “for small business” to the query. Audience targeting will be your helper in this case.

Also, display campaigns are where you can unleash your creativity and engage people with captivating visuals. With this in mind, the organic food niche is perfect for display campaigns. The audience is easy to define, and the ideas for visual ads are endless. At the same time, it is extremely hard to figure out which of the advantages are worth highlighting.

  • Should you be focusing on professional photos? Mouth-watering recipes? Special deals and discounts?
  • Would it be better to target desktop or mobile users?
  • Which websites would be the best to place your ads on?

In order to save resources and avoid reinventing the wheel, let’s take a look at what other organic food shops do when it comes to display campaigns.

The renovated Display Advertising report will show you how tight the competition in your niche is and how exactly your rivals are attracting customers:

- What types of ads they’re using (1)

- Which websites place their ads (2)

- How exactly their ads look (3)


We can explore this report to borrow some nice CTAs for text ads, as well as pick some visual ideas.

Here is the advertiser’s 2nd most effective banner that has been encountered 2,304 times on over 500 websites. Worth analyzing!


Click for the full report

Another bonus, you can filter the ads by device (desktop, tablet, mobile) and OS type (iOS vs. Android).


This analysis will help you plan a display campaign based on real data, instead of relying on spray-and-pray technique.

Bonus: Seize the Chance to Test User Behavior

PPC is also a fast, yet effective, way to test how user-friendly a page is.

Before you start driving massive traffic to your webpages, consider using a session tracking software. These tools allow recording users’ sessions to help you figure out what problems they are facing throughout their journey (for example, users miss the “Order” button because it gets covered by the chat window, and other cool UX oversights).

At SEMrush, we use Inspectlet. It has up to 100 free session recordings monthly, but for only $39/mo you can extend the limit to up to 5,000 sessions.

Wrapping Up: PPC As a Ground for More

With all the advantages the PPC channel has, there is one aspect you shouldn’t ignore: every click on your ad takes away money from your pocket. So the earlier you start thinking about how to diversify your traffic sources, the better.