Hadrien Brassens
Hadrien Brassens Co-founder at Reef Digital Agency


Has Google Adwords become too complicated for SME owners?

I have been working in the industry for many years and have seen the platform evolve significantly. Advertising on AdWords was easy. It involved choosing a few keywords, writing a few ads and entering your billing information. In a matter of minutes, your ads were live and traffic started flowing to your website.
While you can still create an account and run ads in minutes, running a successful campaign requires a lot more dedication than before. The industry has become more mature and therefore more competitive. Unless you spend much time analysising and optimising your campaigns, you may find that AdWords as a performance channel is simply not cost-efficient for you.

Small business owners are very busy, it's a fact. So my question is, has AdWords become too complicated for those of you who are over busy managing the rest of your business?

Keen to hear your thoughts or experiences with AdWords.

Top voted answer
Julie Street

Julie Street, Coach and Owner at

That is a very good question Hadrien! I have used Google Adwords and even with technical support and assistance, I still found it to be very time consuming and expensive. I did not get a single enquiry through either of the two advertisments. On the other hand, I know of a few other business owners who ONLY use Google Adwords for advertising. I will not be using it again particularly as I followed all the keywords, location, writing style etc but still it was not hitting the right target market and the costs kept getting higher and higher for each keyword used on a daily basis. I would much rather put my advertising budget into SEO on my website! Would be nice to hear from others as well about their experiences...

Hadrien Brassens

Hadrien Brassens, Co-founder at Reef Digital Agency

Top 10% Website

Hi Julie,

Thanks for your answer. The key with Adwords is to always ensure full relevancy at all levels (keywords, ad copies, landing pages). This is the only way to generated targeted traffic. But even when you think you're doing everything correctly, there may be another reason as to why your campaigns are not performing (hence my initial question about the complexity of Adwords).

I've recently audited an Adwords account which was well built but the majority of their Adwords budget was being spent outside of NSW (where they DO NOT operate...).

Rookie mistake to some of us, but it really highlights how easy you can get it wrong.

Matt, thanks for your feedback. You are right, Google has launched Adwords Express (along with many free Adwords vouchers!) in order to simplify the creation of Adwords campaigns for SMEs. However, I've also reviewed an account built on Adwords Express recently which only had keywords on broadmatch, did not have a single negative keywords, did not use any ad extension, etc.

Yes, the ads were running, but the traffic quality was terrible and budget was exhausted mid-morning every day. Not a great experience for an SME owner who cannot afford thousands of advertising dollars.

It may be a simplified version of Adwords, but I believe you still need knowledge and time to optimise your campaigns accordingly. 

Chris Fell

Chris Fell, Founder at g2m solutions

Hi there, to play devils advocate, I would be saying why are you using Adwords at all. In my experience its very expensive and often yields very low results. In my view you are better off using well written content optimised with your keywords that educates and informs your target buyers about the issues they face.

Once that's done then sharing and distributing that content via a blog, LinkedIn or other social media platform that works for your sector (and of course email if you already have the right to email to them) is FAR more effective. 

This process is called content marketing and if you type it into google you will see a bunch of white papers and eBooks on the topic.

Adwords CAN sometimes work well if you are in a hurry and have money to burn, but I think content marketing organically distributed is the way to go. My 2c worth anyway.



Hadrien Brassens

Hadrien Brassens, Co-founder at Reef Digital Agency

Hi Chris! Completely agree with you on the SEO/Content front. It is crucial for any website to embrace this if they want long term results. But I don't agree with your last sentence. I think most Adwords accounts can deliver good results and a positive ROI if well managed. It can take time and dedication, but once you have low Cost per Click, high quality traffic coming to your site, and a good conversion rate, you should see good results come through. Content also goes hand in hand with PPC as it will help lower your CPCs (through Quality Score optimisation). Conversion rate optimisation also needs to be done on the site to ensure traffic does turn into sales/leads. Having said that, I have recommended clients to cease their Adwords efforts on a couple occasions because I knew we couldn't reach profitability (some verticals are simply too competitive and therefore too expensive for small SMEs) That's probably not what someone would want to hear from a Search Marketer managing their accounts, but they understand I have their best interest at heart and transparency/honesty is usually well appreciated. The best advice I can give to any business is begin by deeply understanding what their target audience looks like, and how they behave online. Then only you might find that other channels like email marketing or social advertising might work better. It's all about testing and learning.

Wendy Huang

Wendy Huang, Full Time Blogger and YouTuber at A Custom Blog in 4 Minutes

Top 10% Social Media

I don't think Adwords is complicated to use, but it's complicated to use well and effectively. 

I found when I first started using it, it was easy to spend a lot of money on clicks and not get much back - I guess thats why good PPC companies do charge a good dime.

The important thing is to keep trying new strategies on how to get more bang for your buck out of your PPC - make sure you paying for conversions not clicks. also means your website must be conversion friendly to begin with before you invest a lot of money in PPC - so I guess that makes it sound pretty complicated as a process.

Just to put an ad up is not rocket science - I guess thats how google make their money :)

Hadrien Brassens

Hadrien Brassens, Co-founder at Reef Digital Agency

First and last sentences sum it all. +1 :)

Ian Mackenzie

Ian Mackenzie, Founder at

I think the fact that it is complicated to use well gives you an opportunity to get an edge over your competition. Read some books by Perry Marshall & Brad Geddes and educate yourself on it.  IMO Adwords is the best way to find people who are ready to buy right now online.

As a small business owner (particularly a savvy one like all of us) a large chunk of your time should be spent on marketing & we are blessed to live in a time where campaigns can be rolled out in hours, mistakes can be minimised & conversions measured in real-time. Keep at it and test, test test.

Matt Antonino

Matt Antonino, owner & SEO consultant at

Isn't Adwords Express basically what you want?  You probably don't need the full Adwords if you are mostly "choosing a few keywords, writing a few ads and entering your billing information "

David Price

David Price, Director at

Top 20% Branding

Hi Hadrien

Yes i agree with you. To fully get your head around Adwords and Analytics is a complicated process, which is too time consuming for the typical small business owner. I also am getting comments from Small Business Owner clients of mine that they are wary of clicking on "Sponsored" ads from google searches and would rather click on a high ranking organically searched website, as they perceive these to have more authenticity that a google adwords ad. Any thoughts on this?

Hadrien Brassens

Hadrien Brassens, Co-founder at Reef Digital Agency

Hi David. I find it interesting that some people are still hesitant in clicking Adwords ads. I've heard this before but still think it's a small minority of web users. Adwords ads are far different from spammy advertising popups we used to see 10 years ago. Adwords advertisers have nothing to gain by paying for clicks that won't convert on their site, so those who are ready to invest advertising dollars ensure whatever they're advertising is relevant to what people are searching for. It does however confirm that ranking high in both SEM and SEO is the ideal situation. I often recommend to my clients pursuing efforts in both fields. Some studies have also shown that there isn't much cannibilisation between the two and they in fact increase your overall Click through rate in most cases. The more space you occupy on the result page, the less your competitors do.

Trevor Hartshorne

Trevor Hartshorne, Director at Rothlake Business Services

I am currently going through the adwords excersize with a customer. It does take some time to set it up properly and understand what works and what does not. But so would any marketing campaign. 

I found spending time learning how to use it (Google has detailed and fairly easy help pages) made a lot of difference, and you only need to do that once. Linking adwords with Google analytics provides a lot of detailed information on what people are looking at after clicking on the ad. This helped to refine the best keywords to use. We did waste some money at the beginning from poor targeting, but now that is resolved we are getting higher click through rates, and more importantly the clients that we want.

I found that the keyword tool was good in prompting different ideas for keywords, not always what they suggested. When you work in an industry you tend to think about the words that you use, rather than what a customer would use to search for your organisation. That was the biggest challenge.

Adwords can be expensive, but once you get it fine tuned it can be an excellent marketing tool. 

It can be a little complex, even daunting the first time. But spending a few hours to understand it will pay dividends.

Hadrien Brassens

Hadrien Brassens, Co-founder at Reef Digital Agency

Hi Trevor, Thanks for your answer. I do agree with you, spending a few hours to understand will benefit any Adwords user. But fine tuning your campaigns can take time (you need to gather data, optimise, test new ad variations, add negative keywords, monitor performance, etc.) which they rarely have. I have provided 1 on 1 trainings to clients (with every level of understanding of online marketing) and while they found the training as such very helpful, they also quickly realised how much knowledge and practice you need to have to properly manage a medium to large sized account. It may work for small accounts, but there again, there's always more you can do to optimise.