7 minute read

5 Breakthrough tips to running Google Search ads for local home service businesses

#5 will save you thousands in wasted ad budget!

If you are a small business owner and you are running Google Search Ads, you definitely want to keep reading this article.

Google Search Ads can be an incredible way to get customers to your website. However, there is a LOT involved with making sure that that happens. There are numerous account settings, structures, strategies, and ongoing optimization and maintenance involved in order to create winning Google Ads campaigns.

It doesn’t matter if you are a large corporation or a solopreneur, the fact is, managing Google Ads can be difficult. Not that it is hard to get a campaign up and running. With Google Smart Campaigns, you can get a campaign up and running in less time than it takes to wait in line for overpriced coffee. Smart Campaigns will suck your ad spend dry, so beware (we get into this in step 1 actually so keep reading).

The key is, actually seeing results with your campaigns that help push the needle forward. Just getting a mediocre campaign out there and waiting for leads to trickle in is just not going to cut it. You need to make sure you have a

With years of experience creating and managing Google Ads, we know the tips and tricks that can help you manage your campaigns better leading to better results and a greater return on ad spend. Below, we have included 5 breakthrough tips (plus a bonus tip!) below that will, without a doubt, help your campaigns run more effectively.

Additionally, at the end of this article, we include a link to a 100% free Google Search Ads performance audit. Just put in your email and we will send you instructions on how we can audit your account, easy-peasy. This performance audit will give you even more valuable information that can help you be more effective with your ad spend with Google Ads.

Enough chit-chat, let’s dive in, shall we?

Tip #1-The Dreaded Google Smart campaign

Oh boy. There is so much here that we could write an entire blog article on this point alone. When auditing client accounts, especially for small businesses, we see these accounts a lot. In fact, when someone comes to us and says their Google Ads campaign isn’t working, our first thought is “they probably are running a smart campaign.” Yes, it really is that bad.

So what are these campaigns anyway? Google Smart campaigns are Google-run campaigns that are really fast and easy to set up. That is the draw, Google markets this channel as the easiest way to get started with Google Ads. And to be fair, it is rather easy. You get signed up, enter in some keyword ideas that Google will then use to create themes, input some headline ideas, and a budget, and boom, you are off to the races. Sounds pretty easy, right?


With Google smart campaigns, you have no control over your keywords, barely any effective targeting or ad placement options, and don’t get a lot of data to make important strategy decisions.

I once audited an account for a home remodeler who was on a smart campaign and I saw that Google was putting some ads on children's gaming apps. Probably not the target you want seeing your ads, especially when you are spending precious money on them.

All this to say, we believe in the mantra “work smarter, not harder” but we also realize sometimes you need to work a little harder to see results you are happy with. This is our view of Google Smart Campaigns. We suggest avoiding them at all costs, and going with “expert mode” Google Ads campaigns instead.

Tip #2-Geography targeting

Now, if you are running expert mode Google Search campaigns, you have a wide range of targeting options. In marketing, if you can’t target your demographic, then your campaigns are more useless than a racehorse with a broken ankle. There really is no point.

This is one of the many benefits of advertising with Google Ads, is its suite of demographic targeting options. We will write an article covering more of the targeting options in detail, but for this article, we want to look at the geographic targeting option because it can be crucial to your campaign’s success. This is also an area where I see a lot of local, small businesses mess up.

You want to make sure that you are targeting areas that you actually serve. For example, if you are a plumber and you have a service area, make sure to input cities, zip codes, and neighborhoods that you actually service. If your geographic targeting is too wide, you may be showing ads to people outside your service area, which can just be wasted money.

Additionally, you may want to be strategic with this, and only show ads to zip codes or cities that lead to better returns. For example, you may have a large service area but your not desired customer lives in a certain city within your service area. You could show your ads (or even run a separate campaign if your budget allows) to that one city. Pretty cool, right?

Now here is a tip that is part of geography settings that is really important, and it deals with the geography campaign settings. This is a sneaky move by Google because it is a default setting when creating an account. See the example below.

Under where it says “Target” you have two options. The first option “Presence or interest” is the Google default setting. Basically, it is going to show your ads to people who Google deems are interested in your target location, but may not necessarily be physically located there.

The second option, which is usually the one we use for small, local businesses is “Presence” which means that the user is physically located in your service area at the time of the search.

The Google default option may be good to use for some use cases, like if you are a wedding venue in Hawaii trying to get people who are interested in your space from the mainland U.S., but for the most part, if you are a local business trying to attract high-quality leads, we would suggest the “Presence” option. This could save you a lot of wasted ad spend!

Side note, just because Google says “Recommended'' take that with a grain of salt. Google is our friend and our enemy, and it is important to remember that they are a business, and businesses are primarily driven by money. So Google will say “recommended” when it isn’t always the best option for advertisers on their platform. We love Google but also hate them at the same time!

Tip #3-Taking your ads off of search partners and display networks

This is another sneaky Google default setting that if you aren’t sure what you are looking for, you can easily miss it. It also can cause your daily ad spend to get eaten up faster than a Forex investor will take your money. It really is that important to turn these settings off in your Google search campaigns.

To turn these off, you need to go to campaigns -->settings -->networks and toggle them both off. Why are these settings so bad? Well, if you have these turned on, Google is going to take the liberty of placing your ads where you don’t want them to go. It is similar to a Google Smart campaign where you are giving up control to Google in lieu of making the targeting options yourself. We have seen businesses waste TONS of money with these two settings turned on.

If you want to run display campaigns, then intentionally run a display campaign instead. Although we usually don’t recommend display campaigns for local businesses.

Tip #4-Don’t use Broad Match keywords

There are three keyword match types or Google Search campaigns. Broad, Exact, and Phrase. Each match type changes the dynamics of your keywords. The broad match is exactly how it sounds. That match type works by looking at your keyword and then showing your ads if Google decides that a search query “fits” with that keyword. These may be better to illustrate with an example.

Say a user goes to Google and types in “shoes for women” in the search bar. You are running ads for basketball shoes. Your ad has the opportunity to show for that search query if you are running in a broad match.

With broad match, Google utilizes its algorithm to try to show relevant search queries for your keywords. The problem is, that it can take time to learn and can show your ads for search terms you wouldn’t want to spend money on. Due to this, we would recommend a more targeted and intestinal approach, which is running campaigns with either Phrase or Exact match keywords.

Tip #5-Utilize negative keywords in your account

This is one of the most undervalued and underused tools when it comes to Google Ads. Just like we can decide on which keywords to bid on, we can also decide which keywords or search phrases we don’t want to run ads for. This really is key and can stop you from wasting a large majority of your ad spend.

The way it works is you create negative keywords within Google Ads, telling Google not to show for this search term. Here is an example;

Again, with a plumber example. Say you are a plumber and you are bidding on the keyword “plumbing.” Say you are running a campaign with phrase match (the number #1 match type we use for our client’s campaigns) and someone types in “plumbing supplies on eBay” your ad could show, which is what we don’t want. The good news is, that you can stop this by adding the phrases “supplies” and “eBay” to your negative keyword lists, telling Google that you don’t want to show any search queries that include “supplies” or “eBay.”

Negative keywords can play a big role in your keyword strategy and can help mitigate search terms you don’t want to show for. Oftentimes, we will create negative keyword lists for our client’s brand name keywords, so we don't show when someone searches up a competitor's brand name.

Negative keywords can be added to shared libraries, applied to multiple campaigns across your account, as well as being added to the ad group level (if you didn’t want a keyword to be a part of a certain ad group).

Not utilizing this precious tool can really thank your results. This tip alone can save you a ton of money on wasted ad spend while making your campaigns much more effective and targeted!

Bonus Tip!🎉

If you have made it this far, that means that you have found some value (even if it is a little bit) from the above tips. Because of this, we want to share a bonus tip!

That tip is using the search terms report.

Google provides this very helpful tool (see sometimes Google is our friend) which shows real search queries that trigger our ads to show. It is important to note that this report shows what triggered your ads, not necessarily which search terms led to a user clicking on your ad.

This tool is valuable for a variety of reasons, but the main ones are it can help you mine for keywords to add as negatives and it can help you to see if there are keywords you should add to your account.

Example of a search terms report

We recommend checking this report often daily if you can. This will give you valuable insights that will help power up your campaigns.

Well, there you have it, 5 can't tips (plus a bonus) that can drastically help your Google search campaigns, especially for small and local businesses. We recommend that you implement these right away and don’t wait!

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