The Perils of DIY Marketing

The Perils of DIY Marketing

We’ve been running a series of Ads on Google Adwords Express.

Adwords Express claims that it “is perfect for the one-person marketing team, or if you don’t need all the features of AdWords. Just set up your account and we’ll manage where and when your ads appear on Google. No keywords to choose, no ongoing maintenance — so you can spend less time on advertising and more time with your customers.” They also have an incentive that for the first $50 dollars you spend, they’ll give you $100 dollars in ad credit.

As an agency that doesn’t have a ton of time to dedicate to marketing itself and is trying to maximize every dollar we’ve got, we’ve decided to give Adwords Express a chance.

We decided to run an ad within a 25-mile radius of our office that played to our known strengths, that we are local and affordable.

Adwords Express Ad

Our Ad

We decided to let the ad run for about 14 days without any interferences on our end. We figured that the best case scenario is that we’d start to get emails and phone call from prospective clients interested in setting up consults and that at a minimum we’d be putting our name in front of local individuals seeking the services that we offer.
Initial Adwords Data

Google Adwords Express Analytics


The first problem we ran into was that Google was almost exclusively running our ad on Google Partner Sites. Google Partner Sites can be anything that has space designated for advertising and is associating with the Google Ad Network. These ads typically just feature text and we have no ability to add images or specify the targeting.

We reached out to Google and asked for our ad to be only displayed in search with relevant industry search queries (web graphic design, website tech support, firedove technology, etc.). Google said that they would be happy to do this and it may take a day or two to kick in.

Ads on Google Search do not have a set price. Instead, it’s a continuously blind bidding system and the top ad spot goes to the highest bidder. Some phrases are extremely expensive as a lot of people are bidding on them, like “web design”, whereas others are relatively cheap as fewer people are bidding, like “firedove technology”. With traditional Google Adwords, you are allowed to either set a bid or have Google automatically bid within a certain range. With Google Adwords Express, Google automatically sets your bid.

This whole system is meant to automate the process as much as it can, so the small business owner can focus on providing their services to clients, and not crunching numbers or tweaking keywords. It is reasonable to assume that since Google’s business is advertising, that their algorithm would be able to know what is best for your business.

Our search ad was clicked on twice and consumed a whopping 37% of our, albeit small, budget for Google ads. This would be fine if both of those clicks resulted in a consult and perhaps just one of them resulted in a contract, but that didn’t happen.

Hotter Screencast

Hotjar Visitor Screen Recording

We utilize Hotjar to watch how our visitors use our website. The screencasts revealed that while people were reading some of the content on our website, they left the website before hitting the “Contact Us” button. While we want to bring more visitors to our website, we cannot afford to be spending $9.18 per visit.

With all that said, we are presented with a decision. Do let the campaign finish on its current course without intervention from us? Do we double down and increase our ad spend? Or do we pull the plug immediately and redirect our marketing budget elsewhere?

We stay the course… but not for the reasons you might expect.

As we mentioned before, Google is offering a $100 credit to first time Adwords Express customers after they spend $50. We’ve met that threshold and we have quite literally nothing to lose by spending the $100 credit to see if those $9.18 visitors (approximately 10-11 visitors) generate any meaningful ROI. Since we provide a service, one conversion (a person who sees the ad, sets up a consult, and signs a contract with us) would certainly cover our costs.

Would we do this again?

Probably not.

Both Google and Facebook have been offering seemingly cheap and automated advertising solutions for small businesses. For us, the time it would take for us to design a campaign with Google’s or Facebook’s traditional ad platforms would be worth the flexibility, targeting options, and ability to deploy more engaging ads. Designing our own campaign should allow us to decrease the CPC (cost per click) and net more visitors to our website, which hopefully should result in more conversions.

Why are we talking about this?

Because we are in this peculiar position of marketing marketing-service, and we believe that to be successful we need to have a thorough understanding of all the tools that our potential clients may be drawn to and with that we will be able to make accurate recommendations on services.

The cost of a seemingly inexpensive solution will outstrip the cost of using an agency to run your next advertising campaign. If you want to advertise in Spokane or the surrounding areas, consider giving us a call to schedule a consult and go over a few alternative options than Adwords Express, boosting a Facebook post, or other DIY advertising platforms.


We believe that technology is like a foreign language. No one should be shamed or cheated out of their money for not speaking that language themselves. We are here to translate, facilitate, and help provide the best value to the customers. We have a creative eye, a strong marketing sense, and the willingness to work with a client's budget to make any job amazing.