One of the most interesting aspects about paid search is that you can be effective whether you spend $10 or $10,000 (per week or month) on your campaign. Obviously the more money you spend, the more impressions, clickthroughs, and conversions you can expect—but you might see some benefit by spending just a few dollars. Remember that you can bid whatever you want for your SEM ads. And, you only spend money on a cost-per-click basis. For these reasons, SEM can be an effective and inexpensive digital marketing tactic.

For other marketing tactics—whether digital marketing or traditional tactics—you need to spend a minimum amount to either make it worth it for you or to even participate in that platform. Also, in these other marketing tactics it’s often difficult to know whether users have fulfilled your KPI. In SEM, you can find out if users fulfill your KPI on every dollar you spend. Nowadays, most people go to search when they consider purchasing a product. So you should spend at least something on an SEM campaign. But if you’re a company or individual with a limited budget, how can you make SEM worthwhile?

SEM for a Small Budget

No one wants to spend more than necessary; everyone wants the best marketing benefits. But, for those with limited budgets, finding a cheap way to market one’s business is vital. Here are three things you can do to spend your SEM dollars efficiently:

1. Lay Out a Fixed Budget

Companies and individuals with small budgets often make this mistake when determining their SEM spend: they don’t lay out a fixed SEM budget for a continuing period. The danger in buying SEM ads only sometimes is that your relevancy score falters when you buy SEM space erratically. If you appear often and continuously in SEM ads, search engines will determine your ads as more relevant to their keywords.

If you only buy SEM ads intermittently, you will sabotage your relevancy score; thus your marketing dollars won’t go as far as they would have if you had purchased the same keywords continuously. If you have a small budget, don’t splurge all of it on one month’s marketing campaign. Spread that budget over many months to maintain relevancy.

2. Bid on Niche Terms

If you have a small SEM budget, then it’s likely that you’re a small company. Don’t try to play in the sea of big terms; you won’t make a dent in this vast ocean of search. Instead, look for niche terms and phrases that relate specifically to your product and services.

Let’s say you’re a small company that sells sports and workout attire in Smalltown, USA. You probably won’t be effective by bidding on hugely popular general terms like “sport’s attire,” “yoga pants,” or “running sneakers.” Instead try to focus your terms on your specific products and location. Use specific product names; incorporate your company name; link your keywords to your location. These tactics will narrow the playing field and make it much easier to influence searchers.

3. Review Your Performance

Review is important in any SEM campaign, but it is especially important for those of you with limited SEM budgets. See what ad copy and terms work best, and focus on those. If you find that you are converting and making money from your SEM ads, then consider reinvesting in SEM. Maximize spend before increasing scope. Use a bidding tool like Adobe Media Optimizer to find out what’s working and what’s not in your SEM campaigns.

When working with a limited SEM budget, you need to spend every dollar efficiently. SEM can be a bargain platform for digital marketing, as long as you manage it well. There are numerous free tools for managing your paid search campaigns, and there are lots of tools you can use at discounted rates if you are a small company or individual. If you have a limited marketing budget, allot some of that to SEM. It is a great way to turn interested searchers into customers.