Google Ads Budget: The Definitive Guide for Agencies

Dollar sign made of cogs representing Shape budget settings

Why managing Google Ads Budgets is so important for agencies

The goal of every digital advertising agency should be to earn the trust of their clients.

In PPC, your clients trust you with one of their most important resources: money.

One of the easiest ways to erode the trust of a client is to overspend a PPC budget.

For clients, it’s almost impossible to understand how overspending could happen. But for marketers, we know all too well that mistakes can happen fast in the volatile world of digital advertising.

You may have one client with a $1,000/month budget and another with a $50,000/month. Yet, both accounts face many of the same challenges when it comes to budget management.

Both may have lots of campaigns spread across a few different ad networks. The more granular your campaigns are segmented, the more budget management challenges there are.

Many modern marketers spend a lot of time simply pacing PPC budgets and making sure no overspends occur.


Because accurately spending a client’s budget is one of the first trust indicators to a client that their investment in PPC is being looked after by your agency.

Our Background in Google Ads Budget Management

Our team has a few former full-time PPC analysts. We worked together at an agency managing thousands of PPC budgets for clients.

We felt the pain of managing this responsibility first hand.

We spent hours in spreadsheets, Google docs, and home grown solutions designed to help manage PPC budgets at scale.

Our experience is not unique.

Since we started Shape, we’ve talked with thousands of analysts at agencies that described situations similar to ours.

Our software is the solution we wish we had when we were working at that agency.

Why managing Google Ads’ Budgets at scale is hard

Drawing of person checking PPC metrics on a tablet

If managing PPC budgets at scale was easy, we wouldn’t have a business.

Budgeting is a problem the ad networks aren’t too concerned with solving.

You may have searched on “Google Ads budget” to get here but chances are your clients have campaigns across a few different ad networks.

Aggregating PPC data from multiple ad networks into one place is tough.

Client management is tough.

Balancing the unique goals of every client is tough.

PPC is tough!

But PPC budgeting shouldn’t be. The time most PPC advertisers spend manually budgeting should be spent on making optimizations that driving better results for their clients.


Lead Generation vs. E-Commerce PPC Budget Management

Our team’s background is in the lead generation space.

Agencies serving these types of clients feel the pain of budget management more than e-commerce specialists in our experience.

Lead gen clients typically have fixed, recurring budgets. They care deeply about their clients’ budgets being accurately spent.

E-commerce clients are more driven by cost-per-conversion or ROAS metrics. Often, they are not tied to a specific budget goal so long as their campaigns are profitable.

Our advice and strategies are mostly for those marketers looking to more easily manage fixed, recurring budget goals for clients.

Calculating Google Ads Budgets

One of the most difficult aspects of making a PPC budget recommendation is projecting the spend potential of a campaign.

If you are pitching a prospect or launching a new client in an industry you've never worked in then you have a few data-backed options.

Jeff Sauer created an excellent resource for determining initial PPC budgets in such scenarios. Sauer's method combines metrics such as estimated average cost-per-click and estimated conversion rate along with business metrics (including product margin and sales close rates) to help you understand how your budget strategy may impact sales.

Hubspot also has an ads calculator tool that helps show prospects at a high level what PPC goals they should be setting.

Ideally, when you are tasked with calculating a Google Ads Budget, you are doing so for a client whose campaigns you've managed for years. In this case, you should have lots of historical performance data to analyze.

If that is the case, one way to see what potential spend is out there is to simply raise campaign daily budgets. The easiest way to show a client what is possible is to identify and capitalize on lost spend opportunities without changing ad copy, keywords, bids, or targeting.

For our customers, we provide a tool called Budget Booster. Budget Booster uses metrics tied to impression share to calculate the maximum spend potential for every campaign.

Having a history with the client and leveraging third party software is the best way to take the guesswork out of budget recommendations.

Managing Google Ads Budgets with Excel

Manual Google Ads PPC Budget tracking template

Excel is a deeply-loved tool by PPCers. A blank spreadsheet is like a blank canvas for a lot of us. The possibilities are many.

There are pros and cons to managing PPC budgets with spreadsheets.

For a small agency, a simple spreadsheet is easy for stakeholders to understand and it’s free!

But, typically data is entered into Excel sheets manually. It doesn’t matter if you sign your tenth or your hundredth client. Manual work multiplied over many clients is inefficient.

As your agency grows, you’ll quickly discover you need PPC automation software to eliminate many of these manual tasks.

Google Ads Budget Management Tools from Google

Google’s solutions are the natural next place to explore. Google Sheets, Google Analytics, and Data Studio are all products that Google has put significant resources into.

The Google Ads interface itself has a few options for budgeting if your clients’ campaigns only spend on that ad platform.

Shared budgets can be used to control spend for a group of campaigns. Shared budgets work by tracking the combined daily spend across several campaigns. Once the daily spend reaches the budget cap, all campaigns in the shared budget stop showing ads for that day.

Combining automation tools such as shared budgets with monitoring and reporting tools like Google Analytics and Data Studio are great options for smaller agencies focused on Google advertising.

Sheets for Marketers is a great resource to find templates for digital marketing reports.

Google Ads Budgeting Scripts

Scripts are great for automating some budgeting tasks tied to Google campaigns. For marketers with javascript skills, this could be a viable option.

Google Ads budget tracking script

Scripts are great for automating some budgeting tasks tied to Google campaigns. For marketers with javascript skills, this could be a viable option.

If you are looking to learn more about scripts, here’s a Google Ads scripts faq that Search Consultant, Nils Rooijmans, put together. He also compiled 250+ free Google Ads scripts to help marketers get started with scripts.

There are even some great PPC budgeting specific scripts.

Lots of marketers love scripts because they are flexible. If you know how to code you can manipulate your campaigns in many useful ways through the power of scripts.

The downside for a lot of agencies is that PPC scripts are only available on the Google and Bing ad networks. If you want to manage a PPC budget that has campaigns from Google, Bing and Facebook for example, then you can’t get everything you need from scripts.

If you are looking to manage campaigns across channels, you may need to explore third-party PPC software.

PPC Budget Management Software

Growing agencies eventually find that the Excel sheets and scripts they created breakdown when their client base expands.

Campaign spend slips through the cracks. A budget cap is overspent. Your client is unhappy and loses trust.

This is where third-party PPC management software for agencies steps in.

PPC software is great at bringing all your data into one place. The downside of third-party software is the cost. Solving cross-channel management challenges isn’t easy.

The cost-benefit analysis for every company is different. We truly believe there is no one “best” PPC management software solution just the “best” software for your company.

We encourage agencies to do a lot of research and ask a lot of questions of their PPC vendors.

The interesting part is just like no two agencies are the same, no two PPC software products are the same either.

To differentiate ourselves, we decided to make PPC budget management the core focus of our software. While there is no perfect tool for every agency, we strongly believe that if you are facing PPC budgeting issues at your company then Shape is a great fit for you.


Common Errors that Lead to PPC Overspend

Arm extending from computer screen with red stop sign that says ERORR

The most common errors that lead to PPC overspend are due to manual workflows.

One slip of the finger can add up to a big overspend in no time.

Make sure you double and triple check new campaigns strategies (including daily budgets) before they launch! If you have teammates, audit each other’s work when big changes are made to an account.

Scrutinize every bit of data that is manually entered during your management processes.

Are all the formulas in your Excel sheet correct? Did your most recent download have the right date ranges set? Do you have a back-up tracking system?

Make sure to upload your negative keyword lists and constantly vet your geographic settings.

It only takes a small mistake to lead to overspend.

Prevent Overspending a Google Ads Budget

If you are manually managing your PPC budgets and are not using scripts or software, then your time will be the cost of preventing overspend.

Constantly logging into Google Ads and spot checking everything is the only true way to have peace of mind that nothing is going wrong.

This manual process is what we went through as marketers and is why Shape exists today.

We put in many hours each week clicking through every client and every ad platform to make sure no client overspent their budgets!

We designed Shape's AutoPilot to be an insurance policy against overspending. AutoPilot automatically pauses campaigns in a budget when the target budget is hit and reenables the campaigns when more budget is made available.

Customers using AutoPilot trust they can focus on the fun, creative side of PPC and that campaigns will turn off when they reach their target budget.

Daily Pacing Strategies for Google Ads Budgets

Graph of AutoPilot Pause Enable mode showing how campaigns are enabled and paused each day to keep spend pacing evenly toward the target budget amount

Google forever changed daily PPC budget pacing in 2017. They announced that a Google campaign can spend up to 2X the set daily budget.

The more campaigns that make up your budget, the more challenging it is to pace spending on a daily basis. If your budget spans campaigns across multiple ad networks in addition to Google, your spreadsheet will break down quickly.

Agencies face major headaches and challenges pacing spend for hundreds of campaigns and clients daily.

If you ONLY work on Google, you can implement scripts to work around Google’s default budgeting limitations.

But we believe the only true way to pace spend across channels daily is with third-party software. Our products Cruise Control and AutoPilot Daily help marketers automate the daily pacing of accounts.

Monthly Pacing Strategies for Google Ads Budgets

The most common client-budget structure amongst Shape customers is the Monthly Budget. Clients have a specific recurring budget they expect their PPC advertisers to hit each month.

For lower volume accounts, pacing spend throughout a month may not be necessary and may not drive better results. If your clients just need to hit a monthly budget goal and it doesn’t matter when that goal is hit then you have some options.

As always, the manual route is one way to go. Set up a spreadsheet and enter in spend amounts throughout the month.

If you are operating at scale then this process is painful.

Shape offers two solutions for monthly budgeting. Shape AutoPilot Pause Only and AutoPilot Pause/Enable. Both automate monthly budgeting for you dependent on your needs.

Pitching PPC Budget Recommendations to Clients

PPC performance metrics graph with metrics trending up and to the right

Day-to-day management of budgets is one challenge. Making a recommendation to a client that they should change their budget cap is another challenge.

Chances are you’d love to have a little more budget to work with.

As an advertiser working for a digital advertising agency, one of the most nerve-racking parts of the job is pitching budget increases to clients.

But there are some ways you can have more success pitching PPC budget increases to clients.

Bring data to the conversation. At the minimum, when pitching a budget recommendation be prepared to show historical performance and growth metrics for your client and their industry. Also, it may be helpful to predict the estimated metrics you’ll achieve with the new spend. When possible, use the client’s data as much as possible to support your recommendations. Show where current campaigns have been limited due to budget constraints.

Shape customers can use our Budget Booster app to deliver data backed recommendations for their clients.

Another great way to get a budget increase approved is to play to your client’s motivations. Show them the ads of a competitor who is spending big in their industry. If they have the “early adopter” mentality, pitch allocating spend to an up-and-coming ad channel or beta ad type. Make the pitch that makes the most sense based on your history with that client. Remember, no two PPC clients are alike.

Be transparent and show your work. Don’t be afraid to let your client peak behind the curtains and see the data you used to come up with the recommendation.

Never forget the big picture. A client’s PPC budget is one piece of their business. Try to work with the constraints you have and be respectful that there is probably a limited budget to go around at the company you’re working with.

Common Reasons PPC Budget Recommendations Fail

The easiest way to fail at a budget recommendation is to forget about the big picture and ignore the client’s unique needs.

When pitching a budget recommendation, try to build on previous conversations with each new one. Discuss suggestions you have to improve campaigns and explain why they require a budget increase. And take time to listen to the client’s requests and feedback. A client will be very hesitant to spend more money with someone that they don’t feel like is listening to them.

Provide options to your client. A budget recommendations doesn’t need to be an all or nothing proposition. Can you offer different levels of budget strategies? One strategy might be very aggressive while another is more conservative.

The client won’t see the picture as clearly as you do. Show the story as clearly as you can through data and reports when possible. The most common reason a budget increase recommendation fails is the analysts hasn’t communicated enough with the client to help them understand the direction the campaigns are going. Never assume everyone knows the situation as well as you do. They don’t.

Overcoming client objections to increasing PPC budgets isn’t easy. It takes data and a lot of communication with your client.

Google Ads Budget Planner

Budget is one of the most important variables in the PPC equation.

Having a routine cadence with your clients where to discuss both budget and campaign performance is essential. Setting expectations around budget planning and scheduling is a huge part of an account’s strategy.

As an advertiser, with a big budget you can be aggressive with your keyword/audience targeting and testing new ad types, features, etc. With a small budget you have to narrow your focus.

But what’s most important is that you and your client are clear on what the budget goals are. Communicate the budget schedule in an email, Excel sheet, or recurring meeting invite. Do whatever you have to do to keep budget as part of your strategic conversations.

If you are a Shape customer, you can use the Budget Scheduler to set future budgets for up to 12 cycles.

PPC Budget Template

Our search as marketers for the perfect PPC budget management template led us to create Shape.

We couldn’t get the flexibility we needed from existing third-party tools and we didn’t get the automation we needed from Excel, scripts, or Google Sheets templates.

If you are a growing agency looking to automate budgeting tasks and scale efficiently then we believe software like ours may be the best options for you.

Templated sheets are great when your starting out or only have a few clients to manage but third party software can help take your agency to the next level if you find the right fit.

Bonus: Need more reporting inspiration? Check out our partner NinjaCat's Google Ads reporting template.

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