Google Ads Budgets and Expectations: What Performing Arts Organizations Should Know

In the previous blog article, we discussed why performing arts organizations should be using Google Ads. Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising on platforms such as Google Search, YouTube, Gmail, Google Maps, and the Google Display Network of websites allows you to focus your marketing investment on people who are interested in the performances and programs you offer.

Users of these platforms could be looking for your specific organization, or they might have a general idea of the type of show or event they want to see. That’s what makes Google Ads such an important discovery tool. With precise, location-based targeting, a PPC model that only requires you to pay when someone clicks an ad, and the ability to fine-tune your campaigns on the fly, Google Ads is an incredibly cost-effective platform for driving ticket sales.

As intuitive as Google Ads can be, assuming it’s easy to manage campaigns could be a costly mistake. Although the investment is relatively small compared to other forms of advertising, nobody wants to waste their advertising dollars. Performing arts organizations and cultural institutions need to have realistic expectations and understand what affects their Google Ads budgets before they get started.

What Kind of Results Should You Expect from Google Ads?

First, it’s important to note that no two campaigns are exactly alike. Shows, events, exhibits, and educational programs are different and held at different times of year. Audiences are different. Targeting is different.

That said, we’ve learned a few lessons after setting up, running, and analyzing hundreds of Google Ads campaigns for performing arts organizations, especially when it comes to Google Search.

We’ve found that known quantities generate more search traffic and higher conversion rates. If your event features an established show or performer, you should expect better results from your Google Ads campaign.

For example, we recently managed a campaign for a local theatre that hosted a series of performances of a popular Broadway show. The theatre's $600 Google Ads investment generated 256 ticket purchases.

Let’s conservatively estimate that each purchase included at least two tickets for $40 each. That means this theatre turned $600 into at least $20,480 in ticket sales.

On the other hand, if you’re hosting an original production or a lesser-known performer, it’s best to temper your results. The fact is, there won’t be a lot of search volume for such an event. When people use general terms like “concerts near me” or “musical shows near me,” they tend to gravitate to a name or brand they recognize.

To be clear, this doesn’t mean you would be wasting money on a Google Ads campaign that promotes a relatively unknown quantity. You only pay when people click, and you still get the branding and top-of-mind awareness benefits that come with getting your name in front of potential customers.

What Factors Affect Your Google Ads Budget?

A Google Ads budget must reflect the population of the geographic area where you’re advertising. For example, advertising in an area with 1 million residents will cost 10 times as much as the cost to advertise in an area with 100,000 residents.

We often hear clients say, “I want to reach all of New Jersey.” But is someone from Bergen County really going to drive to Princeton or Cape May to see a show? The broader your criteria, the more likely you are to reach people who don’t intend to buy tickets for your event. The law of diminishing returns tells us to focus advertising dollars in nearby areas that will bring the most conversions.

Another important factor when determining your budget for search advertising is keyword competition. Increased competition drives up PPC costs. This is why personal injury lawyers in New Jersey and elsewhere often pay more than $100 per click. There’s always someone who will pay more for a better search ranking.

You have to determine how much you’re willing to spend to sell a ticket. For example, if a ticket is $40 (and a pair are $80), are you comfortable spending $3, $6, or $10 per click?

In addition to buying general keywords, you should always buy the name of your performing arts organization. You might say, “Why do I have to pay for my own name when people could just go to my website?”

Fair question. First, most sales come from people who search for some variation of the name of your organization or venue. Second, keyword competition is low, so the cost is low. Third, you want to control the message and content people see when they search for your organization. Otherwise, people could end up on a generic review site or directory with inaccurate information instead of a landing page designed to drive ticket sales.

Knowing What Keywords You Want – And Don’t Want

Instead of running generic campaigns that take people to a calendar of events, take advantage of the precise targeting offered by Google to promote each event and minimize wasted ad dollars.

This isn’t just about targeting the right zip codes and choosing keywords that people are likely to use to find your event. If you’re not careful, you could pay to reach a lot of people who aren’t the least bit interested in your show.

Google allows you to identify negative keywords that tell Google not to show your ad if someone uses a certain search term or phrase. For example, if you run the Leonardo Theatre, you don’t want your ad served to people who search for Leonardo DiCaprio.

This is why we identify "movie," "multiplex," and "cinema" as negative keywords when setting up campaigns for theatres. We also use “Broadway” as a negative keyword because people who use that term are typically looking for a show performed in a Broadway theatre, not a local New Jersey theatre.

“It’s Complicated” Isn’t Just a Romantic Comedy

There’s no getting around the fact that managing Google Ads campaigns is complicated. We can help you set a realistic budget and understand what you should expect from that investment. Contact us at (732) 535-6527 to schedule a consultation and let us help you take full advantage of what Google Ads has to offer.

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