AdWords Campaigns Limited by Budget? Find Out What It Means & What to Do


Budgeting seems to be the topic on everyone’s minds lately and I can’t help but think that this is due to Google’s subtle, or not so subtle, ways of telling you when you need to raise your bids and budgets. Google now has the ability to show you trends with your keywords, where you “should” be at for positioning and Max CPC’s, and other various tools that are likely to raise your budgets. I don’t think Google is wrong in what they say but I definitely think they have a sneaky way of not really explaining the why to customers.

Way back in 2009, Google introduced their way of showing you when you need to adjust your marketing budget to better fit their needs … I mean your needs and help you get more impressions and clicks. They call this tactic “your campaign is ‘limited by budget.’”

Is “Limited by Budget” Just an AdWords Scam?

limited by budgetWe all have a secret, or for some, not so secret skepticism toward anything Google suggests to us regarding our money and budgets. This is the go-to cautionary move, considering we all know how much money Google makes and we all know how much we spend in AdWords. In all fairness to Google, I don’t think this is too much of a “make money” tactic and more of a “hey maybe you should take a look at your account” tactic. Obviously we know they want to make more money but I think they sometimes have a point when they tell you that your campaign(s) are “limited by budget.” For me there is one main reason for this and it can be easy to see once you diagnose the problem.

Here’s the problem: you can’t put all your eggs in one basket and expect everything to be evenly spread. What I mean by this is, you can’t put all your keywords or ad groups in one campaign and expect Google to evenly spread your budget throughout the day. There are always going to be certain keywords that are budget suckers and those are the ones Google seems to always show. Google will base a lot of what they show on trends and if they find a couple of keywords that seem to work, they will show those over some of your other similar keywords, even if those keywords are a better fit. If your campaign(s) seem to always be limited by budget, I can almost guarantee that if you look at the data on your ad groups, you will most likely see that one ad group is miles above the cost of the other ad groups. With this, you will notice that there are also ad groups that are getting no traffic whatsoever. So what do you do?

[MORE: PPC Budget Best Practices]

What to Do When Your Campaigns Are Limited by Budget

What you need to do is (in any order):

Find those ad groups or keywords that are taking up most of your daily budget on a monthly basis.

This is easy to diagnosis because, like I said before, there are always ad groups or keywords that have a 30-70% higher cost than the others.

NEVER move your high-traffic/high-volume keywords out, ALWAYS move your low hanging fruit.

Take those ad groups and keywords that are seeing little to no traffic and create a new campaign for these with their own budgets. It is important to make sure your low-volume keywords can see some of that daily budget and ensure traffic starts coming in. Also, make sure that the budget isn’t over what you can afford. Remember, not all budgets are created equal, and it is important to make sure to never go over your comfort zone with your budgets. Think about it, if your high-traffic ad groups have their own budgets, those will continue to show and now your low-volume ones will see more traffic with their own budget. You never want to lose that historical data on keywords that are performing, so it makes more sense to take out those that aren’t doing as well; those that have little to no traffic will not be affected as much!

Look at the metrics on the keyword level and you will probably notice a trend.

You will see that there are usually 1-5 keywords that are sucking up most of the budgets and costs and leaving little to no budget for the rest of the keywords. My rule of thumb when looking at these keywords is: if those top three keywords that are sucking up most of your budget are not your biggest converters or money makers for your business, then they should be paused or optimized better.

I know what you are thinking: “Those are my high-traffic keywords, why would I want to pause them?” You want to pause them because these really aren’t doing anything for your business other than costing you money. There are probably more suitable keywords in your ad group that will convert better for you if it wasn’t for those costly keywords. Trust me, Google will find a way to spend your money, so do not be afraid to try pausing those costly keywords. Check the data and metrics on those keywords and you will find they are usually costing more and not converting at the rate they should be. They are usually those broad, more generic keywords that will drive traffic but not that qualified traffic you are looking for.  Like I said, those longer tailed keywords or more suitable keywords will start to show up more often and probably convert a whole lot better than the costly ones.

Think outside of the box.

AdWords Limited by Budget

Don’t just look at the obvious metrics, dig a bit deeper. Just because you moved those low hanging keywords and ad groups into their own campaigns with their own budget, does not always guarantee better performance. Everyone always resorts to raising the budget because Google says to do so, but there are other metrics to look at that may help. Typically those keywords are not being shown due to budget issues, and raising your daily budget and adjusting to make new campaigns will help, but you may also want to take a look at the Max CPC’s and the average position when doing this. Giving something its own budget will not guarantee top of page or the number one spot, so make adjustments when you look at the metrics and this will really help you optimize that low hanging fruit. This isn’t always necessary, but PPC is never a guarantee, so the more experimenting you can do, the better your account will perform.

There are definitely countless ways to curtail this problem but this is what I have found successful from helping others with their accounts. If you really think about it, it all makes perfect sense. Of course, you may have the best structure and never have to worry about this but for those of us who never get it right the first time, this is something you are always going to be dealing with (unless you are one of the few that always says “Google never seems to spend all the daily budget” and for those few, that’s a whole other topic and easier to solve!).

Paid search is definitely not a set it and forget it type of industry and there is always going to be some experimentation happening. So make sure to try new things, think outside of the box and you will be golden! If you have any questions or would like to weigh in on this discussion, feel free to leave a comment below!

Find out how you're REALLY doing in AdWords!

Watch the video below on our Free AdWords Grader:

Visit the AdWords Grader.


Jun 19, 2013

Raising the budget can be a scary thing to do when you're already not getting the return you think you should be getting.  But sometimes it's the best thing to do because is opens up room for new ad combinations that may have been the missing key to your profits,  but were initially overlooked because the budget didn't allow for them.

Jun 19, 2013

I agree but raising the budget is not always the answer. I see people all the time who say "I raised my budget and Google isn't spending it all" or "I raised the budget but I am still not getting up in position or qualified clicks". These are typically because of the fact that raising the budget isn't always the solution to your limited by budget issue. Just some food for thought, but thanks for reading! :)-Lisa

Jun 19, 2013

I totally agree about pausing keywords that suck up budget but don't convert. Depending on the match type, they might even be sucking up budet on irrelevant keywords if Google is showing ads for "related" keywords that aren't all that related to the landing page of the site. Pause them, shift the budget to the higher converting keywords, and see how much budget is left after optimizing those. If the ad budget really needs to be spent, there might be a lot better options than throwing money away on keywords that don't lead to conversions.

David Rothwell
Jun 20, 2013

This is one alert I always *like* to see.I manage campaigns to a goal of unlimited budgets and accelerated delivery,because everything is held accountable to profitable conversion costs. So I always want to raise the budget while keeping conversion cost under control. When the AdWords black box keeps giving you more money back than you put in, the notion of budgetsjust becomes - "I don't care".

Randall Magwood
Jun 21, 2013

I currently have a few campaigns that are limited by budget. I never knew to how fix this situation - other than increasing my budget and daily spending costs. The idea of removing low volume keywords never occured as an idea to me. Thanks for mentioning it and the other strategies to do to fix my limited budget dilemma.

K McKenna
Jun 27, 2013

Another way to make the most of your budget is to make sure you're adding in negative keywords. I had a SAN ("Storage Area Network") campaign  that was getting bogged down by font names like "Comic Sans" and video game titles like "Grand Theft Auto San Andreas."Removing those keywords left me with more budget for relevant keywords.

Carver - PPC
Jun 27, 2013

This is useful informtion indeed! Thanks for this guys, I'll be subscribing! But both Randall and McKenna reiterate two greats points as well! I've been adding negative keywords galore and finding words I'm being searched for that I don't use using their search term reports! Great tool there. Thanks again for posting these tips.

Lisa Wilkinson
Jun 27, 2013

Thanks for reading! I think there is a lot of useful information here! Like I said, this is what I have come across and know that it works!

Louise Bailey
Aug 22, 2013

Great post as usual on WordStream :)! 

Sep 25, 2013

My budget was eligible till before 2 days. Since two days, it has become limited by budget. I have not changed anything. Could you throw some light on why it may have changed the status

Jan 15, 2014

Great post. I allways look for your tips and tricks when dealing with my adwords campaign.People have lots of things to learn from these posts.Thanks !

Jan 17, 2014

An advertiser should be happy when he sees that a campaign is 'limited by budget', it should be seen as an opportunity. We all know that most of the time not all adgroups and keywords perform well in a campaign. The 'limited by budget' status serves as a reminder to advertiser to optimize the campaign but also is an opportunity to lower bids or pause keywords that are not performing well or aren't performing at all. This should lead to more traffic towards good performing keywords which in return will drive a much better ROI....

Himanshu Pataria
Aug 05, 2016

Hey, I am new to adowrds, reading your blog is really a worth to create separate campaign or move the LV Keywords to another campaign is a Good Idea. Thanks for the wonderful article. I also want to know about Google Shopping Campaign, what to do if PLA campaign start showing you Limited by Budget, any idea about that?

Leave a comment