Photoacoustic Doppler velocimetry provides a major opportunity to overcome limitations of existing blood flow measuring methods. By enabling measurements with high spatial resolution several millimetres deep in tissue, it could probe microvascular blood flow abnormalities characteristic of many different diseases. Although previous work has demonstrated feasibility in solid phantoms, measurements in blood have proved significantly more challenging. This difficulty is commonly attributed to the requirement that the absorber spatial distribution is heterogeneous relative to the minimum detectable acoustic wavelength. By undertaking a rigorous study using blood-mimicking fluid suspensions of 3 μm absorbing microspheres, it was discovered that the perceived heterogeneity is not only limited by the intrinsic detector bandwidth; in addition, bandlimiting due to spatial averaging within the detector field-of-view also reduces perceived heterogeneity and compromises velocity measurement accuracy. These detrimental effects were found to be mitigated by high-pass filtering to select photoacoustic signal components associated with high heterogeneity. Measurement under-reading due to limited light penetration into the flow vessel was also observed. Accurate average velocity measurements were recovered using "range-gating", which furthermore maps the cross-sectional velocity profile. These insights may help pave the way to deep-tissue non-invasive mapping of microvascular blood flow using photoacoustic methods.