Google Adwords for Dummies: What You Need to Know

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I won’t ask why you’re a newbie to pay-per-click advertising, or PPC. Perhaps you prefer traditional marketing tactics over the digital sphere. Maybe you’re working with a limited budget and don’t think you can spare the extra cost to get your ads out there. Maybe you told your boss that you’d get moving on this a year ago but you didn’t have the slightest clue where to begin.

Regardless of your excuse, slacker, it’s 2016. Digital marketing rules the land. It’s time to dive into the world of Google Adwords — the biggest fish in the PPC sea.

Google Adwords 101: How it works


Google AdWords is an online advertising platform that lets you reach new customers and grow your business. You can choose where your ad appears, set a reasonable budget and measure the impact of your ad.  

“Pay-per-click is probably one of the best resources you have to measure what’s working and what is not because it comes equipped with plenty of metrics that do that task for you,” notes John Rampton, blogging expert and #3 on Entrepreneur Magazine’s Top 50 Online Influencers in the World. “By using the right keywords for your target audience, you’re already ahead because you’re reaching people who have an interest in your product or service.”

As an Adwords user, you’ll set up your campaign based off of your website, specific landing page or ecommerce page. You’ll then create a list of important keywords and phrases that your potential customers are likely to use, and your business will appear above the organic results when someone searches for terms related to your product or service.

For example: I’m getting married this year (cue horror music) and need to find a florist. I type in “wedding florist,” in Google and see a relevant ad come up in my search:

Florist Ad

Not only is this florist located near me, but it’s offering 45 percent off and free delivery. Score. I clicked on the ad, visited the site, found what I needed and requested a quote.

This ad definitely served its user (me) for several reasons:

  • The keyword “florist,” is in the headline, website AND ad description.
  • There’s a strong call to action: Save 45% today and get free delivery.
  • The ad led to a relevant landing page where I could find an answer to my search.

Bravo, Ava’s East Aurora Florist. I give you a 10/10. Maybe 11/10 for that touch of alliteration.

Let’s talk lingo: The Adwords Term Guide

In order to manage, analyze and report within the platform, you need to learn to talk the talk. Let’s review some Adwords terms:


Words or phrases you choose to set up your Adwords campaign. There are four types of keywords: exact match, phrase match, broad match and broad match modifier. Note: these work best as specific, long-tailed keywords, such as: “fresh flower delivery” instead of “flowers.” Broad, unspecific keywords result in irrelevant traffic and wasted money (bossman will not appreciate that).

Contains one or more shared set of keywords. For example, a campaign for an outdoor store might have the following ad groups: camping, hiking and fishing. Each ad group would have its own set of relevant keywords and ads. This is necessary so that when somebody searches “winter hiking gear,” they will receive an ad talking about specific hiking accessories.


This is made up of all your ad groups and keywords. You can run multiple campaigns from Adwords, and it will be the first step in the setup of your account.


According to the user’s search, ads will appear above (and to the right) of the organic results. You’ll need a headline, two 35-character lines of descriptive text, a display URL and a destination URL. The best ads use the customer’s unique selling point (USP), a call to action and strong keywords.


The position or order in which your ad shows up on a search. This is based on your bid, quality score and landing page experience. Any position of 1-3 is ideal. If you’re looking at an awful ad position, don’t fret — see if you can increase your bid or improve the quality of your ad.


The dollar amount that is the most you will pay for a click on your ad. You can set these manually or automatically, based on your budget.


Your click-thru rate is an important metric in your platform. It measures how many people who have seen your ad click through to your destination URL. Life tip: don’t have a crappy CTR.


How you set your bid type to pay for viewer interaction with your ads. You’ll have several options within Adwords to choose from.


In each of your ads, you will be asked to enter a display URL in addition to your destination URL. It’s important to keep this simple and clean to increase your brand recognition and trust. Stop it with those backslashes.


Tracks every lead made within your conversion window after an Adwords click. Set this up under the “Tools” section at the top of the campaigns tab.


This is a test. If you have to scroll up to check, congratulations: you’ve failed.

Step right up: It’s time to auction

Adwords uses cost-per-click (CPC) bidding. In CPC, you’re only charged when someone clicks your ad — NOT when your ad simply appears as a search result, or what’s commonly known as an “impression.” The best part? There’s no minimum spending commitment, and you can have as many keywords as your little heart desires.

In setting up your campaign, you have to decide on your maximum CPC — that is, how much you’re willing to pay for a click on your ad. Oftentimes, you are charged less. Decide what you’d like to spend monthly, and Adwords will never exceed that amount. (If only we had a systems like this for credit cards, amirite?)

As you consider CPC forecasts and decide on a budget, the Keyword Planner is a great tool for checking how often the phrase is searched, how competitive the keywords are and how much it’ll cost to set up.

The problem you have to keep in mind is your competition. Multiple advertisers use the same keyword to trigger their ads, so Google uses Ad Rank (which we will touch on below) to determine whose ad will appear — and in what order.

Here are some factors that determine when (and if) your ad will appear to customers:

    • Your bid. How much are you willing to spend? If your competitors have huge budgets, you could be at a disadvantage.
    • Your ad quality. If there’s anything you take out of this blog post, it’s this: quality score. Adwords looks at how relevant and useful your ad and the corresponding website are to the person viewing it.

      Quality score measures the relevance of your keyword, ad and landing page — as well as how accurately it serves your customers. Even if your competitor’s maximum bid is higher than yours, your ad will appear higher if you have a higher quality score. Quality score is your number one priority.
    • Ad extensions. When you create each ad, you have the option to add extensions — like phone numbers, call to actions, and specific links to your site. See below:

Adwords estimates how these extensions impact your ad’s performance. Again, even if your competition has higher bids than you, using ad extensions will help your relevance and potentially earn you a higher position.

I repeat: you can still win at a higher position (at a lower price) by using highly relevant keywords, ads and extensions. USE THEM.

Google Adwords: Reap the Benefits.

Adwords is measurable.

Adwords shows how many people notice your ads, what percentage of viewers clicks to visit your website and how many people call you. With the tracking tools, you can even see the actual sales your website is generating as a direct result of your ad. Boom.

Adwords is controllable.
Want to add some keywords? Tweak some ad copy? Pause your campaign? All of that is controlled by you, in real time, for free. Sick of spending too many hours on a project? Or going over budget on a client’s campaign? (Oy). Enter PPC. Once your daily budget is set, you won’t ever exceed that number.

Adwords is speedy.
Once your Adwords campaign goes live, your ads will appear immediately. Your results are instant. Not only will this show some return-on-investment, but you will be able to see exactly how effective each keyword and ad is for your chosen campaign. Search engine  optimization (SEO) best practices are crucial for digital success, but PPC will get you to the top of search results in minutes.

Adwords offers reach.
You can choose to target your ads on a local, regional, national or international level. You can select specific cities or set a radius around your business. Perhaps the best aspect of Adwords is that you can reach your customer wherever they are right now. Adwords will help you reach the right people, at the right time — which is LIVING THE DREAM.

Adwords is specific.
Adwords is the ideal venue for businesses looking to drive clicks and conversions for specific products — in many cases, much more specific than social media campaigns. Google searchers often have a specific intent in mind, while users often go to social media sites like Facebook to simply check in and socialize with friends.

Ready to rule at paid search?

Slow down, sparky. Before you jump right in, here are a few best practices to follow as an Adwords manager:

Keep your budget in mind. As you manage the Adwords campaign, you’ll have the capability to increase keyword bids and daily budgets to stay competitive. Remember: you don’t have unlimited funds. Take caution before changing any bids and budgets.

Know your goal. Too many companies sign up for PPC campaigns because it’s “the right thing to do.” But do you know what you’re aiming to do? Are you looking to receive the highest amount of traffic? To get customers to download your new ebook? To see a 20 percent increase in sales? Find what will bring the most value to you or your customer before building your campaign.

Regular monitoring. An Adwords campaign is definitely not a set-it-and-forget-it type gig. A good campaign is regularly monitored, tweaked and optimized. Use A/B testing as often as you can. Constantly check the platform for underperforming ads, ineffective keywords and conversions.

Report the pros, but optimize the cons. When it comes to analyzing your campaign(s), obviously you want to relay the successes to your client, customer or boss. However, the one factor that’s more important than how you’re doing is what you’re doing. What are you doing to improve your ad rank, CTR and quality score? Share your takeaways, highlights and strategies moving forward — even if those have to include some negatives — so you can optimize the campaign (and build trust with your client).

PPC Management: It’s Your Turn.

The great Drake once said, “it’s better late than never, but never late is better.” For those of you late to the Google Adwords game, it’s OK.

According to Moz, 80 percent of search results now contain Adwords ad placements — not to mention that those ad placements are covering as much as 85 percent of the space above the fold on the results page. So the only way to beat them? Join them, friends.

Once you decide on your goals, start building out your keyword list. If you’re looking for a deeper dive into Google Adwords, stay tuned for Part II, where we’ll dig into conversion tracking, reporting and optimization.

Want to talk strategy, share your thoughts or bash my terrible jokes? Stalk me on Twitter @KristnSullivan or find me on LinkedIn.

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