Since its launch way back in October 2000, Google AdWords has become an essential advertising tool for many businesses, and while the benefits of using such a marketing channel can be reaped by anyone, it should not be approached without a clearly defined plan and a little understanding. Getting it right can be very time consuming as it is most effective when it is correctly set-up, as well as closely monitored and measured on an ongoing basis, which is why so many companies get it wrong.

So, What Is AdWords?

Google AdWords are advertisements that work on a ‘pay-per-click’ basis and appear above organic Google search result listings. It is important to note that AdWords and ‘Search Engine Optimisation’ (SEO) are not the same thing. SEO affects the organic Google search result listings, whereas AdWords are paid advertisements that appear separately to these listings. This does not mean, however, that the two cannot be used to support one another. Research carried out using AdWords to discover the best keywords (discussed below) can be used to maximise your website’s relevancy, therefore increasing the likelihood of it appearing organically as well as via AdWords.

How Does It Work?

AdWords works by using keywords which are associated with your business’ products or services, whereby the more targeted the keywords are, the more potential customers they will attract. Anyone using Google whose search term includes one of your keywords will be displayed your advert on the results page.

Keywords & Campaigns

There is, however, a bit of an art to choosing the right keywords as highly targeted campaigns that speak to a specific audience are the most effective and profitable. Avoiding generalisation when choosing your keywords is key, so it is important to spend time deciding what description and links will best suit your business, campaign objectives, and audience. A good place to start may be to look at how your website is currently split and set-up a separate AdWords campaign for each product or service sector you target. As well as ‘keywords’ there are also what’s known as ‘negative keywords’. These are words you specify which, when searched for, trigger a negative match and therefore your advert will not be shown. This can be a particularly useful tool if some of your chosen terms are slightly broader. When designing an AdWords campaign, do not expect to get it perfect the first time, it may take several tweaks to the keywords, advert text, and budget to ensure that the right people see your listing. While it is the keywords that trigger your advert to appear, it is the text within the advert that often convince people to click – especially when a discount or promotion is advertised - so you may wish to run several test versions of your advert to begin with to determine the best combination of keywords and descriptive text.

How Much Does It Cost?

As mentioned, AdWords works on a ‘pay-per-click’ basis meaning that you only pay when someone clicks on your advert, not every time it is shown. The cost, however, does differ and when setting up a campaign you will need to set a daily, weekly, or monthly budget as well as maximum and minimum bid prices (usually ranging from pence to a few pounds). When someone clicks through on your advert you will be charged, but this amount will depend on when and where your advert has appeared and how much the competitor adverts have bid, thus meaning that you may be paying your minimum bid price on some occasions and your maximum on others in order to gain the best page position (Google AdWords appear either along the top, the bottom, or the side of search result pages – the higher your maximise bid the more likely it is that you will always get the top spot). Judging by how quickly or slowly your budget is used each day, week, or month will help you refine how your budget needs to be spread for maximum gain.


Remarketing is a very useful tool that can be used in conjunction with your Google AdWords campaign. Essentially you create an advert that ‘follows’ the user around the Internet after they have searched for terms that relate to your set AdWords keywords. When a user leaves the Google website and continues browsing on other sites that allow adverts, yours will appear on those sites they visit.

Campaign Analysis

To analyse the performance of any number of your AdWords campaigns you can access this information through the reporting tool and pull together various different elements of analytical information. From here you can determine how you need to progress and/or modify you campaign(s). By making your adverts relevant and engaging, Google will reward you with a ‘Quality Score’ which, as the name suggests, rewards these adverts with higher page positions.

Jargon Buster

  • Ad Group – A collection of adverts within a campaign that corresponds to a group of related keywords.
  • Ad Rank – Your advert’s position on a results page. Your ad is determined by your maximum cost-per-click bid and keywords’ quality score.
  • Campaign – A component of your account that allows you to focus your advertising on specific products or services. The adverts in a given campaign share the same daily budget, language and location targeting. Each campaign can contain multiple ad groups.
  • Clickthrough rate – A measure of how relevant users find your adverts and keywords to their search query.
  • Cost-Per-Click Bid – The amount you pay each time a user clicks on your advert. You can set the maximum CPC bid at the ad group or keywords level.
  • Destination URL (or Landing Page) – The web page on which a user will land after clicking on your advert. It doesn’t have to be your site’s homepage, it can be another page within your website.
  • Display URL – The URL displayed in your advert to identify your site to users – the domain name in the display URL and the destination URL must match.
  • Impression – The number of times an advert is displayed on Google or sites in the Google content network.
  • Keyword – A specific word, or combination of words, used to target your adverts to potential customers. When a user’s search includes your keyword, your advert will enter the auction.
  • Quality Score – A measure of the relevancy of your advert, keyword, and webpage. Quality scores help ensure only the most relevant adverts appears to users.