What Is Google AdWords

Despite the fact that Google has been running its AdWords program for over 10 years now, some people still struggle to understand exactly what it is and how it works.

Read on for an overview of Google AdWords and how it plays a massive part in the online advertising world.

History of AdWords

Google started life as a search engine, it scanned the Internet and built up a database of websites that it discovered, it then used sophisticated computer algorithms to rank these sites based on a variety of factors for different keywords and phrases.

This allowed anybody to go to Google, perform a search and return a list of sites which matched their search terms.

This functionality is great for end users however businesses that didn’t end up at the top of the search results received hardly any visitors from Google. This eventually led to the search engine optimisation field developing with people attempting to artificially ‘push’ sites up the rankings.

Google saw an opportunity to insert paid adverts around the normal search results for which it could charge businesses, AdWords was born.

Which Sections on Google Are AdWords Ads?

When you perform a Google search you usually get a set of Google AdWords ad’s returned along with the normal search results.

The following picture shows a search results page on Google, the sections highlighted in blue are Google AdWords adverts:

Search Engine Results Page

As you can see they take up a lot of space on the page.

How Do I Get My Ad Shown?

To show your advert for peoples searches you need to sign up for a Google AdWords account, you can then create adverts and insert the keywords which you would like your ad to show up against.

There are many intricacies to the AdWords billing system however in basic terms you decide the maximum amount you are prepared to pay for every click on your advert, this is called the Cost Per Click (CPC). Once your ads are running Google basically decides exactly how far up the results you are shown based on how much you have bid.

As mentioned, it is more complex than this and positioning does depend on more than your bid prices however we will go deeper into this in future articles.

One other thing to mention is that you only pay when somebody clicks on your advert, if it gets shown 1,000 times but gets no clicks it costs you nothing.

The Benefit of AdWords

AdWords is a revolution in advertising, being able to display an ad for your product or service at the exact time that somebody is actively searching for it has never been possible on a national (or even global) scale before.

Because it is closely integrated with Google Analytics you can drill down and see exactly how effective your various ads are performing, this can help you create a highly effective advertising system for your business.

Potential Downsides

As with everything there are some downsides to using Google AdWords.

It can be expensive. Very expensive. You have to be careful when setting up ads and bid prices, set bids too high and you can quickly spend a lot of money. I’ve seen examples of people burning through hundreds or thousands of pounds in the space of a few days with next to no return on it.

It can also be quite an effort to manage large campaigns. I have run accounts which have had literally tens of thousands of keywords and hundreds of different ads spending up to £10,000 a month before. Managing this yourself could almost be a full time job without the proper skills and experience.

Some areas are also very competitive, you sometimes find AdWords is simply not a good match for your business. For example if you are selling branded products you will find much larger businesses running AdWords campaigns with bigger budgets than you have employing dedicated AdWords experts. This can make competing very difficult.

A final negative is that once you stop paying Google, your ads stop. Run out of budget and your AdWords presence vanishes instantly, there is no direct residual effect from this advertising.

Overall AdWords can be a massive part of your business, it should be at the very least considered by any business with an online presence. It doesn’t work for everyone, but on the flip side there are countless examples of business which would die without their AdWords traffic.

Do you use AdWords for advertising your business? How do you find it?


  1. Informative and interesting blog. Importance of AdWords traffic was understood.

  2. Is it possible to get enough traffic without running an AdWords campaign?

  3. Hi Sharon, yes, AdWords isn’t a good fit for everybody and there are many other ways to get traffic to your site such as through organic SEO, referrals, forum activity, content marketing. AdWords should be viewed as just 1 of many potential traffic sources.

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