How to get started with Google Adwords – the basics

basics google adwords

Google AdWords is an online advertising platform used by companies of all sizes to promote their goods and services. Those ads with the little green Ad square that appear at the top or the side of the page when you search for something using specific keywords such as ‘Plumber in Leeds’, ‘Accountant in Edinburgh’, are created by AdWords.

Adwords fundamentals

The goal is to drive potential customers to your website by getting them to click on the ad. And even if you don’t convert every visitor into a sale right away, you can capture their information through your landing page, adding them to your list of potential customers.

One of the main advantages from your point of view is that AdWords operates on a pay-per-click basis, so if the visitor doesn’t click on your ad, you won’t be charged.

Another big advantage is that you can choose keywords that you know people will use, such as a town name, the area of a city, or a specific service, when they are searching for something. This is especially good news for local businesses. It also works both ways. If you’re a plumber in Leeds, you probably aren’t interested in customers in Brighton and vice-versa. That means when someone does click on your ad they are showing a clear interest in what you have to offer.

Of course, the number of keywords you choose has cost implications as AdWords works on a bidding or auction system, but more on that later. In any case, with AdWords, you have control over how much you spend on advertising and you can manage your ad campaigns more efficiently.

Your first campaign

Once you’ve set up an account with Google AdWords (if you use Gmail you’ve already got an account) there are four main steps to create your first ad: Choosing a daily budget, selecting the target audience you want to reach, setting your bid (the most you’re prepared to pay per click), and writing your ad.

Your daily budget

The system allows you to tweak your budget so you can align it with your seasonal offers, new product releases, or one-off promotions. For instance, if you’re an accountant, you may want to set a higher daily budget for a period before the new financial year. On the other hand, if you’re offering introductory offers to new customers, you can opt for a lower daily budget but run your campaign for longer. Remember, you’ll only pay when someone clicks on your ad.

Your audience

The system allows you to target your audience by choosing a town or postcode. This means only people within the area specified get to see your ad. With AdWords you’ll get an estimate of the daily reach of your ad based on your budget and postcode. You also have the option of widening your reach by clicking on the ‘nearby’ link or using the radius targeting. By experimenting, you can find what works best for your business – and what you can afford.


You may already have a good idea about the keywords you want to use in your ad, if not, Google provides information on the search popularity of keywords and you can also use Google Keyword Planner and Google’s guide on keyword types. It goes without saying that choosing the right keywords is important but remember, the more keywords you use the more your ad will cost. It’s best to start with two or three well-chosen words that you’re confident will be used in a search, rather than 10 or more keywords that may not increase your clicks but will hit your pocket.


If you’re new to AdWords, the bidding process can seem pretty complex, although Google Keyword Planner can help you understand how it works. The bid number you select is the maximum amount you’ll pay when someone clicks on your advert and you could actually end up paying less; in any case, you won’t pay more. You can let Google set your bids by choosing the automatic option (recommended), or set your bid manually if you have a good idea how much your bid will cost.

Writing your ad

Writing your ad is the exciting part but you don’t have much space so think about how to get your message across in as few characters as possible. Draft several versions until you’re happy. Remember to go for an attention-grabbing headline, one that ideally contains a keyword, and be sure to include a clear call to action in your ad. You also want to keep an eye on what your competitors are doing and see where they pop up in Google searches. Check what keywords, headlines and body text they’re using in their ads as this can help to inform your decisions when you create your own.

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