If you’re getting started in the digital marketing world, one of the very first tools you’ll want to familiarize yourself with is Google Ads. It’s a really excellent tool for paid advertising, and it’s especially useful for newer businesses who are still growing their reach and web presence. Ads is definitely a tool that we’ve had a lot of success with, and we wanted to pass on some of that hard-won wisdom. Settle in, grab a notepad, and get ready for these Google Ads advertising basics, that will give you the grounding you’ll need to thrive in the wide world of sponsored ads.

Didn’t Google Advertising use to be AdWords?

Yep, this was the former name of Google Ads. The name change is quite recent, so you’ll still hear plenty of people calling it AdWords out of habit. Rest assured, you’re not missing out on some other tool. It’s the same thing, just with a new name and some new features. It’s been speculated that the change to remove “words” is a subtle echo of the sweeping changes that were made to the Keyword Planner tool, but nothing’s official. Now, with that out of the way, let’s get to the heart of it.

What does PPC stand for?

PPC stands for Pay Per Click. It’s a fair model for billing advertisers, when they sponsor ads to run. In simplest terms, you only pay for an ad that gets clicked on. It’s a mutually beneficial system for a number of reasons. First, it encourages you to bid only on keywords that you know will be relevant. If someone clicks your ad, and you’re paying for it, you will want to be very sure that that new lead will be a valuable one for you. From the host’s perspective (in this case, Google) it makes the platform more attractive and accessible, since an advertiser won’t be paying for every single time the ad appears in results (impressions).

How does Bidding work?

When you create an ad, you decide how much it would be worth to have that ad appear in front of a particular user. For our purposes, let’s assume that a click will be worth $5 to you. Simple enough. Now, if more than one site is bidding on the same keywords, their ads will be competing with yours for primacy. Extending our example, those other sites have bid $1, and $3 respectively. Your ad, with the highest bid, will take the top spot, but you won’t be expected to pay the full $5. You’ll just have to pay $3.01, or the lowest possible amount to keep you in your position. If someone clicked the $3 ad, instead of yours, that advertiser would only have to pay $1.01.

Remember that bids aren’t universal. You can choose to increase or decrease your bids at different times of the day, for instance, or on different days of the week. Or you might bid more for users within a certain geographical area, browsing from mobile devices. There’s so much nuance to the bidding system that a full discussion could easily make for a blog post of its own (and maybe it will!)

What’s the difference between Search and Display network advertising?

These are the two different ad networks that Google will show sponsored ads on. Search advertising provides sponsored results directly in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages), alongside the blue hyperlinks to different websites. Display network ads show in sidebars and banners directly on participating sites. Search ads are more straightforward, while display ads can sometimes struggle to stay relevant across different pages. On the other hand, display ads do tend to have broader reach. A good ad strategy will leverage both networks.

What makes a good keyword?

The best keyword will match a potential user’s search query, without presuming any sort of industry familiarity, and will accurately describe your site’s content or the sorts of services you offer. More people are likely to search for “ethernet cable” than for “cat5e cable”, for instance. Longer keyphrases will usually show up for fewer searches, but will tend to have a higher ratio of clicks to impressions, so they will usually be the more valuable option. Finding the right keyword takes time and research but is 100% worth it.

Writing Strong Ad Copy

Ad copy is always going to be a balance between what you want to say, and whom you’re talking to. Let’s go back to our ethernet cable example. The average person isn’t going to have any interest in knowing that it’s a 10Gbps 600Mhz S/STP or S/UTP cable. That’s just not why they’re buying it. They’re going to want to know that it’s 30 feet long, and whether it’s blue or yellow. On the other hand, someone setting up a file server for a business is going to need to know the precise specs, and may end up ordering 1000 of them. Different ads targeting different customer groups will need to be written with deliberation and care. Don’t try to say everything all at once, either. Keep it short and punchy. Let your site do most of the talking.

Performance Metrics Lighting Round


This measures how often your ad is being displayed. If your impressions are low, but you are confident in your choice of keyword, then you should increase your maximum bid to keep your ad competitive.


When someone follows your ad back to your site, that’s a click. The effectiveness can be a little difficult to gauge, so you’ll need to combine clicks with a measure of the Bounce Rate for your site. The analytics of Google Ads is a whole ‘nother story so stay tuned for our post next week on Analytics Basics to learn more about bounce rate and analyzing ad effectiveness.


Standing for Click-Through Rate, CTR is a ratio of the number of impressions to the number of clicks. So, if 100 people see your ad, and 50 click on it, then you’ve got a CTR of 0.5. You’ll probably never see a perfect score, so if you have one it could, surprisingly, indicate a problem. If two people saw your ad and both clicked on it, you’d have a perfect score, but that’s not an ideal circumstance. Your keywords may be too specific, or your bids might need adjusting. But in any case, you’re not reaching a significant audience, so odds are you’ll want to broaden your parameters, even at the expense of your CTR. One way to know if you’re on track is to compare your CTR to the average CTR in your industry. Here’s a great resource that’ll show you CTRs based on industry in the US.


Short for Cost per Click, CPC tracks what you’re actually spending (rather than bidding) for each click. This figure should help you to refine your bidding, by figuring out where your ad budget is actually going. If you’ve set aside $500 for the month, and you’ve allowed a maximum bid of $10 for each ad, you might notice that you’re spending more per click during the workweek, with particular spikes between 3 and 6PM. Depending on the sort of business you run, those peak times might be especially valuable to you, or they might turn out to be kind of a money pit. It’s fluctuations in your CPC that will give you a more concrete idea of how your ads are functioning in practice, and how you should be tweaking them.

And there you have it! That’s all you need to know to get started in Google Ads, so sign up and start bidding. Once you’ve got the basics down, why not book yourself in for a free digital marketing strategy session, to hammer out the details? Don’t forget to check us out on Facebook and Twitter for more great digital marketing tips like these. Happy bidding!