Google AdWords-The Guide That Takes You From Zero to Hero

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Google AdWords launched in 2000 (Y2K ) when Google was already handling 20+ million searches every day. 

Now they handle billions per day, and AdWords has millions of advertisers using their platform to reach new customers.

The Wall Street Journal estimates that 40 cents of every new digital advertising dollar in 2017 was spent on Google.

Google AdWords seems pretty simple: It’s online advertising on Google’s search network or sites connected to it.

The goal is to bring in new customers to buy your products or services based on search queriesconducted by actual people.

But AdWords is tough to navigate. And if you don’t take advantage of all the new features and strategies, your AdWords success can turn into a nightmare.

That’s why we constantly update our Google AdWords 101 guide, the resource that takes you from zero to hero in no time.

Let’s discover what’s new in may 2018!

Google AdWords is one of the most challenging platforms when it comes to monitoring your success. You can quickly spend hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars and see little to no return on investment.

The metrics are tricky to establish, and you could find yourself with $0 fast. So, how do you know if AdWords is right for you? What is Google AdWords and how does it work?

This guide will take you some time, is so packed with info that you can’t just browse through it, you need to read it. TL;DR? Not this time! 😯

But if you’re really curious or you already know everything we included in the first version of this guide, here’s what we’re adding today:

Is it enough?  😎 Let’s get started then!

What is Google AdWords?

Simply put, Google AdWords is Google’s advertising network that allows companies to bid for keywords to show up in search results as ads.

Here is what the ads look like for a given search:

google results for basketball shoes

Companies like Under Armour and NBA pay money to Google based on clicks to show up for these searches in hopes of capturing interested buyers and making fast sales.

Google makes money on these clicks that the advertisers will pay for.

You can choose between a bunch of different types of advertising on Google, too. You can advertise on YouTube, Google applications, and more.

Pretty simple right?

Let’s take a closer look.

How do you rank #1? How do you show up?

Google AdWords works on a bidding system. Your advertising rank, which is a combination of your maximum bid multiplied by your quality score, determines your actual ad position.

Your maximum bid is how much you are willing to pay per click on your ad, and your quality score reflects how well your ad is optimized and relevant to the searcher.

The better the ad rank, the higher you show up!

What is The Quality Score and How Does it Work?

With the quality score being a huge factor in ad rank, what exactly is it? The quality score is a crucial component of successful campaigns.

The quality score is made up of three different factors in each campaign that you run:

  1. Landing Page: How well does it convert, how is the user experience?
  2. Expected CTR: What is your CTR in relation to the average? Higher = better.
  3. Ad Relevance: How specific is your ad in relation to the search. Specificity = better ad relevance.

Why is quality score important beyond ad rank? In their own studies, AdEspresso found that higher quality and relevance scores result in higher CTRs and massively decreased costs per click:

Improving your quality score is a great way to rank higher with your ads without having to bid higher. You can reduce CPCs and improve your performance by focusing on those three factors that make up the quality score.

Is Google AdWords right for me?

I hear this question a lot: Is Google AdWords right for my business? I just don’t think it will work for me.

Or even more common: AdWords doesn’t work for me.

To figure out if Google AdWords is right for your business, you need to ask yourself one crucial question: Do you have a budget to spare?

If you’ve got some money to spare and don’t mind potentially losing that money, AdWords is right for you. As the old saying goes, you never know if you don’t try.

Google AdWords can work for almost any business. It’s just a matter of trial and error. According to AdWords:

Companies will, on average, double their return on investment on the platform”.

Meaning the majority of users will most likely find success on Google AdWordsCheck this post if you still have doubts.

You just have to be willing to roll the dice and test the waters. Even if you’ve got $50 to spare, it’s a great way to test the market and see if AdWords can be good for your business.

But if you want something more concrete, let’s talk about average industry data concerning cost per click.

Cost per click is the money that you will owe Google for each and every click on your ads.

According to a research, the average cost per click on Google AdWords across all industries is $2.32 on the search network, and it’s $0.58 on the display network. Knowing this data, you can expect to pay a few bucks per click depending on your niche and industry. Next, you can take a look at the average conversion rate for your industryWith this data along with average costs per click, you can start to calculate how much it’s going to cost you to land one conversion.

For example, if your industry is automotive, your average CPC is $1.43, and your average conversion rate is 2.27%. That means to get a single conversion, you need about 45 visits, and you’ll pay around $64.35 for a conversion.

Do this simple calculation on your own by finding your average conversion rate and cost per click. Then, see how many clicks it will take to drive a conversion and how much you’ll end up paying for it.

If the costs exceed your margins, then selling that specific product directly with Google AdWords isn’t a viable option.

Remember that the entire goal of AdWords is to make money, not just drive sales.

You don’t want sales that break even. You want to drive sales and results for your business with a positive ROI.

Types of Advertising on Google AdWords

Google AdWords offers a few different types of advertising for companies.

You can choose between four different ways to be found by a given searcher:

google adwords types of advertisements

Currently, you can show up on display ads, video ads, search network ads, and application-based ads.

The search network is the most popular of all.

search ads on google

Search network ads show up as a text ad for a given Google search.

For example, let’s say someone needs plumbing nearby and they search for a plumber. You can show up as an ad on Google for the search on the search network:

google search results for plumber

The search network works by targeting specific keywords that you want to show up for.

You bid on them to show up higher and get a better chance at capturing visitors and converting paid traffic.

Next, we have the display network.

display ads on google

Display ads work as text or banner ads and can show up on Gmail and various websites within the display network.

Businesses commonly use them for remarketing to bring back site visitors who didn’t convert.

If you’ve ever noticed an ad on a website, it was likely from the display network.

Video-based ads allow you to create a video ad that will show up on YouTube videos:

video ads on google

Lastly, you’ve got the App Ads that allow you to advertise on popular Google network-based applications.

app ads on google

With new additions, you can also implement Google Shopping if you run an e-commerce website, allowing you to advertise products directly on Google through your online store:

Currently, the most popular forms of advertising tend to be: search network and display-based.

They are easy to set up with a relatively little amount of work and no video production required.

If you are interested in showing up for popular searches in your industry and getting new consultations or sales, the search network is a great place to do it.

How To Use Google AdWords

Ready to get started with Google AdWords?

Well, there are a few things you should know before you follow Google’s setup protocol.

They often lead users astray in the setup process, making it much easier to spend money without seeing a return.

If you want to quickly go from zero to hero, follow this easy Google AdWords tutorial, and you’ll be up and running in no time.

To get started, head to AdWords and create a new account.

Google Ads

Click “Start Now” to create your free Google AdWords account.

How To Use Google AdWords: Pick A Budget

how to use Google AdWords

For daily budgets, there is no “one size fits all” standard.

Essentially, you want to select a number you feel comfortable spending daily and adjust from there.

Remember that you can always change this number later.

How To Use Google AdWords: Choose A Target Audience

Next, choose your audience location for advertising:

Google adwords tutorial how to choose a location

If you sell only in the United States or Canada, be sure to select that.

You don’t want to waste your money on clicks that won’t buy from you or that you can’t sell to.

How To Use Google AdWords: Create Custom Audiences

On top of location targeting and demographics, AdWords packs some powerful custom audience methods that rival the likes of Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

To create custom audiences, head to the Audience Manager in your AdWords Dashboard:

Here you can create custom audiences based on both affinity groups and intent:

With affinity audiences, you can create a new custom cohort based on interests, URLs, places or mobile applications:

For example, if you want to target people interested in marathon running, you simply type that interest into the bar and hit enter. Next, you can start to add more interests that are directly related to refine the audience:

With custom intent audiences, you can base your list off of what users are searching for:

For instance, if you are selling e-commerce products like TVs or basketball shoes, you could enter a URL of a comparison article. This would signal a high intent to purchase as people viewing comparison reviews are close to converting and making a purchase decision.

Intent audiences pack powerful tools to help you capture users at any stage of the funnel. So you can create multiple campaigns and change your offer for each custom intent audience!

How To Use Google AdWords: Create a Remarketing List

After creating custom audiences and bringing in traffic with AdWords, you can create remarketing lists.

What are they? Remarketing is the act of sending more marketing messages to people who you have marketed to before.

For instance, if someone visited your website but left without buying from you, you can easily run a remarketing campaign to bring them back.

Why would you? Because 98% of people don’t convert on their first visit to your site!

To create a remarketing list, head to your audience manager and create a new one based on website visitors, app users, YouTube or your own customer list:

This will allow you to target people who visited your website or saw your ad but didn’t buy.

Latest studies show that remarketing campaigns have a 22% cheaper cost per click and 25% lower costs per conversion than standard campaigns.

Remarketing is both cost-effective and conversion producing.

How To Use Google AdWords: Select A Network

Now, you can select the networks you want to advertise on:

How To Use Google AdWords: Select A Network

Remember: the search network allows you to bid on keywords, aka “search queries,” that real users are searching for online.

For example, if someone searches for “basketball shoes,” you can bid on that term to show up in the top search results like this:

Display network is where you can visually advertise on Google content sites and content partner sites.

As an example, here is what your ads will look like on a given site:

Display network on Google AdWords

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You can place your visual-based ads on different sites and reach new customers or ones who’ve previously visited your site.

Spy on Competitors to Get Campaign Ideas

After you select the network that you want to advertise on, it’s always a great idea to spy on your competitors.

Before diving into ads that cost money, research should be your go-to next move.

It can help you assess the current market when it comes to everything from ad text to value propositions and keywords to target.

Plus, it shows you what works and what doesn’t and can spark great ideas for writing your own AdWords ads or developing creative for YouTube and Display Ads.

The simplest way to research is by heading to Google and searching for keywords in your industry to see what ads show up:

You can analyze what their offers are and how they structure their ads.

For instance, each uses different ad extensions and calls to action, like a free PPC audit.

The key here is to expand on what your competitors are doing. Use these as your base-level and focus on creating better ads.

Using a tool like SEMRush, you can analyze the exact keywords that your competitors are using, too:

This list will show you what terms they bid on, their landing pages for each one and how they rank, giving you the perfect data to create your next campaign to outrank them.

Most companies using AdWords will also have their ads on display with SEMRush, allowing you to generate instant ad copy ideas that can normally take hours of time to brainstorm:

Never start a new campaign without doing competitor research. You’ll save time and money by finding the best keywords and benchmarking their current ads as your baseline.

Using The Google AdWords Keyword Tool

Now that you’ve selected your networks, it’s time to establish some keywords:

Google AdWord keyword tool

Google starts by telling you to “Add around 15-20 keywords.”

Don’t do that.  That’s a bad idea. Seriously.

Let me explain.

So, Google allows you to set up “Ad Groups” where you target a group of keywords.

Here is what an ad group will look like when you add 15-20 keywords:

Google Adwords keyword tool

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Once you’ve set up these ad groups, you can start to create ads.

But then you notice a problem.

How on earth can you create 1-3 ads that are relevant for all of these diverse terms?

Women's dresses with keywords

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You can’t. And when your ads aren’t highly specific and optimized, you get a lower quality score.

The lower the quality score, the more money you pay for the same results.

Think about it:

What if you are targeting “women’s red dress” and “black dress” in the same ad group? They might see the wrong ad, costing you an expensive click that doesn’t convert.

Instead, in the keyword section of your setup process, find a single keyword that you want to target.

Google Adwords keyword tool

Hit “Save” and then create your first ad based on that keyword:

Write your Google AdWord ad

Once you’ve saved your new ad and keyword, head to the Ad Groups section of your dashboard.

Find that ad group that you just created, and complete it by adding keywords in the following match types:

  • Modified broad match: Modified broad match terms allow you to show up for tons of searches on Google that contain your keyword in any order.

They are structured like this:


For example, if you sell basketball shoes, it would be: +basketball +shoes

  • Phrase match: Phrase match can help you show up on searches that contain that exact phrase with any other query words, too.

They are structured like this:

“Keyword” — “basketball shoes”

For example, if someone on Google searches for “red basketball shoes,” you’d show up since the phrase match keyword is there.

But if someone searches for “red basketball sneaker,” you won’t show up.

  • Exact Match: Exact match will help your ads show on searches that match the term or show close variations.

It’s structured like this:


Your finalized ad group should look something like this:

To sum it up for you, you want to make ad groups for each keyword you want to target using phrase, exact, and modified broad match forms of your keyword in each.

That way, each ad you create is going to be highly optimized for that keyword.

Instead of trying to target 2-3 ads for 15-20 keywords, you’re targeting 2-3 ads for a single keyword, giving you the best shot at a high CTR and more conversions for less money.

Keyword Intent: How To Pick The Right Keywords For Your Campaign

When picking keywords for your new AdWords campaign, there is one crucial factor to keep in mind:


What is the searcher expecting to get from this search? What are they looking for and what does the specific search tell you about their stage in the buying journey?

(Image Source)

Depending on the funnel stage of a given user, their searches will be vastly different.

For example, if someone is just starting their buying journey, they don’t know what TV they want just yet. They likely will be searching to compare products or narrow down the product type:

(Image Source)

Whereas users lower in the funnel (closer to buying) will search for specific TVs, sizes, or where they can purchase them.

The intent is crucial to successful ads. If you target keywords like “plasma or lcd” with an ad focused on buying one, nobody will convert. They are looking to compare first, not buy immediately. 

Should You Bid on Branded Search Terms?

With keyword intent in mind, the next question is usually: is bidding on branded search terms worth it?

A branded search term is simply bidding on a search with your brand name in it.

Like this one:

Bidding on branded search terms might seem pointless:

Why should you pay for searches looking for your company when you rank first organically?

Here are a few key reasons.

First, they’re dirt cheap:

And second, competitors are going to bid on your branded terms:

It’s unavoidable, and you can’t risk competitors stealing your branded traffic when it’s pennies to the dollar to bid on your branded terms.

Create a simple campaign that runs with cheap bids on your branded terms. Most clicks will go to your organic results anyways, costing you nothing. But doing so ensures that almost all paid clicks will still go to your website and not a competitor.

Search Terms: What Are They and How To Use Them For New Campaigns

AdWords’ search network is based on keywords.

You search for them using the keyword planner, and you create new campaigns based on them. Plus, you even bid on them.

But you aren’t actually paying for them.

Let me explain:

Keywords are just that: keywords. They aren’t necessarily the direct terms you pay for. On AdWords, depending on which match types you use, you are paying for dozens of different related search terms.

While you might be bidding on “ppc agency” you are paying for “ppc agency near me” and other related phrases.

You can see these phrases directly in your AdWords account under the “Search Terms” report in your keyword dashboard:

The best way to utilize this report is to sort the results by top converting search terms and use them as new campaign ideas.

It’s free and easy keyword research that you know works. Find search terms that have high conversion rates, high CTRs, and cheap costs.

You can then turn these directly into new campaigns to take advantage of cheap conversions.

And if you find search terms that you don’t want to pay for, here’s what you should do…

Negative Keywords: What Are They And How They Can Reduce Wasted Spend

In your search terms report, it’s not uncommon to notice terms that confuse you.

For instance, other competitors or “Free” when you don’t sell free products and services.

These are dangerous to your success because you are still paying for the clicks even if they will never convert.

Meaning your budget could slowly be draining from clicks that will never buy from you.

Thankfully, AdWords allows you to add these as negative keywords, meaning your ads won’t show up for these terms.

To do so, simply select them in your search terms report and add them as negative keywords:

This will keep your wasted spend at bay and allow you to spend money on clicks that convert.

How To Use Google AdWords: Write Your Ad

Now, it’s time to write your first ad targeted towards your new SKAG.

I recommend following this simple guide from Unbounce:

(Image Source)

Be sure to include your keyword in the headline and URL, as this will help signify to the searcher that they are finding exactly what they are looking for.

How To Improve Your Ad CTR With Ad Extensions

After you’ve written your basic ads on AdWords, you can vastly improve their performance using ad extensions.

Ad extensions are tools that literally extend the length and depth of your ads by including various features like phone numbers, addresses, and more.

And according to Google, they have the power to increase your CTR by at least 10%.

Google currently has multiple extension types to choose from depending on your business type and campaign goals:

  • Location Extensions: these can showcase your address, business details, and even local directions integrated with Google Maps. These are great for driving local foot traffic to your business.

  • Affiliate Location Extensions: show searchers where they can find your products in local retail shops. For instance, if your products are carried in larger retail stores.

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  • Callout Extensions: add more text to your ads like unique offers and CTAs.

  • Message Extensions: drive text message conversations with customers directly from your ad.


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  • Sitelink Extensions: encourage people to visit specific landing pages on your website related to your original offer:

These are the most popular ad extensions that Google AdWords currently offers. Make use of these for your next campaign to make your ads more detailed and improve your click-through rates.

How To Schedule Ads in AdWords

When writing your AdWords ads, you might be thinking: how can I showcase them only during business hours?

If you are using phone numbers and addresses to drive local visits or phone calls, you only want to run ads during prime hours.

If you don’t, you will be paying for phone calls that simply go unanswered.

To schedule ads, head to the “Ad schedule” section of your dashboard:

Here you can edit the day and specific hour that you want your ads to run. Customize a schedule that matches your business hours to ensure that your money isn’t wasted:

How To Create Mobile-Specific Ads

With mobile traffic surpassing desktop traffic, now is the time to put more stock into mobile ads.

Thankfully, AdWords has great mobile-specific ad types to take advantage of:

  • Search network mobile-only ads
  • Display network mobile-only ads
  • Mobile app ads
  • Call-only ads

Each of these ad types will help you capture more mobile traffic.

When creating a new ad, you can create mobile-specific variants by restricting your targeting and selecting phone calls or app downloads from the campaign goal section:

Utilize these to create mobile-focused campaigns that will capture tons of traffic.

Once you’ve created a few ads with different copy for each SKAG, it’s time to set up your AdWords conversion tracking.

Setting Up Your Landing Pages

Landing pages are the pages on your website that a given user will land on when they click on your ad.

After searching on Google and finding your ad, a user will click on it and get directed back to your website.

But you can’t just set your homepage as the page they land on.

That’s a big no-no when it comes to running a successful AdWords campaign.

Specificity is key, and the landing page is a big portion of your quality score as we discussed earlier.

Better landing pages = better quality scores  = cheaper ads and more conversions.

Landing pages should be specific to each campaign you run.

For instance, when I search for organic light roast coffee, I will return ads for that search:

Clicking on the ad, I expect to see exactly what I searched for, not just generic coffee that isn’t organic or light roast. And thankfully, I did:

For every campaign you run, create new landing pages. If you are running a campaign for red tennis shoes, show a landing page for just red tennis shoes that you sell. Don’t make the user search on your site. Give them exactly what the keyword shows they want.

When you get landing pages live, it’s time to add them to your campaigns/ads.

To do so, edit existing ads or create new ones and drop your landing page link into the “Final URL” section:

The final URL is the landing page that users will be directed to upon clicking your ads.

Once you’ve done this, you have access to a new report within AdWords meant to help you improve your landing pages and quality scores:

The landing page report.

With this report, you can analyze tons of data from positions to clicks and conversions:

Customize the metrics you want to see and use this report to find which landing pages are performing best and which need to be improved.

How To Use Google AdWords: Set Up Conversion Tracking

Head to the conversions section of your dashboard:

How To Use Google AdWords: set up conversion tracking

From here, create a new “Website” conversion:

Google adwords website tracking

This conversion type will allow you to track conversions on your website.

That includes anything from a form to a final e-commerce purchase.

Now, to finalize your conversion tracking, you need to install a few codes:

The global site tag will help you create remarketing lists. You’ll need to install it on your entire website.

The event snippet tag is your new conversion action that you just created. For example, tracking e-commerce purchases.

Take that event snippet and paste it on your thank you page so that, each time a user lands on that page after a purchase, AdWords can record that and give it conversion credit.

Without any conversion tracking, you’ve got no clue how well your campaign is performing.

Now that you’ve got it set up, along with your single keyword ad groups, you’re ready to bring home the bacon.

How to Use Google AdWords: Setting Up Call Tracking

Beyond general conversion tracking, call tracking is a key next step. Tons of campaigns on AdWords are call-focused and can drive tons of calls to your business.

For example, with mobile ads, you can use click-to-call or call-only ads that solely focus on bringing in more phone calls.

But standard AdWords phone call tracking isn’t great. In fact, the data you can analyze is extremely limited:

Start and end times don’t tell you anything about the call success. Duration? Useless. Area code? Who cares.

Those metrics don’t show you conversions, leads or the experience on-call, let alone the direct ad group or keyword that drove the call.

The data isn’t good.

If calls are going to be a big portion of your traffic for AdWords, it’s critical to invest in outside call tracking software.

Personally, CallRail gets the job done. With CallRail tracking, you get in-depth data on every single caller. For instance, you can see their exact web pages viewed, where they came from, and what ads and keywords drove the visit:

With call recording for free, you can listen to calls to improve the user experience.

As calls come in, they reflect live in your dashboard, meaning you can instantly see if they came from a specific campaign, allowing you to tailor your phone call towards their specific interests.

It’s 2018, and you can’t keep asking every new caller “how did you hear about us?” Invest in some good call tracking that can help you improve campaign performance.

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