Adventures in Internet Marketing: Google AdWords (Part One)

Editor’s note:  This is the third in a series of posts about Internet algorithms that can be helpful when doing content marketing and in selling your own work: in this case, Google AdWords. Part one will discuss some basics, while the second part will address AdWord pros and cons. ASJA Confidential welcomes any and all story ideas and suggestions on this and other related topics!

Recently a potential client asked me to do a quick mock-up for a business ghostwriting gig as well as supply a list of Google AdWords for the project. While I had no problem with the first, the second threw me for a loop. Before I could even begin to think about suggestions, I had to scramble to figure out exactly what AdWords do and how they are set up.

AdWords 101

The definition is fairly clear-cut. AdWords is Google’s paid advertising service that appears at the top of every search (accompanied by the world “Ad” in a TV-like square). There are usually 2-4 suggestions that peddle products, services and just about anything else the cyberverse has to offer. They come in many forms:  graphic display ads, YouTube video ads, text-based search ads or in-app mobile ads. You only pay when people engage with the ad by visiting your website or calling the business. It’s a kissing-frog-in-hopes-of-finding-prince gamble as to whether or not they will actually purchase your product or service, and Google’s pay per click (PPC) rates can range from a only few cents to several dollars.

After this, however, things become complicated. While Google offers a seemingly simple tutorial, the first tip-off that you’re not in Kansas anymore is the phone number for a help line at the top of every page. It’s Google, people. They’re only supposed to have cell phones and here’s an actual land line, toll-free no less. Other options in tackling AdWords are guides produced by Wordstream, the first of which is free, as well as a PPC University that offers more books in addition to exams and certifications. So this is no 15-minute crash course.

Among the many factors involved in creating successful AdWords are: the type of words you choose; organizing the keywords into effective campaigns and ad groups; and setting up well-written and compelling web “landing pages,” which lure the customer into buying after visiting your site. Also important is the use of “long-tail” key words, specific phrases consisting of two or more target words that people are more likely to type in or dictate when looking for a particular product or service. Along with being more directly aimed at your niche, they are also cheaper; Google charges less for them because they are not as commonly used. A solid PPC campaign can result in a nice profit, if you’re only paying pennies on the dollar for click-throughs that result in steady sales.

What ensues is a kind of auction, and here’s where it gets even murkier. Users bid on keywords, often by setting up a daily budget and letting AdWords adjust their cost-per-click (CPC) bids to bring them the most clicks possible within their budget. So “every time a search is initiated, Google digs into the pool of AdWords advertisers and chooses a set of winners to appear in the valuable ad space on its search results page,” states the Wordstream guide. “Who gets to appear on the page is based on and [sic] advertiser’s Ad Rank, a metric calculated by multiplying two key factors — CPC Bid… and Quality Score….” 

Although no one outside of Google knows exact formula for Quality Scores, certain factors are used to evaluate them:

  • Your click-through rate (CTR), the most important factor
  • The relevance of each keyword to its ad group
  • Landing page quality and relevance
  • The relevance of your ad text
  • Your historical AdWords account performance


Google then rewards you with higher ad rankings and lower costs, according to the site. Hmm, did someone replace the last four letters of “Google” with the letter “d?”  

Well, now that I know what AdWords are, do I really need them for my business?  Part two will offer some pros and cons.

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