Essential AdWords Advertising Guide to Find New Customers

Google AdWords affords businesses of any size to engage in a variety of online advertising methods. While it is most commonly known for its Search advertisements on Google's search engine results pages, AdWords provides 9 distinct advertising opportunities for business owners. AdWords is an ultimate entry point into online advertising:

  • It is a self-serve platform. This means transparency, control, and the ability to rapidly iterate.
  • As of December 2011, Google commands a whopping 44% of the online advertising market. That's serious reach.
  • Ad types range from video pre-rolls to static images ads to TV ads to text ads. Use your creative genius to experiment and find what works for your business.
  • Targeting options range from keyword and interest based to direct placements and audience selections.

In this article we break down the components of the AdWords advertising ecosystem, a significant player in the $8.4B online advertising industry. It is one platform with many uses, many of which go untouched by business owners simply because of lack of awareness. By the end of this article you will be aware of the options available to you within the AdWords self-serve platform and have a list of key next steps to get started.


Search Advertising (Pay-Per-Click)

The first text ad appeared on Google in January of 2000. Sold on a CPM basis (yep, a text ad was sold on a CPM basis), this and other text ads launched at the same time, generated no revenue for good ol' Google. What to do? Sell the service to DoubleClick, the largest banner ad business at that time. Shortly after, the banner ad industry took a dive and Google quickly followed by opening up AdWords, the first self-serve advertising platform, in October of the same year (2000). Fast forward 12 years and we have a $37.9B AdWords revenue stream fueling the Google world. (See an interesting breakdown of AdWords spending by industry here: It's no coincidence because it works.

You'll find Search ads along the top, sides, and sometimes bottom of Google's search engine results pages:

PPC image

Easily recognizable because of their consistent structure, these ads contain a headline, display URL, and body copy and are keyword-driven. What this means it that when someone enters a keyword into the Google search box, AdWords digs through the thousands of advertisers bidding on that particular keyword, and shows what it deems to be the most relevant ads. You'll also see additional functionality like the star ratings above (" is rated. . ."). These are ad extensions and we highly recommend including them your ads, as they tend to draw in the visitor's eye. They are free to use and are helpful in increasing click-through rates.

Search, as mentioned above, is keyword-driven. If you know your customers well, you will know what words they would use to search for a business like yours. Place yourself in your customers' shoes and determine what words or "search queries" you think they would use to indicate to Google that they are looking for a business like yours. Also look to your competitors' websites to see what keywords they have incorporated into the pages on their website. An optimized site will target several specific keywords on each page. This can give you a sense of their keyword strategy and inform your brainstorming and research.

Assemble your keywords and drop them into the free Google Keyword Tool ( to see what kind of search volume you're going to see for those particular keywords. Google provides you with global and local volume expectations, level of competition for each keyword, and offers ideas for other keywords. Make sure to account for keywords for which you know you do not want to appear. Called negative keywords, these often pop up in your raw search queries report (the list of keywords that generated ad clicks within your campaigns) and can range from unexpected matches to simple misspellings. For example, if you operate a B2B business and you publish statistics and/or data, you may wish to exclude your ads from searches using keywords that indicate that the person searching is only trying to gather that info, not demonstrating intent to purchase. These info-gathering keywords might include case studies, journals, magazines, metrics, research, news, reviews, statistics, etc.

Once you've developed your list of keywords using Google's Keyword Tool, you can drop your keywords into Google's Traffic Estimator to find out your estimated cost-per-click (CPC). This tool can be accessed here:


Contextual Advertising: Keyword-Based (Automatic Placements)

Contextual Advertising through AdWords allows you to place text or image ads on sites across the web based on the content of the site on which your ad appears. That is, you select keywords and Google will automatically place your ads, only on webpages that include the keywords you specified. Sites on which Google places these ads will become your "automatic placements". Per Google:

"Our system analyzes the content of each Display Network webpage or URL, considering the site's text, language, link structure, page structure, and more. From these factors, we determine the central theme of each webpage and match this theme to your ad using your keywords and topic selections, plus your language and location targeting and other settings. Sometimes, we might show ads when keywords match the content of pages a person has recently browsed."

There are several cases in which Contextual Advertising makes more sense than Search Advertising. Although the two aren't mutually exclusive (you can employ both in a successful advertising strategy), there are some cases in which it may make more sense to advertise via contextual placements versus sticking strictly to Search:

  • If the keywords relevant to your business are prohibitively expensive, contextual advertising may be a better fit for you than Search. While you can employ a long-tail keyword strategy in which you target a larger number of more infrequently searched terms that are presumably less expensive due to less search volume and competition (e.g. an e-commerce site targets keywords associated with searches for specific product models or SKU #s vs. targeting the more broad product categories), there will be instances in which no Search Advertising strategy makes sense given the time and money available to you. In this case you can look to Contextual Advertising to find lower cost opportunities to advertise online. As a note, with Search you can only pay-per-click (with CPC bidding), but with Contextual Advertising you can pay for clicks (again, using CPC bidding) or for impressions (using CPM bidding)
  • If your product or service does not lend itself naturally to a keyword search, Contextual Advertising may be a better fit for you than Search. For example, if you develop a novel service like Shaker (, an online social network that operates solely on Facebook and allows people to hang out in real-time in a shared environment, your target market may not know or know how to look for you. In these cases, it makes more sense to reach your audience by finding them in environments (on webpages) that are complimentary to your product or service.
  • If your audience will likely be more receptive to display advertising (vs. text-based Search ads) and/or branding is an important component of your strategy, Contextual Advertising may be a better fit for you than Search. With the option to use image and video ads, Contextual Advertising offers a different kind of engagement than pure text Search ads.

In the case of Contextual Advertising, you will not know what sites your ads will appear on prior to the launch of your campaign. Only when your ad is shown on a particular site will that site be logged into the Automatic Placements section of your AdWords account. This lack of transparency upfront should be of little concern if you have effectively targeted by keyword. Just as you monitor which of your Search keywords are resulting in clicks, you should continuously monitor your Automatic Placements and the keywords that triggered them to make sure you aren't appearing on sites that are unrelated to your business and thus are not generating a positive ROI. You can exclude these placements from your AdWords campaigns just as you might include negative keywords in your Search campaigns.


Contextual Advertising: Topic-Based

Similar in function, but different in its execution, Topic-Based Advertising drives ad placements based on the topic Google assigns to a webpage (vs. by the keywords that appear on the page). Still considered Contextual Advertising, Topic-Based merely shifts to define a webpage's context differently-by topic rather than by keyword. To find which types of websites your ads are eligible to appear on, you can view the preset topic categories AdWords offers:

contextual advertising

This advertising method holds similar strategic implications as keyword-based contextual advertising. There are some nuances to setting up this form of advertising. You can search for a topic by typing in a keyword, find topics by entering in the URL of a site whose topic you wish to identify, or to use a more technical approach, you can add each topic by code. Make sure to set up each topic with a unique ad group as its unclear at this juncture how topics interact if applied to the same ad group. Note that to access this topics list you must log into an established AdWords account (established simply means you tied it to a Google username; it does not mean that you are actively spending money on AdWords) and select the "Display Advertising" tab approximately one-third of the way down from the top of the screen:

contextual advertising


Interest-Based Advertising

Interest-Based Advertising through AdWords allows you to place text or image ads across the web by targeting certain kinds of people (not websites or webpages). Google anonymously tracks the behavior of the people who visit websites on the Google Network via cookies and data from third-party partners and buckets these people into over 1,600 interest categories:

interest-based advertising Source:

As you can see, Google provides an estimated reach for each interest group and allows you to select multiple audiences simultaneously. That is, if you wish to target audiences that fall into both the Home & Garden and Food & Drink categories, select both to create a more targeted category consisting only of people who fall into both buckets.

Consider Interest-Based Advertising for branding purposes or to expand your current campaigns to new audiences. We typically recommend pursuing Search first as this method is more closely tied to people seeking out a purchase, while interest categories may draw in browsers who are simply in the discovery phase. This generality serves to guide, but in no way implies that Interest-Based Advertising is or can be more or less successful than other advertising methods.


Managed Placements (or Direct Placements)

Managed Placements (or Direct Placements as many call them) allow you to select specific websites or pages on which your ads appear. Different from keyword-driven Contextual Advertising, where you turn the reins over and let Google develop your Automatic Placements, with Managed Placements you can select specific websites on which to advertise (e.g. if I run an e-commerce site for military only, I may select to directly place ads on

Google provides a Placement Tool to guide you through the placement process. Unlike the Google Keyword Tool, you must be logged into an established AdWords account to access this tool. Only then can you enter in a word, phrase, website, or category to see what sites Google suggests as placement options:

Managed placements Source:

Managed placements Source:

Managed placements Source:

Just like you check on your Automatic Placements for irrelevant sites, you should check on your Managed Placements to be sure that each of your selected placements are performing to their potential and working to increase your ROI.

A common reason for using Managed Placements in addition to (or as opposed to) Automatic Placements is because you will have the ability to manually manage your bid on a particular site. For example, if you find that one placement on your Automatic Placements list is performing particularly well, you may want to add this site as a Managed Placement so that you can increase your budget for this site. Also, by moving a site from your Automatic Placement list to your Managed Placements list you can shift from CPC bidding to CPM bidding. If you wish to try out a specific site (e.g. a military discount site might wish to advertise directly on, Direct Placements is the tool to use.



Remarketing allows you to serve ads to your website visitors who did not complete the conversion action you desire. If, for example, someone clicks on your Search ad, arrives at your landing page, but does not complete and submit the lead form on the landing page (your desired conversion action), then through AdWords Remarketing you can serve this person your ads on other websites in the Google Network as they browse the web after leaving your site. If you have ever visited a website and later noticed they were "following you" (you saw their ads everywhere on the web), it's likely that they're remarketing to you because you did not take their desired conversion action.

Remarketing is a no-brainer. Comscore partnered with ValueClick Media to conduct a study on the impact of Remarketing and found that it provided a 1,046% lift in branded search behavior (e.g. if your business conducted a Remarketing campaign, the campaign would result in, on average, a 1,046% lift in branded searches by those who were retargeted). Keep in mind that the reach of these campaigns is extremely limited and you will therefore only see an impact after running this campaign for a significant period of time. For example, a site with 50-100 visits per day may take months to show a positive ROI on Remarketing spend while those with thousands or hundreds of thousands of visits per day may see a positive ROI within weeks.

There is absolutely no reason not to engage in Remarketing if you are conducting any form of AdWords advertising, as it reinforces search behavior, increases brand awareness and costs much less than other forms of online advertising.


Video Advertisements

To create video advertisements in AdWords, you have two options: the Display Ad Builder and AdWords for Video. The two determinants that indicate which option to use are pricing and video format. If you prefer cost-per-view pricing in which you pay only when a website visitor elects to view your video, use AdWords for Video. If you prefer CPC or CPM pricing, use the Display Ad Builder. As for video formats, Adwords for Video only supports TrueView video formats, whereas the Display Ad Builder does not require TrueView and also allows you to use video and non-video formats within the same campaign.

AdWords for Video offers four forms of video advertising:

  • In-stream video ads appear pre- or mid-roll on YouTube videos. (YouTube is part of the Google Network)
  • In-search video ads are video ads that appear at the top of the YouTube search results. This form of ad can include call-to-action overlays.
  • In-display video ads appear across the entire Google Display Network. This form of ad can include call-to-action overlays.
  • In-slate video ads appear in the "slate" of videos before select videos on YouTube.

The Display Ad Builder, on the other hand, allows for other video formats and reaches beyond YouTube (useful for using video in Automatic or Managed Placements). When placing video ads online through this tool, you can access click-to-play ads, in-search videos, and in-stream video ads.


Mobile Advertising

As of June 7, through the acquisition and full integration of AdMob's mobile ad network, AdWords provides advertisers access to over 350,000,000 mobile devices and in select popular mobile applications. A whole world unto itself, AdWords allows you to place ads specifically on high-end mobile devices with full internet browsers (e.g. Android phones, iPhones, tablets, etc.) and on WAP-enabled devices (smaller mobile devices typically use WAP, wireless application protocol, to deliver information that appears on the web in a manner friendly to a phone with limited screen size and functionality). With the ability to target by device, OS, operator, or wifi/no wifi, AdWords Mobile advertising offers a unique environment in which to engage potential customers.

The Mobile Advertising world operates very differently than the traditional online advertising world as you're engaging viewers in a very unique, often on-the-go environment. Advertisers have yet to unlock the potential of mobile and see 1.7x to 5x more revenue per user (businesses analyzed looked at revenue per user) on desktop advertisements than on mobile advertisements. Nevertheless, mobile ad spend continues to increase with CPMs averaging $0.75 vs. the traditional desktop CPM of $3.50.

Because this is a beast of a different size and color, do not expect to copy-and-paste your traditional AdWords campaigns directly over to your new mobile campaign. Explore your options and take into account the nature of your target market. (Does your target market even own a mobile phone? Are they tech-savvy?) Mobile ad types come in several forms:


High End Mobile Ads

Text ads appear in the same shape and form as you would find in a full desktop internet browser with the only change being the quantity of text ads appearing per page. (A smaller mobile device allows for fewer ads.)

Mobile ads Source:

Mobile ads Source:

Mobile image ads most commonly come in the 300x50 banner, although you will find other ad sizes across different devices.

Mobile ads Source:

Mobile ads Source:


Text ads are typically 12 to 18 characters and are limited to two lines of text with the website URL appearing on a third line.

Mobile ads Source:

Image ads typically come in 6:1 or 4:1 aspect ratios (e.g. 300x50 or 300x75, respectively).

Mobile ads Source:


TV Advertising

The final form of advertising on AdWords occurs through television ad placements. Any business today can create a video ad and reach users through set top boxes on a cost-per-view (or impression) basis. AdWords allows you to bid for air time on 100+ TV networks:

TV Networks Source:

A full list can be found here: With a recommended minimum budget of $150 per day for at least four weeks and a CPM of at least $0.50 (for a :30 spot), television advertising has never been easier. Setting up a campaign using AdWords is as simple as setting up any other campaign within AdWords. Set your budget(s) to pay only for the impressions delivered (CPM pricing) and pick your targets:

  • Audience targeting allows you to target placements that reach an audience that meets your gender, age, household income, hobbies and interests, Nielsen PRIZM segmentation criteria, and P$YCLE data segmentation criteria.
  • Program targeting allows you to select programs contextually relevant to your target market.
  • Network targeting allows you to select specific networks on which your ad airs.
  • Dayparting allows you to set the times during which your ad airs.

See Google TV Ads success stories here:


Choose Your Weapons Wisely

AdWords offers a variety of advertising opportunities with varied pricing models (CPM, CPC, CPA), targeting options, and creative options (video, image, rich media and text ads). With one account you can reach almost any customer base you desire. Get started in 10 steps:

  1. Identify your target markets.
  2. Identify keywords your target markets might use to find your business.
  3. Identify competitors' keywords.
  4. Identify other places online your market might be inclined to find you (or places you believe align well with indicating some degree of intent to purchase your service or product).
  5. Brainstorm and research how you might use these various Google AdWords services to reach your target market. Use Google's Keyword Tool, Traffic Estimator, Placement Tool, Topic-Based Advertising List, and Interest-Based Advertising List to assemble a draft strategy for reaching your target market.
  6. Determine your budgets and modify your strategy to accommodate for any financial limits.
  7. Set up your campaigns, ad groups, ads and keywords.
  8. Launch.
  9. In the first weeks your campaigns are live, prune for red flags, but do not make significant changes to your account as you have yet to accumulate statistically significant data.
  10. Once you're campaigns have reached statistical significance, begin to hone in, optimizing each campaign, ad group and ad to maximize ROI. Expand as budget will allow.

Bottom line, you can make AdWords work for you. Be patient and start small if necessary, adding on a new understanding of AdWords' services each day. Over time your optimization efforts and dedication to understanding the dynamics of the Google AdWords advertising market will generate a stream of customers you may never have been able to access before.

Jennifer Morris, Consultant, eBoost Consulting


Google Hosted News ....$8.4b


Next Steps

eBoost Case Studies

Paid Search Case Study

A television lift mechanism company was higher end than many cheap competitors but was not yet recognized among its' higher end competitors. The lack of brand awareness was affecting web traffic and ultimately sales. ... read more »

eBoost Articles

Increase Conversions and Save Ad Spend Using Match Types

In most Pay per Click (PPC)/ Search Engine Marketing (SEM) platforms you are able to expand or narrow the searches that trigger your ad using match types. These match types can give you greater control, decrease spend, and increase conversions when used correctly. ... read more »

Did You Know?

The average PPC Click Through Rate in Position 1 is 7.94%. In Position 10, it’s 0.20%