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Demystifying Google Ads

Demystifying Google Ads

01 February 2021

For almost 20 years, business owners have passed a two-word secret to success among themselves in hushed, reverential tones: “Google AdWords.” And while Google Ads (the rebranded name for AdWords since 2018) can indeed be a powerful tool for boosting revenue, many owners seem to have an incomplete understanding of exactly what the utility is and how it works—a situation that can cause as much harm as good. Our goal, then, is to bring some broad clarity to the situation. While we can’t possibly cover all of the fine details of managing a successful Google Ads campaign, we can certainly cover some of the broad strokes.

[Note: This entry is strictly limited to Google Search Network ads, which are essentially the AdWords of old. Google Display Network ads are much different functionally and, although they do fall under the Google Ads banner, are not discussed here.]

Okay, But What Is This Thing?

Google Ads is a pay-per-click (PPC) advertising platform where advertisers bid for placement and prominence in the Google Search Network. In simple terms, it’s a way to pay Google to prioritize your listing over others when users conduct relevant, targeted searches. The catch is that you only pay when a searcher clicks on your link, up to a pre-determined budgeted maximum for the month—hence the name “pay-per-click”. Where your business or organization falls will depend on several factors (including the amount bid per click), but your listing will almost always be placed ahead of non-paid results, which are colloquially referred to as “organic” (search engine optimization, a wholly different process, is concerned with boosting a listing’s prominence in those results). What does that all mean? Your business or organization’s link can potentially be the very first item people see when they use one of the world’s largest and most-used search engines, which will undoubtedly boost your visibility.

So, I Can Pay to Be First in Every Search?

Not quite. This is where a lack of clear knowledge or counsel on managing a Google Ads campaign can do more harm than good, because there are an infinite number of search terms and combinations thereof on which you can bid. Your advertising budget, business goals, pool of potential clients, and data on internet search habits should all inform how your dollars are spent. It’s also important to understand that the system isn’t strictly a “pay to win” affair; Google uses other metrics and scoring to determine whether a business or organization is relevant to the search terms on which it has bid and adjusts placement accordingly. For example, a global shoe company can’t buy their way to being ranked first in searches for “local news”—Google’s reputation is pegged to the accuracy of its search engine results, after all.

Your bids should be focused on keywords and terms that your potential audience is searching, not necessarily the ones that you feel most accurately describe your business or your industry. This is another facet of Google’s service that requires either an esoteric level of knowledge or solid counsel from a trusted partner. It’s all too easy to misspend your advertising budget on an uninformed Google Ads campaign that offers little-to-no return on investment.

Final Thoughts

Certainly, Google’s advertising tools have rightly earned their reputation as powerful revenue generators. Google is one of the most-used search engines in the world, and it undoubtedly has the largest footprint. A properly optimized website and local listing are crucial to growing and sustaining your client base, but a well-managed and highly visible ad campaign can drive growth like almost nothing else. That power is double-edged, though. Make sure you trust your money and the health of your business to a partner that has the necessary expertise.

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