CH1 Intro

(NOTE: You can download a copy of this chapter in PDF format at the very bottom of this page.)

Ch1 – Introduction

First we’ll take a whirlwind tour of Adwords, a behind the scenes look at a real world use of Adwords, and then we’ll look at creating a Google Adwords account.

Introduction – What is AdWords?

AdWords, in a nutshell, is why Google’s stock is worth bazillions of dollars. It’s not just AdWords, it’s the search engine, it’s a lot of things – but AdWords is part of the puzzle, and it’s a tool that you use to create ads.

The magic of Google is that they figured out how to “monetize” search, which means they figured out how to make an effective online advertising program; part of the core thing is that you can track it. Unlike most other forms of advertising, when things are set up right, you can see exactly how effective your ad was. If you spent $5.00, and made $10, maybe that’s a good thing. If you spent $10, and made $5, that’s bad.

It’s a vast oversimplification, but it’s all about “tracking ROI”, and ROI is return on investment. If you just want the nutshell: AdWords works. Period.

Below we see a Google search page. Go to, try typing in something like “tennis rackets”:

Various kinds of ads will appear, including ads with text only, and possibly ads with pictures. The ads basically mean that some advertiser created them, and Google displayed them, thinking that they might be relevant to your search. Whenever you click on a link on the right, some advertiser is paying something for it, even if it is a small amount. And the whole idea is, have something to sell, measure the clicks, hopefully you’ll sell what you want, and then you can continue to advertise.


Behind the Scenes Tour of Google AdWords

In this brief visual tour, I’m going behind the scenes at how ads are created and tweaked to display on Google. Google has a tool called Adwords, which allows you to make ads like this:

Note: this is a “traditional” ad in Google. The one thing you can count on in digital marketing is that things change from time to time, and in mid 2016, Google decided to expand the length of ads, so you’ll start seeing more ads like this:

If you compare this ad to the previous one, you’ll see that it’s longer. It’s one in the “newer” format. But for the purpose of this chapter we’re going to look at the traditional format. Don’t worry about the length, just sit back and try to get a sense of how it works.

So let’s go back to our original ad.

The purpose is to try and get people to “click through” when they are searching on Google or looking at Gmail.

Top line: headline – 25 character limit.

Middle lines: description – 35 character limit

Bottom line: “display url” – it has a limit of 35 characters, but is not clickable. It is often used to display the general address of the Web site.

There’s also a “hidden” line which is known as the destination URL – it is a link, and can be as long as you like. In this case, it leads to a course page (and is 68 characters):

Hiding the “destination url” helps the ad to look cleaner.

To create an ad, I start by gathering text in Notepad, including the title of the course, and some lines that could become the title, description and display URL, as well as the link to the course page itself.

The title of the course was too long, so I started shortening it:

This is a small excerpt of the AdWords screen, the tool used to make ads. There are a lot of options, but this is where it all comes together.

So you see that the course title was too long to fit in “Description Line 1”:

Google gives you a little indicator as you’re typing in to give you a sense of how much space you have left:

So I tried a variation – this is part of what ends up happening with Google ads; because of the limits on how many letters/characters you can have, you have to get creative. This could involve using the two lines of description creatively, or just rewording or restating things. For example, instead of saying Ethical Considerations, you could say “ethics”:

Then Google builds a preview on the right:

Once you have your ad, the next step is to add keywords. These are guesses of what people might type in, when they are looking for information on google. The whole strategy of Google ads is based on trying to figure out the best combination of words that people might type in.

So I tried a few different options:

Basically what happens on Google is you pay for your advertisement based on how many people click on it. This is called “cost per click” advertising. A thousand people might see the ad, if they type in the right keywords, but only a handful will actually click on the advertisement.

Originally Google had fixed prices for keywords, but then someone had the bright idea for allowing bidding on keywords, kind of like eBay. For example, car dealers might compete and bid $5.00 or $10.00 for the keyword “Ford”. If you are the highest bidder, you get the best spot for your ad.

So when you’re making an ad, Google can guess how much “traffic” your ad might get:

Above, we see a “CPC” of $1.00. This means I’m bidding a maximum of $1.00, and I’m limiting the budget to $10.00 a day.

Google then says, “ok, we think the cost you pay for each click will average between 44 cents and $1.00. We think you’ll get between 7-12 clicks a day, and that it will cost you between 5-10 dollars”

In general, what people try to do is track the results of their advertisement very carefully, so that if they put $100.00 into advertisement, they see how many widgets or books or stereos or beanie babies they sell. So if I put $100 into ads, hopefully I sell $1000.00 worth of merchandise, or whatever my goal is. The goal is to get people to come to the site, and buy. And the strength of Google ads, unlike other forms of advertisement, is that you can track exactly what you get out of it. You know exactly how well the ad performs.

And then the idea is you increase your budget, spend more on advertising, generate more revenue for your company (and help Google’s stock price go higher).

If you want to change an ad, you can edit it:

And here’s what a finished ad looks like. Google makes bajillions of dollars every year (and helps businesses around the world to make bajillions of dollars, and yen, and yuan), and this is what most of it comes down to. To click or not to click.

Here’s a variation on one ad, where the text in Description line 1 “wraps” down to the second line. If you can’t fit the text in one line, sometimes you can stretch it to another:

And with this course, because it was a long course title, I tried wrapping it to 2 lines:

After you create your ad and choose keywords, you start to get some automated feedback from the Google system. In the first line, we see how the keyword “nasw” (national association of social workers), is “rarely shown due to low quality score”.

What this means is that Google has automatically analyzed where the ad is sending people, and if the content on the Web page does not strongly match the keyword, it will get a lower “quality score”, and the ad will not show up as often. Conversely, when the keyword is more related to the page you’re sending people to, the higher quality score you get. This is basically Google wanting people to have the best search experience.

So if someone types in “popcorn”, and you’ve chosen the keyword “popcorn”, but the page you send people to has nothing to do with popcorn, then the ad will not display as much, because it won’t be as relevant.

In the example above, for the keyword “nasw”, my goal is to get people who are a part of that association to take an adoption learning partners course. So one of the options is, I could increase the number of times “nasw”appears on the Web page for the course. Or I might decide to delete the keyword and add others. This is known as “keyword optimization”

“Below first page bid”: another thing that shows up in the ad above is a little message saying that for the keyword “nasw ceu”, the bid is below what is required to display on the first page. And it says the first page bid estimate is currently $5.50.

Since these ads are being run with a grant from Google (Google gives free advertising to non-profit organizations under certain conditions), Google places a limit on the maximum bid a person can make with this free advertising: $1.00 – so the maximum I can bid is $1.00, and for this keyword, it won’t show up on the first page. Google would rather have other organizations and companies pay $5.50 each time someone clicks on their ads.

At first glance, you might think it was crazy to pay so much money when someone clicks. Because there’s no guarantee that if someone clicks on an ad, that they will buy anything.

The Bidding Game

But the reason that this all ends up working, is because people keep very close track of the statistics of how many people click, and how many widgets they sell as a result. So there’s a constant “bidding game” going on between companies, where they develop a Web site designed to convince people to buy their product, etc.—and they are able to determine how much money they can spend to sell their products, and still make a profit. So the game generally involves trying to get the best position for your ad, and to get the most “conversions”, that is, to get as many people as possible to click on your ad, who are likely to want to buy your product. This is the world of online advertising.

The Guessing Game

In other forms of advertising, it’s more of a guessing game. A million people drive by a billboard or see a television ad, and it’s hard to say what effect can be traced directly to a specific advertisement. In traditional advertising, it’s more about trying to get as much exposure as possible and hope for the best. Occasionally, you can do things like display a “coupon code” on traditional advertising, so that if people use the coupon code, you know that they saw the ad, and you know that it’s working. But it’s still not as exact; so online advertising is significantly more trackable, and therefore in some cases it is much more effective, or at least you can track the performance better. So advertisers can have more confidence when they know exactly how things are peforming.

Here we see the search results of our keyword “nasw ceu” again. In this case what we’re looking at is the second page of search results. If you remember, Google told us our keyword was “below the first page estimate”, so it won’t show on the first page, or is not likely to show, but it can show on a subsequent page.

And the question is, how many people will look at the second page of results. Not as many as the first (where the bid price is higher), but some make it to the second page, and so on.

The left arrow shows we’re on the 2nd page of results; the right arrow shows our ad displaying. It made it on the second page. Woohoo!

After making a few ads, I decided to see if I could come up with a keyword that could get on the first page of results, but would still be within the maximum I can spend of $1.00 per click.

So I tried a variation of a phrase, “nasw adoption”, and the results show below.

In the upper left, you see what it would be like if someone typed in the phrase I’m hoping they’ll type in. Someone who needs to take continuing education credits, and maybe they are a social worker who deals with adoption.

And it turns out that this keyword does result in the advertisement showing on the first page, which is a good position for the ad.

It also turns out that the “organic” search results also highlight Adoption Learning Partners. Organic search results are unpaid, “natural” search results. This is where without requiring you to spend any money, Google is out there crawling the Web, categorizing it, and making automated listings. So even if you don’t spend any money at all, your web site will show up “somewhere” in Google search results. Notice that for this phrase, in the upper right of the screen, there are approximately 80,000 links that Google will be glad to show you. So in this case, the Adoption Learning Partners site has a pretty good “ranking” – because of the number of people who visit the site, and because of how relevant the Web page is – it has courses that are “NASW approved”.

But it’s not necessarily easy to get the top “unpaid” results, especially when there’s a lot of Web sites that have similar information, or if Web sites are in competition with each other. “SEO” or “search engine optimization” is the process of trying to get your Web site to show up in a better spot on Google without spending any money.

So it’s great when you can get people to come to your site, without clicking on an ad that’s going to cost you money. But it’s harder to do this, and not always as reliable as paid advertising.

Paid advertising is known as “Search Engine Marketing”. And there are different philosophies – some companies swear up and down that you should never pay Google a dime, that their company can get you the best ranking, or that if you buy their secret guide, it will reveal all the latest secrets. Then there are those who are loyal to SEM, or search engine marketing, where you pay for the advertisement, and some don’t even bother trying to do “SEO”.

But in general, it’s good to do a bit of both. And in the end, paid advertising is more solid than search engine optimization. And Google exists to make money, so there are ways that they encourage businesses to use the paid advertising. They may or may not give a high rank to a businesses – they offer no guarantees to anyone. But they’d naturally prefer you to give them your money. So it pays to consider that Google is a business, and generally SEM, or “search engine marketing”, is a pretty solid way to go.

Creating an Account

If you don’t have an Adwords account already, go and create one!

So go to

After you’ve created an account, it may ask you to create an ad as part of the “wizard” process. That’s ok, just be sure to pause the campaign after your are into Adwords.


Look for the little green button next to your campaign. If you don’t pause it you could be spending money! Click on the green button and switch to pause.

campaign 1.png

click on the green dot and select “paused”

campaign 2.png

.Getting Help

The Google Adwords Help Center is extensive and worth checking out.

I recommend exploring all the links – at the top (ex: community forum, and yes contact us, to get a sense of contact information)

You can also scroll down and click on the +/- links to see more topics.


Dear Reader,

Thanks for reading this chapter! Don’t be alarmed if you don’t feel like you “get it” yet – we’re just taking a look at things, getting to know how things work. In subsequent chapters we’ll be getting to know Adwords better. Before you know it you’ll be creating ads and getting clicks!



Todd Kelsey,
Sep 1, 2016, 1:14 PM