Google AdWords advertising allows you to show your ads to people who are most likely to be interested in your products or services, while filtering out those who aren’t.

You can track how many people your ad was shown to, how many of those people clicked your ad and more if you integrate your account with Google Analytics. By measuring your ads, you’ll quickly see where to invest your budget and boost the return on your investment.

AdWords is most commonly based on a cost per click system, where the cost per click is the minimum amount required to outrank a competitor advertiser. Using a very simple example, if a competing advertisers budget per click is $1 and yours is $5, you’ll only pay $1.01 for that click.

When you’re first starting out with AdWords, it can be a little overwhelming. Google AdWords itself is massive, and every slip-up can blow out your budget. I know quite a few people that have been burnt by trying AdWords without really understanding it.

To help you get started, I’ve created some helpful tips that I’ve learned over the years.

Getting Started

Create Your Google AdWords Account

Google has prepared a 7 step starter guide for creating an account which covers the basic such as creating a login, setting up billing information and a daily budget.

Resist the Impulse to Activate Your Ads Just Yet

Google’s goal at this point is to then encourage you to maximise the amount you’re spending on your advertising. This is the first trap for beginners. You’ll enter some keywords, Google will suggest many more keywords which are mostly helpful, but next thing you know you’ve spent $150 in one day with no sales or leads gained.

Research Your Keywords

Thorough keyword research is so important to the success of your AdWords advertising – if you focus on the wrong keywords you can be almost certain that your advertising won’t be profitable. Start with your website to build a list of relevant keywords, look for the main words that describe what you do, your products and your services. Align your AdWords account structure with your website.

Use the Google Keyword Tool

Once you’ve got your list of keywords, you can use the Google Keyword Tool to find related words and phrases for a complete list of possible keywords. People may use different words or phrases when looking for your products or services.

The tool will then show you the average search volume per keyword (there’s no point is bidding on keywords that no one searches for) and the average cost per click so that you have a better understanding of the budget required and what you can afford.

From my experience, the lowest cost per click I’ve seen is around $0.80c and the highest was $16. So, choose wisely. Choose general and specific keywords, and group similar keywords into ad groups (aim for 5-20 keywords per ad group).

Choose Keyword Match Types

This is another trap for beginners. Google’s default setting is ‘broad match’, which allows you to reach the largest number of people, but provides the least control over when your ads are shown.

For example, if I was a personal trainer and I bid on ‘personal training’ to attract new clients using broad match, my ad would be shown to people also searching for ‘personal training courses’, ‘personal training certification’ and ‘personal training salary.’ Clearly, none of these people are looking to hire a personal trainer. I would either receive many irrelevant clicks wasting my budget, or no clicks, which is just as bad because Google will punish me with a low-quality score and I’ll have to pay more.

Essentially, the higher your Quality Score (on a scale of 1 to 10), the less you’ll have to pay per click. Relevance is the key. New keywords will be assigned a quality score within a day or so.

Keyword Match Type Options

Broad Match: The widest possible search that includes a number of keywords that may not be relevant to your business at all e.g. ‘Women’s hats’ can match searches for ‘buy ladies hat’.

Phrase Match: A more targeted option that will match to people searching for the keywords you have specified e.g. ‘Women’s hats’ can match searches for ‘buy women’s hats’.

Exact Match: The most targeted option that will match to people that are searching for your keyword, exactly as you have typed it e.g. ‘Women’s hats’ can only match searches for ‘women’s hats’.

Negative Match: Using negative keywords can greatly reduce wasted clicks by excluding keywords that don’t relate to your business e.g. If you sell reading glasses and use ‘glasses’ as your keyword, your ad would be displayed to people also searching for ‘wine glasses’, adding ‘wine’ as a negative keyword would eliminate this problem.

Campaign Types

It’s important to understand the differences because they function very differently.

Search Network Only: Target people that are actively searching for your products or services. This is recommended for beginners.

Display Network Only: Target people who are browsing websites that contain content that is in some way related to your products or services. From my experience, this is effective for short term campaigns for specific promotions e.g. an online pet store’s ad for free shipping for the next 7 days can appear alongside an article on how to manage aggression in puppies.

Search & Display Networks: Is a combination of the two, personally I prefer to keep the campaigns separate for more effective performance monitoring.

Shopping: Is a must if you sell products online and requires the creation of a Google Merchant account and some set-up to create a product feed. This allows your products to be featured visually with the text search results.

Writing Your Ads

Explain why a potential customer should buy your products or use your service instead of a competitor. Include your keyword so that it attracts attention. The character limit is tight, but try your best to differentiate yourself from other ads.

Google has strict advertising guidelines to ensure ads are of good quality, but I have seen dodgy grammar slip through. ‘I will provide you with the best advise’, will deter people who know the difference between advice and advise.

A call to action is also important to for potential customers to understand what action you want them to take and to filter out people that aren’t ready to take the desired action, e.g. buy now, call today, request a quote, learn more, browse now.

The page you link to on your website is also important, create a custom page if necessary to match your ad. If your ad is promoting 20% off toasters, ensure that your ad points to the toasters category with a banner highlighting 20% off. Make it easy for people to take the action you promised in your ad.

Link to Google Analytics for Conversion Tracking

Access to analytics is essential to managing your AdWords efficiently – without it there is no way of knowing if you are achieving your goals, or which campaigns, ad groups and keywords are successful and which are not. When you create a Google Analytics account, you’ll need to add a short piece of tracking code to your website and then you can link the accounts together.

Conversion tracking provides important data relating to what a person does after clicking on your ad. Do they purchase, submit an enquiry, download your app? This information helps you to determine your success.

AdWords is not a “set and forget” platform, and it needs to be carefully monitored and managed, particularly when you first begin.

Typically, I recommend running AdWords for at least 2 months and commit to weekly monitoring to determine if it’s right for your business. You need time to give it the best chance for success.

Where to Learn More

It’s not possible for me to cover everything about AdWords. I spent 3 weeks studying around my full-time job for the Google AdWords Fundamentals, Google Search and Google Display certification exams to ensure my knowledge is the most up to date.

I highly recommend that you at least read the Google AdWords Fundamentals study guide to understand more about structuring your account, bidding strategies, quality score, location targeting.