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What is Google Ads?

by Anthony
by Anthony O'Donoghue

If you are looking for ways by which you can increase relevant and qualified traffic to your website, then one extremely effective method is Google Ads.

If you are sceptical about whether this method actually works, then you should know that every single day, 13 million clicks are made on a Google Ad. That means that businesses using Google Ads get 13 million customers every single day.

So, if you’re interested in finding out how you can leverage this service for your business, then read on! In this article, we will tell you what Google Ads is, how it works, what the benefits of running your Google Ads are, and how to maximise your ROI when using this service.

What is Google Ads?

Google Ads is a paid advertising service that you can use to display your product listings, service offerings, video content, app installs and any other kind of advertisement on Google’s search engine, through its AdSense program, and on its Global Display Network . The Global Display Network consists of third-party websites that have partnered with Google to display Google Ads.

Types of Google Ads

Let’s take a more detailed look at the types of ads that you can run using Google Ads:

Search Ads

When a person searches Google, the results of that search appear on Google’s SERP (search engine results page). The results that are displayed are of two types – the paid ads and the organic search results. All paid ads – also called sponsored ads – appear at the top of the page. These are called Search Ads and you can identify them from the small green Ad label they carry.

Since this is the most common type of ad that businesses use, we will discuss how you can use them in greater detail.

Now, besides your regular Search Ads, there are also specialised ads that can be displayed on the Google SERP.

  • Call Only Ads: These ads are targeted specifically at users who use their mobile devices for carrying out searches. When you click on this ad, instead of being directed to the business’s landing page, you make a direct call to the company.
  • Dynamic Ads: If you actively manage your website, then this type of Google ad is for you. Here, the content for your ad will automatically adapt to the searcher’s requirements; you don’t have to rely on keywords alone.

Let us give you an example. If someone searches for wedding cakes , and you make wedding cakes (among other things), then your ad headline will read wedding cakes. And when the user clicks on your ad, he or she is automatically directed to the page on your website that is dedicated to wedding cakes.

  • Mobile App Promotion: If you have already developed a mobile app for your business, then this is a good ad to use. The focus of this ad is to get the user to download your app, or do something specific on your app.

So, instead of a text ad, there is a link to your business’s app. And when the user clicks on it, he or she is either taken to the app or the app is downloaded to the mobile device.

Display Ads

These are ads that appear on third-party websites. In the case of these types of ads, the user isn’t actively looking for what that ad has to offer.

So, how do your ads appear on these websites? Well, Google uses a number of factors to display specific ads on specific websites.

Here are the criteria that are used to have your ad displayed on relevant websites:

  • Keywords: The display ads you see on a particular website are chosen based on their keywords. For example, if the keywords you have chosen for your ad are automobile insurance , then Google will select websites whose content has that keyword.
  • Placement: You can also direct Google to display your ad on specific websites. So, if you run a hotel chain, then you can specifically target websites that are related to the hotel industry, or even the travel or tourism industries.
  • Remarketing: You can also specifically target users who have visited your websites in the past, but never took any action on your website. So, when this person visits a website, they will see your ad displayed on that page. It’s a way to reconnect with this potential customer and attract them back to your website.
  • Topic Selection: Google Ads segregates websites according to specific topics. For example, all websites that are related to automobile insurance will be listed under the topic automobile insurance. Therefore, all you need to do is select the topics that are most relevant to your business, and Google will then display your ad on websites that match your target criteria.
  • Shopping Ads If you are a retailer and are specifically focusing on the sale of your products, then you can use Google Ads’ shopping ads. This type of ad can significantly increase traffic to your website and also meet your target of sales conversions.

These types of ads appear on the top of the SERP, as images with details about the product a user is searching for.

When a user clicks on your shopping ads, he or she is then directed to your e-commerce platform where they can then buy the product they searched for.

To be able to run shopping ads, you need to meet the following requirements:

  • You need to have a Google Merchant Center account. This is platform designed specifically for retailers, so that they can display their product listings in a format prescribed by Google.
  • Link your Merchant Center account to your Google Ads account.
  • Update product data every 30 days on your Merchant Center Account.

Once you link your Merchant Account to your Google Ads account, whenever a user carries out a search for a specific product, Google will automatically take your product details from the Merchant Center and display the relevant product for the user. So, it’s a great way to promote your website and increase traffic too.

Video Ads

You can run video ads on the Google Display Network as well as on YouTube. When you run a video ad, you can target specific demographics, locations and user interests. You can also target users based on their keyword searches or even the type of device they use.

Video Ads are a fantastic way to reach a really wide audience. This is because there are tons of websites on the Google Display Network that accept video ads, and YouTube is the second most visited website in the world – after Google.

The best part about video ads is that unlike television ads, the success of these ads can be measured.

Google will give you data on the number of views, number of clicks, the reach of your ad, the frequency with which your ad is displayed, user engagement, the view rate for your ad, and many other metrics.

This way you can calculate the success rate of your ad as well as the return on investment.

Universal Ad Campaign

If you have a mobile app for your business, then this ad is a great way to target multiple channels. You can promote your app on Google Search, PlayStore, YouTube and Display Networks.

Google takes content directly from your app store listing, and then designs ads in multiple formats. Google will also test the ads it has created for your app and choose the ones that have had the greatest success rates.

How Google Ads Works

As we said earlier, Search Ads are the most used types of Google Ads, so in this section, we will concentrate on how these types of ads work.

Simply put, you create an ad with keywords relevant to your business. These keywords are those that a person would choose when searching on Google for services or products such as you offer.

It sounds really simple, right? In theory, it is. However, you are not the only business that will use those keywords to attract customers or traffic to your website. And that’s where it can get complicated.

The first thing you need to understand is that Google Search Ads work on an auctioning system. So, every time a user carries out a keyword search, a super-fast auction takes place behind the scenes.

To be able to win in the auction and have your ad or ads displayed in a Google search, you need to make a bid. As a rule, the higher the bid, the more your chances of winning the auction.

However , that bid amount is just one of 5 key factors that will determine whether your ad will be displayed during a search, and also in what order it will be displayed on the SERP. When these factors are assessed, your ad is given what is called an Ad Rank.

The ad with the highest Ad Ranking will get displayed at the top of the results page. Here are the 5 different factors that Google Ads’ system will assess your ad and decide your Ad Rank:

1. Bid Amount

The bid you set for your ad will let Google Ads know the maximum amount you are okay to pay for someone to click on your ad. Most of the times, what you actually end up paying is less than your bid amount. You can also change your bid amount at any time if you so wish.

The amount that you are willing to pay for your ad to be clicked on by a Google searcher is known as the cost-per-click (CPC). There are two ways to set your bid – you can do it manually, and adjust it whenever you need to, or you can simply allow the Google Ads algorithm to make the choice for you.

2. Quality Score

Your Quality Score is one of the key factors that helps decide whether your ad will be featured on Google’s SERP. Here’s how it works.

  1. Google Ads assesses the quality and relevance of your ad and assigns it a score. Therefore, the higher your Quality Score, the better the position of your ad, and the lower your CPC.
  2. Quality Score ratings are given on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the lowest and 10 being the highest rating.
  3. Some of the parameters that are used to arrive at the Quality Score are the relevance of your ad to the searcher, the relevance of your ad to your website’s landing page, the click through rate your ad has achieved historically and your account’s historical performance.
  4. The Google Ads system will check your website (particularly your landing page) and your ad for relevance. Therefore, if your ad and landing page are highly relevant to the searcher, then you will get a higher Quality Score.

A point to remember here is that the quality of your ad will also impact the threshold for your ad ranking.

3. Ad Rank Thresholds

There are certain quality thresholds you need to meet for your ad to even qualify for the ranking system. Here are various elements that impact ad rank thresholds:

  • Ad Quality: To ensure that searchers have only the highest quality ad experience, lower-quality ads have higher ad ranking thresholds.
  • Ad Position: Ads that appear lower on the SERP have lower thresholds as compared to those that appear higher up. This means that higher quality ads also have higher thresholds that need to be met. This ensures that searchers see the highest quality ads first.
  • User Attributes: User attributes also impact the thresholds. A user’s location impacts threshold, because different locations across the world have different thresholds. Furthermore, the type of device that is being used will also impact the threshold.
  • Related Auctions: Related searches also impact threshold levels. So, if a user is looking for car insurance , then the threshold will be impacted by related searches such as auto insurance or car accident insurance.

4. Type of Search

Your ad ranking will also depend on the context of the search. Elements that are included in the search context include the time of the search, the type of search, competitors’ ads and other search results.

5. Ad Extensions

When creating an ad, you have the option of adding Extensions – additional information such as phone numbers and links to specific pages on your website.

Google Ads calculates how much of an impact these add-ons will have on the relevance of your ad to the searcher. So, having the highest bid doesn’t guarantee you that coveted spot on the SERP. You can make a smaller bid and still get listed – as long as your ad has more relevance than your competition.

The key takeaway from this section is that it’s not enough for you to have a snazzy ad. You also need to have a well-designed and relevant landing page for Google Ads to post your ads. In fact, all the factors we have mentioned above are actually interrelated, so you need to get your ad right on all counts.

Benefits of Running Google Ads

Understanding how Google Ads works can be a little difficult, but if you do, and then run your ads through the various advertising channels offered by Google Ads, then you could significantly increase traffic to your website, conversions, or whatever your target for your ad campaign is.

Here are some of the benefits of using Google Ads:

Faster than Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

Search Engine Optimisation is a marketing strategy that focuses on being able to increase traffic to your website via unpaid ads . Those ads that appear below the paid ads on a SERP are the ones that have used SEO. These ads appear as organic or natural results.

SEO focuses on creating, adding or editing a website’s content, adapting HTML and other coding to increase relevance to keywords.

While SEO may be less expensive than creating paid ads, it is significantly slower, and takes time and patience to build the kind of visibility you are looking at for your business.

Paid ads , on the other hand are much faster and more effective in meeting your marketing objectives. This is because with Google ads you can use multiple keywords in one go, you can control your campaign, and if you ensure that you work the Google ads system correctly, you could get that coveted top spot on a SERP.

Improves Brand Awareness

Google partnered with Ipsos Group SA, a leading global market research and consulting firm, to assess the impact of using Google Ads to increase a business’s brand awareness among consumers.

The study was carried across 12 different industries, including automobiles and retail. Through this study, it was revealed that top-of-mind recall increased by 6.6% for those companies that used Google Ads’ Search Ads to promote their brands.

Reaches a Larger Audience

Since Google Ads uses multiple channels in its advertising service, you can reach a much larger audience than if you were to use a single channel to market your business.

You can use Search Ads, Display Ads, Video Ads, and so on, thereby reaching a massively large audience, something you may not be able to achieve through other advertising strategies.

Google Ads became even more effective after the company linked Gmail Ads to Google Ads in 2015. Gmail ads can appear on the promotions tab of your Gmail account, and sometimes in the social tab. These ads are available for both desktop as well as mobile devices.

The beauty of using Gmail ads is that it is much more cost effective than the other channels offered by Google Ads. So, if you are on a small budget, you can still use Google ads to get to your customers.

Most of the businesses today have not taken advantage of Gmail ads and do not even realise the impact of using this cheaper option that Google Ads offers.


Google Ads offers you a way to target users who visited your website but did not take any action. You can use both the Display Network as well as the Search network to attract these visitors back to your website.

You would be surprised by how many conversions you can achieve through your remarketing efforts.

Performance Measurement

When you use traditional marketing methods such as print or broadcast media, it is very difficult to assess the effectiveness of your ad campaign. On the other hand, with Google Ads you can get specific data on the performance of your ad campaign. You can get to know who clicked on your ad, how leads the ad generated, how much of the traffic to your website can be attributed to your Google Ads marketing campaign, and even how much each lead cost.

This data is crucial, since you can analyse it to figure out how you can improve your campaign to get the best results.

Use Google Analytics to Make Sense of Your Data

While Google Ads cannot give you in-depth analyses of your ad campaign, you can link your Ads account to your Google Analytics account. This will allow you to get your hands on even more data, which can then be used in your Analytics account to get a much deeper understanding of your ad campaign.

Let us explain with a real-life example. A deluxe hotel chain called Swissotel Hotels & Resorts used Google Analytics carry out an analysis of their Google ad campaign.

There were two particular questions this hotel chain wanted answered:

  • What happened after visitors clicked on the company’s ad, and
  • Was there a difference in the behaviour patterns of paid and organic visitors?

Using the data from Analytics, Swissotel was able to create personalised ads for their users, which led traffic to their website doubling, order value increasing by 30% and revenue increasing by a massive 70%.

Understand and Deal with Competition More Effectively

One of the best things about using Google Ads is its transparency. All the data is out there for everyone to see. So, you can check on your competition, and see what kind of ads they are running, which types of Google Ads are they using to promote their business, and so on.

What this can do for you is that you will know where you stand vis-à-vis the competition. You will know how to target your ads so that you can maximise your conversions and meet your marketing target.

How to Make Google Ads Work for You

Using Google Ads takes some practice and a deep understanding of its many layers. And once you have mastered the art of using Google Ads, you will be able to see some significant increase in business, brand awareness or any other metric you want to promote using this service.

To help you along, here are a few tips to make Google Ads work for you.

Choose the Right Keyword Match

Google Ads offers 3 different categories of keywords that you can use when creating your ad: Broad Match, Phrase Match, Exact Match. You need to ensure that you use the correct match type for maximum results. Let’s understand how each of these match types work:

Broad Match

When you use the Broad Match option, then your ad will be displayed as long as the keywords you have input appear in the search. It doesn’t matter what in which order they appear.

For example, if you want to use the keyword best auto insurance , Google will look for all matches that include the words best , auto and insurance.

Broad Match keywords can really give you the benefit of reaching a wider audience.

Phrase Match

In the case of Phrase Match keywords, Google will only show your ad if the keyword search used the exact phrase that you input as your keyword.

For example, if you input the keyword phrase best tailor in London , then google will only display your ad if the user has input those exact keywords – with prefixes or suffixes.

Exact Match

Google will only display your ad if the search words match exactly – and in the same order. So, if we continue with the tailor example, the only time your ad will be displayed is when a user types in best tailor in London .

Even an extra word will mean that your ad will not be displayed.

Each of these types of keyword matches have their pros and cons, and you need to decide which one will suit your goals best.

Use the Right Ad Extensions

If you don’t have ad extensions, or haven’t optimised them, then Google may not display your ads prominently. Using an ad extension can really increase the effectiveness of your ad campaign.

Google Ads has a separate tab for extensions, and you have a range of extension types to choose from.

When you have ad extensions, you are giving your prospective customers extra information, information that is relevant to them. And this little bit can significantly increase the quality of your organic listings as well, and get you much higher conversions. Basically, you are giving your target customers even more reasons to click on your ad.

Write a Compelling Ad

Writing an ad headline that will attract your target audience is critical to the success of your campaign. You need to write a powerful headline that makes sense to your customers. It’s no use writing a flowery or bombastic ad that looks good but isn’t really relevant for your target customers.

So, the first thing you need to understand is how to make your ad and your ad headline effective.

Use the Negative Keyword Option

Google Ads also offers you something called the Negative Keyword option. We all know the importance of using the right keywords. However, there are some keywords that we don’t want to be matched during searches. This are called negative keywords.

Let’s explain this further with an example. Say you run a job placement ad. Your target keywords are long-term career, careers in technology and IT software careers. However, there is the keyword job , which many people use in their searches – but these people are looking at short-term assignments.

So, you add the word job to your Negative Keyword list. What this means is that searches such as Software specialist career would display your ads, but Software specialist jobs searches would not display your ads.

This way, you can narrow down your focus effectively and save costs by as much as 40%!

Having said, do not use too many negative keywords, or you may not be able to track your results. And do not use the same negative keywords for all your ads – customise them for each ad campaign.

Are Google Ads for You?

Google Ads is a very powerful marketing tool that can really help your business grow. If you use it correctly, that is. However, before you invest in Google Ads, you need to be sure that it is the right marketing tool for your business. Therefore, first answer these questions:

  • Is your target audience online?
  • Are people using keywords related to your business in their searches? Remember, if the search volume is too low, your Google Ads campaign may not be effective enough to warrant the cost of running it.
  • Is your industry being mentioned in online magazines and blogs?
  • Look for your keyword on Google and see what kind of answers you get in the SERP.
  • Are your competitors investing in online marketing?

These questions should help you make a decision about whether you should invest in Google Ads, or use a different marketing strategy to promote your business.


Understanding the theory behind Google Ads is the first step of your journey. To be able to successfully create ads that repeatedly get the top spot on searches, you need to create and experiment with campaigns and learn from each of them so that you can really understand how to maximise your ads’ effectiveness.

So, good luck on your journey to a successful Google Ads campaign.

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  • Author Anthony O'Donoghue
  • Position Director
  • ID #0009H