What Are Google AdWords
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Understanding AdWords Terminology

Google tries hard to make AdWords perfectly understandable, even to the advertising neophyte. Yet for all the PDF guides and multimedia tutorials Google offers (, the concepts can get rather confusing, rather fast.

It’s useful to remember that the AdWords universe is a hierarchy. It begins with keywords, which are connected to ads, which are connected to Ad Groups, which are connected to campaigns, which are connected to accounts…which are connected to the anklebone.

  • Keywords are the magic words that trigger Google to show your ads when people (read: potential customers) search for the terms. If, for instance, you’re selling a new line of floral shirts and you choose Hawaiian shirts as keywords, Google displays your ads when people search for—what else?—Hawaiian shirts.

    Google lets you decide whether you also want to market to people searching for leisurewear or Hawaiian cruises or other inexact matches. For added flexibility, Google offers four types of keywords: broad match, phrase match, exact match, and negative keyword.

    Once you pick your keywords, you associate them with an ad, described next.

  • An ad appears on a Google search results page as a sponsored link or on an associated Web site, via AdSense, under the legend "Ads by Google." Figure 1 has an example.

    One or more ads make up an Ad Group.
  • An Ad Group is a collection of ads taken out by one advertiser that all target the same keywords. For example, you might have three or four variations on the "Hip Hip Hawaii" ad or separate yet similar ads ("Boffo Bermudas," for example) that you’ve associated with the same Hawaiian shirts keywords. You may think of this as your Clothing Ad Group.

    An ad group is part of a campaign.

  • A campaign is a collection of Ad Groups. How you slice a campaign is really up to you. For, it might be spring versus summer, men’s versus women’s, clothing made of cotton versus clothing made of shells.

    And any number of campaigns make up your one account.

  • AdWords accounts are unlike any other advertising account you may have come across, because Google has gone out of its way to make this program flexible. Your minimum cost is $1.50 per month. You can run ads for as short or long a time as you like. And you can run as many or as few campaigns, Ad Groups, and ads as you wish, targeting any keywords that are in some way related to your line of products or services. The Fruit of the Month Club is a bigger commitment.

figure 1
Figure 1: As the top ad shows, a single ad consists of a headline ("Hawaiian Shirts on Sale"), two short lines of description ("All Paradise Found Shirts on Sale," "Great selection. All styles."), and a URL (“www.mauishirts. com”).

Incidentally, Google used to sell the two spots above the regular results (the ads with the colored backgrounds) in a separte program. That program no longer exists. Now if you want to get an ad in one of those spots, it must have an usually high click-through rate.

Tip: AdWords provides a helpful Keyword Suggestion Tool ( to guide you beyond the obvious choices for your products and services.

Note: If you’re looking to sell just one small widget, and you plan on having just one ad, you still need to set up an Ad Group and campaign to hold that ad.

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