Entrepreneurs are constantly looking for advertising options that provide a good return on investment. Given the dependency on technology, it’s not surprising that online options have become a popular option. One of those options is Google AdWords.

Google AdWords is Google’s online adverting platform. You know the ads that show up on the top and the sides of a Google search? Those are ads purchased and created through Google AdWords. Here’s an example:

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A look at where Google Ads show up

When a potential customer searches for something that your business offers, your ad pops up near the search results. It’s meant to drive members of your target audience to your website.

This advertising platform is a good choice for entrepreneurs, but creating an affordable ad that speaks to your target market can be a bit complicated. By helping business owners create ads, I’ve noticed a common string of pitfalls and questions. To help other beginners, I’ve created this guide to help you get a clear picture of Google AdWords and give you some money-saving advice.

To start, let’s discuss the pros and cons of Google AdWords.

The pros

Here’s a quick list of the advantages of using Google AdWords:

You pay when your ad is clicked

Once you create an ad through Google AdWords, the only time you pay is when someone clicks on your ad. You don’t pay to create the ad and post it, you only pay when someone lands on your site.

Good exposure

Your ad could show up on the first page of search results. When it comes to exposure, it doesn’t get much better than that.

User-friendly interface

When it comes to online advertising platforms, there are a lot of confusing options out there, but the interface on Google AdWords is user-friendly. You’ll know your way around in no time.

Adjustable budget

Google AdWords is an affordable advertising option for small businesses, and you get to set your budget.

The cons

Google AdWords isn’t right for every business. Here are the downsides:

Not effective for new products

Your target market finds your ad based on keyword searches, so if your product is so new that people can’t or wouldn’t search for it, this advertising won’t be effective.

Specific niche groups are hard to reach

You can make sure your ads reach a specific audience by setting certain parameters, including location, keywords, and language. However, if you’re trying to reach model railroad enthusiasts above the age of 50, you’re looking for an audience that’s too specific for Google AdWords to reach.

There is a learning curve

It will take some time to figure out the best way to use Google AdWords for your business. You’ll need to research keywords, track your success, and make adjustments accordingly. If you try to “set it and forget it” you won’t get a solid return on investment.

Setting up an account

Google has a great starter guide that offers step-by-step instructions on setting up an account, but just to give you an idea of what you’ll encounter, here are the basic steps:

  1. Enter your email address and set up a password
  2. Select a geographic region that you want your ads to reach
  3. Set up a daily budget and adjust the amount you want to pay per click
  4. Create an ad
  5. Select keywords
  6. Enter credit card

The set up process walks you through creating your first ad, but you can always stop and save your work at any point.

The anatomy of your ad

Your ad is made up of four parts: headline, URL, description line one, and description line two. Here are two examples:

The anatomy of your Google Ad.

The anatomy of your Google Ad.

Headline

You’re allowed 25 characters here, so make them count. Notice in the example above that your headline is bold, so select your words wisely. Try to use at least one of your keywords in the title.

URL

Where do you want customers to go when your ad is clicked? You’ll need to include a URL. Of course, the URL should take customers to a specific page that lets them follow through with the action. In other words, if you’re trying to get a customer to buy shoes, make sure the link takes them to a page to do that. You don’t want customers to arrive at your homepage and have to navigate to the shoe section.

Description lines

You only have 35 characters for each description line. Use this space to talk about your incentive or describe your product.

Tips to create a killer ad

Now that you know what your ad will look like, let’s talk about how to best use your ad space.

Focus on what makes you different

You need to stand out in a crowd, so your ad should focus on what sets your product or service apart.

Create a can’t-refuse offer

Incentives are always a great way to get customers to make a commitment. Whether you offer a discount, a trial offer, or a gift with purchase, an incentive can increase the likelihood of customers clicking your ad.

Create a clear call to action

What do you want customers to do when they click on your ad? Do you want them to make a purchase? RSVP for an event? Sign up for a consultation? Whatever it is, your call to action should be clear.

Keep it brief

Clearly, you don’t have a ton of real estate to play with. Your ad needs to accomplish its goal in a limited amount of space. Type your ad out on your laptop and see if there are any words that you can remove or replace with shorter ones.

Tips to select the right keywords for your ads

Of course, your ad is fueled by keywords. So, let’s talk about finding the right keywords for your ad.

Research keywords

Using the right keywords is crucial to your ad’s success. Many first time users assume they know exactly what customers search for to find their product or service online. While you might be on the right track, it’s important to research keywords before you commit to them.

How do you research keywords? Use Google’s Keyword Planner. Put in the keywords that you think customers use to find your product online. The planner will spit out a list of keywords that are similar to your search and give you an idea of how much the cost-per-click is. Here’s what it looks like:

You should research keywords.

You should research keywords.

Make a list of suitable keywords for your business. You can also export them from the planner to a spreadsheet.

Selecting the right keywords

If you’re just starting out, you’ll want to select five to eight keywords. Google AdWords suggests that you use up to 20 keywords, but the more keywords you use the more expensive your ad.

You want to select keywords that are relevant to your business. In other words, if you run a hair salon that offers affordable cuts, you’d use “affordable hair cut” as a keyword rather than “upscale salon.”

You’ll also want to use specific keywords. If you sell camera equipment, use keywords like “Canon T5i” rather than “digital cameras.” Now, Google AdWords suggests using a combination of general and specific keywords to increase your reach. That sounds great, but it’s better to attract a smaller number of customers who are interested in your products than it is to attract a larger number of customers who might be interested. Remember, Google wants more people to click on your ad so they make more money. You get a better return on investment if you target specific customers.

Select the right “match type”

You can decide how precise a customer’s search has to be for your ad to pop up. You can select broad match, phrase match, or exact match. For broad match, your ad can pop up with a broad range of keywords. For instance, if one of your keywords is “affordable hair cut” and a potential customer searches “cheap hair dos,” your ad will come up.

If you select phrase match, the search words must be in the right order. Again, if one of your keywords is “affordable hair cut” your ad would pop up if a potential customer looked up, “where can I find an affordable hair cut?” or “affordable hair cut near St. Paul, MN.”

If you select exact match, the search words must match exactly.

Your cheapest option is to select an exact match. Phrase match is a viable option too. Broad match will boost your reach, but your ad could also pop up for unrelated searches that aren’t useful to your business.

Final thoughts

Google AdWords can boost your website traffic, increase leads, and give you a bump in sales. However, it does require a time investment. Most entrepreneurs learn through trial and error, so start small and make adjustments as you go. With each ad, you’ll learn something new that you can apply to your next campaign.

If you’re ready to get started, head over to the Google AdWords homepage. Once you’ve created an ad, we’d love to hear about your experience. Feel free to share your tips with other beginners in the comment section below.

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Lisa Furgison
Lisa Furgison

Lisa Furgison is a journalist with a decade of experience in all facets of media.