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Google AdWords advertising: Intro for startups and small businesses

What is Google AdWords advertising anyway?

First things first. Not everyone has heard of AdWords. So basically, Google AdWords advertising service is a self-service ad platform that lets you advertise your products and services. These advertisements are shown on various Google products like search, email and even on third party websites that have partnered with Google.

People are shown these ads whenever they search for particular products or services on Google or when they visit Google partnered websites. When they click on these ads, the ads redirect them to a website or an app for completing various objectives, as given below

What can you use Google AdWords for?

Google AdWords advertising can be used by any business to fulfill a number of objectives including:

  1. Brand awareness
  2. Lead Generation
  3. Driving online sales
  4. App installs

Why startups and small businesses can’t escape Google AdWords advertising

Pseudo online marketing gurus often tell startups and small businesses that Google AdWords advertising is too expensive. That they should try other organic means of generating traffic and revenue. But more often than not, these gurus are just that – pseudo! They don’t understand breakeven economics. Most of them have never helped a decent sized business either!

Agreed, businesses do need to harness organic means of traffic generation like SEO. But that does not mean that they can do away with AdWords completely. Google is the biggest search engine in the world by market share. When most people look for a product or service online, they inevitably turn to Google. So however much you want to try and grow your business organically, you can’t ignore this huge mass of people searching online through Google. Besides, most startups have grown big by using Google AdWords.

Advantages of Google AdWords advertising

Indicates purchase intent of customers

A customer who searches for a product or service pretty much has an intention to buy it. It’s a proven and tested phenomenon. They may do some research before they buy but the purchase intention is pretty much there. It’s why funded companies spend millions on AdWords. To capture that purchase intent and to convert it into sales and revenues.

Flexible enough to achieve a variety of objectives

As discussed earlier in this article, AdWords can help a business a range of objectives, right from driving revenues to brand awareness. This is important as it helps support business growth. When a business is small it typically needs revenue generation over brand awareness. As it grows, brand awareness grows in importance. AdWords is flexible enough to accommodate these changes. It can power a small bootstrapped business to a mega corporation. Hence you can take up AdWords when you start your business and retain all the data and intelligence within the same platform to help you scale up.

Targets all platforms – mobile, web and apps

AdWords can help businesses target their customers regardless of what platform they’re using. So whether your customers use desktops, tablets, mobile browsers, Android or iOS apps, AdWords will help you reach out to your customers. In fact, AdWords is flexible enough to target these people even if they’re moving across platforms. For example, someone may use an iPad at home, use an Android phone while commuting and a windows machine at work. AdWords will be able to target the same person across these platforms. This increases the possibility of converting them to whatever objective you want to achieve.

Conversion driven system

AdWords allows you to set up goals and have the system work towards achieving those goals. For example, some of these goals can be getting clicks to your site, getting installs of your app, getting adds to carts or purchases of your products etc. So if you’re an e-commerce business, you can set up the system to achieve purchases. It will then show your ad to people who’re most likely to buy from you.

Allows remarketing

You must’ve noticed that when you see (but don’t buy) products on big e-commerce sites, you get followed around by their ads even on other sites. This following around makes a huge difference and it actually the secret sauce of selling through online ads. AdWords allows you to remarket to your audience so that you can follow them around until they make up their mind to transact with you.

Integrates with analytics

Google AdWords integrates nicely with Google analytics (both of them being Google products). You’ll be able to dice and dissect your data in many ways and gain new insights into your customers.


Disadvantages of Google AdWords advertising


AdWords is a very expensive form of advertising, far more expensive than Facebook ads. A click on AdWords can be around 2-3X the cost of one on Facebook ads. Also, AdWords prices have inflated over the years. For example, keywords related to the food industry used to cost 5 cents a click way back in 2004. Similar keywords now cost upwards of 3 US$! So costs have ballooned, largely due to increase in demand for AdWords and competitive bidding by businesses.

Needs time to generate ROI

Due to its high prices, AdWords can take long to break even and generate a positive ROI. Many businesses make the mistake of expecting overnight results. But AdWords doesn’t work that way. You have to try a lot of permutations and combinations and refine your campaigns as you go along. Sometimes it can take months or even years for getting positive ROI. But ultimately you do get there, provided of course you do things right!

Requires regular “maintenance”

Another mistake which people make while using AdWords is to set and forget. They set up campaigns and then log in only periodically – say once a week or even once a month. You just can’t do that! Using AdWords means you have to aim for continuous improvement. That means logging in at least once a day and checking on the health of your campaigns. Which of your keywords are working out, which ones aren’t? Which of your ads are giving results, which ones are just eating up budget? You have to check these things on a daily basis. So AdWords is definitely a high maintenance ad platform.

Steep learning curve

There’s a labyrinth of settings available in Google AdWords advertising. There are campaign settings, ad group settings, keyword settings and even ad settings. You can add ad extensions and negative keywords at a campaign or ad group level. Or you can choose from a variety of goals. And you can also tweak and fine tune almost every aspect of your campaign. All of this can be mind boggling and far too much to soak in for a newbie. And be mindful that while you’re struggling to get a hold of your AdWords campaigns, your budget is burning away!

Complex to operate

Due to the steep learning curve and also due to the regular maintenance requirement, it can be complex to operate, at least initially. For example, you may change a bunch of settings on day 1 and monitor things for a week. But these changes may not work out and you may want to change things back to the way they were. This is when you may have a hard time remembering what you changed. Even if you do remember, you may not know which of the changes you want to undo and which ones you’d like to maintain. Especially when you’re new at it and haven’t figured out causes and effects of the system yet.

Less targeting options as compared to Facebook ads

Even with the multitudes of setting available on AdWords, it still doesn’t have nearly as many targeting options as Facebook ads. For example, Facebook ads allows you to profile visitors to your site or app and then target other people with similar characteristics. Also Facebook ads lets you target people by job designation, travel activities, propensity to use particular products etc. All these options come in really handy when trying to understand your target audience and getting them to transact. But unfortunately, AdWords offers none of them! All the more reason to use Facebook and AdWords together!

Types of Google AdWords advertising


Everyone who has ever used Google search has surely come across search advertising at some point of time in their lives. These the ads that show up before the organic search results when someone does a Google search.

Search ads bring highly relevant results since they’re targeted at people searching for something specific e.g. blue shoes online. The click through rate (CTR) or the % of people clicking the ad out of those seeing the ad, tends to be very high for search ads. (If it’s not then you’re doing something wrong with your campaign!)


Display ads are the ones you see when you’re browsing websites and apps. They appear as a combination of text, images and videos at these places, hoping to get your attention. ‘Hoping’ is an important word here. CTR for display ads generally tends to be lower than that for search ads. If you haven’t placed your ads on the right kind of sites/apps, it can go even lower. E.g. If you’re advertising a travel service on a fashion website, your ad may not get much attention.

However, display ads can be highly relevant if used for remarketing. In this case, the ads are only shown to people who’ve shown an interest in your products or services earlier. Remarketing ads used in this way are highly effective at driving conversions.

Universal app campaigns

These are automated ads recently started by Google. They are exclusively used for app installs. You just enter a few lines of text and the ads pull images & videos from your play store listings to generate ads on search & display networks, YouTube and play store. These kind of ads are highly effective at generating app installs.

Alternatives to Google AdWords advertising

Below are some alternatives to using Google AdWords.

  1. Facebook ads
  2. Twitter ads
  3. SEO
  4. Email marketing

However, Google AdWords advertising has become such an integral part of online marketing that even if you’re using any of the alternatives, you just can’t ignore AdWords. This is especially true in developing countries like India where majority of the internet usage happens through android devices. Thus, Google touches almost every internet user.

We understand the managing your own Google advertising campaigns can be daunting. If you’re looking for a google AdWords management company that has the skills to bring you results then look no further! Give us a shout.

Last but not least, this post would be incomplete without giving you the google adwords sign in link!

What has been your experience with AdWords? Or do you prefer to use the alternatives? Let us know through your comments!