SEM101: What is Google Adwords?

As a small business owner, your time is crucial, so I won’t waste it. If you’re looking to find out what is Google AdWords, you come to the right place. I’m going to take you through the need to knows in plain English.

We are talking strictly about paid advertising here, not organic listings. By using Google Adwords you can shoot to the top spot of Google in a matter of hours. Not waiting.

But let’s get into what you’re here for!

What is Google AdWords?

Google Adwords is a service provided by Google for business small or large to put ads on their search results page and partner network. Adwords lets you set your own budget and you only pay for a click on your ad.

Adwords advertising is focused on keywords that you choose to target when people search. Once triggered your keyword will display an ad. Google has a huge reach, so Adwords offers a unique opportunity to reach a large market for a small budget.

Now let’s cover off the fundamentals you need to know to get started.

Google Adwords Fundamentals

There are many components that make up Google Adwords but the key things to understand from the get go include:

  1. Quality Score
  2. Bidding
  3. Auction

Quality Score

Quality score is the most important metric you should look to improve in Google Adwords. Why? It can drastically reduce the cost you pay for a click and that has an obvious impact on your overall results.

To determine quality score Google looks at 3 things:

  1. Your expected click through rate
  2. Ad relevancy
  3. Landing page experience

It’s designed to make sure the ad with the best experience for the user appears first. When an auction takes place ad rank is determined by quality score * bid.

For example, 2 advertisers have the exact same maximum bid. But one advertiser has a Quality Score of 10 and the other 8. The advertiser with the Quality score of 10 will appear in spot 1. But this advertiser will also pay less for the click then the advertiser in spot 2.

Can you see why quality score is so important?


Now I have already mentioned that you pay Google each time one of your ads is clicked. But the maximum price you pay is determined by you. This is known as your max CPC.

You can pick this amount for an ad group or even for each individual keyword. But there are other automated bidding options that let Google do the bidding for you. These strategies include:

  1. Target CPA – this optimises your bids to a target cost you’re willing to pay for a conversion.
  2. Target ROAS – this targets a specific return on your advertising spend.
  3. Maximise Conversions – this will get as many conversions as possible with your budget
  4. Enhanced CPC – this is the only automated bidding strategy I would recommend. It can be used with manual CPC but it will increase your bid on a click that’s likely to convert.

While these may sound appealing. I often find it much better to stick with manual CPC to give you ultimate control of what you spend.


Before starting Adwords it’s important to understand how the auction works. Every single time a Google Search takes place and an ad is eligible to show an auction happens.
The auction determines which ad take what postion in the search results. Here’s the basics:

  1. A search occurs. Adwords finds all the advertisers keywords matching the search.
  2. Ineligible ads are eliminated.
  3. Of those left, the ads with the highest ad rank show. Remember ad rank is determined by your bid and quality score

Keyword Match Types

Keyword match types are the final Google Adwords fundamental I will cover. Understanding how each match type works is crucial to fully utilise your account.

There are 5 match types:

  1. Broad match
  2. Broad match modifier
  3. Phrase match
  4. Exact match
  5. Negative Match

Broad match

This is the default match type and ads can show on pretty much any variation, misspelling, synonyms and anything Google deems relevant. Obviously, this results in a lot of irrelevant crap that your ads show for.

Broad match modifier

Broad match modifier is a great match type. Your ads will show on searches that contain the modified terms, in any order. This gives you control over what search your ads will appear for but also allow for you to capture the most clicks possible.

To use the match type use the + symbol before each keyword. For example, +mens +clothing +online. This keyword could show your ads if someone searched, “online mens clothing sydney”.

Phrase match

Your ads can show for phrases you define. To use this match type have the keyword inside quotation marks. For example, “mens clothing online” ads could display for, “buy men’s clothing online Sydney”.

Exact match

Ads may show on searches that are an exact term and close variations of your keyword. To use this match type include your [keyword] inside square brackets. For example, [women’s active wear].

Negative match

Negative match prevents your ads from showing for particular keywords. For example, you have a negative keyword “free” and the keyword your targeting is +marketing +services +sydney. Your ads will not show for “free marketing services Sydney”.

Now you have learnt the basic of what is Google Adwords, you’re well positioned to expand your knowledge and starting running successful campaigns. If you want to learn help getting started with Google Adwords check out our SEM services for small business.