Google AdWords — How It Works, Why You Need It, When To Use It

By Blue Star Design / 05 Jan 2018

Search.jpgGoogle AdWords is the system that puts all those ads at the top of your Google search results. Companies invest in AdWords because it’s a savvy companion to traditional search engine optimization. 

That being said, we did not say AdWords is superior to traditional, or organic, SEO. AdWords can produce speedy returns on your investment. Indeed, the cash can start rolling in almost immediately — if you know what you’re doing. 

If you don’t know what you’re doing, however, you can blow through a fortune on AdWords so fast you’ll wonder what hit your bank account. Don’t get us wrong: AdWords can work wonders. After all, it propelled Google to the tech-leviathan status it enjoys today.

Companies would not use AdWords it if didn't produce healthy returns on their investments. The key, however, is understanding what you’re dealing with.

What is AdWords?

AdWords lets you bid on keywords in an automated online auction. If you win the auction, ads for your business show up at the top of Google’s search engine return pages (SERPs). SEO experts call this “paid” search because you pay a fee every time somebody clicks on your ad.

Organic SEO, by contrast, doesn’t require you to pay when somebody clicks. But you still have to pay: Somebody has to produce your content and tweak it to get the highest possible SERP ranking.

In addition to search pages, AdWords appears in:

  • Display ads in Gmail and other Google apps.
  • Video ads on YouTube and other platforms.
  • Ads that appear in your app, if you have one.

AdWords works by letting you bid on a combination of keywords most relevant to your business. You compete with other companies bidding on the same keywords.

It’s not just a matter of throwing money at keywords in the AdWords auction. Google’s AdWords algorithm assesses the quality of your bid and compares it with all your competitors’ bids. You don’t necessarily win by paying the most in the auction. You win by outscoring your rivals in AdWords’ quality rankings. 

While picking the right keywords and earning the top quality ranking are straightforward concepts, they are extremely complex to implement. Your AdWords campaign must include:

  • An attractive offer that appeals to your target buyer.
  • Comprehensive, strategic keyword research and analysis.
  • An accurate estimate of your budget.

 To get a deeper understanding of how AdWords works, check out this article from SEO expert Neil Patel.

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Why do companies use AdWords?

AdWords has three fundamental benefits:

  • It’s fast: AdWords can start paying right away, unlike organic SEO, which can take months or even years to produce high rankings and a strong ROI.  
  • It’s measurable: AdWords includes a suite of tools to show you what’s working and help you tweak your campaign to maximize performance. If your campaign isn’t working this week, you can adjust next week, guided by accurate data. That’s a vast contrast from organic SEO, which depends heavily on Google algorithms and other factors you cannot control.
  • It’s performance-driven: You’re not paying people to look at your ad — you’re paying when they click. You can optimize your ads and your content to encourage clicking, and measure your conversion rates at every step.

Bear in mind, of course, that you must master the intricacies of AdWords auctions and keyword selection to enjoy these advantages.

And don’t forget that you still need organic SEO because you’re going to need revenue next year as well as next week. People will naturally go online to find out about businesses. If they can’t find your business online, they’ll probably find your competitors.

AdWords is a crucial component of a savvy SEO strategy. You use AdWords where it can do the most short-term good, while you let organic SEO work its wonders over the long term.

When is AdWords a poor fit?

AdWords can teach you expensive lessons if your company isn’t a good fit. A few factors can undermine your AdWords efforts:

  • Outdated or incomplete content: Your AdWords campaign directs people to your website. If they don't like what they find or if your content is out of date, they probably won’t feel compelled to buy what you’re selling. Hence, it’s a good idea to update your website before you start investing in AdWords.
  • Lack of budget or expensive keywords: You need to have enough free cash to invest in a campaign that makes a significant impact on your revenues. If all the keywords relevant to your business have high cost-per-click rates, you might not be able to make much headway with AdWords.
  • Hard-to-find audience: You have to understand who is looking for your business and your products. If you’re introducing a brand-new product that people are not searching for, then AdWords might not attract them. Another challenge: Your company might offer a broad spectrum of services that are tough to boil down into an online ad.

Closing the AdWords expertise gap

AdWords is as complex as the markets it serves. Some people can figure it out on their own and start cashing in right away. Others can pour thousands of dollars into AdWords campaigns and have nothing to show for their efforts.

A lot depends on your competitive landscape. If you see a lot of ads for your competition on Google, you need an AdWords strategy that will help you outmaneuver them.

If your competition isn’t using AdWords, you might enjoy a short-term edge, but your investments may inspire competitors to jump into the ring as well. If that happens, they can spoil all your fun in short order. 

The wise choice is working with a partner who has broad experience in both AdWords and organic search. At Blue Star Design, we’ve helped a range of clients improve their search rankings and drive revenue from AdWords campaigns.

Call us today to set up an SEO consultation.

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