An Introduction to Google Ads: A Beginner’s Guide

If you’ve ever spent any time at all on Google, you’ll at least have heard of Google Ads. If you’re a business, you may have considered using them or tried them out for yourself.

If you’ve yet to take that first step or have been left a bit overwhelmed by it, don’t worry. The basics can be picked up by anyone with a little time and patience, and this beginner’s guide to Google Ads will help you set up your first ad and more.

What is Google Ads?

Ad results on Google Search - beginner's guide to google ads

Google ads is the most widely used Pay Per Click (PPC) platform in the world. You create your advert and set your budget, and Google Ads shows it to users who are likely to be interested. The ads can show up in a number of places including on Google itself, across Google products such as YouTube and Gmail, and on Google partner sites.

Set Up Your Account

If you don’t already have an account, you’ll need to create one. You can find instructions for doing this here.


Google Ads is an auction where you bid on keywords and, each time a user searches that keyword, Google runs the auction and shows the winning ads.

But the winning ads aren’t necessarily the ones from the advertiser who has bid the most. Google also takes into consideration the relevance of your ad, measured by a Quality Score.

The advantage of this method is that you can get excellent value for money while only showing your adverts to relevant people. In many other forms of advertising, you spend your money and are seen by anyone or everyone, regardless of their interest in your product or service. With Google Ads, you only show up in front of those people who are likely to have an interest in what you’re promoting, and who may even be actively looking for it.

There are only a certain number of advertising slots available, so it’s important to give your ads the best chance at showing up. The more successful your ad, the more likely Google is to place it in the most desirable advertising slots.

Quality Score is calculated by Google based on how relevant it deems your advertisement and landing page to be to the keywords you are bidding on. It then assigns you a mark between 1 and 10 – 10 being very relevant, and 1 being not relevant at all.

During the auction, Google multiplies your Quality Score by your maximum cost per click (Max CPC – how much you’re willing to pay when someone clicks on your ad) to give you an overall score.

For example:

  • Takeaway A has a Max CPC of 40p and a Quality Score of 3 = a score of 120.
  • Takeaway B has a Max CPC of 30p and a Quality Score of 9 = a score of 270.

Takeaway B will get the better advertising slot, because their overall score is better.

If, on the other hand, Takeaway A had a Max CPC of £1 (100p), their overall score would be 300, and so they would receive the top spot.

So, as you can see, focusing on a high Quality Score not only means that searchers are more likely to be interested in your ad, it’s also more cost effective.

Campaigns and Ad Groups

Your Google Ads account is split into Campaigns, which are broken further down into Ad Groups, which is again broken down into Ads, which we’ll talk about a little later. You can have multiple Campaigns and multiple Ad Groups depending on your requirements and preferences.


A Campaign is where you set your budget and apply settings that will be relevant to all the Ad Sets in that Campaign. The settings include such things as location (where your ad will show up), language, ad type, and device targeting (which devices your ads are shown on).

This is where you adjust your settings with a focus on your overall advertising goal and the actions you want customers to take.

Campaign Types

There are a number of different campaign types, and which you use will depend on your advertising goals. Each campaign type offers a range of options and types of ads.

Search Campaigns are text-only and show up in Google Search. You can also opt to have these show up on Google Partner sites by selecting Search Network.

Search Network with Display Expansion Campaigns Your ads appear on Google search, Google’s search partner sites, and Display Network sites.

Display These ads make use of image and video and are shown on Google partner sites.

Smart Campaigns These are particularly good options for small business owners. You choose some basic information such as budget and business goals and then the Google ads does the best, monitoring the ads and adjusting them to get the best results.

Shopping ads on Google

Shopping Showcase your products, with an image and basic info, on the Google search page.

Video Adverts on YouTube, before, during or after a video.

App Promote your app and encourage downloads. These ads can include image and video.

Discovery Allows mobile users to find content that is relevant to them, without necessarily searching for it. Google shows your ads in places such as YouTube and Gmail, to users whose activity suggests they’d be interested in your ad.

Ad Groups

Ad Groups are containers for your actual ads (i.e. what will be seen by your target audience) and are where you select the keywords you want your ad to show up for.

Although you can create your ads and select your target keywords, you can’t control which ad shows up for which keyword, so it’s important to include only a small number of themed keywords in every ad group. That way, you can design ads that are highly relevant and will gain you a high Quality Score.


Keywords are search words or phrases that cause your ads to show up when people enter them into sites such as Google. When you choose keywords for your ads to show up again, this is called targeting.

It’s important to choose keywords that are going to be relevant for your ads. If you’re advertising a takeaway and you use a keyword like ‘restaurant’, this isn’t relevant, because anyone searching that keyword is more likely to be looking for somewhere to sit in for a meal.

You should also try and find keywords that are used on a semi-regular to regular basis. If you target a keyword that no one ever actually searches, then your ad just won’t be seen.

On the flip side, if you choose a very common keyword that lots of advertisers are targeting, you will either show up less, or have to pay more to get a good position.

Like with Search Engine Optimisation, you may need to experiment a bit to find a good balance between popularity and relevance: make sure you do plenty of keyword research.

Once you have been running ads for a little while, you can see which searches trigger your ads by going to Keywords > Search Terms in the Google Ads menu. By using this, you can narrow down your keywords and adjust them to get more effective results.

Keyword match types

When you select a keyword, you also get the option to pick a match type. This identifies how exact you want Google to be when showing your ads.

Broad Match

Enter the keyword with no additional markers.

Google will take your ad and show it to people who search for your keyword, but also to people who are searching for similar keywords. These similar keywords may or may not include your target keyword.

For example, if you target ‘takeaway pizza Cumbria’, your ad may be shown to people searching ‘takeaway pizza Cumbria’, ‘takeaway pizza Cockermouth’, or ‘Cumbrian takeaway’.

This gives you the broadest range of possible views, but you may end up showing up in irrelevant searches and it will be more difficult to get a good Quality Score.

Modified broad keywords

Use the “+” symbol to indicate this (e.g. +takeaway +pizza +Cumbria).

Your ad will be shown in searches using all words with a “+”, in any order. They may also be shown for close match searches. For example ‘takeout pizza Cumbria’ and ‘Cumbria pizza takeaway’.

You don’t have to use the “+” symbol on every word if you have a multi-word keyword. You can, for example, use ‘+takeaway pizza +Cumbria’ to show up in searches such as “Cumbria takeaway”.

This option allows you to still reach a larger audience, though it will still make it more difficult to create a highly relevant ad.

Phrase match keywords

Wrap your keyword with quotation marks.

Google will show your ads to people searching the exact phrase (or a very similar phrase) with additional words on either side of your phrase. For example, an ad targeting ‘takeaway pizza Cumbria’ will show up for ‘best takeaway pizza Cumbria’ but not for ‘best takeaway pepperoni pizza Cumbria’.

By being more specific in the phrases you target, you may be minimising your potential audience, but you are more likely to be relevant to those who are searching, and it’s therefore more likely they will click on your ad.

NB: Rolling out from February 18th and by July 2021, phrase match will expand to cover additional broad match modifier traffic, while continuing to respect word order when it’s important to the meaning.

Exact match keywords

Wrap your keyword with square brackets: [takeaway pizza Cumbria].

Your ad will show up for searches using that exact phrase, or for phrases with close variations or meaning the same thing. For example ‘takeout pizza cumbria’.

This allows you to target users very closely, increasing your chances of a very relevant result. However, it can limit your audience, especially if you are using a phrase that doesn’t see many hits.

Negative keywords

Negative keywords allow you to tell Google what searches you don’t want your ad showing up for. You can use the same match types here, though it’s best to use exact matches and phrase matches.

An example of a negative keyword for ‘takeaway pizza Cumbria’ would be ‘takeaway kebab Cumbria’.


Breakdown of Google Ads results

Your ad is made up of several parts, and Google gives you control over almost all of these. What’s available to you will depend on the type of ad you’ve chosen, and not all sections will show on every ad all of the time. As you create the ad, Google will indicate what will show where and when.

The main sections of your ad are:
Headline 1 (30 characters)

  • Headline 2 (30 characters)
  • Headline 3 (30 characters)
  • Description 1 (90 characters)
  • Description 2 (90 characters)
  • Path 1 (15 characters)
  • Path 2 (15 characters)

You will also have an image for display ads, video for video ads, and various other options when creating your ad. However, these above are the most important.

It’s useful to have a few ads per ad group, so you can test the effectiveness of your copy, and so that the auction algorithm has more information to use when assigning an Ad Rank.

Ad types

Depending on the campaign type chosen, you will have options for the types of ads available to you. Some of the most common include:

Text Text only ads that should include a call to action (CTA), a clear headline, and a brief description.

Dynamic Give Google a selection of headlines, calls to action, and descriptions, and its AI will mix and match these when serving your ads in order to get the best results.

Video Use video to engage your audience.

Landing Pages

Landing pages are the pages on your website where the user ends up when they click on your ad. To help your Quality Score, it’s important that these are highly relevant to your ad. For example, if you’re advertising your takeaway pizza products, it’s better to have a landing page that’s specifically about pizza, rather than your website homepage.


Metrics tell you how your ad is doing. It’s helpful to measure these, and Google Ads provide lots of information to help you monitor your ads. Some of the most commonly useful metrics are:

Cost Per Click (CPC) or Cost Per Engagement The number of clicks on your ad divided by your total spend. This is good for seeing how costly your ad is.

Impressions How many times your ad has been seen (but not necessarily clicked on)

Total Spend How much you’ve spent on your Campaign within a certain period.

Click Through Rate (CTR) or Interaction Rate The percentage of times people have clicked on your ad compared to how many impressions it has ad. The higher the CTR, the better.

Cost Per Conversion A conversion can be anything from buying a product to submitting a contact form, from making a phone call to downloading an app. You will need to define your conversions in order for Google to track them. The Cost Per Conversion tells you how much you spend for every person who converts on your website.

There are also many more metrics that you can measure, and your strategy and plan should help you identify which ones you would like to monitor.

Google Analytics

To dig even deeper into your metrics, connect your Google Ads account with Google Analytics. That way you can get more information about your audience, how they behave when they land on your website, and if there are any issues with the customer journey. Take a look at my guide to Google Analytics.


While Google Ads has many advanced features that require expert management and understanding, there’s also a lot you can do with the basic options. With so much flexibility, helpful metrics, and cost-effective options, Google Ads is a highly appealing option for any business interested in paid advertising.

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