Google AdWords: When Organic Doesn’t Cut It

What is it?

It’s paid search.

“Paid search” is when a website owner pays an advertising fee to have their site shown in a top placement on someone’s search engine results for key terms. In contrast, “Organic search” is when a website owner doesn’t pay the search engine for a top placement in someone’s search results for key terms. To acquire this free VIP spot, their high ranking is based on a myriad a factors, some transparent and some opaque.

It’s PPC and CPM advertising.

“Pay-per-click” (PPC) advertising is when a website owner pays only when someone clicks on their ad and ends up visiting their website. If no one clicks, the owner doesn’t pay. “Cost-per-thousand” (CPM) advertising requires a website owner to pay a set amount to get a thousand impressions.[1] An “impression” is when a potential visitor sees the website owner’s ad. With CPM ads, the website owner always pays, even if s/he gets no clicks on their ad and therefore no visits to their website.

It’s a cash cow.

Google AdWords is Google’s main advertising product, which generated $28 billion in 2010 revenue.[2]

It was Bill Gross’ idea.

The original idea was conceived by Bill Gross of Idealab, who was inspired by the Yellow Pages’ business model. Google liked Bill’s idea and tried to buy it off him, but Bill refused to sell. So… Google launched its own, very similar, advertising solution in 2000 called AdWords. Needless to say, Bill was unhappy about Google’s underhanded course of action and took legal action. A few years later, Bill settled with Google out of court.[3]

How does it work?

You pay to appear.

A website owner creates a campaign (a collection of ads) based off of keywords (words or phrases related to the owner’s website). When people search on Google using any of those keywords, the owner’s ad appears next to or above the search results. When someone clicks on the owner’s  ad, the person then lands on the owner’s website.

It’s generally much faster to improve a website’s ranking via paid listings. That said, organic listings tend to produce a lot more site traffic for the same search phrase.  According to recent research, users are three to five times as likely to click on a site in the organic search engine listings than to click on the paid listings.[4]

You pay on a bidding system.

The ordering of a website owner’s paid listing depends on what the other website owners with paid listings bid for their paid listing. Google assigns a “quality score” to all ads in a given search. Apparently, this quality score is based on the underlying website’s historical click-through rates; the relevance of the ad’s text to the keyword search terms and the keywords in the underlying site’s content; the website owner’s account history; and other more mysterious factors.


How do I get started?

Setting up an account is easy.

It only takes a few minutes to set one up. It’s a very intuitive (dummy-proof) process that doesn’t require a lot of personal information.

But… setting up an effective campaign isn’t so easy. It requires a lot of thought and personal data like billing information. I strongly suggest you watch the following tutorial about how to set up a campaign on Google’s YouTube channel, ‘Google Business:’


How do I know it’s effective?

Two words: Google Analytics.

Like setting up an effective campaign, this isn’t very easy to explain. If you happen to be in the MCDM graduate program at the University of Washington, I strongly recommend that you take COM 591 (Theory to Application) in Winter Quarter. If you aren’t in the program, I recommend you watch the following Google Business tutorial:

Will I actually use this?


My blog, Roanoke Ruminations, is a collection of my domestic musings. I am not trying to sell a product nor a service.  That said, if you are a small business owner, this tool could be very effective. It can make your marketing efforts very targeted; regional, seasonal and demographic-specific. Since the billing is set via the max budget you enter into AdWords, you can control how much you spend. That said, I asked an SEO specialist that works for my company about how much it generally costs to create an effective AdWords campaign and she said “its good to start with a small budget and then go from there” (to see if its in line with your ROI goals). I asked her to define “small” and she said around $500 a month or $100 per week. Yipes!

[1] Reggie (2011). PPC vs CPM ads, What converts better? Retrieved on December 1, 2011.

[2] Wikipedia (2011). AdWords. Retrieved on December 1, 2011.

[3] Wikipedia (2011). AdWords. Retrieved on December 1, 2011.


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