Google Ads An In Depth Guide to Understanding and Using the Platform

What Is Google Ads?

Google Ads is an online advertising platform developed by Google, where advertisers pay to display brief advertisements, service offerings, product listings, video content, and generate mobile application installs within the Google ad network to web users.

When you conduct a Google search, you might notice an advertisement at the top of the search results, labeled as such. This is an example of a Google ad.

However, this is merely one form of Google advertising and is limited to a single location.

In this piece, we will explore various types of Google ads, their functionalities, and how you can initiate your own advertising campaign.

Let’s begin with the fundamentals of Google Ads.

Understanding Google Ads

Google Ads, formerly known as Google AdWords, is an online advertising platform that enables businesses to promote their products or services across various Google online properties, including its search engine, partner websites, and YouTube.

The Google Ads overview dashboard provides a snapshot of your advertising campaigns.

It’s important to note the distinction between “Google Ads,” which refers to the advertising platform, and “Google ads,” which are the actual advertisements displayed on Google properties.

Advertisers pay a fee for their ads to appear on Google, with the cost determined through a process called “bidding.” Bidding is akin to an auction, where businesses set the maximum amount they are willing to pay for a click on their ads.

But why choose paid ads when there are free listings on Google, known as organic results? Organic results are displayed based on their relevance to users’ search queries, with Google using numerous factors to rank them organically. This is in contrast to how Google selects which ads to display, a topic we’ll delve into in the “How Does Google Ads Work” section below.

Why Use Google Ads?

Google Ads offers several compelling benefits for businesses looking to increase their online visibility and reach their target audience effectively.

The benefits of Google Ads include:

Immediate Visibility:

Google Ads ensures that your ads are displayed promptly based on factors like bid amount and ad quality. This means your new product launch or special promotion can get immediate attention without a long waiting period.


Google Ads provides a range of ad formats, including text, images, and videos, to suit different business needs. This flexibility allows you to convey your message effectively to your audience.

Precise Targeting:

Google Ads provides precise targeting options, allowing you to focus your ads on specific age groups, interests, or geographic areas.

For instance, a local restaurant can target ads to individuals interested in “Food & Dining.” Google determines these interests based on users’ search history, websites visited, and apps used, ensuring the restaurant reaches an audience actively seeking culinary experiences.

This targeted approach increases the likelihood of engaging with interested potential customers.


Google Ads allows you to re-engage users who have previously visited your website but did not complete a desired action, such as making a purchase. This helps keep your brand top-of-mind and increases the chances of conversion.


Google Ads’ primary pricing model is pay-per-click (PPC), where you are charged only when someone clicks on your ad. The platform also offers other pricing options like cost per thousand impressions (CPM) and cost per action (CPA), allowing you to choose the most cost-effective model for your campaign goals.

Measurable Results:

Google Ads provides comprehensive performance reports that allow you to track various metrics, including views, clicks, and conversions. This data helps you identify the best-performing ads, allocate your budget more efficiently, and refine your targeting for better results.

Overall, Google Ads can help you achieve various advertising goals, such as increasing website traffic, capturing leads, and driving sales. However, the success of your ads depends on several factors, including the type of Google paid ads you choose and how well you optimize your campaigns.

Types of Google Ads

Here are five types of Google ads:

1. Google Search Ads

Google Search Ads are displayed on Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs) when users search for specific keywords. These ads are tailored to match the intent of the user’s search query, ensuring they connect with potential customers actively seeking related products or services.

One example of a Google search ad is shown for the query “buy firm mattress online.”

These ads typically appear at the top or bottom of Google’s SERP and can vary in number based on the query’s popularity.

Google search ads consist of three main elements:

  1. Title & description: These provide a brief overview of the product or service being advertised.
  2. Ad Assets: Formerly known as extensions, these include additional details like specific page links, which can be selected during ad setup.

For example, if someone searches for “best running shoes,” a shoe store can display its ad at the top of the search results, ensuring high visibility and potential customer engagement.

To simplify the setup of Search campaigns, the Ads Launch Assistant app can be used. This app allows you to manage Google Ads campaigns from start to finish using AI.

Simply enter your URL, language, and location to receive keyword suggestions and AI-generated ad copy. Confirm your campaign, select your budget, and start your Google Ads campaign easily.

2. Google Display Ads

Google Display Network (GDN) ads are visual advertisements that appear on websites, apps, and other digital platforms that have partnered with Google to display ads. These platforms collaborate with Google through AdSense, enabling them to display relevant ads served by Google to their visitors.

Here’s an example of a Google display ad on the Washington Post website:

Website owners can choose to display these ads in various locations on a webpage, such as the top (banner), sidebar, or footer.

Unlike Google Search ads, which appear based on specific search queries, Google Display ads target individuals based on their interests or the content they are viewing. For example, if someone frequently reads articles about fitness, they might see an ad for running shoes when visiting a news website. This targeting is based on the user’s interests, even if they are not actively searching for running shoes at that moment.

This approach allows advertisers to reach a broader audience and target individuals based on their interests and browsing behavior, rather than just specific search terms.

3. Google Shopping Ads

Google Shopping Ads are designed to showcase products directly within Google’s search results, displaying an image, price, and store name. These ads appear when users search for specific products on Google, providing a visual and detailed presentation of the product.

For example, when users search for “buy waterproof house mat,” they will see Google Shopping Ads displaying various waterproof house mats from different stores.

The main benefit of Google Shopping Ads is their visual and detailed product presentation, providing users with a digital storefront experience on Google. When users search for terms like “wireless headphones,” they will see a range of products with images and prices, enabling them to compare and choose the product that best suits their needs directly from the search results.

4. Google Video Ads

Google video ads are advertisements that appear on YouTube. These ads can play before, during, or after a user’s selected video, known as pre-roll, mid-roll, and post-roll ads respectively.

For example, a pre-roll ad may play before the start of a video on YouTube.

These ads leverage the power of visuals, sound, and storytelling to evoke emotions, demonstrate product functionality, or entertain viewers, making them memorable.

With YouTube being one of the largest search engines globally, video ads can help you reach a large audience. You can target your video ads based on specific viewer interests, demographics, or the type of content they are watching. For instance, a cosmetic brand might target viewers watching beauty tutorials, while a travel agency might target viewers watching travel vlogs or destination reviews, ensuring their ads are relevant and timely.

5. Google App Ads

Google app ads are designed to help you promote your mobile application to the right audience. You provide essential elements like text and images, and Google automatically creates various ad formats that can appear in multiple locations across Google’s ecosystem, including its search engine, Google Play Store, YouTube, and the Google Display Network.

For example, a Google app ad on YouTube may prompt users to download the app directly from the ad.

There are three subtypes of app campaigns based on goals:

  1. App Installs: Aimed at increasing the number of people downloading your app.
  2. App Engagement: Focuses on encouraging current users to interact more with your app.
  3. App Pre-Registration: Allows Android users to sign up to receive a notification when a new app becomes available.

How Does Google Ads Work?

Google Ads displays advertisements based on several factors, including your bid, the ad’s relevance to users, and its quality.

This ensures that users see ads that align with their interests and needs, while also helping advertisers reach audiences that are more likely to convert. By targeting ads based on these factors, Google Ads aims to provide a more relevant and personalized advertising experience for both users and advertisers.

So, let’s first understand the key concepts in Google Ads:

Google Ads Auction

When a user searches on Google or visits a site in the Google Display Network, an automated auction occurs based on your preset settings. In this auction, you and other advertisers bid to have your ads displayed.

In your Google Ads account, you set the maximum amount you’re willing to pay for a click or impression, known as your bid.

The auction then determines which ads get displayed and where they appear.

However, securing a prominent position, such as being among the first few listings on a search results page, isn’t solely about bidding the most money. Google also considers the ad’s relevance and quality in determining its placement.

Relevance and Quality

“Relevance” in Google Ads refers to how closely your ad matches a user’s search intent or the content they are viewing. For example, if someone searches for “running shoes,” an ad for sports sneakers would be more relevant than one for high heels.

Google also evaluates the “quality” of the user experience when they click on your ad. This evaluation is known as “Quality Score,” which is a metric that assesses your ad’s overall quality and relevance. Quality Score is scored out of 10 and combines the performance of three components:

  1. Expected Click-Through Rate (CTR): The likelihood that your ad will be clicked on when shown.
  2. Ad Relevance: How closely your ad matches the keywords you’re bidding on.
  3. Landing Page Experience: The quality and relevance of the page users land on after clicking your ad.

A higher Quality Score can lead to lower costs and better ad positions, as Google rewards ads that provide a positive user experience with higher placement and lower costs per click.

Ad Rank

Ad Rank is a crucial value that determines the placement of your ad on Google’s Search Engine Results Page (SERP) or within the Google Display Network (GDN). It is influenced by several factors, including your bid amount, Quality Score, the competitiveness of the auction, and the user’s location.

Think of Ad Rank as a ranking system for ads: the higher your Ad Rank, the more prominently your ad will be placed. This means that even if you bid less than other advertisers, you could still win a better position if your ad is of higher quality and more relevant to users.

These key concepts collectively decide which Google Ads appear and where they are placed.

However, it’s important to note that the way each type of Google ad operates can vary, so understanding these differences is crucial for effective advertising. Let’s look at how different Google ad types function:

How Do Different Types of Google Ads Work?

Google Search Ads

When a user enters a query, Google’s algorithm assesses all ads set to target that keyword. These keywords are specific terms chosen for targeting in your campaign. You can set a “match type” for each keyword, which determines how closely the user’s query must align with your keyword for your ad to appear.

The match types can be:

  • Exact: Requires an exact keyword match
  • Phrase: Requires the exact phrase with additional words allowed
  • Broad: Allows any word in the keyword phrase, in any order

After identifying ads with relevant keywords and match types, the algorithm ranks these ads based on factors such as bid amounts, ad relevance to the search query, and ad Quality Score. Only the highest-ranking ads are displayed, with their position determined by Ad Rank.

Keyword research is essential to ensure your ads rank well. It helps you target relevant search queries and create quality ads that match users’ search intent.

You can use Semrush’s PPC Keyword Tool for your ad campaigns, follow these steps:

Go to the tool and enter your domain.

Click “Set up” and select “Manually” to add keywords.

Select “Manually.” It’s the simplest way to add keywords.

Enter your keywords and target location,Click “Start PPC Keyword Tool” to begin.

Clean and organize your keyword list on the main dashboard.

Analyze potential traffic and estimated CPC for these keywords.

Implement the keywords into your campaigns for better targeting and ad relevance.

Google Display Ads

Google Display ads use targeting criteria such as user interests, demographics, or specific topics instead of keywords.

When a user visits a website within the Google Display Network, Google’s algorithm assesses the page’s content, the user’s past behavior, and the targeting criteria set by advertisers to display the most relevant ads on the page.

This approach allows advertisers to reach their target audience based on their interests and behavior, rather than specific search queries.

Google Shopping Ads

For Google Shopping ads, Google uses the product data submitted through your Merchant Center account:

When a user searches for a product, Google’s algorithm compares the search query with your product data. It then ranks the ads based on relevance, bid amount, and the product’s customer rating.

The top-ranking products appear in the shopping carousel, providing users with a visual and detailed presentation of the products that match their search intent.

Google Video Ads

Google Display Network ads use both demographics and interest-based targeting.

Google evaluates the video content the viewer is watching and their previous video interactions to determine the relevance of your ad.

Based on these factors and the specific audience criteria you’ve set (such as age, gender, or interests), Google decides whether your ad is a good fit for that viewer.

The combination of your bid and Quality Score then determines whether your ad is displayed and where it appears in the video—before, during, or after the video. This targeting approach helps ensure that your ad reaches the right audience based on their interests and behavior.

Google App Ads

Google app ads are automatically generated in different formats and for various platforms using the text ideas, images, and videos you provide.

These ads are then targeted based on user behavior, search history, and other contextual factors such as location, device type, and time of day.

The algorithm considers your bid and Quality Score to place the ad across Google’s ecosystem.

It tests different asset combinations to reach the most relevant audience with the most effective ad. This approach helps maximize the effectiveness of your ads by targeting them to the right audience at the right time.

Are Google Ads Worth It?

According to estimates from Google’s economic impact report, for every $1 a business spends on Google Ads, they get $8 in profit through Google Search and Ads, highlighting the significant return on investment (ROI) potential.

Google and YouTube process billions of searches daily, and the Google Display Network reaches over 90% of internet users worldwide. This vast reach demonstrates the unparalleled potential of advertising with Google.

Numerous case studies also showcase the effectiveness of Google advertising, highlighting its ability to reach a wide audience and target potential customers based on their behaviors, interests, and search patterns.

By linking Google Ads with Google Analytics, advertisers can gain deep insights into their campaign performance, allowing them to optimize their ads in real time and maximize results.

While starting with Google Ads requires an upfront investment, its potential to drive profit and growth makes it an effective tool that is often worth the initial cost.

How Much Does Google Ads Cost?

Google Ads costs can vary widely, depending on factors such as ad type, industry, location, and competition. On average, businesses spend between $1 to $2 per click for search ads and under $1 for display ads.

However, highly competitive industries like insurance or legal services can see CPCs upwards of $50.

Since Google Ads costs are not fixed and can fluctuate based on demand, your budget can range from as low as $50 per month to thousands of dollars for larger campaigns. It’s important to carefully plan and monitor your budget to ensure you’re getting the most out of your advertising investment.

Ready to Launch Your Google Ads Campaign?

To show ads on Google search, you start by setting up your Google Ads account and creating a campaign. This process includes defining your campaign goals, selecting keywords to target, creating your ad copy, and setting your budget. However, even before that, it’s beneficial to create an ad strategy based on competitive analysis. Ask yourself questions like:

  • What keywords are your competitors bidding on?
  • What kind of ad copy are they using in their campaigns?
  • How much are they paying for an ad click?

Analyzing your competitors’ strategies can provide valuable insights that can help you refine your own campaign for better performance.

Here’s how to gather insights into your competitors’ advertising strategies:

Open the tool and enter a competitor’s domain, then click “Search.”

Explore the different tabs in the dashboard, such as “Positions,” “Position Changes,” “Competitors,” “Ads Copies,” “Ads History,” “Pages,” and “Subdomains.”

In the “Positions” tab, you’ll find a list of keywords your competitor is ranking for in Google’s paid search results, along with the CPC (cost per click). This information can help you identify new advertising opportunities and areas where you can compete effectively.

Navigate to the “Ads History” tab to see a complete rundown of all the keywords your competitor has ranked ads for in the past months.

Clicking on any box in the monthly grid will reveal the specific ad copy your competitor tested for the corresponding keyword during that month.

Use the insights from Advertising Research to create Google paid search ad campaigns that are optimized for quality, relevance, and cost-effectiveness.

You can get started with Advertising Research for free to launch your Google search ad campaign successfully.