Adwords Definition & Meaning

Google Ads (formerly AdWords) is an advertising service that enables businesses to display ads within Google s search results and advertising network. Using a pay-per-click model, campaigns are only charged when a user clicks on an ad that is displayed on one of Google s networks, including Search, Display, and Shopping, as well as YouTube and Gmail. Although it is free to create an Ads account and connect it to an existing website, the cost of an individual campaign is driven by competing bids for the same keyword.

How do Google Ads work?

To use Google Ads, businesses start by identifying the goals of their campaign and the network it will use:

  • Search campaigns are strictly text-based and display on Google.com search engine results as well as those of partner search sites. (Webopedia is a partner search site that displays search campaigns!)
  • Display campaigns are strictly graphics-based, but can include text within the graphics. These campaigns use Google s Display Network, which includes publishers who utilize Google AdSense to generate revenue.
  • Video campaigns use a combination of text, graphics, and video and are displayed on YouTube.
  • Shopping campaigns focus on existing retail product listings that are created in the Google Merchant Center.

There are also three types of campaigns that blend some of the networks to optimize a campaign based on a specific goal or audience type:

  • Discovery campaigns leverage YouTube and Gmail platforms using visual ads. These campaigns are best for advertisers looking to expand their audiences.
  • App campaigns use a combination of Search, Display, Google Play, and YouTube advertisements (as well as ads in other apps) to drive app downloads.
  • Smart campaigns automatically adjust for Google s Search Network, Display Network, and Maps platform to enable a hands-off approach.

Google Ads vs. Google AdSense

Although the two platforms are related, the difference between Google Ads and Google AdSense boils down to the user: Ads is for advertisers (i.e., someone who is paying to promote something), whereas AdSense is for publishers (i.e., someone looking to monetize their website traffic by displaying ads). Likewise, advertisers pay money to Google Ads to run campaigns and generate brand awareness/traffic/leads, whereas Google AdSense pays publishers to display those campaigns to their audience.

Each platform also offers control over different aspects of a campaign. With Google Ads, advertisers can control what keywords they are (or are not) matched with, the target audience demographics, the content of the campaign (although it is subject to approval), and how much money is spent per day the campaign is active. However, they cannot directly control when their ad is displayed, the display frequency, nor the cost per click (CPC), although a combination of factors can optimize those metrics. With Google AdSense, publishers can control which ads run on their sites (or YouTube channel) and where those ads are placed, but they cannot set the price of clicks although increasing traffic will generally increase total ad revenue.

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Kaiti Norton
Kaiti Norton is a Nashville-based Content Writer for TechnologyAdvice, a full-service B2B media company. She is passionate about helping brands build genuine connections with their customers through relatable, research-based content. When she's not writing about technology, she's sharing her musings about fashion, cats, books, and skincare on her blog.

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